All posts tagged: short stories

Love by Clarice Lispector | edge of evening

Short stories: ‘Love’ by Clarice Lispector

A series of posts highlighting the very best of my short story reading. 3. ‘Love’ (‘Armor’) by Clarice Lispector translated by Katrina Dodson, from Clarice Lispector, Complete Stories published by Penguin Modern Classics. I’ve tried reading Clarice Lispector before, but I’ve never managed to relax into the beautiful strangeness of her sentences. Then, yesterday, I read her short story ‘Love’ translated by Katrina Dodson & I fell completely under her hypnotic spell. “Ana’s children were good, something true and succulent.” What a perfect and delicious sentence. ‘Love’ is, on the surface, a simple story: Ana, a housewife riding the tram home with her string bag of groceries, sees a blind man chewing gum, and this encounter somehow throws her into a crisis — The knit mesh [of her bag] was rough between her fingers, not intimate as when she had knit it. The mesh had lost its meaning and being on a tram was a snapped thread; she didn’t know what to do with the groceries on her lap. And like a strange song, the world started up …

Runaway by Alice Munro | edge of evening

Short stories: the Juliet stories by Alice Munro

A series of posts highlighting the very best of my short story reading. 2. ‘’Chance’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Silence’ by Alice Munro published in her 2004 collection Runaway. Munro’s stories have always felt exceptionally capacious; they have the scope of novels, though without any awkward sense of speeding up or boiling down. They are truly stories, and when they are linked, as Juliet’s stories are, they create not a simulacrum of a novel but a series of resonating episodes, still subject to the discipline and selectivity of the short-story form. It’s almost impossible to describe their unforced exactness, their unrushed economy.Alan Hollinghurst on Alice Munro, The Guardian, 5 February 2005 I loved these three stories so much when I first read them, nine or ten years ago, that I was almost afraid to return to them. There was an image that stayed with me, strange when I first encountered it, and then so familiar: a woman holding a baby on one hip, while mashing a hard-boiled egg with her other hand. Something I hadn’t experienced, captured and then returned to …

February

February. I’m not so sure about February. January is so stark and clean: the year stretching ahead, the diary empty, the slate wiped & resolve high. Then February comes along & things start to get muddied by reality. Who knows whether I’m achieving everything I wanted to when the year began? Certainly not me because I’m not opening my diary to find out. (This is also how I found myself running back to school with a hastily made packed-lunch yesterday morning after forgetting that it was the day of the Moose’s school trip to the science centre.) Still. Here’s what I know I have done. I finished Anna Karenina last Saturday night. I loved it & keep waking up thinking about it. Whenever I read a classic I find myself thinking oh! that’s why it’s so famous & beloved! and wondering why I didn’t read it years ago. My mind is still fizzing with remembered connections and echoes, and it seems the kind of book that needs to be revisited at different stages of life. (Clearly I’ve already missed some angles!) …

Young Skins by Colin Barrett | edge of evening

Short stories: ‘Stand Your Skin’ by Colin Barrett

The first in a series of posts highlighting the very best of my short story reading. 1. ‘Stand Your Skin’ by Colin Barrett, published in his 2014 collection Young Skins. “I try to stick to the moment, to the now of the action. Tense is irrelevant. You can do it in the past tense. […] Backstory, exposition, anything that draws back or looks to perspectivize—these hold little interest to me at moment. Not to say that won’t change. Certainly in the short-story form, what attracted me was the way my favorite stories were like a lightning flash. Nothing existed before or after them, and in the instant of their illumination, they are all that exists.”from an interview with Colin Barrett in the Paris Review The stories in Colin Barrett’s debut, Young Skins, are set in the fictional town of Glanbeigh in the west of Ireland. “My town is nowhere you have been,” says the hungover narrator of the opening story, “but you know it’s ilk.” And we do. This is post-recession, small town Ireland. The opportunities for escape are slim. …

short story collections | edge of evening

#shortstoryaday

Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait. Mavis Gallant, 1996 (Preface to her Selected Stories, Bloomsbury 1997) I love short stories. I read them. I buy them. And I really love what Mavis Gallant has to say about them too (so much so, that I’ve quoted her here before). Yes, stories can wait. But then I noticed just how much waiting some of the collections on my short story shelf (you have one too, right?) were doing. Waiting and waiting and waiting. I blame the intimidating heft of some of those collected/selected volumes. What a commitment to start ploughing through all of Cheever or Carver or Maxwell, or even dear Mavis herself. A short story collection works best for me when I read a story a day until it’s done. There’s enough space left around each story (Read one. Shut the book.), but there’s also the sense of …

Viburnum | edge of evening

As if your life depended on it

You must write and read as if your life depended on it. That is not generally taught in school. […] To read as if your life depended on it would mean to let into your reading your beliefs, the swirl of your dreamlife, the physical sensations of your ordinary carnal life; and, simultaneously, to allow what you’re reading to pierce the routines, safe and impermeable, in which ordinary carnal life is tracked, charted, channeled. […] To write as if your life depended on it: to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public words you have dredged, sieved up from dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence — words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist. from ‘As if your life depended on it’ by Adrienne Rich, in ‘What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics’ It comes back to this then: starting over. Slowly, intentionally. Choosing what to set aside and what to do. Stacking up the days, each the same as the last. I’ve found that repetition …

Cosmos & conkers | edge of evening

Harvest

Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that all of the weeks have the same number of days. Last week for example had five, but one was for Harvest Festival and one was for teacher training & so tacked itself onto next week’s half term holiday. Another was for being lost in a maze with a two-year-old & someone else’s three-year-old. Or at least that’s how it started before the three-year-old ran away from me. Then I was lost in a maze following elusive glimpses of a small child who, it seemed, was going to take me round in the same crazy-inducing circle, time after time. I offer it as a metaphor for parenthood for someone to use in a short story. I’ve been reading lots of short stories recently. I’m loosely following along with the Iowa How Writers Write Fiction MOOC again. Loosely meaning I’m a week behind; meaning I’m listening but not actively participating. Anyway, I’m enjoying it for the reading recommendations alone. Last night I reread ZZ Packer’s ‘Drinking Coffee Elsewhere’ from her collection of …

Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman | edge of evening

Binocular Vision

Iread Susan Dominus’s Motherhood, Screened Off last week as I guess a lot of you did too, coming to it, yes, through a link on Twitter while I was in the kitchen ostensibly preparing tea. I loved her evocation of her mother’s address book, which made me think of my own mother’s address book and telephone book — and the earlier telephone book, spiral bound, whose white plastic binding eventually disintegrated with age and use. But the guilt I felt reading Dominus’s argument that our smartphones make our actions — checking the weather, looking up a friend’s address — mysterious to our children, was all focussed on the book she was reading on her phone at her sons’ soccer practice when another mother called them both out on staring into their devices: Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision.  Because Binocular Vision has been sitting on my shelf unread for a year or so. A charity shop find that I was so very pleased with because I’d read the reviews of this collection of Pearlman’s selected and new stories, …

February

I’ve been rediscovering the pleasures of reading over the shoulder of a feeding baby. Daytime feeds may now involve building train track with my feet, but the last feed of the evening is accompanied by short stories (currently the collection Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom, someone I haven’t read since my teens). Meanwhile, my bath-time reading habit – a whole hour of reading in late-pregnancy – has now been reduced to a poem. Patti Smith’s slender memoir Woolgathering may not quite be poetry, but each of its fragments is the perfect mood-altering, uber-concentrated shot of words. Try this from the section titled Barndance: The mind of a child is like a kiss on the forehead – open and disinterested. It turns as the ballerina turns, atop a party cake with frosted tiers, poisonous and sweet. The child, mystified by the commonplace, moves effortlessly into the strange, until the nakedness frightens, confounds, and he seeks a bit of cover, order. He glimpses, he gleans; piecing together a crazy quilt of truths …