I’ve been reading some great stories this month in celebration of Short Story Month! (And is it wrong that I want to gloat we get a longer month than poetry?) Here’s what I’ve read so far:
Holly Goddard Jones‘s “Life Expectancy” from her collection Girl Trouble. The main character has a sick daughter, a pregnant girlfriend/student, an unhappy wife, and a dead dog, but is stubbornly convinced none of these things are his fault. When he kisses his student the first time he thinks, “He did it because she looked like she needed it. He did it because he knew he could get away with it.” That about sums up Theo. Goddard Jones does a great job creating an unsympathetic character the reader can get behind. I’m looking forward to the rest of the stories in this collection!
“Amber at the Window in Hurricane Season” by Justin Taylor, from Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever (a great title!). Favorite passage: There’s always a new worst.”
Lydia Peelle‘s “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing,” is a beautiful story about a depressed woman who falls for a herpetologist and learns life lessons from a salamander. Sometimes what we need is to turn off our brains and remember we are part of nature. “Trust the body, not the mind, he says, smiling. The body loves itself.”
“Bears Discover Fire” by Terry Bisson. You can read the story here. It’s pretty true to the title, bears really do discover fire, but the heart of the story is a man coming to terms with his mother’s decline. I’m a sucker for stories with animals, especially when they’re doing something as cool as hanging around campfires in the road medians, and the way this is handled, as kind of ho-hum, is brilliant.
“Nothing Right” by Antonya Nelson, from Nothing Right. In this story a fractured family holds a premature baby as collateral damage, acting out their own aggressions against each other with little sense of repercussions. If you haven’t read her work, this is a great introduction!
“Bear Hogan Walks the Sky” by Brady Allen in Back Roads & Frontal Lobes. This story is weird, and that’s a good thing. It’s an end of the world/end of the road story that contemplates what it means to be good or bad, and how similar these things can look when shit hits the fan. Brady and I teach together at Wright State and have a lot of chats about fiction writing, and he’s someone I admire for being as disciplined as he is with his writing.
“The Chair” by David Means, in Best American Short Stories 2013. It’s about parenting, and maybe it’s because I have a child the same age as the child in the story, and maybe it’s because I’m also struggling with how to effectively discipline said child, but this one really struck a chord. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Means before, which is crazy since he’s got four highly acclaimed story collections and seems to be kind of a big deal. He’s now on the list.