Posts tagged ‘short stories’

June 7, 2010

Book Review: If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black

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by Robin Black

Random House
(March 2010, $24, 274 pages)

After reading the first story in Robin Black’s collection If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This , I thought, “not bad.” Despite the occasional clumsy pieces of dialogue (“It’s a… Dammit, I think we’re lost. No, wait, this must be right,” is too thick and verbally thoughtful for a story whose main character is quiet and self-reflective) and seemingly superfluous details (knowing all the characters’ last names, without really knowing why we know), I finished “The Guide” ready to dive into the nine remaining stories.

In the next story, “If I Loved You,” a woman tells her neighbor, without really telling him, all the reasons why building a fence at his property line will impact her life: the fence impacts her view of the trees and makes it impossible for her to exit the passenger side of the car when it’s pulled into the driveway. These are seemingly small things until we learn that, with the car parked at the curb, she will have to climb into a wheelchair and wait for her husband to push her to their house because she is dying of cancer and can no longer walk the length of the drive. The neighbor’s fence eventually becomes the one tangible thing she can fight, something she can possibly control. The story is pieced together in small chunks, a few paragraphs at a time, and is a good reminder of our willingness to judge one another’s actions and intentions without access to the whole truth. “If I Loved You” scored a mark in my mental notebook of “great short stories” and with eagerness I turned to the next in the collection, expecting Black to land a few more in that mental notebook and maybe even score one in my “phenomenal short stories” list.

In “Immortalizing John Parker,” an near-octogenarian former homemaker turned painter muses on the passing of time and the inevitability of death while dispensing trite advice such as, “Time makes fools of us all. Every single one of us.” The story “Gaining Ground” ends with a limerick about the narrator’s mentally ill, suicidal father. In the final story, “The History of the World,” a woman who survives a car accident that kills her twin brother is relieved of her survivor’s guilt by—who else? —Eve, one-half the genesis of self-knowledge that banned humankind from Eden, the one with whom (if you believe in the Christian Bible or grew up in Kansas) the history of the world begins.

Black’s characters cycle through the same two or three voices, regardless of their backgrounds, with most eventually sounding like a 40-something women who have come to some personal revelation about their lives, even when the characters are 40-something men estranged from their daughters or children with murderous aspirations. Without the drive of individual voices, each story looses its distinguishing characteristics and the patterns Black repeats in each story are obvious—1. hook the reader in with a unique anecdote (Anne Boleyn, wooden legs, whatever); 2. move to the real action of the story (broken domestic scenes); 3. dangle the moment of revelation in a quick, three paragraph ending where the character, and by extension the reader, comes closer to the truth of human existence. The mechanics of a story laid bare erases the magic of reading stories. It’s like watching a play from backstage. Sure you know how it’s done, but wouldn’t you rather suspend that disbelief? Black tries too hard to pack a moment of truth—excuse me, Truth—into each story. The result is hollow.

~Lacey N. Dunham


Note: In accordance with FTC guidelines, this book was received free through a Goodreads promotion.

May 18, 2010

Tweets meet Short Fiction

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Bartholomew Heaven tweets at whiskyping about all manners of short fiction, flash fiction, etc, including lots of great tips on contests and websites for short fiction writers.

May 17, 2010

May is Short Story Month

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Okay, okay, we know that May is half over and we’re a bit late to the game. That’s okay. There’s still time for some thoughts on the short story, right?

Robert Gray wrote a wonderful column about short stories and the confusion (what is a short story? how long is it, exactly?) and frequent resistance (why would I want a really good story to end after just a few pages?) that often accompanies the genre. Most interesting is the inquiry into whether, in an age of shortened attention spans, busier people, and less time to dedicated to reading, the short story is primed for a comeback, assuming that the short story was ever widely embraced and loved. The idea behind flash fiction (also known under a hundred related names: short-shorts, sudden fiction, hint fiction, minute fiction, micro fiction) is that people, with less time available to read, are looking for shorter, less complicated but strongly written pieces with an obvious point of view. (See: blogs.)

Read Gray’s column. Lydia Davis has some opinions on narrative and length in stories that she discusses in The Believer. While you’re at, we published two great pieces of flash fiction (for us, stories less than 1,000 words) in the May 2010 issue of this .

May 13, 2010

Flash Fiction: Taped to a Rocket

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Taped to a Rocket
by Lauren MacDonald

I came twice after when you were no longer there. Perhaps you have been tempted by exotic chocolates, fishnet tents, and the lure of the warm ocean water. Perhaps none of those things have tempted you at all, and it was the hollowness of yourself – like my the empty scoops of my pockets – that drove you away.


The shooting stars all fell out of my pocket. Great! he yelled, pulling his hands and the grip of his hard muscles away. Get off before we catch on fire! I had forgotten. He jumped off the blanket in the field, my bra flinging into the air with him. The corner was burning, the flame nibbling at the red thread and florals. Some of the darkness of the hills turned green again in the light of the flicker. I didn’t know where we were; we had gone so far off of the main trail that ran towards the mountain. It was cold like the city, but a different type of cold that came naturally, a cold that was able to breathe. The cold hitting my chest made me simultaneously forget and remember that I was nude, trying to catch my breath and stop my chest from heaving.

Continue reading “Taped to a Rocket” by Lauren MacDonald and published in the May 2010 issue of this .

January 18, 2010

KR Contest

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The Kenyon Review is holding their annual short story contest. Submissions will be accepted electronically between February 1 – February 28.

August 10, 2009

“The Anniversary” – New Fiction by Heidi Ash

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The Anniversary
by Heidi Ash


Floating in that pleasant haze between sleep and wakefulness, she realized today was her wedding anniversary. She stretched, carefully, because at 67 years of age, some seldom used tendon or muscle could suddenly rebel and put you out of commission for days. She had allowed herself to sleep in, since everything for the party had been readied yesterday.


She took it slow in the bath. Swirling the bubbly water with her hands her gaze softened as she leaned her head back onto the cushion she had received for her wedding shower so long ago. Through half closed lids she saw her body transformed into that of the 18 year old she used to be.


With breathtaking intensity those feelings came rushing back to her. She had been radiant. The evening he proposed, she had touched a deep place of communion within herself. She loved him, the two of them and the whole world. She felt connected and expanded at the same time.


They would be buddies, friends, lovers. They would be there for each other and accomplish things together. She wasn’t sure what those things were, but she knew they would be grand. Finally, they looked good together, something that really matters at 18. It had been the happiest day of her life and she had celebrated it every year since. She smiled, feeling that same sense of suspense and anticipation of adventures yet to unfold.



Continue reading “The Anniversary.”


Heidi Ash worked 23 years as an R.N., taught 12 years of Yoga and Meditation, and for 3 years ran a Retreat House in the Indiana corn fields. For the past 5 years she has been providing private elder care for primarily Alzheimer’s patients.


August 9, 2009

The Philosopher’s Daughter – New Fiction by Lisa Fu

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The Philosopher’s Daughter
by Lisa Fu


This story deals with very sensitive subject matter and is not intended for immature readers or reader under 18.


Photo: Paweł Strykowski

Photo: Paweł Strykowski

My name is Chloe. Brown eyes, two of them, long dark hair, a reddish
mouth, both hands, about 5’4”, you know all that. Thin and pale.


His name is John. He was a hands-off sort of parent, didn’t really
look into our lives too much or baby us. We had no mother to speak of;
she left us when we were just babies. He was always a young father,
hurrying in and out of the apartments we lived in, always going
somewhere, chain-smoking, or writing, sometimes stopping to give us a
kiss or two, or play a game of chess. Only I never really knew how to
play, and he was impatient with lack of skill like that, inability on
the part of anyone, even a child, his own. He explained and tried to
teach me, but I never quite got it, never learned.


Continue reading The Philosopher’s Daughter.


July 24, 2009

New Story by Hannah Oberman-Breindel

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by Hannah Oberman-Breindel


Photo: Brandon Remler

Photo: Brandon Remler


It was the first warm day of spring. Annie and I had taken a long rambling walk, ending at a bench on a path close to the 110th street entrance of Central Park. It’s quieter uptown in the park than it is in midtown. Even our friends rarely venture above 96th street. Annie and I called it our part of the park. “Let’s go to our part of the park,” Annie had said that morning as she sat at the kitchen table in my extra large Brown sweatshirt and white boxer briefs, picking at her English muffin. She was perched on a chair, one foot under her, the other dangling off to the side. Her brown hair was still mussed from sleep, and she had clipped it back so that it wouldn’t get in her face as she read the paper. “I want to walk with you and chat,” she said, looking up only at the end of the phrase to give me a brief smile. So we went.


Continue reading Hannah Oberman-Breindel’s story “April.”


July 4, 2009

Book Review – Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009

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The Pen/O.Henry Prize Stories are twenty short stories from literary magazines as well established as The New Yorker to the lesser-known Grain and Five Points. It’s always risky to pick up a collection of short stories by various authors because, unlike collections by a single author, the quality across the collection isn’t guaranteed. Different writers, different styles, different ways of telling a story can mean a wildly varied hodgepodge similar to those Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jellybeans: one handful tastes like delicious cotton candy and popcorn at first and then you realize you’re also eating the unappetizing snot and dirt beans too. Fear not: from Junot Diaz’s lingering “Wildwood,” about an immigrant’s daughter coming to terms with herself and her mother; to Andrew Sean Greer’s “Darkness,” about what is burned, and therefore lost, in a postapocalyptic world; to Marisa Silver’s “The Visitor,” about a young woman and her grandmother working to repair failed relationships, these stories are undeniably terrific from start to finish.


–review by Lacey Dunham


Read about other great books in our reviews section or submit your own!