Monday, August 31, 2009

The Collagist

The Collagist is a brand new online journal from Dzanc Books, edited by Matt Bell. I was impressed with the first issue. I like the way they present their short fiction - allowing you to click from page to page rather than scrolling endlessly down the screen.

My favorite piece in the first issue is Maintenance Window by Chris Bachelder. This is a slightly speculative story that takes a look at our dependence on the internet. It's well-done and strangely haunting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interpreter of Maladies

Jhumpa Lahiri's debut collection won the Pulitzer Prize and I was expecting great things from it. I wasn't disappointed. Each of the nine stories in this collection is seductive from the very first paragraph. Lahiri has a genius for creating vibrant characters who claim our sympathies at once and lure us effortlessly into the intimate corners of their lives. Everyone in these stories is longing for someone or something, and their longing is so familiar and so deftly captured that it becomes our own. The stories will resonate with anyone who has ever felt alienated or lonely, anyone who has ever yearned for home.

At the end of each story, you are left wishing for perhaps a little more; a reluctance to leave the characters; a desire to spend more time with them. That, I think, is one of the hallmarks of a great short story: characters who continue to walk around in your head long after the story has ended.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

decomP August 2009

Finally had time to read the August issue of decomP. There are a couple of very interesting pieces in it. I particularly liked Revenge by Kevin Wilson. It's written in a very jolting, in-your-face-way and the ending is at once terrible and absolutely believable.

I also liked About Husbands and The Dog by Heather Fowler. She uses an interesting technique of repetition that works very well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

StoryGlossia Issue 34

My favorite story in the July issue of StoryGlossia is Low Tide by Jennine Capo Crucet. Crucet weaves a subtle and poignant tale around the themes of age and beauty, with characters that make you a wince a little and language that transports you flawlessly into her world.

Jennine Capo Crucet is a marvelous writer and I'm looking forward to her award-winning collection of short stories, How To Leave Hialeah, due out in September 09.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Amarillo Bay Volume 11 No. 3

The latest issue of Amarillo Bay has some good stuff in it. Check out Hungry Dogs, Wild Pigs, by Mark Spencer. I did a workshop with Mark over the summer. He's a talented writer and the author of two novels that are both on my reading list.

We Could Be Dreams For Each Other, by Jeff Kass, is a beautifully written and fascinating story, exploring an unusual relationship in a non-judgemental way. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees

I just read this, on the recommendation of a friend. It was pretty light reading, very much like an adult fairy tale with a strong religious agenda. The premise was interesting: a young white girl, Lily, who believes she is responsible for the death of her mother, runs away from her abusive father with her black nanny. The story is set in South Carolina, during a period of extreme racial tension.

The book did not make a strong impression on me. I found the characters fairly one-dimensional and the ending unrealistic. There were a handful of good scenes scattered throughout the pages and one thing I did admire was Kidd's portrayal of the romantic love developing between Lily and her black friend, Zach. A relationship between the two of them would have been unthinkable at that time in history. I would have liked to see it taken even further in the novel.

Next on my list: Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I'm looking forward to this one with so much anticipation that I can hardly keep from drooling.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Atlantic 2009 Fiction Issue

I was excited to read Paul Theroux's piece, Voices of Love, because I recently finished reading his semi-autobiographical book In Sir Vidia's Shadow and enjoyed it tremendously. Of course, the book is more about V.S. Naipaul than about Theroux and Naipaul is one of my all-time favorite authors.

Anyway, I was a bit disappointed with the Theroux piece. The best story in the whole issue, in my opinion, is The Laugh by Tea Obreht. It's worth buying this copy of The Atlantic just for that one story. It's set in Africa and is about a man whose good friend's wife has been killed in an unspeakable way. The word brilliant hovers at my fingertips, though I always hesitate to use it. The story horrified me and lingered with me for days. Very original, very complex, very haunting.

Fish Story, by Rick Bass, is also memorable and I enjoyed the almost painfully truthful essay Eyes on the Prize, by Alice Sebold. It talks about the drawbacks and merits of literary awards. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories 2009, which I haven't read yet but am looking forward to. I have such a huge pile of books to read. It would be daunting if it didn't actually give me a quick thrill of delight each time I think of all the pleasures awaiting me in those thousands of pages.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Night Train

Night Train is an incredible online journal and print annual that I've been reading a lot of lately. I've been working my way through their archives. Many of the stories I've found are quite spellbinding. A couple of my favorites from Issue I:

Scavengers by Maureen Aitken

Second Chance by Judd Hampton. Judd's prose is mesmerizing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Room Seventeen

My short story, Room Seventeen, was accepted for the next issue of Writer's Bloc, a great new web publication. I'll post a link to the story here when it's available.

Check out Writer's Bloc here. They publish some neat stuff.

In the current issue (#2), I especially like Highlands, NJ by Scott Shanley.

The Insurgent, by Sarah Coyle, is quite riveting.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hello World

So I started writing again, out of the blue, really. I thought it was over. I thought I had grown out of it. No more writing. Writing was a pipe-dream. That's what I'd always read. It's too hard to make it as a writer. It's impossible to get published. Nobody wants to read literary fiction, anyway.

Guess none of that was enough to stop me.

People are either embarrassed or intrigued when you tell them you're a writer. The embarrassed ones feel sorry for you and your affliction. The intrigued ones secretly hope that you're going to write about them. Many people ask to read your work, but just as many aren't remotely interested. They like sci-fi. Or romance. Your depictions of real life depress them. So it goes.

It doesn't matter. Being a writer is a good excuse for lots of things. It explains my reclusive habits, my nosiness about the details of stranger's lives, my penchant for staring dreamily at the wall. People expect it, really. I'm a writer. I say that now. Will I "make it" as a writer? Who knows. It's true that it's very difficult to get published. But I'm not going to let that weigh on my mind. I'm just going to write all the stories I need to write and if they're good enough, somebody will find them. And if not, I guess I'll be a writer anyway.