Short Stories

Short Story of the Day – Days 91-120

April

Day 91: Victoria Redel’s “Red Rooster”

Day 92: Jonathan Escoffery’s “Chasing Carlos”

Day 93: Emma Cline’s “Northeast Regional”

Day 94: Clare Sestanovich’s “Phantom Vibrate”

Day 95: Christopher Fox’ “Junk”

Day 96: Amy Sauber’s “State Facts for the New Age”

Day 97: Olivia Clare’s “Olivia”

Day 98: Lucia Berlin’s “Homing”

Day 99: Chelsea Martin’s “Baby’s First Words”

Day 100: Curtis Dawkins’ “County”

Day 101: Rudrapriya Rathore’s “Heart Lake”

Day 102: Michelle Lyn King’s “Ghosts You Loved More”

Day 103: Hilary Leichter’s “Far Gone Conclusions”

Day 104: Kerry Cullen’s “Kindling”

Day 105: Tobias Wolff’s “Say Yes”

Day 106: Lindsay Hunter’s “The Fence”

Day 107: Lara Vapnyar’s “Deaf and Blind”

Day 108: Jenny Zhang’s “Why Were They Throwing Bricks?”

Day 109: Lauren Groff’s “Exquisite Corpse”

Day 110: Brandon Taylor’s “Wool”

Day 111: Tomiko Breland’s “What Is Behind”

Day 112: Erin Somers’ “Astronauts In Love”

Day 113: Julie Buntin’s “Phenomenon”

Day 114: Daisy Johnson’s “A Bruise the Size and Shape of a Door Handle”

Day 115: Amy Silverberg’s “Surburbia!”

Day 116: Kerry Cullen’s “Flight Feathers”

Day 117: Paul Yoon’s “A Willow and the Moon”

Day 118: Megan Cummin’s “Aerosol”

Day 119: Dana Diehl’s “Closer”

Day 120: Rachel Kushner’s “Debouchment”

Short Story of the Day – Days 60-90

March

Day 60: Clarice Lispector’s “Obsession”

Day 61: Stephanie Vaughn’s “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog”

Day 62: Claire Vaye Watkins’ “Virginia City”

Day 63: Grace Paley’s “Friends”

Day 64: Mariana Enriquez’ “Spiderweb”

Day 65: Brandon Taylor’s “Frites”

Day 66: Clare Beams’ “The Drop”

Day 67: Susann Cokal’s “Fourteen Shakes the Baby”

Day 68: Jeannine Ouellette’s “Family, Family”

Day 69: Maryse Meijer’s “Home”

Day 70: Justin Taylor’s “A Talking Cure”

Day 71: Mary Gaitskill’s “Daisy’s Valentine”

Day 72: Clare Beams’ “We Show What We Have Learned”

Day 73: Jami Attenberg’s “Sarah Lee Waits For Love”

Day 74: Amanda Miska’s “Slow Wave”

Day 75: Emily St. John Mandel’s “Mr. Thursday”

Day 76: Phil Klay’s “Prayer In The Furnace”

Day 77: Jorge Luis Borges’ “Funes, His Memory”

Day 78: Kristen Arnett’s “Selectively Bred”

Day 79: Jenny Zhang’s “We Love You Crispina”

Day 80: Elizabeth Ellen’s “The Last American Woman”

Day 81: Shelly Oria’s “New York 1, Tel Aviv 0”

Day 82: Jen Corrigan’s “Have a Lovely Day”

Day 83: Melissa Ragsly’s “Crumbs”

Day 84: Mona Awad’s “My Mother’s Idea of Sexy”

Day 85: Brenna Gomez’ “Corzo”

Day 86: Kristen Gleason’s “Neftali”

Day 87: Rion Amilcar Scott’s “202 Checkmates”

Day 88: Deb Olin Unferth’s “Wait Till You See Me Dance”

Day 89: Laura van den Berg’s “Where We Must Be”

Day 90: Kara Vernor’s “Four Hands”

Short Story of the Day – Days 32-59

February

Day 32: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “Black-Eyed Women”

Day 33: Joanna C. Valente’s “You Are Going To Lose Everything”

Day 34: Edwidge Danticat’s “Seven”

Day 35: Patricia Engel’s “Vida”

Day 36: Jo Ann Beard’s “The Tomb of Wrestling”

Day 37: Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking”

Day 38: Fiona Maazel’s “Let’s Go to the Videotape”

Day 39: Clarice Lispector’s “Jimmy and I”

Day 40: Ashley Strosnider’s “What Will Make It Last”

Day 41: Danielle Evans’ “Virgins”

Day 42: Claire Vaye Watkins’ “Wish You Were Here”

Day 43: Elizabeth Ellen’s “Winter Haven, Florida, 1984”

Day 44: Joanna C. Valente’s “You’re Gonna Scream When You Die”

Day 45: Junot Diaz’ “Otravida, Otravez”

Day 46: Jennifer Sears’ “Foragers”

Day 47: Leyna Krow’s “Katie Eats Boston Cream Pie at a Motel Diner in Southeast Portland”

Day 48: Ottessa Moshfegh’s “The Weirdos”

Day 49: Mary Miller’s “Fast Trains”

Day 50: Brandon Taylor’s “Run”

Day 51: Leyna Krow’s “Tiger, Tiger”

Day 52: Saeed Jones’ “Boy, A History”

Day 53: Ben Greenman’s “Barn (Nebraska, 1962)”

Day 54: Alexander Chee’s “Down to Mars”

Day 55: Melissa Yancy’s “Consider This Case”

Day 56: Karen E. Bender’s “A Chick from My Dream Life”

Day 57: Philip Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews”

Day 58: Leesa Cross-Smith’s “Whiskey & Ribbons”

Day 59: Zadie Smith’s “Crazy They Call Me”

Short Story of the Day: Days 1-31

January

Day 1: SJ Sindu’s “SR-9”

Day 2: Rebecca Keith’s “Toast of New York”

Day 3: Yiyun Li’s “On The Street Where You Live”

Day 4: Kelli Jo Ford’s “You Will Miss Me When I Burn”

Day 5: Deirdre Coyle’s “How to Vomit Living Creatures”

Day 6: Emily Chammah’s “Tell Me, Please”

Day 7: Mary Miller’s “Cedars of Lebanon”

Day 8: Emma Horwitz’ “Fingering”

Day 9: Rion Amilcar Scott’s “A Friendly Game”

Day 10: Daniel Peña’s “Three Phases of Love and Deportation in Ciudad Juarez”

Day 11: April Ayers Lawson’s “Three Friends In a Hammock”

Day 12: Mary Miller’s “The House on Main Street”

Day 13: Allison Kade’s “The Purple Baby”

Day 14: Madeline Dubus’ “Godspeed”

Day 15: Annabel Graham’s “Celestial Bodies”

Day 16: Halimah Marcus’ “Running Alone”

Day 17: Deirdre Coyle’s “Girlfriend”

Day 18: Alisha Ebling’s “Hungry”

Day 19: Kate Axelrod’s “Comfort Pack”

Day 20: Ruth Madievsky’s “Hamster”

Day 21: Julianne Pachico’s “Honey Bunny”

Day 22: Maggie Shipstead’s “Backcountry”

Day 23: Ottessa Moshfegh’s “An Honest Woman”

Day 24: Alix Ohlin’s “Quarantine”

Day 25: Patricia Engel’s “Lucho”

Day 26: Kait Heacock’s “The Girl”

Day 27: Brenda Peynado’s “The Drownings”

Day 28: Chanelle Benz’ “West of the Known”

Day 29: Kristen Arnett’s “Felt in the Jaw”

Day 30: Grace Paley’s “The Little Girl”

Day 31: Kate Folk’s “A Scale Model of Gull Point”

Sweet Talk

I’m a sucker for short stories. Something about the art form of a writer focusing his efforts to tell a story not too short to be called a poem yet not too long to be called a novel draws me in. Perhaps, it’s the ability to read them in one sitting? You would think, then, I would like poetry as much, right? I like poetry but not as much as I enjoy the reading of a quality short story.

On my first attempt to renew this blog, I’m happy to announce that my first post of the new year will focus on my take on Stephanie Vaughn’s collection of short stories entitled Sweet Talk. (I finally found a copy of the book at the Strand so I just had to get it!)

 Sweet Talk

#readwomen2014 !!

Like Tobias Wolff, I too encountered Stephanie Vaughn through The New Yorker. Actually, Toby (can I call him Toby?) had a lot to do with it too. It was through The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast series that Tobias Wolff was asked to choose a story from their archives to read and discuss with fiction editor Deborah Treisman for his first appearance. (On his second appearance he chose Denis Johnson’s “Emergency”.)

In the 2012 Other Press edition of Sweet Talk, Tobias Wolff gives a warm introduction to his thoughts on Stephanie Vaughn’s short story collection. As he puts it, “though the stories vary in time and place and dramatis personae, there is a sort of spine running through the collection, and that is the cumulative, evolving portrait of Gemma’s family”. This is a short story collection that mostly (5 out of the 10 stories) centers around Gemma, the main character in which Vaughn focuses her stories.

“Story after story the confident adult world is revealed as a shaky edifice built not on rock but on sands yielding constantly to the influence of alcohol, war, bad luck, disease, and simple human frailty”.

Doesn’t this short story collection sound enticing?!

Spoiler Alert! –About to recap just one of my favorite stories, I suggest you read them all!– Spoiler Alert!

In the first story, “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog,” the father is introduced as a “tall and awesome” Army officer which Gemma’s grandmother (on her mother’s side) seems to constantly bicker about how her daughter should’ve married a minister instead. But like any authoritative father, Gemma’s father is dictatorial. He lays down the rules where at mealtimes he “lecture[s] on the mechanics of life” and on speaking with a “calculation and precision” that Gemma notices within him.

When you lose, don’t cry. When you win, don’t gloat. (6)

Vaughn also makes great use of the setting that she places her characters. One reoccurring symbol within two of her stories – “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog” and “Dog Heaven” – is the mystifying might of the river.

“I don’t like the river,” [the mother says]. “I think it wants to hypnotize you” (10).

The river is described to have the power to draw you in literally but also mentally. In another instance, the father tells a story in which two men await their fate on a river barge “waiting to see whether in the next moment of their lives they would go over [the Falls].” The story concludes with their eventual rescue after staying still “all afternoon and night, listening to the sound of the water pounding into the boulders at the bottom of the gorge”. As they are asked to recount their stories, “the thinking man” talks about how he had spent the night playing poker in his head” while the other chooses not to speak.

He could not speak.

“The scream of the water entered his body,” said my father. He paused to let us think about that…

“He went insane” (11).

The first story takes a turn when Gemma’s father faces the reality that comes with a career falling apart. As his observant daughter, Gemma is there to see it, “not knowing the cause but knowing the consequences” (17) that come with it. As the story comes full fold, the tension between father and daughter comes to a daunting end. A father-daughter story that one can resonate with, provided beautifully by the details that Vaughn carefully chooses through her technique of language.

-End of Spoiler…kind of…-

The rest of the short stories included in the following order:

“Sweet Talk” : an interesting story of love and invention. I liked how the characters take jabs at each other mentally, hoping to make their “sting of the[ir] intention to hurt” felt.

“We’re on TV in the Universe” : a short story that kind of, kind of (bear with me!) resembles/reminded me of Denis Johnson’s short story “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” from Jesus’ Son (perhaps because a car crash occurs during both).

I was going to a party where I imagined that I would be noticed as an interesting person… (52)

“My Mother Breathing Light” : Centering around Gemma and her mother, death lingers in this story and hysteria develops between both women.

“Other Women” : To preface this one….Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of the ones we love. Harvey seems to love everyone, he doesn’t hate. Women are gravitated to him. As far as third wheeling goes, Susu (his ex-wife) takes the cake. The narrator finds a tough time grasping her presence until she realizes that Harvey isn’t as helplessly innocent of any wrong doing as he looks.

“He was always  a sucker for the basket cases” (83)

“Kid MacArthur” : Gemma’s brother is finally introduced!

“The Architecture of California” : It isn’t easy to remodel yourself. A couple takes the challenge and tries to live healthy but as the wife comes to find out, it isn’t easy. Getting rid of a vice by substituting them with another vice is never the answer.

“The Battle of Fallen Timbers” : Short story done with exact precision. Not everyone moves on especially when living in the past.

“Snow Angel” : Written in the 3rd person, Marguerite, a young mother of two is stuck in a blizzard.

– and (the best was definitely saved for last) “Dog Heaven” : I urge everyone to read this. Listen to Tobias Wolff read it. It’s so worth it !

“I came to on the grass with the dog barking, ‘Wake up!’ he seemed to say. ‘Do you know your name? My name is Duke! My name is Duke!’” (165)

NOTE...dramatis personae was Tobias Wolff’s fancy word for the list of characters that mostly feature within a work…

P.S. …And he said no to Toby.