Right now I’m reading a book that takes place in the city and the area where I work (Pasadena/Altadena/Flintridge), and it’s the strangest feeling, reading about places I see every day. Some of this is tempered by the fact that the book takes place in 1982, so obviously much has changed, but reading those familiar street names and then walking down those very same streets, it’s almost unsettling. I know a lot of people enjoy reading fiction set in their hometown. How do you feel about this, Tumblr?
On the other hand, it might also be pointed out that desolation, hurt, and anguish are hardly the only things in life, or in Astral Weeks. They’re just the things, perhaps, that we can most easily grasp and explicate, which I suppose shows about what level our souls have evolved to. I said I wouldn’t reduce the other songs on this album by trying to explain them, and I won’t. But that doesn’t mean that, all thing considered, a juxtaposition of poets might not be in order.
If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where the mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch and the backroads stop
Could you find me
Would you kiss my eyes
And lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those hills,
farther than the seas,
close to the stars,
to beg Christ the Lord
to give back the soul I had
of old, when I was a child,
ripened with legends,
with a feathered cap
and a wooden sword.
Federico Garcia Lorca” —From the end of the same Lester Bangs piece.
Not the best, but my favorites (so don’t try to “prove me wrong.” It’s like proving I don’t like whiskey, which, as we’ve established is simply not true. Though you should absolutely post your own).
- Self-Help, by Lorrie Moore
- I Sailed with Magellan, by Stuart Dybek
- Civilwarland in Bad Decline, by George Saunders
- Jesus’ Son, by Denis Johnson
- Sixy Stories, by Donald Barthelme
- In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, by William H. Gass
- Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill
- Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
- The Complete Stories of John Cheever (a cheat, I know, but come on)
- Among the Missing, by Dan Chaon
- Wilfull Creatures, by Aimee Bender
- Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver
- A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor
- Pastoralia, by George Saunders
- The Collected Stories of J.F. Powers (I’m more of a fan of his novels, but the stories are still great)
- The Early Stories: 1953-1975, by John Updike
- Rain and Other South Sea Stories, by W. Somerset Maugham
- Other Electricities, by Ander Monson
- Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
- The Baum Plan for Financial Independence, by John Kessel
- Dogwalker, by Arthur Bradford
- The Safety of Objects, by A.M. Homes
And as a bonus, some story collections I’d like to read this year: Nobody Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July and Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link.
Seriously. Die already, Wednesday.
TM: One of my favorite aspects of your book is the humor and tragedy with which you depict the teenage lives of Thisbe and Amelia. At one point, Thisbe prays, “Dear Lord… let the wire in my bra poke through my heart,” which is just, well, awesome. Are you, in fact, a teenage girl in disguise? How did you get inside these complicated - and very different - young minds?
JM: I am not, in fact, a teenage girl. But I am writer which is pretty darn close.
A great interview with Meno from The Millions.
The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together, these items weighed between 15 and 20 pounds, depending upon a man’s habits or rate of metabolism. Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap he’d stolen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the headoutside the village of Than Khe in mid-April.
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien is not only one of the greatest war stories of all time (and, for my money, the best piece of literature ever written about Vietnam), it’s also a great example of the technique of listing in fiction. It’s a favorite of mine.
Gloria Hilton and her fifth husband didn’t live in New Hampshire very long. But they lived there long enough for me to sell them a bathtub enclosure. My main line is aluminum combination storm windows and screens—but anybody in storm windows is practically automatically in bathtub enclosures, too.
The enclosure they ordered was for Gloria Hilton’s personal bathtub. I guess that was the zenith of my career. Some men are asked to build mighty dams or noble skyscrapers, or conquer terrible plagues, or lead great armies into battle.
I was asked to keep drafts off the most famous body in the world.
— The opening paragraphs of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s “Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son” from the legendary collection Welcome to the Monkey House.
The man went to the pet store to buy himself a little man to keep him company. The pet store was full of dogs with splotches and shy cats coy and the friendly people got dogs and the independent people got cats and this man looked around until he found a cage inside of which was a miniature sofa and tiny TV and one small attractive brown-haired man, wearing a tweed suit. He looked at the price tag. The little man was expensive but the big man had a reliable job and thought this was a worthy purchase.
—The first paragraph of Aimee Bender’s fabulous short story “The End of the Line.”
Ignore your Tumblarity ranking. You are all tops in my book. Carry on with your awesomeness.
It’s not you, it’s me. Maybe I didn’t give us enough time to get to know one another. Who’s to say? The truth is I just don’t feel ready for this kind of committment. You deserve better than the kind of effort I’ve been putting into our relationship and maybe one day, in a better world, we can try again. We’ve shared some good times together and you’re even fairly easy on the eyes. However, the content you give is a little… how do I put this… demanding. I’m a one book at a time kind of girl, refusing to cheat on one with the other, which is why I’m trying to let you down easy rather than make this into *thing*. Don’t worry, I’ll still respect you and all that. Get yourself out there an find a reader you deserve - maybe someone with Kindle. Catch you on the flip side, Laura
I had this same talk over and over again with Gravity’s Rainbow. Sometimes it’s just better to walk away.
Sue Ann is a wonder. Yesterday she viciously kicked my ankle for not paying attention when she was attempting to pass me a note during History. It is swollen still. But Miss Mandible was watching me, there was nothing I could do. Oddly enough Sue Ann reminds me of the wife I had in my former role, while Miss Mandible seems to be a child. She watches me constantly, trying to keep sexual significance out of her look; I am afraid the other children have noticed. I have already heard, on that ghostly frequency that is the medium of class room communication, the words “Teacher’s pet!”” —
From Me and Miss Mandible, by Donald Barthelme
in no particular order
- Flash Fiction Forward edited by James Thomas
- Pieces for the Left Hand by J Robert Lennon
- Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender
- No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
- Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
- The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier
- A Place So Foreign & 8 More by Cory Doctorow
- Nine Stories by J D Salinger
in honor of Short Story Month!
This is a really, really good list. I shall post mine at some point this month.
May is Short Story Month. People make a huge deal of April being National Poetry Month, but you never really hear much about May as Short Story Month. Well, that’s about to change (around here at least…meaning to the lucky 24 of you who follow me). I’m going to post something (a link, an excerpt, a brief essay) about a different short story every single freakin’ day in the month of May (except the ones that have already happened. Can’t do much about them).
Anyway, stay tuned for more of the good, short stuff.
first, i should say that i’m not entirely clear on whether this issue has been resolved - it appears to me that the flagged books are back in the main search, but i haven’t done extensive testing and haven’t seen anything from affected authors saying it’s been taken care of. i also don’t quite understand enough about databases to know whether amazon’s description of how the problem arose is credible.
Now is the perfect time to think about whether you want to trust one company to dominate the book market, or any market, for that matter. The benefit of having a rich, diverse ecosystem of vendors and suppliers has never been more obvious: many sources of information equals choice, and choice equals freedom. It’s actually your freedom that’s at stake here, and putting things back the way they were, fixing the notorious “glitch,” won’t change that. Because your freedom was at stake long before this recent de-listing experiment. Anytime you limit yourself to fewer suppliers, especially of something as vital as information, you’re putting yourself at the mercy of that provider.
And what kind of a provider is Amazon, anyway? They’re not the most transparent of companies. In fact, they’re among the least transparent. They give jack to charity, they don’t pay state sales tax despite doing much business in every state, and they aim to be nothing less than the sole provider of media on the planet.
the problems of concentrating media providing in a single company is underlined by some recent experiences with the kindle, via boingboing:
Ian bought a Kindle and some Kindle ebooks from Amazon. He also bought some real-world stuff from them, some of which he returned. Amazon decided that he’d returned too many things, so they suspended his Amazon account, which meant that he could no longer buy any Kindle books, and any Kindle subscriptions he’s paid for stop working.
while consolidation of “print” in kindle or e-book form seems a long way off, it’s still worth considering the power held by a sole media provider and wondering whether amazon is the monolitic media provider we want.
Let’s grab a bottle of wine and find you something better to read.