Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Galchen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Galchen. Show all posts

07 August, 2014

Rivka Galchen, "The Lost Order"

The story begins with a woman who is out of work and has recently gained weight which she hadn't noticed until her brother said, "I don't recognize your legs." The first-person narrator goes on to decide that an accomplishment could be something not done.

She decides to answer the telephone despite that the caller ID says it is "Unavailable" and the man on the other end places an order for garlic chicken and white rice. He goes on to berate the narrator and she never admits to him that he has the wrong number.

She feels pressed for time; she feels like it's too much work to get dressed; she decides not to watch TV; she decides not to get on the computer. She's erasing and deleting options from her life.

When the phone rings again it is her husband and he asks her to go out into the courtyard and search for his lost wedding band. A bit of suspense is encountered when we find out that while the narrator/wife was away her husband stopped wearing his wedding ring, because it was lost. Or was it? She tells her husband that she is not going to go look for it. By this point, she's being rather cantankerous and seems to be depressed. She feels misunderstood. "You see me all wrong." Then the next minute she's missing her husband.

She's noticing the racial and gender make-up in her neighborhood in the daytime when everyone is at work and the nannies and hired help are the only people there. She calls herself a "daylight ghost." Again, idea of deleting herself or disappearing. She's dwindling away. "I had not always--had not even long--been a daylight ghost, a layabout, a mal pensant, a vacancy, a housewife, a person foiled by the challenge of getting dressed and someone who considered eating less a valid primary goal."

Then we find out that she had been a "busy environmental lawyer" but "an accidental expert of sorts in toxic mold." It's like her marriage has been infected with a toxic mold as well. Then there's some interesting information about how mold became such a big issue in the press. Then it fell apart for her. "But one day I woke up and heard myself saying, I am a fork being used to eat cereal. I am not a spoon. I am a fork. And I can't help people eat cereal any longer."

The Unavailable guy phones again and berates the narrator with insults and stereotypes. She knows he has the wrong number and does not know her but she takes the insults to heart. She decides to search for her husband's wedding ring.

She decides to ask a doorman about the ring but sees some UPS women and engages them in conversation about safety of the neighborhood and about their being women UPS personnel. She keeps "not asking about Boo's ring" and tells the women it is like seeing a unicorn or the Loch Ness monster. The women leave and she imagines herself telling the doorman that she is looking for a wedding ring. She daydreams.

She and her husband end up back at home and she tells him that she's been receiving "scary phone calls." He seems to think that she is having an affair. "Just tell me the thing that you've been hiding from me." She claims not to know what he is talking about and it seems this couple is doomed.

"The Lost Order" was first published in The New Yorker and is included in Galchen's collection, American Innovations.

17 June, 2014

Rivka Galchen, "Appreciation"

The third-person omniscient POV tells the story completely in a telling fashion, rather than showing. The opening paragraph includes dates and dollar amounts and one would think not a good way to open a short story. However, the rhythm of it works. In fact, the voice and style of the story is my favorite part. In the telling of the story there are a lot of "the mother said she said" types of phrases. Again, those are sprinkled in a nice fashion through the story. Never given names, the mother and the daughter are referred to as such. Despite the fact that the daughter works and puts money into retirement accounts, the mother is never happy nor does she think her daughter responsible.

There are many laugh out loud lines. "Other money went, as the mother might put it, into the hands of petty charlatans who didn't make it into law or medical school and whose parents, with their valueless American values, never taught them anything, poor things, actually, poor things. Or it went, as others might put it, into the hands of venders of artisanal chocolates and ninety-dollar T-shirts."

 The objective narrator will nuance declarations, "and this, more or less, happened. Although not really..." The mother constantly lays guilt on the daughter. "So it wasn't really such a draining gift, the mother says." Only once does the daughter call her mother out, "All you care about is money and weight; and you give me all this advice; but I'm thinner than you and I make more money than you." The mother retorts, "...she wasn't giving advice, just love."

The title "Appreciation" can refer to the appreciation or lack thereof for parents and children as well as the appreciation of real estate and retirement accounts.

"Appreciation" was published in The New Yorker in March of 2012.

Wikipedia page about Galchen

03 July, 2010

Rivka Galchen, "The Entire Northern Side Was Covered with Fire"

This story, "The Entire Northern Side Was Covered with Fire," by Rivka Galchen feels like a memoir excerpt; I probably feel that way because it's written in 1st person POV. Then when I read her interview at The New Yorker website, I found out that indeed the story was based on some truths in her life. (As all fiction is, I suppose.) There are some wonderful passages and this is my favorite: "Why was I already low on money? Partially because money just flies, as they say, or I guess it's time they say that about, the flying, but money, too--very winged."