Short Stories All the Time

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

24 July, 2014

Karl Taro Greenfeld, "Zone of Mutuality"

This story sure makes working in a bank sound horrible as though it were a commission based discount shoe store and at the end of the day the lowest earning salesperson would be ousted.

"Zone of Mutuality" is told in first-person POV. Dwayne works at Jim Dandy Fried Chicken and desperately wants out so he takes the bank job. One of my favorite lines is "'Well you may wear a suit and have a business card and sit in an office some of the time, but you are still working the fryer, you got that?'"

So unfortunate that any company attempts this and that any person falls for it. "The total package she signed up for would cost her a fifth of her monthly income in fees and penalties, but she left our meeting believing she had done something positive with her morning."

A month later the woman wanted to cancel.  "I wished she'd been angry with me for having betrayed her, for having sold her a bunch of banking products that were ruining her life, but instead, she just seemed sad about it, as if being fucked over was normal for her."

Greenfeld does a great job illustrating the realistic way some people are taken advantage of when they don't understand that the salesperson, especially at an institution that is supposed to be of service, does not have his/her best interest at heart.

Dwayne tries to find a "zone of mutuality" at work as well as in his personal life. He finally gets together with a girl from high school and returns to Jim Dandy Fried Chicken.

Great illustration of a person trying to survive, circling round and round, going nowhere really, spinning out, slowly.

"Zone of Mutuality" was published in the Spring 2014 issue of American Short Fiction. I love this journal as it always contains great stories and no essays or poems etc.

16 February, 2014

Karl Taro Greenfeld, "Horned Men"

Told in a very close third person is the story of Bob, a former mortgage broker, whose life has abruptly changed and his daughter, Becca, 13, has had to change schools and has no friends. The story begins with a creepy factor and made me apprehensive to continue reading yet at the same time I wanted to find out Bob's issues.

When the housing market crashed, Bob evicted the family in his rental property. They prayed for Bob, Becca and Minnie conspicuously in the front yard. Bob runs coaxial cables to save the money he'd had paid someone else to do the job in the past. He inadvertently spies on his daughter from a small hole in the attic. He worries about how and why his relationship with his daughter has all but disappeared. He was caught up in making lots of money writing mortgages and they drifted apart.

Bob is bitten by a spider and his elbow swells; he cannot bend his arm. He and his wife do get jobs but do not make the same amounts of money as before.  And "…the muscles around his elbow would never again allow his arm to reach full extension…" just as Bob realizes he will never be the "flush consumer" again.

Bible stories and religion are woven into the story. Mail rerouted to Jericho; Bob bites the pomegranate in their garden (yard); the renters pray for Bob. Little talismans, horned men, are left in the attic and the closet. Bob begins the story "in the dark" and ends by telling himself that he doesn't believe in curses. He continues to watch his daughter and we hope that he will attempt to reconnect with her.

"Horned Men" was first published in the journal Zyzzyva and then  included in the 2013 issue of The Best American Short Stories. 

"…holy consumer trinity of telephone, Internet, and television…"

24 May, 2011

Karl Taro Greenfeld, "Partisans"

"Partisans" is the 149th story published by One Story. It is a first-person POV story and written in past tense. It is never clear exactly where the story takes place but it's a very hot desert area and the state, or country, is only referred to as the state. It is about the utter senselessness of war and border patrol. One group of men is sent to the remote area to relieve a group of which several had died. The elements, the animals, and the Minor-Leftenant kill each other. The story is suspenseful. I like the fact that a specific place or people are not used. The story is more universal that way. The first time I read it I thought the narrator was committing suicide by walking away because he knew he'd be shot down by his own commander and the circular gun, die in the elements, or be mauled to death by the hyenas. The second time I read it I felt more hopeful for the narrator as though he had to take some kind of action that made more sense than remaining in that hellhole, even if it meant inevitable death.

Favorite sentences: "The heat of the desert beat down and turned the room into a sweatbox. At night we heard gunfire and the screams of our comrades. Then one night there was nothing but silence, and the silence was worse than the screams."

blog entry about story
interview with Greenfeld and One Story
Wikipedia entry
Greenfeld's web site

05 December, 2010

Karl Taro Greenfeld, "Rocky"

A wild pack of dogs begins the short story, "Rocky," by Greenfeld. It's written in first person POV--as the other two stories I've read by Greenfeld--and past tense with the exception of the final sentence which is in present tense. I immediately read the story a second time because the ending seemed abrupt, and I felt I'd missed some important clues and layers of the story. After my second reading, I decided that the story is a murder mystery. The protagonist is inexplicably staying in a bungalow on a remote Thai island where he meets a young woman, Kelly, with a seven month old child.

Drownings and near drownings in the present story as well as the backstory coupled with the final determination of the coroner that Junyo "Rocky" Hayakawa was murdered create a mystery. However, we do not find out it was homicide until nearly the end of the story. The protagonist thought his father cruel to his mother and he fears he's becoming antisocial like his father. A swimming lesson nearly became deadly  when the protagonist was a young boy.

Kelly and the main character become a couple and travel to another island where boarding a ferry is wrought with danger and another possible drowning. However, the protagonist is "trying to hold on." This last sentence suddenly jumps the reader forward into the future. It's not completely clear why or how the protagonist is trying to hold on, hold on to the baby being passed over the water or hold on, in the staying sane sense of the phrase, after the baby drowned because it was his fault or is he trying to hold on meaning to stay calm and not get caught or found because he murdered his father.

Possibly my greatest question is how much time has passed from the story to the narrator telling the story. I love stories that evoke strong sense of place and encourage pondering for some time after reading.

American Short Fiction
Karl Taro Greenfeld's web page

13 January, 2010

Karl Taro Greenfeld, "Noisemaker"

Read short story, "Noisemaker," by Karl Taro Greenfeld published in the Summer 2008 issue of The Paris Review. It is written in 1st person POV and is about identity and belonging as well as self-perception, misplaced guilt, and possible intentional disparagement of a man's reputation. The complexities of the main character's emotions and fears are very well portrayed without being overwrought.

10 October, 2009

Karl Taro Greenfeld, "New Trends," and Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, "Yurt"

Karl Taro Greenfeld's story, "New Trends" in The Best American Short Stories, 2009 issue is a 1st person p.o.v. piece about publishing and journalism in China. Most of Greenfeld's work is non-fiction and in this piece the first person p.o.v. makes it feel like a memoir. I appreciated the details of the market system and publishing industry in China.

And, read Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum's short story, "Yurt," also in the 2009 BASS. This story is about the angst of young adults entering the work force, elementary school teachers, and losing their idealism, a kind of coming-of-age story about those entering their thirties.

After re-reading the ending to this story, I think it is about that stage of life where you realize that no decision has to be forever and that there comes a point where you decide on something, move forward and realize that you may just have to re-decide again, shift your position, go with the flow, try try again, etc.

The author says this story is written in the free indirect style.