Short Stories All the Time

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

21 April, 2016

Caitlin Horrocks, "This is Not Your City"

This story, with language barriers for the main characters, develops from a mystery to a death and not the death of the person feared from the outset of the story. Nika has gone camping with her boyfriend and they have not returned. Daria and Paavo have difficulty speaking with the police as well as with each other. Daria has divorced her Russian husband and having gone to an agency found a Finnish husband in the hopes of a new life for her and her teenaged daughter. But now an explanation will have to be given to the authorities and the boyfriend's family. Very suspenseful and scary story while portraying the difficulty and dangerousness of language barriers.

"This is Not Your City" is included in Horrocks' collection of the same title. It was first published in Third Coast and then in the 2009 issue of PEN/O'Henry Prize Stories.

30 March, 2016

Caitlin Horrocks, "Embodied" and "Steal Small"

"Embodied" is about a woman who remembers most of her past 126 lives over 5,000 years. She's married in this life and living in Des Moines with her husband, Murray, who is a fourth grade teacher. He's a very understanding man and evidently totally believes that she can remember her past lives. She also sees the past lives of some other people but not Murray. She hopes that she never does see into his past. Her life is getting overcrowded in that even checkers at the grocery store have past lives that she knows about and was involved with in some way, a battle, a love, a birth, a killing, etc.

They decided to have a child but something is terribly wrong and she hates the being she's carrying. She feels it is a monster. She hits and slaps at her belly and yells that she hates the baby. We know right up front, in the first four lines, that she's lost the baby and that she's telling the story six months after the baby has died. She knew she was going to kill it before she even gave birth. Her job is as an internal auditor for a bank and she's also an internal auditor for the baby growing inside her. "That I was choking on my own baby?" She hoped that he'd have a good next life. "He would become someone else's child, and this abbreviated life, this little mistake, would be behind him. I hoped he would come back in the developed world somewhere, where he could go to school and eat well." She said she wasn't petty but she knew that Jacob, her newborn, had been in an earlier life the woman who had drowned her when she was an infant. "Everything that mattered about me had survived him, and he would survive me."

"Embodied" is a very interesting story and so believably written. I read it three times, back to back. I'm in awe of it. Today I re-read "Steal Small" two more times. I'd read it a couple of years ago and it had stuck with me. It's heartbreaking the way Lyssa only realizes how she failed her little sister, Mouse, many years later. It's also touching that the sisters stole just enough ingredients at the grocery store so that they could bake chocolate chip cookies and their mother scolded them for not stealing more. Leo with his dog "bunching" is disturbing. I'd never heard that term before.

"Embodied" is written in present tense and first-person POV. Both stories are included in Horrocks' collection, This is Not Your City. "Embodied" was first published in The Cincinnati Review and "Steal Small" was first published in Prairie Schooner.

23 February, 2012

Caitlin Horrocks, "The Sleep"

The premise of "The Sleep" started out fun and interesting. However, I had a difficult time staying with the story. There are some sections that I really like and after reviewing my thoughts about another Horrocks story, "Steal Small," I think I have some trouble getting in sync with her writing style. I remember having to read "Steal Small" several times and it took some work on my part to stay with it but I felt rewarded in the end.

I have a copy of her This is Not Your City and am anxious to read it.

Favorite sentence: "Times were tough for everybody, but others weren't shutting down their houses and lives and planning to warm their kids with burger grease."

"The Sleep" was first published in The Atlantic for the Kindle and subsequently selected for inclusion in the Best American Short Stories, 2011 which is my all time favorite annual anthology.

Horrocks' website
Best American Short Stories web page

23 December, 2010

Caitlin Horrocks, "Steal Small"

"Steal Small" originally published in Prairie Schooner is included in the 2011 Pushcart Prize XXXV: Best of the Small Presses.

It is written in first-person POV and past tense. It's probably over 6,500 words. Lyssa lives with Leo who finds and sells dogs to a middle man who then sells them for drug testing. Leo's day job is killing cattle at the slaughter house. As we follow Lyssa through the day with Leo and their dog gathering, we learn that Mouse, Lyssa's younger sister by five years, had been molested as a child, repeatedly. Lyssa was oblivious at the time and even now is sometimes oblivious to Leo.

Lyssa lacks self-esteem and now feels guilt that she did not protect her sister when they were young. There is a scene where Mouse and Lyssa steal ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. The most useful, albeit not followed, advice from their mother was that they should at least steal something worthwhile. This story is wonderfully written and the back story is integrated nicely into the front story.

The descriptions, layers of symbolism, the reality and the complexity of the psychological make-up of the characters make for a story worthy of reading many times.

I look forward to the release of Horrocks' first collection, This is Not Your City, to be published in 2011 by Sarabande Books.

Caitlin Horrocks' website
Pushcart Prize website
Sarabande Books