Short Stories All the Time

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

15 July, 2017

Yuko Sakata, "On This Side"

The story is divided into thirteen sections and in simple past tense. There are some shifts in POV. The setting is Japan with a present day time frame. Toru returned home from work one day to find a former classmate waiting for him. First of all Toru was surprised Masato, now Saki, found him. There's some backstory about their relationship in high school. Saki is trans and asks if she can stay with Toru because she's been abused brutally by her boyfriend when he found out she's trans.

The story seems to be about whether or not there is an afterlife of some sort. And, also, guilt and justice, faith and faithfulness, suicide, depression, friendship, and kindness. Saki had been bullied and abused and later tells Toru that he was her only friend. Toru has two jobs, one is refilling vending machines and the second one is cleaning the grave sites for people who are too busy to do it themselves. When Saki leaves, after several months, Toru wishes that he could reach out to her on some other plane of reality. Saki had a recurring dream and it is through that that Toru wishes he could reach her.

"On This Side" was first published in the Iowa Review  and then included in the 2016 edition of The Best American Short Stories. 
EXCERPT:
"The evening air outside the open window smelled vibrant, as though the intensity of the heat had been skimmed off its surface and all the living things underneath were finally allowed to breathe. Occasionally trains went by just a few blocks away, but they sounded strangely muted and distant."

26 January, 2017

Anjali Sachdeva, "The World by Night"

The story is told in third-person point of view and present tense. Sadie's parents died of typhoid when she was a teen. I take the story to be set around 1905 in the middle of the United States, somewhere near Arkansas. Sadie marries at about eighteen and Zachary leaves to earn some money. Sadie has albinism and after experiencing extreme loneliness she explores a cave and eventually decides to live there, giving her sod house to a young man "headed to Springfield, but a storm come up."

The theme of the story, for me, is what can make a person completely separate oneself from society. Being made to feel different or separate or freakish can make a person more comfortable living apart. Sadie didn't want to go to the Burkes' if she had trouble because, "She always looks at me like I'm a bug. I'd rather starve to death." Sadie often put on dark glasses so that people wouldn't see her eyes dart. Sadie becomes mole-like. She can't see well; she can't tolerate the sun or bright light; she feels her way, mostly. It's also nice the way the author portrays the voices Sadie hears in the cave. I think after extended periods of time without human contact, one's mind plays tricks. And, the acoustics deep in a cave would be eerie over time.

"The World by Night," by Anjali Sachdeva, is in the winter 2016/2017 issue of The Iowa Review.

27 April, 2015

O. A. Lindsey, "Evie M."

This first person POV story is about a soldier back from war who is working a suck-ass menial job with a jerk of a manager. She is depressed and poor and contemplates suicide. To cope she has some obsessive habits, cleaning and organizing and watching some serial television shows.

"...crouching on her front paws and growling at it like a puppy, and a few of us laughed and then went in the tent, and some guys from the motor pool took bets and shot it. Her. It depends on how frozen the doughnuts are."

"It will take a precise balance of extra microwave and stirring to get them warm enough to eat without completely ruining the steak. I realize about six minutes in that I am going to kill myself."

There are several places in the story that pack this sort of punch where the ex-soldier's mind flits from subject to subject, no matter the significance of either.

The narrator begins a goodbye letter to her father and a separate one to her mother. They are wrenching in just where they stop. There are several places where the gender of the narrator seems to differ; sometimes I think it is a female and other times a male. I like how the story calls into question the reader's assumptions about gender and gender specific roles.

"Evie M." was first published in the Iowa Review in 2013 and then selected to be in the 2014 edition of Best American Short Stories.

Iowa Review interviewed Lindsey
a review of the story at blog: A Just Recompense

21 June, 2014

Ayse Papatya Bucak, "Iconography"

Told in future tense by a first person narrator, "Iconography," tells of a anorexic young Turkish woman during her first year in an American private university. It starts out telling us that the "Starving Girl" will "decline and rise." So right away we know that it's not just a story of the decline and death of a girl but that she will rise, i.e. into an icon.

The young girl finds "the pain so exquisite that it feels true." Most people want to subscribe a simple reason for her refusal to eat, government protest, Gandhi, Thoreau, or Kafka, eating disorder, or misguided idealism and in this way tells the reader he/she is free to place upon "Starving Girl" his/her reason.

Before she is the "Starving Girl," she is just one in the crowd, "not even the girl." University officials are finally notified and then her parents in Turkey. The parents leave their hotel in the hands of an assistant and there is some scandal when a young girl removes her head scarf at the foot of the leader Atatürk's mausoleum. Although the "Starving Girl's" parents never hear of the scandal the incident connects both girls. The girl refuses to replace her head scarf "despite the quiet insistence of her parents and ends up leaving her family for good." This works as an example of the way in which another girl becomes an icon and so can our girl.

When asked by many people what can be done to make her eat, she merely responds, "Change everything." With this "The Starving Girl" becomes an icon that can stand in for whatever we place upon her, burden her with.

People imbue her non-eating with meaning and protests which have nothing to do with her thoughts or reason for deciding not to eat which eventually makes a headline of "Student Protests Everything." She becomes a "sacrificial martyr" and then a "liberal protestor."

Finally so many people have joined that "no one is eating." "It is a hunger strike so large that everything changes, and for at least a year, ours is a world in which everyone helps each other..." and she comes to believe that she is "the little bit of sickness that stops the disease..." The Turks "knew sometimes you had to be sick in order to live."

The "Starving Girl" has become the iconography of the state of the world as well as "the spotlight."

There are many speculations about what happens next to the "Starving Girl." The girl dies. "She was an inspiration." She's become iconographic. The reader is reminded, "Remember, it has not happened yet," as if, of course, this is the sort of thing that will happen because it does happen.

First published in The Iowa Review and then in the 2014 Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses.

LINKS:
faculty page about Bucak
an essay--A MUST READ


28 December, 2013

Molly Patterson, "Don't Let Them Catch You"

"Don't Let Them Catch You" is told from the viewpoint of seven-year old Kaitlyn. Her big sister, Brandy, age fourteen, is supposed to pick her up from piano lessons but doesn't. There's been a kidnapping and Kaitlyn is understandably scared. The kids at school have been warned of stranger-danger but we find out that "strangers" are sometimes under one's nose. The story is touching and well-done with suspense. The seven-year old POV is believable yet not cliched.  Immediately we know the youthful POV. "He has a car and there's a long rope coming out from it that you can't see because it's made of a special material that's invisible. And the rope has a loop on the end of it. When you step into the loop, he drags you in like a fish." The foreshadowing is also well-done.

Patterson's debut collection is due out soon. "Don't Let Them Catch You" was first published in The Iowa Review and is included in the 2014 issue of Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses.

LINKS:
Pushcart Prize home page
an interview, St. Albans School, with Molly Patterson

03 January, 2013

Ron Hansen, "The Killers"

This story pays homage to Hemingway's story of the same title. It moves from 1926, 1940, 1960. Ron, the unseen character, not the author, calls the shots. Rex kills his boss Art. Rex is sent to kill Max but Max kills himself. Al kills the Swede. Max is sent to kill Al.

The greatest part of this story is the aspect of waiting. Just as in the Hemingway story, the guy knows he is going to be murdered and he waits for it. "Waiting's the worst of it." "...and Al watched him press the Smith and Wesson's muzzle there. Max fired once..."

The jumping around in time is somewhat confusing and, to me, it is not clear who the narrator is. There is a first-person female narrator a couple of times but the rest of the story seems to be third-person shifting.

Hansen is mostly a novelist but I've enjoyed these two short stories. This story was first published in The Iowa Review, sometime in the 1980s and then included in his collection, Nebraska.