Short Stories All the Time

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

26 July, 2016

Jill McCorkle, "The Last Station"

Oh, Tori's mother, an original and free thinking lady, is once again performing her version of the stations of the cross in the front yard. "In the beginning, Tori's mother's walks were all about what she felt was best for the children of the town, the state, the country, the world." She rants and rails against her husband and the fact that he died before their supposed upcoming and enjoyable retirement. Now she's on her own and feeling unappreciated. There is no modern topic she doesn't cover out there on her front lawn in front of neighbors and even the little boys having a lemonade stand. It's quite a funny, bittersweet story told in a fresh and quick-paced way. The story is nearly twenty pages long but reads quickly in a close, Tori's, third-person point of view.

"The Last Station" is in the current issue of The Southern Review  with the cover sporting a painting by Kehinde Wiley and another on the back cover and eight inside. I was fortunate to see a retrospective of his work at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

27 August, 2015

Jill McCorkle, "Departures"

Anna's husband has been dead now for three years. It's Thanksgiving and she's remembering some details of their lives together with their children. The theme of the story is that one, life is fragile, two, that any departure can be the last and three, no matter how much we think we will have a feeling that something is happening, we won't. Anna worried and imagined all sorts of things happening to her children while they were away at summer camp. This is a story about how one day will come and we will wish to have a day back. Don't wish away even the bad days. "Well, Carol, if I could have any day with your father, I'd pick a day in July that very summer that we surprised ourselves and I got pregnant with Wayne." Anna's grown children try to force her to conform to what they believe is the correct and proper role for a widow, that she should hang out with other widows, play cards and watch soap operas.

The story is even better on a second read. There are many sentences filled with wisdom and common sense that would do us a world of good to remember every day.

"Departures" was first published in the December 1991 issue of Atlantic Monthly and then included in McCorkle's collection, Crash Diet: Stories.

24 August, 2015

Jill McCorkle, "Comparison Shopping"

This first-person POV story is about Norlina and her attempts at finding her place in the world. Awkward girl in college, 1970, marries first guy to show interest and finally leaves him after seven years and moves to housing subdivision where her college roommate, Sue, now lives with Tom. Norlina tries to fit in there as well and allows Sue to dictate how Norlina's hair and clothes should be. A mental trick, coping mechanism, that she employs when she's with people she dislikes is "comparison shopping." "I have to blank my brain and comparison shop: Byron (scratching his head to see if anything has set up housekeeping there). Okay. Back to Jack."

Her so-called friends, Tom and Sue, are contestants on the television show, The New Newlywed Game. When asked who is the wife's "strangest friend" they both answer, Norlina. Of course, Norlina is watching the show at home with a man she cannot stand. She is humiliated once again. Except for one incident, Norlina, has lived her life just with whatever and whoever comes along and drags her along. She did walk away from Byron, leaving him skinny and alone in the forest to smoke his dope. The story is both funny and sad but in the end, Norlina takes charge of her life and decides "I feel for the first time that there is a place for me in this world and I no longer need a passport to get there." Norlina's life is going to be fantastic from here on out. I thinks she's going to kick butt and take names.

"Comparison Shopping" was first published in the 1992 spring issue of Southern Review. Included in McCorkle's collection, Crash Diet, also published in 1992.

I recently bought my copy of Crash Diet in Oxford, Mississippi at Off Square Books.

20 July, 2015

Jill McCorkle, "Swinger"

Marnie, forty, and Roland, sixty, have been together for about three years. Even as he is still married, his wife and daughter have been gone for years. Roland hooks up with Marnie and tells her that if his wife ever decides she wants a divorce, he'll marry Marnie. Marnie has no self-esteem, is overly dependable and has never asked for anything in her life. She settles for crumbs that pass her way. She wants a home more than anything in the world and is too timid to demand what she has the right to expect from a man she lives with and is devoted to. Roland dies and leaves Marnie in a situation where she can never have what she wants most, a home and marriage and sense that she is wanted. She found some photographs, Polaroids, twenty-three of them, in a shoebox hidden in the closet. There is a single photograph of each different woman. Marnie feels left out when Roland never asks her to pose in that identical pose of the other twenty-three women, another thing that Marnie can never have from Roland. A man breaks into the house, just before she has to vacate, and demands the car and says he may or may not kill Marnie. She convinces him to take the picture of her she'd always wanted Roland to take. She'd hinted at it once but it seemed as though Roland didn't really even remember having all those photographs of other women. Marnie gets the photo taken of her and the criminal leaves in Roland's car. Immediately, she wishes that she'd asked him to take two pictures so that she'd be the only woman, the special woman, to have two portraits. "But she is not someone who has ever taken more than her share." The prisoners from the nearby prison work and clean the ditches in front of her house and she watches them and occasionally waves at them. She is one of those characters I usually want to yell at through the pages of the magazine but McCorkle keeps her from being totally annoying. She's just a woman who had only two pleasant memories in her whole life: shelling peanuts as a child and Roland saying that the barbed wire tattoo symbolized keeping her in his life.

"Swinger" is included in the summer 2015 issue of Oxford American.

15 October, 2010

Jill McCorkle, "PS"

Jill McCorkle's short story, "PS," is included in the 2010 Best American Short Stories and was first published in The Atlantic. This is a funny story recognizing the hilarious times in our lives that are not funny. It is a 4,500 or so word letter from a prior patient of a marriage counselor. Hannah's husband, after years of marriage, became an evangelical Christian and insisted repeatedly that she "get saved." McCorkle tells an entire story of a marriage and the failing of that marriage through this letter. Even though this is a first-person story, the narrator seems believable and I like the circular pattern of Hannah's feeling like she "...looked lik shit on a stick" at the beginning and by the end, "...I no longer look one bit like shit on a stick."

Read this story again (April 2011) and still found it funny. I think the voice is perfect.

LINKS:

McCorkle's biography on her own web page
Narrative Magazine profile of McCorkle
book tour schedule
great interview with Jill McCorkle conducted by Stacey Cochran for Raleigh television. It's forty minutes long.
Houghton Mifflin site
Best American Series site

02 October, 2009

Jill McCorkle, "Magic Words," and Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

Read Jill McCorkle's short story, "Magic Words," which is included in the 2009 Best American Short Stories anthology. Three groups of people form different intersecting scenes. I like the way the climax in the story is a decision not to do something. It is an amazing story in that the characters' lives are liberally revealed and intersect yet is still a short story. It feels like a short story--which I'm not sure what that means--but is comprehensive, I guess I'm trying to say it is really efficient and contains not one extra word. The descriptions flesh out the tone of the story and in turn, that tone, tells some of the story. For example, the husband of Paula, publishes a neighborhood newsletter called, "Our Domestic Wildlife." The husband is anything but wild and in fact, fearful. One character called "the leader" is mean and wild but is a grocery store bag boy and a girl, Lauren, is feral but scared. And, the newsletter's mission is to warn the neighbors of the coyotes, racoons, etc. that have been invading the neighborhood.

Here is a link to an interview with Alice Sebold who was the editor for this year's anthology and they also discuss Sebold's novel, The Lovely Bones.