Short Stories All the Time

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

18 March, 2014

David Means, "The Chair"

This first-person POV story is exhilarating in the way it engages the reader and made me feel as though I were thinking Bob Allison's thoughts. For me, the theme of the story is doubt in ourselves, doubt that we know what we are doing especially in raising a child, being married.

I think the real skill in writing a story like this is focus. How did the author stay focused enough to write for eight pages. Granted a lot of short stories are complicated with more people, more events, more plot but to remain in someone's head and not just superficially but deeply is impressive. Anyway, for me, I raced right along with Bob and felt anxiety as though I were he.

And, I'm curious what is going on now in Bob's life that he is remembering this incident.

"The Chair" was first published in the Paris Review and subsequently included in the Best American Short Stories, 2013.

23 July, 2011

David Means, "The Junction"

"The Junction" is the story of Lockjaw Kid telling on-the-road stories as well as teaching other hobos the best way to tell their stories to the people from whom they hope to obtain food. I

enjoyed the story but the long parenthetical phrases sometimes sent me off track, so to speak. However, that being said, I think it is my own short attention span at fault. I did like the informational side notes inside the parentheses. They seemed to enrich the story at hand even if they veered a bit.

The story is about 6,000 words and was first published in Ecotone and subsequently in PEN / O'Henry Prize Stories 2011.

Ecotone website

30 March, 2011

David Means, " The Butler's Lament"

Previously a tool-and-die man is now a delusional patient at the mental hospital and thinks he is the butler for Lord Byron and/or Lord Leitrim, depending. I had to look up who Lord Leitrim was. Murdered in 1878 and evidently quite a hellish Irish landlord and his murder was the precusor to the Land War. And, of course, Lord Byron, was the Romantic British poet.

There are class clashes in this story with reference to Leitrim, looming bosses, blue-collar workers in the factory, the doctor in charge of the hospital who holds himself apart from the patients. " my command, the orderlies ran out to restrain him." I cannot figure out if the doctor knew how The Butler would react when the doctor told him that Lord Byron was fine, or was the doctor pushing for a reaction? At times, I think that the doctor is another patient.

The story is written in 1st-person POV and past tense and is set in a mental hospital. The last part of the story is the doctor telling a fellow female doctor "a few years later" about how he believed The Butler's factory story was an indictment of his treatment methods.

A good portion of the story is The Butler's story about his job in a Detroit factory that made heavy doors, sound proof doors, strong doors such as one might find in a mental hospital. Padded arms in the factory and doors, solid yet with foam, and "pretense of control" turn the factory story into an analogy of the hospital.

This is one of those stories in which you learn more about the narrator by or through his/her observations of others and at times it was even (slightly) difficult (just had to pay close attention) to tell who was speaking, the patient or the doctor. As The Butler ages and evolves into other people, the doctor remains the same.

"The Butler's Lament" is probably under 3,000 words. Published in the Spring 2011 issue of Zoetrope: All-Story.

interview with Means on Rumpus
Wikipedia page
interview with Means at Powell's Books
The Story Prize, interview with Means
Macmillan page

09 April, 2010

Helen Simpson's, "Channel 17" and David Means, "The Knocking"

Helen Simpson's short story, "Channel 17," in Zoetrope: All-Story captures three couples', Jackie and Paul, Donald and his mistress, and a young mother and her husband, recently out of graduate school, intimate relationships. The vignettes are tied together by the same soft-porn show on channel 17 in a hotel in Paris. Naturally, each woman has different interpretations of the actress's talents, body, and circumstances. The women have varying degrees of conflict in their relationships yet no significant change happens outside of one husband's slight change of attitude. The theme seems to be that relationships sway in degrees of complacency and intensity. The story is short but quite wonderful in the tight way Simpson reveals large amounts of information and even in the short vignettes, I felt as though I thoroughly knew these three women. The story is written in 3rd person POV and present tense which lends to the feeling of immediacy and intimacy with the characters. I bought Getting a Life last week so now I'm anxious to read it.
David Means's story, "The Knocking," published in The New Yorker magazine tells in 1st person POV of an apartment dweller whose neighbor incessantly hammers and knocks driving the narrator into paranoia and believing that the knocking may even be a recording. The knocking sound has become torture and the theme illustrates that seemingly normal and well-adjusted people can be driven crazy and that we are all on the verge of madness, on the edge of the wall, at the brink of disaster. Life is a delicate balance between sanity and insanity, torture and pleasure.