Short Stories All the Time

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

10 June, 2011

Helen Simpson, "Diary of an Interesting Year"

All I have to say is that this story is depressing and full of real fears that I have. It takes place in 2040 and the world has become dysfunctional. No food, no gas, too much rain, too much violence. Total breakdown of society. The author refers to it in her comments as a "dystopian diary."

It is eleven pages long. Begins in February and ends in November of the same year. Obviously, it is written in first-person POV. I think it opened brilliantly with the first entry. It sets up a suspense when she describes the spiral bound notebook she just received for her birthday. "I'll keep my handwriting tiny to make the paper go further." Right away we know something is wrong. Loved the opening.

The funny part--the only one--is that the husband/boyfriend who gave the narrator the notebook is mostly concerned that she acknowledge that he was right, we assume, about global climate change.

I've read a couple of stories by Simpson and absolutely adore "Channel 17" which was published in Zoetrope: All-Story.

my own blog entry for "Channel 17"
Wikipedia entry
Simpson's web page

18 March, 2011

Helen Simpson, "Sorry?"

Patrick has had to get a hearing aid which screams at him. His hearing disappeared overnight and what comes through the hearing device vacillates between "compensatory brain activity" and his guilty conscience. "'You old beast,' shrieks at him in his daughter's voice but he can see that her lips were not moving." His wife has died, his younger daughter has moved to Australia, from England, and he's staying with his eldest daughter while he gets back on his feet with his hearing and middle ear difficulties. Evidently, he was not a model father and has no interest in becoming one now. At times funny, at times poignant, and at times prescient, pay attention or... I liked this story very much.

The story is probably less than 2,500 words and written in 3rd-person POV. It was published in Granta, issue number 106.

Also included in this issue is an extensive interview with Mavis Gallant.

Granta's web page for Simpson
QBD book shop site

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.