Short Stories All the Time

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

19 October, 2016

George Singleton, "Staff Picks"

Issue number 221 of One Story is by George Singleton. His third-person, past tense story, "Staff Picks," takes place near the border of Georgia and South Carolina at an RV sales lot. There's a "hands-on" contest in which nineteen contestants vie to win a Winnebago. Staffordshire Puckett is an archivist at the public library and she's just been dumped by her fiancé, Leon. There's some backstory about Leon and his poker playing.

The other contestants drop off, i.e. let go of the RV, eventually leaving it to either Staff or Landry Harmon, a professional bowler but not a champion bowler. It's ultimately a story about endurance and caring. Two people who have been waiting and waiting to have what they want in life and thinking that the Winnebago will be their ticket to a better or more interesting life. But they actually obtain something even better, companionship, admiration, and love. Also, another theme or desire on the parts of Staff and Landry is that they'd both like to have some revenge, not on lost loves but revenge against the pawn broker who had cheated them. These are two people who play fair with endurance and, in some sense, have been dealt a bad hand, not a horrible hand but somewhat less than a straight flush.

The ending scene of the story reminds me of Thelma and Louise, not with impending death, but with the decision to go into something serious together, as one, a united team against all those who cheat. Escape to live free of meanness and monotony. I like Singleton's characters in all of his stories. They are funny but not hilarious, realistic, funny in the way that the people are ridiculous. Life is ridiculous. Absurd.

Wikipedia page about George Singleton
One Story interview with Will Allison and Singleton

10 October, 2016

George Singleton, "Columbus Day"

In the fall 2016 issue of Oxford American, the short story, "Columbus Day," by George Singleton is written in present tense, first-person POV, and takes place during his and his wife's drive to and from Westgate Mall in Spartanburg. Lisette is a baker and wants to buy some items from the Williams-Sonoma and Renfro needs to walk his daily 10,000 steps so that his insurance premium is lowered. She shops and he stops to ask a man who is crying if he is okay. The man tells Renfro about the bench he is sitting on and the meaning it has for him. Also, it is the exact day, age wise, that his father died. "Wiley Rose Jr. says, 'I am the exact age as my father when he died. Exactly.'"

I love the rhythm of Singleton's sentences when he describes the mall. "The mall looks a lot like Main Street, only covered, which is to say Vacant Storefront, Vacant Storefront, Vacant Storefront, Place that Sells Ball Caps, Vacant Storefront, Place that Sells Leggings, Place that Sells Tennis Shoes, Vacant Storefront, Vacant Storefront, et cetera." And it continues on for a bit in this wonderful way.

Singleton's stories are realistic and funny in the banal way life, in general, is funny. Renfro Truluck is particularly worried why his wife watches so many television shows on the "Killer Channel." She's obsessed with them, "The show's back on, and I sit down, mesmerized again. Later I'll remember why we probably shouldn't procreate, as shouldn't most people I've seen or met in the recent past." And, he's become entranced as well. Woven through the story are considerations about Christopher Columbus and what he did and didn't accomplish and how life in the United States might or might not be vastly different than it is. With all that, I think that the theme is about change and dealing with change and interpreting those changes.

Somehow Singleton shows the craziness of people and their petty, and sometimes not petty, problems, issues, quirks without making fun of them but just elucidating their idiosyncrasies. And, I do find that most people are obsessed about one thing or another. We all seem to be addicted.

I'm particularly fond of this issue of Oxford American because I own an original photographic print of the photograph that is featured on the cover. It's a beautiful photograph by Ben Davis entitled Fay and Persimmon from his series, After Jordan. It hangs in our home and I look at it daily.


01 December, 2015

George Singleton, "Seldom Around Here"

Walter Inabinet, changed his name to Seldom, quit his job selling pharmaceuticals and became a fake folk or faux primitive artist. He goes to his art shack in which he spins out his paintings and what-nots that the gallery owner, Margaret Flythe, buys and then marks up to thousands of dollars and sells to the yuppies. One day a woman with a sick baby shows up and wants him to "breathe" on the baby and cure it of its bad case of thrush.

Seldom's wife, Emmie, is none too pleased with her husband's career move. She ends up having sex with the highway trooper, Loris Treen, while they are looking for the woman on the run who has just abandoned her sick baby. In the meantime, Seldom has sex in the art shack with the gallery owner. It's a funny story and the people are just screwed up enough that they are totally believable.

I like the theme of fakery and posing and how things can sound like they are different just because they have prestigious names, pharmaceutical salesman or snake-oil-fake-religious-artist-healer-guy.

"Seldom Around Here" was published in Zoetrope: All-Story in 2001. You can read the story here at this link. This afternoon I found Singleton reading a story online but my wonderful discovery was that a poet, Janice N. Harrington, was also reading. She teaches at the University of Illinois. I love her poetry and the way she reads it.

12 February, 2015

George Singleton, "What Could've Been?"

This story contains parts that are in a list style while giving directions, driving directions in a monologue fashion, to a listener, or to himself to return home with the parents waiting in the driveway because he missed curfew. It's a can't go home again story, "what could've been?" The story takes us through the 20th century suburbanization and rapid growth of corporate fast food chains, bank turnovers, demise of drive-in movies, multitude of car makes, pot smoking, etc. It's only three pages long and laments what could've been. I don't quite know how to explain what this story does but it's fabulous. And the way it sounds in my head is sing-song, poetic, musical.

"What Could've Been?" is in the current issue, 80, of Agni. I found a great video, from 2009, on YouTube of George Singleton and some students at his house and you can see his face jug collection. Then they wander around a flea market. LINK TO YOUTUBE VIDEO and a 2010 TED reading!

02 July, 2014

George Singleton, "Traditional Development"

Story about how people don't usually change much even after a windfall of seemingly good fortune. "Winning money, as he had learned, wasn't necessarily good fortune, at least not for people like him."

This theme is also shown in the way Brenda takes photographs of the old interiors of their house to display after she's remodeled. The old is still there over the new facade.

I enjoyed this story a lot with the myriad of amusing characters. The POV is a limited shifting and in past tense. The story takes place between Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC.

"Traditional Development" was published in the 2014 summer issue of Oxford American. George Singleton teaches at Wofford College.