Short Stories All the Time

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

10 August, 2017

Lily Tuck, "Alexa"

Lily Tuck's short story, "Alexa," in the summer 2017 issue of Zoetrope: All-Story shows a man in the 21st century and how an electronic personal assistant becomes intertwined with his longings and fantasies. The story is concisely constructed and complex in its brevity. The narrator makes up stories about strangers and in the end asks Alexa, "Tell me who I slept with." Did he sleep with Linda, his ex-wife, or the svelte blond woman from the hotel restaurant that he imagined sleeping with? The question also arises about whether or not the narrator has resigned himself to the life he has or does he escape it through his fantasies? And he wants Alexa to inform him. The story is also about intimacy and privacy. The more thought given to the story, the more questions that arise.

09 December, 2016

Lily Tuck, "St. Guilhem-le-Désert"

Anne has temporarily left her husband and gone to Paris. For a couple of days, she stays in an inexpensive hotel and visits some sites, then she goes to stay at her college friend's house in the village of St. Guilhem-le-Desert. Nina lives with Michel and their two children, Paul and Sophie. Woven into the story of Anne's dissatisfaction with her expectations are stories of Charlemagne and Guilhem and cave exploration and music. Michel is a musician and Anne met George, her husband, at a jazz string concert. There is a walk in the forested mountains and a dead sheep in her path and her friend, Nina, dying of a brain tumor. Despite all of the complexities, the story is only sixteen pages long. It's told in present tense that reads as past. "The time Anne leaves her husband, she goes to France." The story occurred exactly one year before Nina died. "A year to the day after Anne leaves St. Guilhem-le-Désert, Nina dies of a brain tumor--the cause of the headaches, Anne supposes."

I think, for me, the theme is about expectations and that when not fulfilled exactly as expected, a person might feel discombobulated or temporarily saddened. The way tense is used is interesting and quite natural but unexpected. 😊

"St. Guilhem-le-Désert" was first published in Ploughshares and then included in Tuck's collection, The House at Belle Fontaine.

29 December, 2014

Lily Tuck, "Bloomsday in Bangkok"

Where to start with this story? Claire and James are living in Thailand, had been in the west, United States probably. They pride themselves on experiencing Thailand as the locals do. James "prided himself on his ability to eat everything." Siri his local work counterpart challenges him, for 1000 baht, James fails the test to eat the particular item Siri organized and Claire, disgusted by the idea of eating monkey brains, sits in the Land Rover to wait for James.

Their friend, Frank, a veteran, suffers from anxiety and PTSD, eventually kills himself back home at his parents' house in Ohio. Claire goes to check on Frank at his house in Thailand but finds just the houseboy and a bunch of other people. Frank had not returned. Then she finds out that he'd had to be treated with electroshock treatment. The next day is June 16, Bloomsday, and Claire reminds James that they had planned to read Joyce's Ulysses and that Frank had wanted to read all of the Molly Bloom parts. June 16 was also the date Siri tested James's food resolve.

This is the kind of story in which the parts depend on each other to such an extent that dissection doesn't serve the story well. LBJ is even included. The story began with Claire's seeing monkeys everywhere and is haunted by the whir of the electric saw at the story's end. Claire, James, and Frank are out of their element but are open to experiencing a culture other than their own. Sometimes they are rude in their mimicking and while open do have their limits with their efforts at self-assimilation.

"Bloomsday in Bangkok" was first published in different form in Fiction and then included in Tuck's collection, The House at Belle Fontaine.

27 December, 2014

Lily Tuck, "The House at Belle Fontaine"

Monsieur Rossier, ninety-three years old, has asked Ella, his tenant, to dinner at his château. She lives in the home that he had shared with his deceased wife. She's not really sure why he's invited her to dinner but she goes because her children are away and she wants to make a good impression on the gentleman. The theme seems to be substitution. People standing in for other people. Emptiness left by death of some loved ones and the attempts to fill those holes or maybe just that no one seems to be who they are. The dancer on the television variety show is a cross-dresser. Ella is almost a placeholder for Monsieur Rossier's deceased wife. Also included is a plane crash in which everyone is killed. It happened near the Rossier property. The church is turned into a morgue. Again, one thing standing in for another. The point of view shifts between Rossier and Ella and in present tense.

"The House at Belle Fontaine" was first published in the American Scholar and is the first story in the collection of the same title, published in 2013.

Sundress Publications review
New York Times review

24 December, 2014

Lily Tuck, "Lucky"

Mid-50's year old woman, Helen, has returned to her house on Long Island from a trip to Tuscany. She is a painter, artist, and also owns a cottage on the same property that she recently rented to Craig, a carpenter. He and his girlfriend, Gina, happen upon a tragic car accident victim who happens to be Helen's ex-husband. Although, no one learns the coincidence of that except the reader. The story is divided into ten distinct scenes that change point of view. "Lucky" is told in present tense.

There are several other coincidences, characters who are followed, have his/her own scene, after introduced in a supporting role in the earlier scene. It goes to show how small of a world it is and how we impact others without even knowing it. At the restaurant, Gina waits on the law professor and Barbara, the doctor who attended to the man Gina and Craig saw in the accident. Gina is a law student. The concise style is astounding and the story is never hard to follow.

The law professor thinks that he recognizes their waitress as a student at the school where he teaches. The most minor character, Harold, in the story is the one who might have recognized a coincidence, Gina. And it is Harold who states, "'You know something, honey, we're lucky.'" Barn swallows are nesting above where Helen paints and she's careful not to disturb them but in the end they die.

The ending makes a nice circle in that the story opens with a woman having an orgasm and closes with a woman crying. "Lucky" was first published in the Kenyon Review and then included in Tuck's collection, The House at Belle Fontaine. I have certainly not given this great story its due but it is one of my favorites at the moment. There are many themes and connections and symbols etc. that give this story a rich depth and one would do well to read it many times as it will never be completely consumed.

I find it interesting that Lily Tuck studied under Gordon Lish.

New York Times review of the collection
Boston Globe review of collection

22 December, 2014

Lily Tuck, "My Flame"

Alison and Mark open their home to Mark's niece, Leslie, whose alcoholic mother is out of control. Many years later, after Leslie and Mark have both died, Alison finds out that her husband had sex with Leslie.

The best part of the story is the economy of words, the clarity of mission, the deftness with the POV shifts and the concise individual scenes that create a whole story.

"My Flame" was first published in The Yale Review and is included in Tuck's collection, The House at Belle Fontaine.

01 July, 2011

Lily Tuck, "Ice"

Maud and Peter go on a cruise to Antarctica and experience some mild marital strife that is repetitious of previous issues between them. "Ice" was first published in American Scholar and subsequently selected for inclusion in PEN / O'Henry Prize Stories, 2011.

A woman in a wheelchair is interested in identifying albatrosses and another woman wants to hit a golf ball in every country of the world. Janet flirts with Peter and he seems to reciprocate which awakens Maud's anxieties about their marriage. Peter's somewhat passive aggressive and he and Maud are not communicating clearly and she fears being abandoned. I enjoyed the story details about nature and geography surrounding the issue of Maud and Peter's relationship, albatrosses, infinity, Maud's dreams about numbers, the natural world of Antarctica, whales, penguins, etc.

I don't think anything is really resolved between Maud and Peter but Maud has acknowledged some of her faults.

I've never read any Lily Tuck stories. I enjoyed this one very much and will look for others.

I just read "Ice" again on Dec 21, 2014. This time I got an intense sense of desolation and quiet. Also, for me, this time I picked up on a theme of panic and fear. Panic at being left alone or abandoned or even being dismissed from someone's thoughts. "Ice" is truly a wonderful story. The setting and tone are perfect for the theme. I also appreciate the economy of words. This is the kind of story I wish I could write. I do try. "Ice" is included in Tuck's collection, The House at Belle Fontaine.

Biographical information
Biographical information, Random House
an interview with Tuck