Do you read a lot of short fiction?
Posted January 22, 2007on:
I find that I can only read short stories if they are published in a book with a sturdy spine. I’ve noticed when tag surfing on WordPress that there are a noticeable number of bloggers who post short stories, or parts of longer works; on Metaxucafe I sometimes notice “flash fiction” entries. Technically a lover of words such as I should be skimming lines, giving each author I chance but I do the opposite. Nothing moves my eyes along faster than a post tagged “fiction” with no hyperlinks to another person’s work. It’s a reflex now.
The only exceptions to this, so far is *w at Loud Solitude and Dan Green. The first because her words had more devious means of initially gaining my attention and then my mouth widened a bit because, ummmm, how is this writing allowed to be so good on a surface not on paper bound by a spine? The second because, in my spare time, I draw hearts and flowers around a free-hand charcoal sketch of **Green’s brain.
It’s a weird prejudice. I tend to ignore stories on any kind of glossy magazine surface or crackly newspaper print, too. Short of buying a short story collection, which rarely happens, I won’t read any.
Except in the Paris Review. Because it’s on proper paper bounded by a sturdy spine! The Fall issue had this fantastic short story by Mohsin Hamad. It was the opening piece and I sat by the huge glass window behind the magazine rack, then moved to the worn purple sofa, focused on every new development. That, and the photo essay, were what tipped me into the Paris Review boat. (It definitely wasn’t the Stephen King interview.)
The fiction, so far, in this issue is not as riveting but it’s not boring either. T.C. Boyle contributed a story about an alcoholic father in denial with an estranged wife away in Paris, his Chinese-American art store owner paramour and two young daughters, the older at 12 (almost 13). The father bored me to tears, probably because I’m really weary of the middle-aged, middle-class white male adulterer who is not the-best-father-in-the-world-but-he-tries character and Boyle doesn’t do much to change my mind here. He is effective at changing the voices when he switches to the older daughter, Angelle, the slip into the characters seamless, making each distinctive. (Some authors use very artificial means of differentiating age in characters: in lesser hands Angelle would be spouting all the latest slangs and name-dropping 50 cents). I don’t find her particularly interesting either but the conflict at the centre of the story is enough to make one want to read to the end.
I used to think that T.C. Boyle was a sci fi author, even after decent coverage by the NYTBR and his shelving in book stores indicated otherwise. And even after reading that story, somehow, I still feel that Boyle should be writing a story that has space ships. I’ve never actually googled his name or read anything about him–maybe he has some dark sci fi writings in his past…
*Perhaps not strictly fiction but it’s so imaginatively written that it has to count. We can’t describe that as regular ol’ blog writing because where does that leave the rest of us?
**I’m kidding. I made an origami brain and framed it.