My new short story, “Secret Convention,” looks at a BDSM gathering from the perspective of an accidental bystander. I am excited to have it in the latest issue of CSU Chico’s literary journal Watershed Review. I hope that you enjoy it!
I’m thrilled to have my absurdist little footnoted story in the new issue of Midway Journal! I’ve always admired Midway’s aesthetic, and the editors have been wonderful to work with and incredibly attentive. You can read the piece here. Enjoy!
To mark James Salter’s passing earlier this month, The New Yorker editors posted a link to his powerful story, “Last Night,” on their Facebook timeline. In the story, a husband and wife face a singular situation. The wife is terminally ill, and the two have opted for assisted suicide. The husband plans to perform the act in their home on the very night the story takes place. They invite a younger female friend over and take her out to dinner as a prelude to the event.
From beginning to end, Salter’s writing is impeccable. The scenes are tense and taut and they propel the reader on effortlessly. Below is an excerpt from the story, but the entire piece is freely available on the The New Yorker page.
It was in the uterus and had travelled from there to the lungs. In the end, she had accepted it. Above the square neckline of her dress the skin, pallid, seemed to emanate a darkness. She no longer resembled herself. What she had been was gone; it had been taken from her. The change was fearful, especially in her face. She had a face now that was for the afterlife and those she would meet there. It was hard for Walter to remember how she had once been. She was almost a different woman from the one to whom he had made a solemn promise to help when the time came.
Today I came across Dan Chaon’s story “I Wake Up” at Burrow Press Review. The story’s narrator, a 25-year-old man who grew up in foster care, reconnects with his biological sister over the phone. The two experienced a traumatic childhood together, and the narrator struggles to remember the details.
I took a master class in fiction with Chaon while I was in the M.F.A. program at Indiana University. I hadn’t read his work before meeting him, but once I did, I was captivated by the clarity of his prose, as well as his fascination with the grotesque. The grotesque in Chaon’s fiction is presented in passing. One seldom looks at it head on. And this technique creates an eeriness that stays with the reader after the story is over. Here’s an excerpt from “I Wake Up,” but you can read the whole story on the Burrow Press Review page:
The day I lost my finger was something like that. One minute I was on the ladder, three stories up, painting along the frame of an old round window near the peak of the house; the next minute a swimmy feeling trickled up my spine and into my brain. The window was empty and then the face of a woman floated up like a transparent reflection on the surface of water, moving toward me, pressing up against the glass, a face like someone who had loved me once, leaning over my bed at night to kiss my hair. I don’t even remember falling, though I recall the feeling as my ring caught against a nail, the finger separating from my body, not so much pain as a kind of gasp. I hit the ground and the wind knocked out of me.
I just came across “Lavande,” a highly complex but subtle story by Ann Beattie, on Granta. The narrator is a wife and mother who has spent years watching her daughter’s self-destructive behavior. While in Rome with her husband, the narrator encounters the parents of a man to whom her daughter had briefly been engaged. She becomes fast friends with the mother of the boy, only to discover that this other woman is not who she claims to be. Beautiful story. Here’s the opening:
Some time ago, when my husband went to stay at the American Academy in Rome in order to do research, I accompanied him because I had never seen the Roman Forum. I had a book Harold had given me for my birthday that showed how the ruins looked in the present day, and each page also had its own transparent sheet with drawings that filled in what was missing, or completed the fragments that remained, so you could see what the scene had looked like in ancient times. It wasn’t so much that I cared about the Forum; in retrospect, I wonder whether Rome itself hadn’t seemed like a magical place where my eye could fill in layers of complexity—where I could walk the streets, daily performing my personal magic act.
A writing friend asked for reading recommendations — short stories, in particular — and my mind instantly went to “All I Know About Gertrude Stein,” by Jeanette Winterson, which I read about a month ago and couldn’t put down. Winterson’s prose here is mesmerizing. Here’s an excerpt:
Louise was in a relationship; it felt like a ship, though her vessel was a small boat rowed by herself with a cabin for her lover. Her lover’s ship was much bigger and carried crew and passengers. There was always a party going on. Her lover was at the centre of a busy world. Louise was her own world; self-contained, solitary, intense. She did not know how to reconcile these opposites – if opposites they were – and to make things more complicated, it was Louise who wanted the two of them to live together. Her lover said no – they were good as they were – and the solitary Louise and the sociable lover could not be in the same boat.
And so Louise was travelling alone to Paris.
I am Louise.