Short Story Roundup, 2.14.18

Short Story Roundup

Short Story Roundup is a feature where I gather the best short stories I’ve read this week and share them with you every Wednesday. The stories might have been published yesterday or 100 years ago, but as long as I’ve read and loved them in a given week, you’ll find them here.

This week I’m featuring two stories about heartbreak and one about a not-too-distant but devastating future. Enjoy!


Mildly Unhappy, with Moments of Joy” by Amber Sparks

  • genre: literary/realistic fiction
  • publication: Matchbook
  • publication date: February 2018
  • why I loved it: There’s gobs of fiction out there about the unique pain of falling in love and breaking up with a romantic partner, but much less about the–in my experience, far worse–pain of breaking up with a friend. “Mildly Unhappy, with Moments of Joy” is a tender examination of a best-friendship gone wrong, and I was struck by how well Sparks captures the little details of this uniquely awful experience.

Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse

  • genre: science fiction
  • publication: Apex Magazine
  • publication date: August 8, 2017
  • why I loved it: This story has a heavy concept–an Indian (as in Native American) man offers “authentic Indian experiences” to tourists via a virtual reality machine, ultimately to his own detriment–but Rebecca Roanhorse writes with a light, almost breezy touch. This story is wildly imaginative, ironic, and sad, and it makes me even more excited than I already was for Roanhorse’s next novel, Trail of Lightning, about a post-apocalyptic Dinétah (Navajo) monster hunter.

In Omaha” by Amy Mackelden

  • genre: flash fiction, literary/realistic fiction, magical realism
  • publication: NANO Fiction
  • publication date: February 2016
  • why I loved it: I love how inventive flash fiction writers are by necessity, whether with language or plot. This snippet, about parents’ reaction to their child’s heartbreak, is sweet, sad, a little goofy, and very real all at once, in the way that only good flash fiction really can be.

What short fiction have you read and enjoyed lately? For the writers out there: Has any of your work appeared online or in print this week? Tell me all about it in the comments!

 

Short Story Roundup, 2.7.18

Short Story Roundup

Short Story Roundup is a feature where I gather the best short stories I’ve read this week and share them with you every Wednesday. The stories might have been published yesterday or 100 years ago, but as long as I’ve read and loved them in a given week, you’ll find them here.

This week I’m featuring two novel excerpts–one about post-apocalyptic dogs and one about running into a high school sweetheart after a near-death experience–so read on.


Anna” by Niccolò Ammaniti (translated by Jonathan Hunt)

  • genre: science fiction (post-apocalyptic)
  • publication: Guernica
  • publication date: February 5, 2018
  • why I loved it: This story, an excerpt from Ammaniti’s novel of the same name (translated from the original Italian), is a tense account of a conflict between a young Sicilian girl scavenging for food and a mangy dog covered in ash. Like many novel excerpts, it feels a bit unresolved, but Ammaniti’s world is immediately compelling. Why are all the grown-ups gone? What was the fire? What came before? All those questions will play in the back of your mind, but most of all, you’ll be gripped by the action.

The Afterlives” by Thomas Pierce

  • genre: literary/realistic fiction
  • publication: Literary Hub
  • publication date: January 12, 2018
  • why I loved it: This story is also an excerpt, from a novel by Thomas Pierce about an atheistic man who suffers a heart attack, only to confront the frightening possibility that there might not be an afterlife, after all. The excerpt documents the moment when he runs into his high school sweetheart after the attack, and it’s very tender and funny, propelled along by the gentle believability of its characters, even as they experience unbelievable events.

What short fiction have you read and enjoyed lately? For the writers out there: Has any of your work appeared online or in print this week? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Short Story Roundup, 1.24.18

Short Story Roundup

Short Story Roundup is a feature where I gather the best short stories I’ve read this week and share them with you every Wednesday. The stories might have been published yesterday or 100 years ago, but as long as I’ve read and loved them in a given week, you’ll find them here.


Poetry Suite by Adrienne Novy

  • genre: poetry (not fiction at all! is that cheating?)
  • publication: NAILED Magazine
  • publication date: November 7, 2017
  • why I loved it: I have the privilege of knowing Adrienne in real life (we attended the same small liberal arts college) and she is one of my most gifted friends. Though this suite of poems is neither prose nor fiction, I wanted to include it here, since Adrienne deftly weaves together threads of disability, sexuality, trauma, and the sacred into a truly gorgeous narrative. I sometimes struggle to read poetry–it’s a personal failing–but never when Adrienne is writing it.

Trailer Trash” by Joshua James Sanders

  • genre: magical realism, flash fiction
  • publication: NANO Fiction
  • publication date: March 14, 2016
  • why I loved it: A magician visits a trailer park for a kid’s birthday–and things get weird. I was thoroughly charmed by the details of this story, especially because I’ve noticed that flash fiction writers, panicked by the lack of space, will often omit the little sensory observations that make a story feel real.

Little Reunions” by Eileen Chang (translated by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz)

  • genre: literary/realistic fiction
  • publication: Literary Hub (excerpted from the English translation of Chang’s novel)
  • publication date: originally, 1976; in English, 2018.
  • why I loved it: This is a lovely snippet of what I imagine is a lovely novel; because it’s an excerpt, I didn’t get a full sense of the plot, but I loved the way Chang has captured what the beginning of falling in love feels like, and the way it happens both from within and without: from within as you fall in love, and without as the people around you react to your fall. I plan on seeking out the novel.

What short fiction have you read and enjoyed lately? For the writers out there: Has any of your work appeared online or in print this week? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Short Story Roundup, 1.17.18

Short Story Roundup

Short Story Roundup is a feature where I gather the best short stories I’ve read this week and share them with you every Wednesday. The stories might have been published yesterday or 100 years ago, but as long as I’ve read and loved them in a given week, you’ll find them here.

I was short on time this week, so today’s list is actually only one story–but it’s a good one!


A Cat Called Grievous” by R. L. Maizes

  • genre: literary/realistic fiction
  • publication: Electric Literature
  • publication date: January 10, 2018
  • why I loved it: This story, about a cat who “adopts” a couple struggling with infertility, is chilling, and located squarely at that porous boundary between real and unreal. If you, like me, adore cats but are also a tiny bit afraid of cats, this story will hit the spot.

What short fiction have you read and enjoyed lately? For the writers out there: Has any of your work appeared online or in print this week? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Short Story Roundup, 1.10.18

Short Story Roundup

Short Story Roundup is a feature where I gather the best short stories I’ve read this week and share them with you every Wednesday. The stories might have been published yesterday or 100 years ago, but as long as I’ve read and loved them in a given week, you’ll find them here.


A Few Nondescript Adventures of Some Consequence” by Maya Jewell Zeller

  • genre: beats me–but the closest fit is probably magical realism.
  • publication: Booth
  • date: November 3, 2017
  • why I loved it: This story is off the wall and I’m still not sure I understand it, but Zeller’s wordplay grabbed me on an intuitive and deeply enjoyable level regardless. “Office Girl” and “University Hero” embark on a kooky love affair that concludes in a surprisingly affecting manner.

Ghost Boyfriend” by Larissa Pham

  • genre: a blend of magical realism, realistic fiction, and allegory.
  • publication: Triangle House Review
  • date: late 2017 (in Triangle House Review’s inaugural issue)
  • why I loved it: A friend’s dead boyfriend rises from the grave, inserting major drama into the lives of a trio of artists. It’s a big concept, but Pham’s attention to small sensory details–whether it’s the way a penis looks in boxers, the taste of stale beer, or the soft green of pine needles–is what truly elevates this story.

What short fiction have you read and enjoyed lately? For the writers out there: Has any of your work appeared online or in print this week? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Short Story Roundup, 1.3.18

Short Story Roundup

Short Story Roundup is a feature where I gather the best short stories I’ve read this week and share them with you every Wednesday. The stories might have been published yesterday or 100 years ago, but as long as I’ve read and loved them in a given week, you’ll find them here.


No Good” by Hala Alyan

  • genre: literary/realistic
  • publication: The Rumpus
  • date: December 2017
  • why I loved it: “No Good” is a snapshot of cruelty and self-destruction that took my breath away. It’s a reminder of the way love can harm as easily as heal, and its fluid, lovely prose will uplift you even as its plot drags you down. Hala Alyan is a poet, both figuratively and literally, and her grasp of language and the human heart is truly inspiring.

The Little Rogue” by Maria Kuznetsova

  • genre: literary/realistic
  • publication: Keyhole Magazine
  • date: Fall 2015
  • why I loved it: Rufina, the failed actress at the center of “The Little Rogue,” is vain, out of touch, and more than a little silly, but in Kuznetsova’s skilled hands, her unlikeability is also her charm. We are all unlikeable in some way, and this story’s skillful blend of love, pity, and lampooning made me feel intensely connected to a character whose life experience is vastly different from my own.

What short fiction have you read and enjoyed this week? For the writers out there: Has any of your work appeared online or in print this week? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Short Story Roundup: Let’s talk about “Cat Person,” 12.13.17

Short Story Roundup

Short Story Roundup is a feature where I gather the best short stories I’ve read this week and share them with you every Wednesday! The stories might have been published yesterday or 100 years ago, but as long as I’ve read and loved them in a given week, you’ll find them here.

Because this week is my university’s finals week, leaving little time for me to read anything but textbooks, and because this week also contained the incredible viral phenomenon of “Cat Person,” this week’s post won’t be a roundup, but rather a collection of my thoughts on Kristen Roupenian’s firecracker of a story, instead.

Ready? Buckle in.


Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian

  • genre: literary fiction
  • publication: The New Yorker
  • date: published online Dec. 4, published in print December 11, 2017

“Cat Person” belongs to my new favorite mini-genre: “bad sex and its consequences.” Bearded loner Robert hits on sophomore Margot while she’s working at a movie theatre, and their relationship quickly gets complicated. Robert’s hot-and-cold texts and Margot’s hot-and-cold responses culminate in one spectacularly terrible date and a last word that’s familiar to anyone who’s ever online-dated, ever.

The internet went nuts, both because it’s a “lowbrow” story published in the “highbrow” New Yorker (a characterization I think is debatable), and because it’s a story that hits a nerve in the midst of acrid conversations about sexual harassment and assault.

I absolutely loved this story. I can see and even agree with many of the criticisms leveled at it–I saw several tweets that compared it to the internet’s craze for photorealistic art, which is criticized for capturing reality without actually commenting on it–but “Cat Person” pushed my emotional buttons regardless, and it put a college-age female protagonist on the pages of the New Yorker–something I thought could only happen on a frigid day in hell.

I loved Roupenian’s characterization of Margot and Robert as selfish people going through the motions of something that can bring out the worst in people: dating. I didn’t see it as condemning men–though, predictably, some men have taken it that way–but rather, as condemning a system that treats women (particularly white women like Margot) as prizes, and men as entitled to those prizes after certain mechanical motions have been performed.

Shameless plug: I explored similar themes in my short story, “Attention,” which was recently published in Cat on a Leash Review. In “Attention,” closeted lesbian Ingrid dates a man because it’s easier than articulating her own desires; in “Cat Person,” Margot dates Robert because it’s easier to be pursued than to pursue. That exploration of the self-preservation and selfishness that women cultivate in a sexist world is bottomlessly interesting to me.

Perhaps most importantly, as I mentioned above, the thing I loved most about “Cat Person” is the tantalizing promise of the New Yorker opening itself up to new kinds of fiction. I’ve devoured the New Yorker’s nonfiction sections for years, but I often find their fiction suffocating in its sameness. “Cat Person” isn’t boundary-shattering, but it’s certainly boundary-pushing, and I hope it opens the door for more women writers and particularly more women of color writing about experiences deemed “lowbrow” because they aren’t happening to the white upper-middle class. (It’s rarely admitted, but you know it’s true.)

And one last note: Can we talk about how ridiculous it is that there’s wonderful realistic fiction for children and teens, and wonderful realistic fiction for older adults, but rarely anything for people in their early 20’s? And that the stuff that is out there is usually about ridiculously wealthy Brooklynites and not ordinary folks? If you’re 18-24, “Cat Person” is worth reading for its demographically-appropriate protagonist alone.


What were your thoughts on “Cat Person”? What short fiction have you read and enjoyed this week? Tell me all about it in the comments!