Story Challenge for February, part two

I had a few book reviews due–Walter Mosley’s Down the River Unto the Sea, and Eva Dolan’s incredible This is How it Ends–so I’ve cut back on the short stories a bit. Now I’m back at it, and here are some favorites:

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Death Valley, by schizo604

“Fractal” by Joyce Carol Oates at Lit Hub. She writes many kinds of stories, but this genre tale about a child prodigy with abilities we can’t understand is a real winner.

“Nobody’s Fool” by R.D. Sullivan at Shotgun Honey has a nice twist. Sullivan is a new voice on the crime fiction scene and one to watch.

Blacktop” by Mrs. Fringe is an entertaining read about a cocksure never-been character some of us know well. There’s always one of them at the gym or on the court.

Mendelsohn,” in Tin House, by Seth Fried, is a bit long but an entertainingly bizarre suburbia story. I like this in part because I wrote a terrible suburban story about an anthropologist at war with a raccoon that keeps eating his trash. It was never published, the characters were caricatures, but it was good practice, and I liked reading what an experienced writer could do with the idea.

I have a book due at the library- I blew through the excellent House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson, a gripping but entertaining and light psychological thriller, and now I need to finish the forgotten classic Black No More by George Schuyler in a few days, so I won’t be reading more short stories yet!

If you like short stories, my collection Life During Wartime was just released by Down & Out Books, and contains “The Big Snip” which was chosen for The Best Crime & Mystery Stories 2016, as well as a Jay Desmarteaux yarn, three Denny the Dent tales, and “The Cronus Club,” which has never before appeared in print. Signed copies are available from Watchung Booksellers and The Mysterious Bookshop.

 

 

Stories for February, week one

Here are the stories I’ve read in the first week of February. What good shorts have you read lately? Tell us in the comments.

We Were Holy Once
La Belle de Nuit, La Belle du Jour
The Man and Women Like Him
Things You Should Know About Cassandra Dee
The Fires of Western Heaven
…all by Amber Sparks, in her excellent collection The Unfinished World.

She can write. Some stories have a touch of Edward Gorey, others are more vicious, but they are all delightful. I especially liked “We Were Holy Once”, about an infamous frontier family of hucksters and murderers, from the point of view of the simple brother. “Cassandra Dee” is chilling like a good fairy tale. The title story is more of a novella and feels diluted among the others. Alone it would probably be stronger. I did enjoy it.

“The Crazies” by Maud Streep, One Story.

I bet she gets this a lot, but I was glad it wasn’t Meryl when I saw it. One Story publishes some great stuff, but they also publish stories and excerpts of novels by people who don’t really need exposure, like Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Gilbert. They’re not exclusive, so it’s not to boost subscriptions. I don’t know why they do it, when they only publish 12 stories a year. But anyway, this is one of the good ones, a quick read that draws you in. They’ve had a solid run for the last few months, with this, “Guerrilla Marketing,” and “Pups.” For a $21 subscription, you get a lot of good reading.

Back to McSweeney’s 50:

“Orange Julius” by Kristen Iskandrian is a great story about parenting and over parenting.

“The Secret Room” by Benjamin Percy is a dark and true little short that could kick off a great novel. I hope it does someday.

“Please Fund Me” by Rebecca Curtis is a hilarious poke at entitlement. Looking forward to reading her story collection, Twenty Grand and Other Tales of Love and Money.

McSweeney’s 50 peters out with a translation of a Honore de Balzac story called “The Unfinished Masterpiece” which was all right, and some end notes and footnotes that try to meta-story around it that I couldn’t be bothered with, but overall a good issue.

I love a good Appalachia story and “The Haint” by Chris McGinley at Shotgun Honey is a fine one.

In the new issue of Tin House (vol. 19, #2) “The Wolves” by Kseniya Melnik is a breathless fairy tale from Stalin’s purges. A really great read.

The Noises from the Neighbors Upstairs: A Nightly Log” by Amber Sparks in SmokeLong Quarterly is hilarious. I heard her read it at Noir at the Bar in DC last October, and it’s even better in print.

Another Tin House story is the excellent “Moon and Star” by Ginger Gaffney, about a horse trainer trying to rope two rescue mares at a prison ranch where the inmates learn to work with animals. It’s as tense as it can get and still beautiful. Don’t tell me “literary” stories are about nothing.