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Archive for the ‘Genre: Short stories’ Category

13. “Barrel Fever,” David Sedaris

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

This book really isn’t ha-ha funny like “Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim” or “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” but it’s not bad. Many of the stories are sort of sad, fueled by alcohol and outsiderism, and they have the humor that comes along with self-hatred.

It was exactly the right length for my commute. Each story was just about one ride in, and I like that.

Page count: 208
Page total: 3,513

7. “How We Are Hungry,” Dave Eggers

December 23, 2009 2 comments

Dave Eggers is a fucking master of titles. Will you check this shit out?

– “Another”
– “What it means when a crowd in a faraway nation takes a soldier representing your own nation, shoots him, drags him from his vehicle and then mutilates him in the dust”
– “The only meaning of the oil-wet water”
– “On wanting to have three walls up before she gets home”
– “Climbing to the window, pretending to dance”
– “She waits, seething, blooming”
– “Quiet”
– “Your mother and I”
– “Naveed ”
– “Notes for a story of a man who will not die alone”
– “About the man who began flying after meeting her”
– “Up the mountain coming down slowly”
– “There are some things he should keep to himself”
– “When they learned to yelp”
– “After I was thrown in the river and before I drowned”

He barely needs to write the story after that. And, in fact, in “There Are Some Things He Should Keep to Himself,” he doesn’t. The story is six blank pages. The clever bastard.

I thought about how to say this next bit the whole time I was brushing my teeth– and I brush my teeth for the full two minutes, which is, you may not realize, a long time when all you are doing is moving a toothbrush in small circles and trying (and in my case, failing) to dribble toothpaste foam on yourself. Eggers’ stories never really feel finished. Not in a bad way (like can be said of many of Raymond Carvers’ exercises in oddly-paced, ennui-soaked frustration), but instead they just seem to understand that real people’s stories go on even after their part in them is done. So of course these little character sketches would never seem done. Though all of his characters seem to have the same sort of flat affect, I liked it because I am at the same crappy point in my life when nothing is wrong, and I’m too apathetic to even call this depression, and also too apathetic to panic that this universal suckitude is just the way life is sometimes. Oh wait. Found some panic.

I’ll also add that the proceeds from this book go to 826 Valencia, which is a writing workshop Eggers co-founded. Which just makes me think he is a stand-up, though emotionally manipulative guy.

Page count: 224
Page total: 1,409

Quotes follow! Read more…

43. “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” ZZ Packer

June 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Lyrical, heart-breaking, touching, tough.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Would you just go buy it already?

Page count: 238
Page total: 19,798

41. “The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003” 3, edited by Zadie Smith

June 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Zadie Smith edits this one. It showed me the difference an editor makes in anthologies like this. In her introduction, she talks about coming to the US for the first time and being surprised by the US brand of journalism. She reflects that, as a writer, she can always tell when writers are being literary and it makes her “want to scream”. Therefore, she really appreciates anything that is or purports to be true (xxvii-xxviii).

I can see this thread throughout the stories she selected. They all have a sort of journalistic feel to them. It’s hard to pin down, but most of them seem to be the writer narrating (lots of first person). She also selected a number of pieces by people of color and people writing about adolescents, both of which I like, because I think they are often underrepresented in anthologies. Even Dave Eggers’ intro to this edition says that they don’t know for whom they are compiling these books– they thought teenagers with the first one, but it turned out that that’s not really true.

Page count: 363
Page total: 19,225

(I’m listing this one out of order. I finished it on the eighth.)