Viagra est utilisé après consultation avec votre médecin, mais vous pouvez acheter Viagra en ligne, et le prix de Viagra est abordable.

Archive | Short Story Month RSS feed for this section

SSM 2010: Recognizing Its Prince–and Its Pricelessness

31 May

Some princes are know for their charm, others for their cunning and duplicity, still others their music making. In mid-May, Prince of Short Story Month, Dan Wickett (of Emerging Writers Network and Dzanc Books), waxed prosaic in Fictionaut Five about his reads, his wants, and his brainchild, SSM. (He even nods our way.)

ASF remains a proud and loyal subject, as you can see from our past month’s activity. If you missed any SSM discussion from the court of Wickett, check out its archives.

Thanks, Dan, and thanks, ASF contributors, for championing the short story in such royal fashion. We’ll keep the dream alive until SSM 2011. . .

SSM: Karen Russell’s “Haunting Olivia”

28 May

by Marian Oman, ASF intern

Karen Russell’s “Haunting Olivia” is the perfect story to read now—today!—as we stand on the edge of May before leaping headlong into summer and all its sticky, sunburned glory. The story, from Russell’s 2006 debut collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, is set in the otherworldly mugginess of the Florida Keys where two brothers search for the ghost of their younger sister, Olivia, who disappeared two years before during an afternoon of crab-sledding (“the closest thing we island kids have to a winter sport”). With the help of a pair of “diabolical” goggles that allow them to see ghosts underwater, the boys—Timothy and “Wallow” Swallow (Russell is a genius with names; the boys’ grandmother, who subsists “almost entirely on bananas, banana-based dishes and other foods that you can gum” is called Granana)—begin nightly sea scavenges for Olivia.

This weird and wonderful story is absolutely awash in the physical sensations of summer, of being a kid, outside, unsupervised, and all the grit and grime, bumps and bruises that such freedom entails. Describing the joys of crab-sledding, our narrator Timothy says: “You climb into the upended exoskeleton of a giant crab, then you go yeehaw slaloming down the powdery dunes. . . By the time you hit the water, you’re covered in it, grit in your teeth and your eyelids, along the line of your scalp.” If that’s not enough to make me want to try crab-sledding, then at least it makes me want to read this story on a beach, a healthy amount of sand between my toes.

But there’s something weightier going on here, too. The boys’ sense of loss after Olivia’s disappearance is as deep and dark as the waters they troll for their sister’s ghost. Their world is perpetually, almost primordially, waterlogged, its musty dampness like a beach towel that never quite dries. Each night, the boys haunt the murky waters off the coast of their island, paddling their crab-shell boat through the “rot and barnacles” of the boat basin and into the open water, under a night sky made liquid by an “eerie blue froth” of clouds. The boys accept the presence of the ghost fish beneath the water’s surface with the same quiet calm with which they contemplate the possibility that they will never find Olivia, the possibility that, after two years, “all the Olivia-ness has already seeped out of her and evaporated into the violet welter of clouds.”

There is a terrific sense of permeability in this story, the sense that the boys’ grief is as fine, invisible and vaporous a thing as the moisture that hangs in the humid night air. That, despite their mostly cheerful demeanors, the boys are also afflicted by a kind of sadness that can, like a phantasmic school of minnows, swim “right through my belly button.” A feeling that death is not just all around us, but, like life, is in us, too.

Let’s be honest, though: I am not fond of creepy crawly things, especially the (un)dead kind that lurks beneath the surface of the ocean. I never have been. When I was Tim and Wallow’s age, no amount of cajoling could have convinced me to accompany the boys on one of their midnight excursions. I would have turned my nose up at their grubby goggles, balked at the first mention of aquatic zombies, and stayed ashore with a book, safe, “dry and blameless.” But that’s what impresses me so much about this story. I shouldn’t like it as much as I do. And yet, Russell’s writing is so irresistible, her imagination so very odd, that before you know it you, too, are holding your breath, your nose, and—against your better judgment—leaping headfirst into a murky, messy world where dead fish swim alongside dead sisters. You’re up to your eyeballs in life’s mucky depths, all muddied up with good and bad, decay and beauty, life and death.

Describing the feeling he has just before he jumps into the ocean, Timothy says: “It’s my favorite moment: when I’m one toe away from flight and my body takes over. The choice is made, but the consequence is still just an inky shimmer beneath me. And I’m flying, I’m rushing to meet my own reflection—Gah! Then comes the less beautiful moment when I’m up to my eyeballs in tar water, and the goggles fill with stinging brine. And, for what seems like a very long time, I can’t see anything at all, dead or alive.”

Here’s to that moment of flight. To sand in your teeth and salt in your eyes. To “Haunting Olivia” and the weird, watery world that awaits us within. It’s summer: jump in.

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!
Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: Daniel Orozco’s “Orientation”

28 May

by Madeleine Crum, ASF intern

Daniel Orozco’s “Orientation,” selected for Best American Short Stories 1995, wryly takes you through the ins and outs of day one at a 9-to-5 job. (It’s a timely selection for me because this is my first week at ASF. On the whole, though, the story is not parallel to my experience here, where the only gossip seems to concern the office pet, a dachshund named Ethel.)

“Orientation” begins rather straightforwardly (“Those are the offices and these are the cubicles,” “If you make an emergency phone call without asking, you may be let go”), but the narrator soon begins listing what are probably elaborated accounts of his coworkers’ personal lives in a similar manner, implying that this information is just as important as knowing where the supplies cabinet is located.

Shifting seamlessly from duties to gossip and back again without losing his informative tone, Orozco humorously undermines the characters’ hardships, reducing them to individuals who either enhance or worsen one’s social status:

Anika Bloom sits in that cubicle. Last year, while reviewing quarterly reports in a meeting with Barry Hacker, Anika Bloom’s left palm began to bleed. She fell into a trance, stared into her hand, and told Barry Hacker when and how his wife would die. We laughed it off. She was, after all, a new employee. But Barry Hacker’s wife is dead. So unless you want to know exactly when and how you’ll die, never talk to Anika Bloom.

“Orientation” has been translated into several foreign languages, indicating the universality of corporate discontent. Orozco’s mastery of second-person narration is also refreshing, and this story is sure to make you laugh, regardless of whether or not you’ve been subjected to Forms Processing Procedures Manuals and Escape Route Quizzes.

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!
Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: On Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters

25 May

by Marie-Helene Bertino

Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters.

Stuff I like:

1.  Characters created in absentia; Seymour (three cheers!), and Muriel (boooooooo). Salinger’s stories always seem to be about absent characters; brothers mostly. Holden Caulfield’s absent brother is taken by the West Coast. The Glass stories revolve around the absent Seymour. Character being favorably talked about while not being present = longing. Longing is literary!  Longing has narrative! In Raise High, we long for the absent groom.

2. Salinger throws up the lob (the story about Charlotte), early.  Hip hip . . .

3. This story hearts letters. Journal entries, bathroom-mirror-soap poetry—characters speak without being present—more absentia—neat!

4. Salinger is unafraid to present characters who care about each other, who defend each other, who make unpopular choices based on personal moral codes.

5. How deftly Salinger observes women. The Matron of Honor (boooooooo); detestable, mouthy, substance-less. A gal whose boring opinions get louder with the donning of a wedding-related dress. Boo Boo describes the quality as being “a total zero.”* Oh boy oh boy I know these women.

6. The small, joyful fellow with the hat and cigar. A perfect pear on a porcelain dish in the sun.

7. Salinger comes down on the lob with a story-ending overhead smash; the truth about Charlotte’s stitches. . . hooray!

* This comment speaks directly to others in Ms. Bertino’s review of Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”

Marie-Helene Bertino’s “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph” appeared in American Short Fiction, spring 2010 (volume 13, issue 47).

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!
Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: The Staggering Darknesses of Breece D’J Pancake

24 May

by Jennifer Shapland, ASF editorial assistant

I found Breece D’J Pancake’s collection at the bookstore where I work. I was drawn in by two things: 1) his funny name, and 2) the charming cover (left), a grayscale disembodied fox’s head on off-white. I took the book up to the register and read the first page.  I couldn’t stop. For a few weeks, I read between customers, book under the counter. Don’t tell my managers.

There’s something to be said for writing that can stand that kind of repeated interruption. Hell, my own train of thought rarely can. Pancake is usually known as a regional writer, which could have put me off. His stories center on rural West Virginia, his home, where, “The sky has a film.” “The hillsides are baked here and have heat ghosts.” Heat ghosts. There are turkles and trilobites and the worst a person can do is talk through their beak. The scene is set from the first story, “Trilobites,” my favorite. It soaks into you. I still have no idea what a trilobite is.

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake will take you into mineshafts, across hillsides, front porches, and dark interiors. You will know his landscape in smothering heat and feet of snow. It will undermine your geography. Reading this collection, I watch the salt caked on everyone’s skin in “Trilobites” turn into the salt they spread on icy mountain roads in “Time and Again.” Pancake immerses me in the mentality of the place, its habits, its little collective lies. And at the same time he exposes me to an out-of-placeness that resonates deeply in me. I am totally out of my element in these stories and I love every second of it. They remind me of nothing.

There is a great darkness here, an almost geological one. While the landscape is grim and the stories disturbing, Pancake’s characters have small and sort of elegiac dreams for themselves. The narrator of “Trilobites” moves from his adolescent wish, “We will live on mangoes and love,” to a pressing resolution: “I’ve got eyes to shut in Michigan—maybe even Germany or China, I don’t know yet.” Pancake’s sentences are simple, straight, unsentimental. He isn’t talking through his beak or anything. Some stories, like “The Honored Dead” or “Fox Hunters,” only allude to that underlying darkness, so shadowy they demand rereading. Read them again and the shadows remain.

Pancake committed suicide at age 26 (in 1979), having written only the stories that were published posthumously in this collection. So it fascinates me in the way I am fascinated by first novels: staggering potential. That said, these twelve stories do not disappoint, even remotely. Nothing is missing.  Their language is transformative; Pancake’s hand is unassuming and sly. You will read this unable to believe you haven’t found it before. And you will return to it, often.

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!
Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: Tiphanie Yanique’s How to Escape from a Leper Colony

21 May

Tiphanie Yanique’s How to Escape from a Leper Colony is an incantatory debut collection with range and depth. Her Caribbean-focused stories—set on the Virgin Islands, in the UK, and Ghana—take on big subjects and examine the point at which story enters myth. In one set of linked short shorts, “The Bridge Stories,” a bridge between the islands falls, and does so each time the story is retold. The bridge collapses from grief, from love, from bearing too much weight.

The characters in these stories are breaking taboos, crossing over; their actions dangerous and suspect. In the title story, a girl and a boy on an island leper colony, a place run by nuns, sneak away into the forest and build an altar to the goddess Kali. Their gesture, and their desire for independence, to worship and live how they want, sets in motion the destruction and evacuation of the island.

Throughout this collection, Yanique explores how “subjects” react to, adapt to, cast off colonial systems. (It is a leper colony, after all, complete with a ruling class of nuns.) Her postcolonial narratives are nuanced and smart and bold; her eye is both critical and humane. The story “Canoe Sickness” explores the paralysis a young man from Ghana feels in London. It descends upon him like an illness and remains in his bloodstream, so to speak, capable of flaring up again at any moment. At the end of “How to  Escape from a Leper Colony,” the nuns leap into the sea, and the lepers follow right behind. This is a moment of release and discovery: the lepers’ bandages come off in the water, and the dark protective salve that the nuns wear runs off their faces (revealing them to be of every race). A new power system is forged: the nuns and lepers swim together—some of the nuns clinging to lepers. “I swam in the soup with everyone,” the narrator says. “We took only ourselves.”

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!
Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: The Spooky Action of Tom Noyes

20 May

by Eugene Cross

In his wonderful second story collection, Spooky Action at a Distance, Tom Noyes continues to explore the mysteries that surround us that we so often take for granted: faith, grace, irresistible urges to do things we know are not good for us.

In the brief but affecting “The Daredevil’s Wife,” the protagonist decides to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. It’s a stunt he comes to almost haphazardly, ultimately choosing the barrel over crossing the Falls via tightrope because the former requires no skill. “This is the physics of the barrel: curl into a ball and hope. This is the geometry of Niagara: down.” His wife, anxious and afraid, asks him why. “Asks him over and over. But the daredevil has no answer.” He simply knows he has to, which strikes me as such a perfectly sad and human urge. The desire to do things that may hurt the ones we love and leave us or them alone in the end. But we do the things anyway.

In an interview with Scott Phillips, Dan Chaon (another author whose work I love) claims he himself is “not too interested in the idea of Truth, or even of ‘epiphany’ in fiction,” but rather “things that are unanswerable. . . those moments that are unpackagable.” What could be more unanswerable than the kind of self-sabotage we catch ourselves practicing, the kind that injures those we care about the most, lying or hiding or putting our hearts’ deepest longings before theirs?

As he floats toward the roar of the Falls, the daredevil hears his wife singing and for the first time doubt consumes him, not at the choice he’s made but at what her singing might indicate. It’s a brilliant ending to a beautiful story in a book that’s full of them.

Eugene Cross’s story “Rosaleen, If You Know What I Mean” appeared in American Short Fiction, Winter 2009 (volume 12, issue 46).

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!

Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: Repetition and Haruki Murakami’s “Sleep”

19 May

You don’t know it, but Haruki Murakami is the master of repetition. He writes mostly long novels, chock-full of surreal happenings, strange characters, sheep-men, wars, bizarre disappearances. But, naturally, it’s a short story that best exposes Murakami’s mastery of reiteration. Repeating things, I mean. But also, describing a life.

You don’t know it, but Haruki Murakami is the master of repetition. I knew I loved Murakami’s work after reading a mere twenty pages of his work. Why? He describes his characters eating—long scenes detailing boiling noodles, chopping vegetables, obsessing over cubed tofu—and going to the bathroom. He talks about what happens when his characters go to sleep. Anybody knows that these things add up. We spend at least a third of our lives sleeping, for instance. A writer damn well needs to talk about it.

You don’t know it, but Haruki Murakami is the master of repetition. I’m talking about a story, “Sleep,” from the collection The Elephant Vanishes. It’s about a woman and her life. And it’s about what happens to this woman when, suddenly, after a terrible, “slimy,” trancelike dream, she is unable to sleep at all. For weeks. And it’s about what happens when she discovers long-dormant passion for Anna Karenina and for milk chocolate and brandy, and what happens when she begins to read Tolstoy’s masterpiece over and over again—over and over again—without sleeping.

You don’t know it, but Haruki Murakami is the master of repetition. In “Sleep” and, I’d venture to say, in all of Murakami’s fiction, the repetition of a life seems positioned contrary to the extraordinary. Look harder and read more deeply. Count how many times he uses the words “routine,” “ritual,” “same,” “always,” and count how many times he uses the normal, simple present tense to describe things that have been recurring for days, months, years, lifetimes. Sometimes he’s sneaky about it. It seems as though the woman’s life of “tendencies,” of rote motions, disappears when she stops sleeping and encounters the surreal. But it doesn’t. Repetition isn’t anti-surreal—it stands right there alongside it. Stepping out of one set of motions means stepping into another. The woman in the story changes, but she changes within a framework. Repetition and the fantastic work together. Both are needed to construct reality.

You don’t know it, but Haruki Murakami is the master of repetition. The heroine of “Sleep” muses,

So that’s my life—or my life before I stopped sleeping—each day pretty much a repetition of the one before. I used to keep a diary, but if I forgot for two or three days, I’d lose track of what had happened on which day. Yesterday could have been the day before yesterday, or vice versa. I’d sometimes wonder what kind of life this was. Which is not to say that I found it empty. I was—very simply—amazed. At the lack of demarcation between the days. At the fact that I was part of such a life, a life that had swallowed me up so completely. At the fact that my footprints were being blown away before I even had a chance to turn and look at them.

She says, (he says), pages later, “After I gave up sleeping, it occurred to me what a simple thing reality is, how easy it is to make it work. It’s just reality. Just housework. Just a home. Like running a simple machine. Once you learn to run it, it’s just a matter of repetition.”

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!
Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: Innocent and Dirty, the Music of Mary Gaitskill’s Don’t Cry

18 May

by Sarah Wambold, ASF editorial assistant

Don't Cry by Mary Gaitskill. It is hard not to read Mary Gaitskill through a neon yellow haze under which the highlighter has marked the terms sex, death and darkness; harder still is it to review her work without focusing on these terms. In her 2009 collection of short stories, Don’t Cry, however, a new subject emerges from the titillating conversation and flood it with song. Music has appeared in Mary Gaitskill’s work throughout her career; in Veronica, the narrator often withdraws into memories of listening to Rigoletto with her father while Veronica herself is comforted by Doris Day.  In 2006, Ms. Gaitskill edited Da Capo’s Best Music Writing Anthology. In that volume she says, “It is a great thing, a luxurious thing, that our music is so fine and fierce, that it is able to go so many places and speak so many things, and that there are people with the nimble intelligence to appreciate it in so many forms.”  So many forms is how it appears throughout Don’t Cry, (the title itself sounding like a twist on a Roy Orbison song), and fine and fierce it is.

In discussion with Matthew Stadler of “the backroom” series, Ms. Gaitskill noted that she “listened to music because it’s moving. . . more liquid.”

In nearly every story in Don’t Cry, Ms. Gaitskill uses music for its liquid element, to move a scene, emotion, or character from one place to another.  In “The Arms and Legs of the Lake,” Bill, who returned from Iraq six months prior, finds himself on a train with another recently returned veteran. Gaitskill submerges Bill in Ghostface Killah to safely return him to his own violent memories and isolate his experience from his fellow soldier: “Ghost’s voice and the music ran parallel but never touched, even though Ghost tried to blend his voice with the old words. Sad to put them together, somehow it made sense.” It is necessary for Gaitskill to name artists and quote lyrics, as she does throughout, for this type of a period piece; such references are difficult to use correctly. Perhaps recognizing this challenge, Gaitskill does it again, quite comically this time, in the working-class tribute “Folk Song.”

The story itself begins to take on the form of a folk song as Ms. Gaitskill explores the origins of three articles that share the same newspaper page. With her signature storytelling style that questions motives, she finds answers that are rooted in our culture’s misgivings. There is an article on a murderer asked to explain himself on a talk show, a woman announcing her intention on having marathon sex with one thousand men, and endangered turtles that have been taken from the Bronx Zoo.  By the end, the three articles have been boiled down to their reveal their shared survival mechanisms culminating with the image of  folk legend John Henry, hammering his way to death in order to keep the pace of a machine. Roberta Flack sings “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” at the beginning of the marathon woman’s sexual endeavors and the theme from Chariots of Fire plays over the woman as she nears the final fuck. These aren’t references for music heads necessarily–though Flack’s song is a cover of a little known 1957 British folk song–they are more like the songs running through the heads of people who would find themselves in these situations, an important distinction and one that keeps the references from coming across as lazy.

Each story in Don’t Cry has its personal relationship with music, be it a character who is a musician as in “Mirror Ball” and “College Town 1980,” or giving explanation for the emotional confusion of a character as in “A Dream of Men”: “She walked and an old song played in her head. It was the kind of old song that sounded innocent and dirty at the same time. The music was simple and shallow except for one deep spot where it was like somebody’s pants were being pulled down.” Ms. Gaitskill doesn’t shy away from writing what is difficult to describe and occasionally off-putting with music. She also clearly appreciates the contradictions of music, its ability to buffer the sadness or shame of a situation, while at the same time illuminating and romanticizing it.

In the title story “Don’t Cry” the narrator awakens to music. She says, “Its sound saturated me with happiness and pain.” And, later, “Even in my sleep I could hear love in it. Even in my sleep I could hear loss.” This time, the expression of darkness and light as simple musical details reaches even the most casual listeners, prompting them to recall their own relationship with music through her writing. The whole of it allows for Ms. Gaitskill to connect to a broader audience, making the stories in Don’t Cry her most accessible work yet.

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!

Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.

SSM: On DFW’s “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way”

17 May

by Jennifer Shapland, ASF editorial assistant

Girl With Curious Hair is not exactly David Foster Wallace’s best-known or loved or remembered work, but it is a monumental one. These are ten stories, or nine stories and one deadly novella, in which serious literary and syntactic muscles are flexed. And yet to me, the stories are accessible, even intimate. Wallace is a moralist. His stories bear witness to much more than the verbal trapeze act he’s known for.

The biggest hurdle in this collection—maybe in all of his works—is the final piece, “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.” It is a cover story, parts of which are “written in the margins of John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse.” It’s a story that revisits and takes for granted the existence of a specific other story. Writing it was transformative for Wallace as a writer.  In David Lipsky’s new book of interviews, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, Wallace says of “Westward,” “I’ve said that three or four times somethin’ came alive to me, and started kind of writing itself, and that was one of them.” (He follows with, “Although it wasn’t a very happy experience”).  “Westward” is long, 140 pages long, and it rambles and digresses and circles around and in on itself relentlessly. I have encountered very few people who actually finished the story. And Wallace realized that. He tells Lipsky, “Not many people like [“Westward”] and what I was told is you cannot really expect the reader to have read something twenty years earlier in order to get your thing.” He knew he had attempted something fairly huge and he knew that he sort of failed.

Here’s the thing: I love this story. I love its ambition. The premise is a trip, a journey deep into rural Illinois (funny that his essay on the Illinois State Fair was written years later). The characters are en route to a reunion of everyone who’s ever been in a McDonald’s commercial, held at this pretty sinister physical interpretation of Barth’s funhouse. Basically, Wallace is trying to write his way out of the trap of metafiction set by writers like Barth by using metafiction, stretching self-referentiality to its limits. In DFW’s rendition, however, the characters, the travelers, are writers. And the thing is, they don’t make it to their destination. The ultimate literary convention, the journey, is arrested and essentially killed by the style itself.

Go back and read Barth’s story if you get the chance. See how many times he references Joyce’s Ulysses. See how he strives to create a journey that goes exactly nowhere. And notice how the only place he can go with a story that is textually self-aware is back into the role of the writer. The last line: “He wishes he had never entered the funhouse. But he has. Then he wishes he were dead. But he’s not. Therefore he will construct funhouses for others and be their secret operator—though he would rather be among the lovers for whom funhouses are designed.”

People are still talking about Wallace as though he’s one of those secret operators, someone metafictional and obtuse and damn inaccessible. Read him. Read these stories. He is the one trying so hard—trying so hard in 1989—to push American fiction past all that. To actually take into account the aims of metafiction like Barth’s, rather than writing it off as categorically unfun to read, and to seek new ways to access those aims in readable, honest fiction. Girl With Curious Hair shows ten different ways he does just that. And how he does it with humor, grace, and his sort of lilting inward smile. “Westward,” despite its failings, shows us even something else: a new epic. And it suggests a potential for epic to be contained within short fiction, an endeavor that, as far as I know, no one else has undertaken.

Join ASF daily throughout May for the celebration known as Short Story Month 2010. Raise your glass high alongside staff and contributors to toast some of our most cherished stories and writers. From classic to contemporary, here’s to another year of the short story and to the readers and writers who make them possible—cheers!
Looking to extend the party? ASF web editor Stacy Muszynski also joins a month-long discussion at Emerging Writers Network.