From the author of Winter's Bone: A Vietnam War veteran grapples with the aftermath of killing a home intruder.
" A year after his return Pelham ceased to mention Vietnam to new acquaintances, dropped it from the biography of himself he’d give if asked. Only those who knew him before he went were certain that he’d gone. Jill was a second wife, fifteen years his junior, a lovely, patient blond, and remembered Vietnam as a tiresome old television show that’d finally been canceled about the time she left third grade. "
Bartleby, The Scrivener
The classic novella of refusal.
"I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eye dimly calm. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been any thing ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises."
A boy ("the kid"), a man, a girl, a dog, a a bag of drugs, and the Buddha.
"The kid didn't laugh, because he never fake-laughed. The girl laughed because she was nervous. There was an uneasy space where the kid was not laughing. "
Two writers, one young, one old, share a varied correspondence about writing, politics, and family matters.
" The Alcoy Council sent me his address without delay—he lived in Madrid—and one night, after dinner or a light meal or just a snack, I wrote him a long letter, which rambled from Ugarte and the stories of his that I had read in magazines to myself, my house on the outskirts of Girona, the competition (I made fun of the winner), the political situation in Chile and in Argentina (both dictatorships were still firmly in place), Walsh's stories (along with Sensini, Walsh was my other favourite in that generation), life in Spain, and life in general."
The Power Is Out, Sing
Musician Jordaan Mason's eerie, formally experimental story about a love triangle.
"The difference between him and her was parts of the body represented through skin as organs which were not the same organs. "
Fossils and farms in the American South.
"It took over a million years to make that smooth little hill, and I've looked all over it for trilobites. I think how it has always been there and always will be, least for as long as it matters."
Death in various forms looms over a 1960s family.
"As she snubbed out her cigarette and rinsed her cup in the sink, Marianne thought, thirty-four. One of the television commentaries had mentioned Jackie Kennedy’s age and it was Marianne’s age exactly. She was in this way aligned with the grieving first lady: they had seen the very same days."
An occasionally humorous, atmospheric piece of genre fiction from a polarizing figure.
"Well, I should say that the really weird artist has a kind of vision which makes models, or summons up what amounts to actual scenes from the spectral world he lives in. Anyhow, he manages to turn out results that differ from the pretender’s mince-pie dreams in just about the same way that the life painter’s results differ from the concoctions of a correspondence-school cartoonist."
How Much Shall We Bet?
Bets are placed on the developments and historical events of the future universe.
"I got much more satisfaction, however, from the bets we had to bear in mind for billions and billions of years, without forgetting what we had bet on, and remembering the shorter-term bets at the same time, and the number (the era of whole numbers had begun, and this complicated matters a bit) of bets each of us had won, the sum of the stakes (my advantage kept growing; the Dean was up to his ears in debt). And in addition to all this I had to dream up new bets, further and further ahead in the chain of my deductions."
Why This Isn't A Good Story To Tell
A sweet, curious anti-story, from Zacharia's collection Now Playing.
"See, you ask me what's going on, and I know you mean, tell me something good, but not much is going on."
The Copy Family
Learning To Swim
A quiet young woman's trip to the seashore yields a plethora of observations.
"Eventually her muscles warmed and Magritte felt slick and alive in the liquid sea. She turned over on her back, paddling lazily, and watched the movement of the clouds in the sky. The sea gurgled secretively in her ears."
An office misunderstanding.
"A guy in a suit, I don't know him, walks by my cubicle holding one of the paper plates, his mouth full, chewing his last bite, folds the plate around his napkin and fork and cake crumbs, leans into my cubicle, reaches around a corner and stuffs the plate in my garbage can. No look, no excuse me, no nothing."
Un Active Volcano
A minimalist exchange set inside a volcano.
"There is nothing to do but drink beers and stare up into the black and so that is what we do. "
Envy and failure in the 1970s literary scene.
"There is a kind of minor writer who is found in a room of the library signing his novel. His index finger is the color of tea, his smile filled with bad teeth. He knows literature, however. His sad bones are made of it."
They're Not Your Husband
Raymond Carver's stories have a knack for illuminating uncomfortable marriage scenes, and this tale of a man wanting his wife to lose weight is as well-written as it is saddening.
"He pulled the covers up, closed his eyes, and allowed himself to think about the incident. The humiliation started in his face, the forehead and cheeks, and worked down into his shoulders and on into his stomach and legs."
The Best Girlfriend You Never Had
A beautifully detailed look at friendships, painful family memories, and potential unspoken desires.
"There was a man there named Josh who didn’t want nearly enough from me, and a woman called Thea who wanted way too much, and I was sandwiched between them, one of those weaker rock layers like limestone that disappears under pressure or turns into something shapeless like oil."
The Politics Of Driving/Town And Country, Part II
Early novel samples from one of my most influential college teachers.
"[T]o drive along any of the national highways meant you had indeed acquired value, but that your value had absolutely nothing to do with your worth as a unique individual."
The Dreadful Mucamas
Discomforting struggles between a homeowner and the hired help.
"But when I reminded her about the toast, she broke into a tirade – how could I think she would ever let the toast get cold or hard? But it is almost always cold and hard. "
The Empty Room
Semi-surreal account of a family's new home.
"The empty room, being a tabula rasa, bore aspects of total corruptibility, a potential we’d in childish obedience overlooked until now."
The Esther Repellant
A odd and menacing story-like bit spun off from Marcus' forthcoming novel, The Flame Alphabet.
"To warn me of Esther’s approach, or indeed of the motion of any living creature through our halls and rooms, I rigged a system of alarms that puzzled into the wall switch plates. But I crossed the wiring or somehow failed to close the circuit for this contraption, because the high siren pierced the air even when no one roamed through."
Life without reflection.
"She does her hair in the morning in much the same way her husband shaves: by feel, brushing it out, patting it into shape, fixing it with pins. She's been putting on earrings for forty years, and certainly doesn't require a mirror for that."
A Message From The Emperor
A new translation of this one-paragraph short, designed to be read aloud in English.
"The messenger set out at once; a strong, an indefatigable man; thrusting forward now this arm, now the other, he cleared a path though the crowd; every time he meets resistance he points to his breast, which bears the sign of the sun; and he moves forward easily, like no other. "