Tag: Short Stories

Mouth Bucket

By Vanessa Mancos

At night, we must remove our mouths. We leave them in the mouth bucket on the front porch until dawn. The new law that dictates this was put into affect effect after the demonstrations.

The demonstrations: ecstatic airing of our grievances, many small globs into one big one. They did not care for that.

When the mouth buckets arrived to our homes, we had to practice taking our mouths off a few times before we really understood how. It’s tricky, you know. A mouth doesn’t just jump off your face because you ask it to. You have to grab your lips with both hands and sort of twist it around a bit before it slides down with a slimy pop. It does hurt at first, but as with all types of pain, after constant repetition, you forget your discomfort.

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Book Review: Verge

BY DIANA LOVE

Verge, Lidia Yuknavitch’s aptly-named new collection of short stories, is an exhilarating and disquieting experience. Like the verging border of its title, the collection is peopled by characters who live on the edges—of society, of safety, of sanity. The interests and subject matter of this collection upend normal boundaries and expectations. Outcasts and voiceless figures are placed center-stage. We are able to be a part of their experience, their pain, their rage, and their beauty.

Though Yuknavitch has been writing short stories for most of her literary career, this is her first published book curating a collection of such stories. And they are wonderful stories, clearly in conversation with one another, including that handful which have been published previously. Indeed, readers familiar with Yuknavitch’s other work will recognize themes and topics in this collection which mirror those in her novels and nonfiction—the idea of giving voices to voiceless figures, a concern with war and its collateral damage, a concern with damage and with survival in all forms. Her widely-viewed 2016 TED Talk, On The Beauty of Being a Misfit, and her follow-up book The Misfit’s Manifesto, are celebrations of other voices. She has a vested and specific interest in the people and the places who do not sit at the center of the mainstream in any sense of that term, who live in the borders of things.

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Book Review: A Girl Goes Into The Forest

By Anjali Becker

The title story of Peg Pursell’s new collection of short fiction, A Girl Goes into the Forest (Dzanc Books, 2019), opens with an unnamed girl following a male figure into the forest, “moving in the direction where perhaps she imagined the rest of her life waited. So ready for something to happen.” The “old secret cottage” they were evidently aiming for has long since collapsed, so they spend the night on the hard ground. Toward the end of the short piece, the girl thinks that eventually, “It might turn summer and she’d have survived the season.” The girl has ventured beyond whatever home she might have known and is searching for something, although what exactly that is, beyond survival, is unclear, both to her and to us. What is clear is that the stories to come will explore the emotions that drove so many young girls in the fairy tales of old to leave their safe little hamlets and to venture out into the forest of the unknown.

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Book Review: Sing to It by Amy Hempel

By David Holloway

Sing to It: New Stories is the first new work from Amy Hempel in a decade.

The first thing to notice in this collection is the variety of story lengths and tempos. Of the fifteen stories in Sing to It, ten are less than two pages long. Modest of plot, names and setting, the title story is only one page long. But “Cloudland,” the last in the collection—more a novella than a story—runs for sixty-two pages. The reader might imagine the briefer stories to be a sign of the times, a nod to flash fiction. But it’s more likely to be a choice of substance, not form, from a genius of succinct narrative. Throughout this collection, and especially in these shortest pieces, the haiku-like prose is condensed and concentrated. Intense and sparse, there is a bleached and stripped quality to Hempel’s writing. Her narrators, reluctant to yield up their secrets, force us to read between the lines. The reader is left, generally, with a lot of work to do.

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Attending a Reading: Jamel Brinkley’s “A Lucky Man”

By AM Larks

It is almost 11:45 a.m. on a rare sunny day in Berkeley and instead of being outside, I am sitting in the basement lecture hall of Berkeley City College that smells vaguely of feet. My cell phone doesn’t get reception, so I cannot distract myself from my impatience and anxiety. I am anxious because I want to like this panel of authors, because I deeply respect the moderator, and because I need something to write about, to tie into, my review of Jamel Brinkley’s collection A Lucky Man.

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Then and Now: David L. Ulin, On Writing “The Bed”

Welcome to a brand new feature on TCR’s blog, Then and Now, a series in which writers reveal and dissect the early literary attempts that helped form their current work. This week, David L. Ulin takes a look back at his story, “The Bed.”

 

THE BED
by David L. Ulin

Annie’s grandfather died on a Sunday in summer. My vacation had just begun. At work on Friday, his heart became irregular, and he was gone within forty-eight hours. I watched Annie buckle over the phone, saw her face pale and her red hair fall into disarray. She went home to San Diego that night.

And Monday was my grandfather’s birthday. I met my parents, and together we went to pay our respects.

I should say I’d been thinking about Annie since she left, but that’s not really true. More about her grandfather, and mine. In my grandparent’s apartment, he lay in another room, and we sat on a couch, listening through the wall for his snores.

My grandmother offered drinks and asked about my brother.

“He’s okay,” my father said, not looking up from a large paperback book of color photographs.

My mother smiled from her end of the sofa. “His classes just started.”

“So I heard,” her mother said.

My father coughed and lit a cigarette.

“No one comes to visit anymore,” my grandmother said. In the other room, her husband snored.

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Book Review: The Houseguest, by Amparo Dávila

By AM Larks

The Houseguest by Amparo Dávila, translated by Audrey Harris & Matthew Gleeson, is a collection of stories so haunting and so tinged with the surreal that it reminds the reader of the pleasure of being scared. Dávila, whose stories feel both timeless and timely, accomplishes this distress by blending well-known horror tropes with real-world details.

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Book Review: Chaya Bhunaveswar’s “White Dancing Elephants”

BY: A.M. Larks

Chaya Bhuvaneswar fills her collection White Dancing Elephants with honest, unfiltered observations about tragedy and poetic truths, while crafting a diverse set of characters that spans from the unlikeable to the heart-wrenchingly sympathetic.

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