Short Story of the Day – Chili’s Menu, by Cormac McCarthy by Justin Tapp

“They were watching, out there past men’s knowing, where stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.”
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Transcendence, on the first night.

Today’s “short story” isn’t really a short story… it’s a satirical Chili’s Menu, written in the style of my (right now – though he has competition) favorite author, Cormac McCarthy.

From McSweeney’s

So, not really fiction… I’m not sure what the literary term for “literature written in the form of a fast-casual chain restaurant menu” is… whatever it is, this is it. And I enjoyed reading it.

If you don’t get where it is coming from, you haven’t read enough Cormac McCarthy. And you need to rectify that.

 

Short Story of the Day, Sticks by George Saunders

The first time I brought a date over she said: what’s with your dad and that pole? and I sat there blinking.

—- George Saunders, Sticks

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Conjoined, Roxy Paine

George Saunders is a writer that amazes me. If I could write like any one person I would want to write like him (though I have said the same thing about  Raymond Carver… so, well, maybe it’s a tie).

I’ve written about stories by Saunders before:

Today’s short story is a one minute piece of flash fiction that contains an entire life full of frustration and regret. It’s funny and sad, in the terrible way that only funny things can be so sad. It’s called Sticks.

 

You can read it here: Sticks, by George Saunders

In the introduction to the published version in “Story” magazine he explains how he developed the idea for the story (if you follow my link above you can find out for yourself). That short explanation is as amazing as the fiction itself. We all see things along the road, especially along our commute to work, that become part of our lives so intimately that they disappear. Still, your imagination is filled with these things and the stories they generate. Only a genius like George Saunders can imagine something so poignant and unforgettable, so buoyant and unforgivable.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Short Story of the Day – Big Blonde, by Dorothy Parker

Men liked her, and she took it for granted that the liking of many men was a desirable thing. Popularity seemed to her to be worth all the work that had to be put into its achievement. Men liked you because you were fun, and when they liked you they took you out, and there you were. So, and successfully, she was fun. She was a good sport. Men like a good sport.

—- Dorothy Parker, Big Blonde

Deep Ellum Brewing Company – Dallas Blonde

Big Blonde is considered Dorothy Parker’s best, most literary work – as opposed, I guess, to her usual stuff that is considered witty.

You can read it online here: Big Blonde at Project Gutenberg Canada. It’s still under copyright in the US, so don’t print or distribute it.

Under the thin veneer of Dorothy Parker’s signature sparkling prose – this is a very sad story of a very sad and very hapless woman.  It is a well-known work (it won the O. Henry award as the best short story of 1929) with a lot of discussion about it on the internet. A lot of modern discussion is about the story’s criticism of traditional female roles and, of course, its harrowing description of alcoholism (or at least drunkenness) and depression. It is these things in spades, but I think it is more.

Hazel Morse is a hopeless drunk that is used and abused by men – but I don’t think she is an idiot and I think she had some choices. She is depressed to the edge of suicide, but is she depressed because of her life or does she live that life because of her depression? Probably a little of both. It’s also more than a little autobiographical – though I don’t think Hazel Morse would inspire so many people after all these years as Dorothy Parker does. Hazel’s parties aren’t quite up to the intellectual quality of the Algonquin Round Table.

I have been reading a bit about how struggle gives meaning to life… to the extent that life is the struggle. A corollary of this is how having happiness as the main goal of life is a recipe for disaster. Hazel and all the people in her life seem to have moment to moment happiness as their only reason for getting out of bed in the morning and as a consequence sometimes don’t even do that. They avoid struggle at all costs and end up in a hopeless struggle against the ever-present void.

The story was written and is set in 1929 – the last year of the roaring twenties. I can’t help but think about how different the story would be if it took place a couple years later. How is the Big Blonde going to make it through the Great Depression? It’s not a pretty thought.

Here’s mud in your eye.

Short Story of the Day – What Bram Saw by AE Stueve

It was a strong ancestral pull from the phantasmagoric, but curiosity shoved me toward Bram, toward the tapping.

—- AE Stueve, What Bram Saw

Detail from Eyes of the Cat, by Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky

Today’s short story – a tasty little nightmare of flash fiction:

What Bram Saw by AE Stueve

From Flash Fiction Magazine

Short Story of the Day – Exhalation, by Ted Chiang

Many lungs are returned to the same filling station the next day, but just as many circulate to other stations when people visit neighboring districts; the lungs are all identical in appearance, smooth cylinders of aluminum, so one cannot tell whether a given lung has always stayed close to home or whether it has traveled long distances. And just as lungs are passed between persons and districts, so are news and gossip. In this way one can receive news from remote districts, even those at the very edge of the world, without needing to leave home, although I myself enjoy traveling. I have journeyed all the way to the edge of the world, and seen the solid chromium wall that extends from the ground up into the infinite sky.

—-Ted Chiang, Exhalation

Stairway to Heaven
James Suris
Steel, Paint
Art District, Dallas, Texas

There is this peculiar thrill when you read something that was written by someone so much smarter than you that you stare at the page in amazement – gobsmacked by the arrangement of letters done in a way you know you could never do.

Today’s short story:

Exhalation, by Ted Chiang from Lightspeed Magazine

Have you seen the film Arrival? If not, why not?

It’s based on Ted Chiang’s novella, The Story of Your Life – and it too is so intelligent (both the novella and the movie) that you are a better person simply by experiencing it. The world grows, if only just a little.

The only bad thing is the jealousy. I, for example, can’t do that.

Short Story of the day – Riddle by Ogbewe Amadin

“A witch can never be these things,” she said. “A witch is a paranormal creature that lives between the shadows cast by daylight. They traverse the infinities of a heartbeat, they sail in seas of dreams… they manipulate nature.”

—- Ogbewe Amadin, Riddle

French Quarter, New Orleans

Riddle by Ogbewe Amadin, from Fireside Magazine

Today, we have a tasty little piece of flash fiction. Often things are not what they seem to be, but sometimes they are. It’s just that they don’t mean what we think they do.

 

Author Bio – “Ogbewe Amadin hails from the city of Benin in Nigeria. He is a student of Chemistry at the University of Benin. He is a lover of epic fantasy, sarcasm, sitcoms, and sci fi.”

Off to the Big Easy

I’ll be in New Orleans for the New Orleans Writing Marathon for the next week. I’m taking my laptop, but I’m not sure if I’ll be posting here.

See you on the flipside.

(click to enlarge) Sixth and Camp in New Orleans – a beautiful row of Camelback Shotgun Houses