A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day eight – Tiny Smiling Daddy

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day eight – Tiny Smiling Daddy, by Mary Gaitskill

Read it online here:

Tiny Smiling Daddy

Mary Gaitskill is a polarizing writer. Either you like her or you don’t – but you can’t say she lacks courage.

Today’s story, Tiny Smiling Daddy is from her second collection of short stories – Because They Wanted To.

It isn’t as “out there” as a lot of her work – even though her favorite theme – female characters dealing with sexuality and fitting in somewhere – is here. What makes it different is the point of view. It’s told by a father that has had a phone call from a friend to tell him that his grown daughter has published a confessional piece about him in Self Magazine.

The father then goes on a quest, first to find a copy of the magazine, and then to think back over the years and his turbulent relationship with his daughter. He is clueless, he doesn’t understand how much damage his lack of acceptance of her has done… for everybody.

Even though the story is told through him, and by him, mostly in remembering, his daughter is the most memorable character in the story. You can feel her, through her father’s eyes, in her struggle to find herself and her place in the world.

Instead, he watched her, puzzling at the metamorphosis she had undergone. First she had been a beautiful, happy child turned homely, snotty, miserable adolescent. From there she had become a martinet girl with the eyes of a stifled pervert. Now she was a vibrant imp, living, it seemed, in a world constructed of topsy-turvy junk pasted with rhinestones. Where had these three different people come from? Not even Marsha, who had spent so much time with her as a child, could trace the genesis of the new Kitty from the old one. Sometimes he bitterly reflected that he and Marsha weren’t even real parents anymore but bereft old people rattling around in a house, connected not to a real child who was going to college, or who at least had some kind of understandable life, but to a changeling who was the product of only their most obscure quirks, a being who came from recesses that neither of them suspected they’d had.

There is real life in this story. I read it on my Kindle, stretched out under a tree in the park and it was able to pull me in from the warm, pleasant surroundings around me.

What more can you ask?

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 11 – Mirrorball

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day eleven – Mirrorball, by Mary Gaitskill.
Read it online here:


Over the years I have read a lot of short stories. A lot of short stories…. Maybe a story every other day (with a lot of gaps, of course) since I was ten years old. That comes out to over eight thousand stories.

Obviously, that’s too high – but still, I have read a lot.

They all get mixed up – I’m always reading something that sort of feels familiar and then when I get to the end I realize I have read it before. I get authors mixed up, collections, anthologies and now with this internet thing… it’s so confusing.

One author that has always stood out is Mary Gaitskill. Her stories are full of desperate characters involved in all sorts of nasty trouble. She seems to know what she is writing about – she claims to have spent time as a stripper and a callgirl. I guess she is best known for writing the short story that the movie Secretary is based on – although the two are very different. She claims the movie was too charming and nice.

I know I’ve read the collection, Bad Behavior, that Secretary was in, but I don’t particularly remember it – I’ll have to read it again.

At any rate, today’s story is very different. This one is from her newest collection. Mirrorball is the story of a woman that has a one-night stand with a second-rate rock star and loses a piece of her soul in the process.

It’s a very unusual piece of writing.

I enjoyed the story, even though it isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s sort of an anti-Hemingway story in that nothing much happens (a couple of sexual encounters… and that’s about it) but a lot of words are spilled upon the page.

It’s a story told of a world inside of yet unknown to the characters; the world of their own souls – split, tortured, stolen, released.

It takes some skilled wordsmithing to go with something as ethereal as that and make it real to the reader. Read it, you decide.

He was a musician, well regarded in his hometown and little known anywhere else. This fact sometimes gnawed at him and yet was sometimes a secret relief; he had seen musicians get sucked up by fame and it was like watching a frog get stuffed into a bottle, staring out with its face, its splayed legs, its private beating throat distorted and revealed against the glass. Fame, of course, was bigger and more fun than a bottle, but still, once you were behind the glass and blown up huge for all to see, there you were. It would suddenly be harder to sit and drink in the anonymous little haunts where songs were still alive and moving in the murky darkness, where a girl might still look at him and wonder who he was. And he might wonder about her.