rad women – short stories j’adore (pt. ii)

Writing up notes for this post, as I battle a headache, pms and the making of a fodmap friendly (read: sliced vegetable layered) lasagna and if that’s not fate, then what is… hello & welcome to this week’s edition of short stories that I freaking adore, and let’s talk about some rad women writers!!

“The sun was collapsing with a glare that seemed prehistoric; I felt not only blinded but lost, or as if I had lost something. And again she appeared, the woman in the yellow bathrobe.”

from, ‘Majesty’ published in No One Belongs Here More Than You.

I’m not a fan of the word ‘quirky’ but it’s one way to describe Miranda July‘s collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. Her stories – utterly human and affecting – deal with loneliness and the slightly more perverse side of life. Awkward, yet endearing and kind of graceful – you will either love or hate her, she’s either original or contrived.

There is a story called ‘The Swim Team’ about elderly people who live in a desert community being to taught how to swim in a bathtub. (OKAY YOU GOT ME AGAIN. Not sure what it is about old people & bath tubs but give me all the stories). In ‘Birthmark’ a woman loses her dear friend: a wine-stain birthmark. In ‘The Moves’,  a father teaches his daughter how to pleasure women. So you get the idea. Revolting with a sense of charm, i.e. Human.

“This made her so angry that she did the dishes. We never did this unless we were trying to be grand and self-destructive. I stood in the doorway and tried to maintain my end of our silence while watching her scratch at calcified noodles. In truth, I had not yet learned how to hate anyone but my parents. I was actually just standing there in love.”

from, ‘Something That Needs Nothing’

Some of my favourites are: ‘The Swim Team’‘This Person’, ‘Mon Plaisir’ & ‘Something That Needs Nothing’ which I remember the most. (I have a shocking memory so if I don’t remember things it doesn’t mean they didn’t blow me away at the time). A solid 4.5/5 stars.

FUN FACT: July is a pretty spiffing film maker as well. Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future are two I loved. And I still think about her recent novel  The First Bad Man on a weekly basis.

“We met twice a week in my apartment. When they arrived, I had three bowls of warm tap water lined up on the floor, and then a fourth bowl in front of those, the coach’s bowl. I added salt to the water because it’s supposed to be healthy to snort warm salt water, and I figured they would be snorting accidentally.”

from, ‘The Swim Team’


Single, Carefree, Mellow is Katherine Heiny‘s debut collection and what a debut it was! Contemporary with both charm and wit and a little snarkiness thrown in too. The title story is one of about three(?) in a set of interlinking stories dispersed throughout the collection. Heiny’s prose focuses on modern women and their extra-marital choices, their sexual freedoms and a life chosen despite of its dictations. It was an easy read but that’s not denying Heiny’s talent. Her writing is simultaneously subtle and laugh-out-loud funny and very American NY Girl if that’s your thing.

“The cake you bake on the morning of your son’s eighth birthday party is strangely slanted to one side. You check the oven rack but it looks perfectly straight. You wonder uneasily if maybe the house is canted on its foundation. Your children could be growing up with one leg longer than the other.”

from, ‘That Dance You Do’

I enjoyed the title story and its main character Maya and it was delightful to meet her again throughout the collection at different stages in her life in ‘Dark Matter’ & ‘Grendel’s Mother’. I also enjoyed: ‘Cranberry Relish’‘How To Give the Wrong Impression’ and ‘Blue Heron Bridge’ had me giggling a bit.

“Josie thinks that the problem with being a writer is that you miss a lot of your life wondering if the things that happen to you are good enough to use in a story, and most of the time they’re not and you have to make shit up anyway.”

from, ‘Cranberry Relish’

FUN FACT: Heiny’s debut novel Standard Deviation was published this month.


Lucia Berlin. What more can I say. Everyone raved about this collection and don’t be fooled by the hype, for this selection of stories is definitely worth your time. Berlin’s prose is insanely gorgeous. She has been likened to Carver and Munro. Her innately human stories are both heartbreaking and humour filled with articulation not unlike Chekhov. Not a word is wasted and although some stories went over my head there are others I could read over and over again and still be continuously filled with feelings of warmth and how can you possibly write so damn beautifully?!!!

“She was silent. But I could see death working on her. Death is healing, it tells us to forgive, it reminds us that we don’t want to die alone.”

from, ‘Mourning’

Berlin manages to infuse everyday situations with such profound feeling it’s astounding, really. Just go and read them and see for yourself. All the stars, 5 stars.

Stories I have marked with a tick in my edition: ‘Phantom Pain’, ‘Toda Luna, Todo Año’, ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Melina’.

Stories I have drawn hearts beside on the contents page: ‘Friends’, ‘Bluebonnets’, ‘Mourning’  ‘So Long’  and I have drawn a star beside ‘Point of View’ whatever that means :’)

“You arrived a few days after the blizzard. Ice and snow still covered the ground, but we had a fluke of a warm day. Squirrels and magpies were chattering and sparrows and finches sang on the bare trees. I opened all the doors and curtains. I drank tea at the kitchen table feeling the sun on my back. Wasps came out of the nest on the front porch, floated sleepily through my house, buzzing in drowsy circles all around the kitchen. Just at this time the smoke alarm battery was dead, so it began to chirp like a summer cricket. The sun touched the teapot and the flour jar, the silver vase of stock.
A lazy illumination, like a Mexican afternoon in your room. I could see the sun in your face.”

from, ‘Wait a Minute’

 

keep well and read women,

for now

do svidaniya xx

 

 

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the absolute faves – short stories j’adore (pt. i)

My favourite form, my preferred mode of writing, the highlight of my dream of a mediocre life – is the short story. I can understand why people mightn’t adore poetry, but the short story, there’s no excuse, why you can read one in twenty minutes, a novel on your lunch break! And there’s every kind imaginable, from horror to dirty realist, minimalist, flash, classic, romance, poetic – the list goes on.

Pt. I – The Absolute Favourites

Those which have stuck with me over the years, stories and authors I come back to with reverence, whose words linger on my skin long after dusk.

“She did not know; she could not think; she knew only that she did not want to go home, she wanted to sit here on the edge of the grave, never catching any more buses, crossing streets, walking on icy footpaths, turning mattresses, trying to reach jam from the top shelf of the cupboard, filling coal buckets, getting in and out of the bath.”

    from ‘The Bath’ published in You Are Now Entering the Human Heart: Stories

I read ‘The Bath’ by Janet Frame in high school and not a year has gone by where I haven’t thought of it or the author herself.  A day in the life of an elderly woman who lives alone, it isn’t a happy story but this is Frame’s forte: a depressive look at the life of the lonely people.

Frame is New Zealand born, and if you  haven’t heard of her –  she had an interesting life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and she was nearly given a lobotomy until the surgeon due to operate recognized her name and was like, oh hey you’re that writer who just won an award in the paper. Her writing is lyrical and soulful and at times it makes no sense. She plays with language, colour and perception. Lots of her works have themes not too dissimilar her own experiences in life. Others I adore are: ‘The Reservoir’ and ‘You Are Now Entering the Human Heart’.

“Her eyes faced the lighted exit. I saw her fear. The exit light blinked, hooded. The children, none of whom had ever touched a live snake, were sitting hushed, waiting for the drama to begin…”

from ‘You Are Now Entering the Human Heart’

 

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Raymond Carver, I discovered in my first year of Uni in an American Literature, a class I nearly didn’t take because I was an angry little punk back then, but man, I did and I can’t imagine my life without it. We briefly studied ‘So Much Water So Close To Home’ and it probably remains one of my top favourite stories of. all. time.

“In the kitchen I find a note from him signed “Love.” I sit in the breakfast nook in the sunlight and drink coffee and make a coffee ring on the note. The telephone has stopped ringing, that’s something.”

It’s about an everyday family in a small town. The husband goes on a hunting trip and they find a dead girl floating in the river. I can’t explain the feelings it gives you. And there’s also a movie adaptation of this particular story – Jindabyne – I thought it was a’ight eh…

Carver is a minimalist writer with a focus on the ordinary day to day lives of the working class. Now, there wasn’t a particular quote that ensnared me, in fact I don’t find Carver as quotable as other writers, but merely a feeling. I had never read anything like it. His way of creating lasting images, the ordinary moments of ordinary lives, everyday events with a melancholic twist that tugs away at you in the early hours. Not creepy like a Shirley Jackson story, it’s not even unease, it’s a mere feeling; the exhaustion that begins to settle with the twilight.

“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”

from ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’

I also often find myself thinking about: ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ and ‘The Bath’ – yes, another melancholic story with a bath in it. This could be a theme of mine… FUN FACT: Carver greatly admired Chekhov and Murakami used to be friends with Carver.

 

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“The slowness of Sundays. Something about the glare, the smell of warm grass, the church service, the relatives visiting in nice clothes. The whole day kind of lasts forever.”

from, ‘Human Moments in World War III’ published in The Angel Esmerelda: Nine Stories

Another discovery thanks to that first year paper and if there could be a perfect man, he would be a pretty even mix of Greg Graffin and Don DeLillo. A punk rock veteran, paleontologist and post modern novelist – how could you go wrong?

“She knew there was someone else in the room. There was no outright noise, just an intimation behind her, a faint displacement of air.”

from ‘Baader-Meinhof’

DeLillo writes sparingly much like Carver, but there’s a lyricism to his works, he’s more quotable and less blunt, I find. I’ll be honest and confess that on the whole I prefer DeLillo’s novels to his short stories: (White Noise, Mao II, The Body Artist – being my faves), however, his stories are probably a great place to start and get a feel for his work as they follow much the same themes of his novels. He focuses on post-modernist themes like mass media, rampant consumerism and the idea of violence generating a sense of rebirth. Stories I have enjoyed more than once are: Baader-Meinhof and Midnight in Dostoevsky.

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FUN FACT: you can probably read a good portion of the stories mentioned and others at the new yorker -> just search the title/writer!

For now my chickens,

Do svidaniya xx