Thursday, October 29, 2009

"What I Know," by Kathleen Thomas

Through portraiture, this very short story opens up a range of questions and feelings. I like the use of particulars and the strong images they evoke: “I know she hated that job, the blue smock she ironed each morning and then wore for long hours each shift stocking shelves, checking out customers.” There’s a melancholy tone given just right in the voice of a child looking back. The writing straddles the language of poetry and the narrative of short story. Read it here in Apple Valley Review.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Saint Vera," by Barry Jay Kaplan

An unusual use of language and omniscient viewpoint taps into the reader’s familiarity with stories of those who survived the horrors of World War II. Beauty and death, the power of story and how it is passed on to others, are all at the center. And then the drama of the story shifts to the first person narrator’s impressions of an older woman, once beautiful as evidenced by photographs of her. Appreciating her art in pictures and her life story, the narrator is deeply touched by her present circumstances and physical appearance. The end of the story leaves us with this narrator in shock and speaks to the mystery and power of art. Read it here in Prick of the Spindle.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The Accident," by Allan Reeder

This is a story written around the mysteries of memory. The writing is energetic, dense, and addresses the reader directly with deft phrasing that the writer effortlessly uses to cross present, past and future time. Entertaining as well as poignantly truthful, this story captures a series of events in the life a girl and later young woman. For a fast paced story that does not go limp in the middle go here to memorious.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Our Children Would Not Kill Us," by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

You might relate to the frustration of a writer waiting out that period of acceptance or rejection. For diversion, this character decides to immerse herself in her son’s ice hockey game. Who as a parent has not felt the following when their kid’s team scores: “The crowd swooned with pride, with joy, with communal familial love. Our children would not kill us, our children would make us better.” The significance of her manuscript pales in comparison to the almost religious fervor felt over the game, the power of the ice-making machine, and the guy who drives it. The believable moments of sustained humor are worth the read here at joyland.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"To Be Happy," by Sean Lovelace

What is happiness? It’s an old question pursued from many angels but without a neat and tidy form. Can a fresh harvest of apples make you happy? Perhaps we don’t allow ourselves enough leverage in acting out what truly makes us happy. Perhaps there is an alchemist in all of us transforming what we have at hand into something lost, gone, or intangible. Read some attempts to harvest happiness here in juked. You might surprise yourself and give one or two a try.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"See You Later, Can I Have Some Please?" by David Erlewine

It’s not easy to write a voice with convincing hatred and bitterness. Grief over his mother’s death does not interfere with this character’s appetite for cheeseburgers and beer. We listen but we’re skeptical. We doubt the validity of the details of his mother’s rape. What holds our attention is the shape of the narrative. The voice compels us to complete the picture of this inimitable and uncomfortable character. For a Halloween treat of disturbing psychology get your fill here at thieves jargon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Train Time," by Aaron Burch

The story begins, "I took the train because it might be fun." And, the story ends, "It was dark out and we were between stops, in the middle of nowhere. I jumped off, started walking." Between these two points the reader glides over the rails with the protagonist whose rich mind traverses his past, his future, and the what-ifs of his life. I loved the moment when he feigns sleep to observe a woman who sits next to him during the night. Nothing is resolved, just a chance to go along for the ride here in featherproof books. If you want a storybook, pocket sized, to carry along just follow the nifty print and fold instructions on the website.

"Foreigner in a Straight Land," by J. Adams Oaks

Recently, my computer landed behind the Genius Bar for repairs. Serendipitously, I came across a terrific site, which posts daily stories for your phone. I scrolled through this coming-of-age story and was enamored with the voice of the protagonist, gullible-sounding and full of integrity. He's an American student studying in Madrid who knows that he is gay but lacks the confidence to come out in his native land. He asks such questions as 'how will I know' and eventually he finds the real test and answer, and you will be cheering him along. It's a wonderful piece and appears in expanded form as J. Adams Oaks' recent novel, Why I Fight. Check out not here but on your smart phone and curl up with a good read in the palm of your hand.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Black Holes," by Nina Schuyler

A wonderful vignette that captures a moment of tension for a physicist that the reader intuits is fundamental to his life. And I suspect this is not uncommon for those whose minds are enraptured with the esoteric world of particle physics. But in this story, the dilemma unfolds with rich language that opens up the reader’s empathy for him. He thinks a possible solution to his problem might involve “magnetic separation.” Later, he recalls an earlier time with his wife when her eyes “caught his … a magnetic force not flowing clockwise or counter clockwise, but straight at him.” Read it here in Big Ugly Review. For an added treat, you can also hear the writer tell the story.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Three Cigarette Stories," by Pia Erhardt

The common object of a cigarette provides a nice way of tying together these three stories. The first story explores peaks and valleys of mother daughter tenderness and wounds. In the second story, a mother’s wounds inflicted by her children have little hope for healing: “When did she lose the voice they trusted? The one that said I know how to care for you.” The final story has a haunting inner story involving a 16-year-old girl who has recently lost her mother. She and her stepfather grieve in their awkward ways, but watching private moments of a stranger, a woman, live on her computer monitor, captivates the girl. This vivid trio suggests a parallel in visual art; walking by a triptych of individual panels that come together in a larger panorama. Read the triple feature here at Fictionaut.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Piercings," by Dean Marshall Tuck

The opening line of this story spins out a character who’s lonely but still has a sense of humor. He wants to spark a relationship with the girl in the front office who takes the rent checks. Her smile catches him off guard but it’s her facial piercings that illuminate more about him than her. At first pass, the story portrays this shy guy who imagines himself beginning to score with her. But the story provides a fuller picture when we see his family through his eyes, a family most readers would describe as predictably conservative. It’s the full story that surfaces after the first read and blooms in the reader’s mind of a character more familiar with feelings of shame than emotional connection. Read it here in Night Train.