What I read

Reading: Short stories from Electric Literature and Fabula Argentea

Ten splendid short stories I read this week.

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Mostly short stories from a few magazines: especially *Electric Lit* and *Fabula Argentea*. Some stories I particularly enjoyed:

  1. Peter Kispert’s “In the palm of his hand” is an urbane story of ambition, vanity, self-centredness, and moral emptiness. Only when the narrator falls does he experience any urge to connect with another person.
  2. Margaret Meehan’s “A beautiful wife is suddenly dead” is a story of suburban boredom, repressed libido, and the willingness of consumer culture and true-crime shows to fill our voids.
  3. Ross Feeler’s “Parisian Honeymoon” examines the most potent threat that terrorism poses to civilisation: a willingness to play into the game of “them” vs. “us.” The plotting is contrived; but the ending is sharp, subtle irony. As we sleep, our own hatred creeps back and hovers. Watching.
  4. Alice Adams’s “Love is a yellow hotel in Yugoslavia” traverses young love, two marriages, and the conflicts of a mother and a teenage daughter in pleasingly meandering fashion.
  5. Mario Pilla’s “Gramercy” is, at one level, a gentle sendup of an excess stringency about rules of punctuation; at a deeper, a reminder that though the way we say things changes, the things that matter don’t.
  6. Paul Hardy’s “Whoso pulleth out this sword” is the risk, comic monologue of a kingmaker sword brought down to earth.
  7. Matt McHugh’s “Well-regulated” asks what’s more important: the right to carry concealed weapons, or the right to information? The characters are flat — stodgy politicians vs. woke tech CEOs; but this speculative piece is a timely commentary on the chasms that open up in civic life when governments lose touch with citizens’ priorities.
  8. W. T. Paterson’s “Song of Tinnitus” references *The Matrix*, *Woman in White*, *The Machinist*, and *Inception* to good effect for an out-of-left-field horror story.
  9. On *100-Word Stories* magazine, I particularly enjoyed: Kim Addonizio’s “Mysteries of sex” (even masturbation is emotionally complicated) and “Plans” (who needs to meet friends, when we can get what we need right here at home?); Adam Schuitema’s “Palm funeral” (with climate change, the earth is wizening long before it will die); and Heather Bourbeau’s “The quiet sadism of the powerless” (overwhelmed by tragedy, the narrator is frustrated at the lack of something too small to kill).
  10. In Chestnut Review’s Summer 2019 Issue, I enjoyed the sole short story, Laura Gill’s “Mary and Martha” — a series of vignettes analysing the role that religion, persistent patriarchy, sisterly rivalry, and admiration play in relationships between women. It isn’t enough for women to give, and give, and give — they must also abandon their work, fawn, and trust to faith when god/man shows up.

If you read any of these stories, I’d love to know what you think!

Read anything interesting this week? I’d love to get recommendations for short stories / literary magazines.

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By Amita Basu

I'm a writer based in Bangalore, India.

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