For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 54: March 03, 2014

Publishing digitally allows for much greater freedom for translations.

A digital English-Spanish bilingual literary journal.

George Saunders on getting caught up with style:

My sense is that if you go far enough in any stylistic direction, you can make a beautiful and complex representation of reality, although that representation may not be linear. God knows we’ve got enough linearity in our representations of our world. We’ve tremendously overvalued analytical knowledge, rationality, etc. To me, the process of writing is just reading what I’ve written and—like running your hand over one of those mod glass stovetops to find where the heat is—looking for where the energy is in the prose, then going in the direction of that. It’s an exercise in being open to whatever is there.

Our recommendations this week

The Stateless One

He pressed the button and heard the humming of the old French elevator in its cage as it descended from somewhere on high. Suddenly it stopped right in front of him, abruptly, with a slight rattle, a polished black coffin, lined with purple silk imprinted with irises like the reverse side of a lustrous piece of crêpe de Chine; it also had a huge Venetian mirror, polished on the edges, with green glass like the surface of a crystal lake. This upright coffin, made to order for a first-class funeral and controlled by the invisible power of a deux ex machina, had descended from above, docked like Charon's ferry, and now sat awaiting the pale traveler standing there petrified and uncertain, the manuscript of his latest novel, The Man Without a Country, shoved under his arm (and through the grate he himself was observing the pale traveler in the mirror, standing there petrified and uncertain, with the manuscript of his most recent novel clenched under his arm). And the coffin was waiting to take him not into the “other world” but merely into the grim basement of the building, the crematorium and cemetery where glassy-eyed stray travelers rested in sarcophagi similar to this one.

We read it in The Lute and the Scars.

Preparation for a Collie

“We're getting rid of you, you know,” David says.

It is Saturday evening and someone has stopped at the house to see the dog.

“Is he a full-blooded collie?” the person asks. “Does he have papers?”

“He doesn't say,” Jackson smiles.

After all these yars, six, Jane is a little confused by Jackson. She sees this as her love for him. What would her love for him be if it were not this? In turn, she worries about her love for David. Jane does not think David is nice-looking. He has many worries, it seems. He weeps, he has rashes, he throws up. He has pale hair, pale flesh. She does not know how she can go through all these days, each day, embarrassed for her son.

We read it in Taking Care.

The Paperhanger

The raw earth yard was full of cars. Dr. Jamahl had come in a sleek black Lexus. He berated his wife. Why weren't you watching her? he asked. Unlike his wife's, the doctor's speech was impeccable. She covered her face with her palms and wept. The doctor still wore his green surgeon's smock and it was flecked with bright dots of blood as a butcher's smock might be.

I need to feed a few cows, the paperhanger said. I'll feed my stock pretty quick and come back and help hunt.

You don't mind if I look in your truck, do you?

Do what?

I've got to cover my ass. If that little girl don't turn up damn quick this is going to be over my head. TBI, FBI, network news. I've got to eliminate everything.

Eliminate away, the paperhanger said.

The sheriff searched the floorboard of the paperhanger's pickup truck. He shined his huge flashlight under the seat and felt behind it with his hands.
I had to look, he said apologetically.

Of course you did, the paperhanger said.

We read it in I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down.

Originally published in Harper's: February 2000.