For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 10: December 03, 2012

I'm still working off the instructions given to me at fifteen by my seventeen year old fiction editor, who simply said, “The one rule is something's got to happen.”

Editor and author, The Minus Times 

Geraldine Brooks in introduction to Best American Short Stories 2011:

The best short stories and the most successful jokes have a lot in common. Each form relies on suggestion and economy. Characters have to be drawn in a few deft strokes. There’s generally a setup, a reveal, a reversal, and a release. The structure is delicate. If one element fails, the edifice crumbles. In a novel you might get away with a loose line or two, a saggy paragraph, even a limp chapter. But in the joke and in the short story, the beginning and end are precisely anchored tent poles, and what lies between must pull so taut it twangs.

Our recommendations this week

Wild Flower

I would look at her laughing face. Her body was dark, her flesh like well kneaded dough. They say a woman is like a ball of dough. But sometimes the dough is loose and difficult to roll into the round shape of a roti. Sometimes the dough is stale and impossible to roll out. But there is a sort of woman whose flesh is taut and well toned. One can roll out not just rotis but even puris. I looked at Angoori’s face, her breasts and her arms. Her flesh was tightly kneaded. I had seen her Parbhati too. He was short and withered. He certainly did not deserve to eat such well-kneaded dough... and I laughed at myself for comparing flesh to dough.

This story is available for free online.

Typhoid Quarantine

When Andreev had been first brought to this town, he thought he might live for another two or three weeks. To regain his former strength he would have needed complete rest for many months in resort conditions, with milk and chocolate. Since it was clear, however, that Andreev would never see any sucn resort, he would have to die. But that was not terrible; many of his comrades had died. Something stronger than death would not permit him to die. Love? Bitterness? No, a person lives by virtue of the same reasons as a tree, a stone, a dog. It was this that Andreev had grasped, had sensed with every fiber of his being precisely here at the city transit prison camp during the typhoid quarantine.

We read it in Kolyma Tales.


He paid the bill, and I followed him out of that restaurant into another. Here the waiters wore pink jackets like hunting coats, and there was a lot of horse tack on the walls. We sat down, and my father began to shout again. “Master of the hounds! Tallyhoo and all that sort of thing. We'd like a little something in the way of a stirrup cup. Namely, two Bibson Geefeaters.”

“Two Bibson Geefeaters?” the waiter asked, smiling.

“You know damned well what I want,” my father said angrily. “I want two Beefeater Gibsons, and make it snappy. Things have changed in jolly old England. So my friend the duke tells me. Let's see what England can produce in the way of a cocktail.”

“This isn't England,” the waiter said.

“Don't argue with me,” my father said. “Just do as you're told.”

We read it in The Stories of John Cheever.

Originally published in The New Yorker.