For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 13: January 07, 2013

Lately all of Clarice Lispector’s narrators have been killing me.

Author of Something in My Eye: Stories, winner of Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction

Muhammad Umar Memon in introduction to The Seventh Door and Other Stories by Intizar Hussain:

If you want to know how simple, ordinary lives are wasted by politics and history, read a novel, a short story, a poem.

Which is not to suggest some inevitable causality between politics and creative endeavor, or that fictional aesthetics invariably do or should lie in the socio-political reality that in fact inspired a work. Of course something of the empirical will always survive in a fictional piece—however oblique and tenuous its ascription to the times—if only because fiction knows no way wholly to transcend temporality; even the best attempts in the “spatial form” have not accomplished that. But the writer's world is a radically autonomous world. It is equally fictive. An action of the imagination. It will always be different from the sum of its empirical parts. In the final synthesis of the real and the fictive, objective truth will always be subverted, almost of necessity, in favor of a fierce personal vision. Nothing, however, can stop this “personal vision” from providing insights into socio-political reality that are truer than any afforded by even the most objective chronicle of events.

Our recommendations this week

Going For a Beer

There’s a young woman sitting near him who looks like she’s probably good in bed, but she’s not his wife and he has no desire to commit adultery, or so he tells himself, as he sits on the edge of her bed with his pants around his ankles. Is he taking them off or putting them on? He’s not sure, but now he pulls them on and limps home, having left his beribboned crutches somewhere. On arrival, he finds all the Kewpie dolls, which were put on a shelf when the babies started coming, now scattered about the apartment, beheaded and with their limbs amputated.

We read it in The New Yorker.


In this fiction, set in an anonymous dead-end alley, the reflection of a woman, all the more beautiful for being ghostly, has surfaced from the depths of a bedroom mirror. Those soldiers in the firing squad, who can see her, conclude that she is a projection of the hooded man's memory, and that her flickering appearance is a measure of how intensely she is being recalled. Beneath the hood, the man must be recalling a room in summer where her bare body is reflected beside his, her blond-streaked hair cropped short, both of them tan, lean, still young. The mirror is unblemished, as if it, too, is young.

“Look,” she whispers, “us.”

Was it then he told her that their reflection at that moment is what he'd choose to be his last glimpse of life?

We read it in Tin House: 54.

Titus Hoyt, I.A.

I said, “The Trinidad Guardian? The paper? What, me writing to the Guardian! But only big big man does write to the Guardian.”

Titus Hoyt smiled. “That's why you writing. It go surprise them.”

I said, “What I go write to them about?”

He said, “You go write it now. Write. To the Editor, Trinidad Guardian. Dear Sir, I am but a child of eight (How old you is? Well, it don't matter anyway) and yesterday my mother sent me to make a purchase in the city. This, dear Mr Editor, was my first peregrination (p-e-r-e-g-r-i-n-a-t-i-o-n) in this metropolis, and I had the misfortune to wander from the path my mother had indiciated—”

I said, “Oh God, Mr Titus Hoyt, where you learn all these big words and them? You sure you spelling them right?”

Titus Hoyt smiled. “I spend all afternoon making up this letter,” he said.

We read it in Miguel Street.