For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 17: February 04, 2013

The truth is that we are conglomerations of the number of fictions that sustain us from moment to moment.

Author of Understories, and winner of Raymond Carver Short Story Award for “The Understory.”

Mavis Gallant in the preface to The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant:

The first flash of fiction arrives without words. It consists of a fixed image, like a slide or (closer still) a freeze frame, showing characters in a simple situation. For example, Barbara, Alec, and their three children, seen getting down from a train in the south of France, announced “The Remission.” The scene does not appear in the story but remains like an old snapshot or a picture in a newspaper, with a caption giving all the names. The quick arrival and departure of the silent image can be likened to the first moments of a play, before anything is said. The difference is that the characters in the frame are not seen, but envisioned, and do not have to speak to be explained.

Our recommendations this week

The Guest

Preminger looked toward the apartment house. “I've got to go up for another suitcase, Bertie.”

“Sure,” Bertie said.

He went up the stairs behind Preminger. About halfway up he stopped to catch his breath. Preminger watched him curiously. He pounded his chest with his tiny fist and grinned weakly. “Mea culpa,” he said. “Mea booze, Mea sluts. Mea pot. Me–o–mea.”

“Come on,” Preminger said.

They went inside and Bertie heard a toilet flushing. Through a hall, through an open door, he saw Norma, Preminger's wife, staring absently into the bowl. “If she moves them now you won't have to stop at God knows what kind of place along the road,” Bertie said brightly.

We read it in Criers & Kibitzers, Kibitzers & Criers.

Originally published in The Paris Review No. 34.

Summer of the Flesh Eater

“Damn his carnivorous soul to hell!” Kim Fischer had yelled from atop his carport towards the end, brandishing his fists like an Old Testament patriarch or modern-day mullah. It’s perhaps not fair to speak of Kim, who with his unisex name and dubious tenor no doubt had more to contend with than the rest of us. His resilience was something to marvel at, though. We like to think he's running a raw-food retreat somewhere in the West Kootenays, or way out east, the Gatineaus maybe, remarried to a woman who appreciates his way with a paring knife, who understands that taking a pumice stone to the rough skin of your heels does not necessarily make you lany less of a man.


What’s a thing you can say about Greenland? Icy.

After the library, he knows a few facts, more than he knew before. He is in the air, on his way. But really. What can you say? Mining. Nickel mining and Wild West boomtowns. 57,000 people in all, but enough space for a billion. Oil, they say, a lot, and they are ready, all of them, and others, but the glaciers still block them, they need to melt, the Earth must die slightly more before it can be scavenged. How about that?

His father, the lawyer, the strong man, the stoic—Rob went through his house before he left. Went through everything, searched drawers, went through boxes, forced open locked file cabinets, read all that he could find. Started to guess. Started to build it. Read reports of his father’s last two trips to a place called Upernavik, both within the last year. His father’s terse analysis of the legal roadblocks. His father urging The Client, only ever called The Client, to lay the proper groundwork now, today, immediately, while the markets remain virgin and untouched.

We read it in Guernica.