For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 18: February 11, 2013

What's the point of writing something just to make someone identify with you?

Author of the short story collection, Glowing in the Dark, and the novel, Surface Tension.

Our First Ever Short Story Contest

Attention and Attention: We at The Short Form have recently come into possession of some books which are too good not to share. Hunter Kennedy, whom you might've seen around these parts, has sent our way three copies of Frank Stanford's wild and beautiful story collection, Conditions Uncertain and Likely to Pass Away. And we also have a copy of The Minus Times Collected signed by three of its authors: Hunter Kennedy, Sam Lipsyte, and Jeffrey Rotter, whose stories from the same book we have recommended in the past.

Now to just hand these over to our readers, we will not. This is America, up by the bootstraps and all that. So we invite you, gentle reader, to enter our first ever short short story contest! 

Elif Batuman in an essay on Orhan Pamuk's real-life museum “full of stuff that had ‘belonged’ to the protagonists of his last novel, The Museum of Innocence”:

Pamuk calls it a ‘tactical error’ for writers to show their characters’ faces, on book jackets or elsewhere. I wondered why it was OK to show all Füsun’s personal effects when it was not OK to show her person. It occurred to me that the novel, though fiction, isn’t uniformly fictional. Endings are fake, because nothing in real life ever ends; characters are composites, because real people are either too close to you or too far. But the furniture and clothes: that stuff must almost all be real. There’s no way Balzac invented all that furniture. All those soaring ambitions and human destinies are just a pretext for telling the truth about the sofas and the clocks.

Our recommendations this week

Courtesy for Beginners

My brother had been going along okay until he hit fourth grade. Then it was like everything was fine until it was too hard form him. He'd be shooting baskets and miss three in a row and just go off, tearing down branches and throwing the ball as hard as he could into the street. He broke a new tree my dad planted in half. He pulled his jaw down so hard with his hands he had to go to the emergency room. I caught him hitting himself one night because I heard the wet sound of the blood from his mouth. We were supposed to do our homework at the same time, and I'd hear him stop halfway through and tear it up and then move his arms so spastically that he'd knock over whatever else was on his desk.

Am Strande von Tanger

Malcolm believes in Malraux and Max Weber: art is the real history of nations. In the details of his person there is evidence of a process not fully complete. It is the making of a man into a true instrument. He is preparing for the arrival of that great artist he one day expects to be, an artist in the truly modern sense which is to say without accomplishments but with the conviction of genius. An artist freed from the demands of craft, an artist of concepts, generosity, his work is the creation of the legend of himself. So long as he is provided with even a single follower he can believe in the sanctity of this design.

He is happy here. He likes the wide, tree-cool avenues, the restaurants, the long evenings. He is deep in the currents of a slow, connubial life.

Nico comes onto the terrace wearing a wheat-colored sweater.

“Would you like a coffee?” she says. “Do you want me to go down for one?”

He thinks for a moment.

“Yes,” he says.

“How do you like it?”

“Solo,” he says.


She likes to do this.

We read it in Dusk and Other Stories.

Originally published in The Paris Review No. 44.

A Brief History of Fire

In winter, halfway to the hospital in Little Rock, Emily Anne Lambert was born.

The first months were like a fever dream; days slid into the swirl of night; my body was her captive. At the slightest cry from across the room, milk rushed my breasts. She latched on to me, gasping, in a fit of madness, then drank greedily; afterwards, conquered, spellbound, I gazed at her red–lipped face. Leaning in to smell her breath – sweet and sour – I'd press my mouth to hers.

My happiness was so deep I was afraid to speak of it.

Luke offered to watch her so that I could leave the house and glimpse the real world, but I refused. I wrapped us in blankets and in the grey afternoon light she nursed on the porch; day after day we watched the winter days slowly lengthen, until, in March, I put her in the car seat for the first time and we went for groceries.

We read it in Granta 122: Betrayal.