For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 22: March 11, 2013

If the important thing in the story is that the reader finds her attractive, then you let the reader decide in what way she is attractive.

Argentinian author of two award-winning story collections in Spanish, and one of Granta's Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists.

Mary Gaitskill in an interview with The Believer:

One thing I’m very envious of men for is when they get married—this is less true than it was, but I still think it’s true—their wife is going to help them. Look at Nabokov. He was a brilliant writer. He would have been a brilliant writer no matter what. But do you know how much his wife did for him? She did the shopping. They would drive to the store together—she would drive. She did all the dealings with the landlord, she shoveled the walk. She typed his manuscripts, she edited them. I don’t think most women would go that far, but women are far more willing to do the support work, which is really, really helpful. Virginia Woolf—I’m sure she would have been a great writer, regardless, but she had a lot of help, too. Leonard was a wife. That’s invaluable. Women do not have that very often.

Our recommendations this week

The Goddess Parka

“You don't think he has a lady friend in Komarovka, eh?” Alevtina asked.

“How would I know?” the landlady croaked, and then stood up to go to bed early because, she explained importantly, she was allergic to the sun and got up to pee at four. She relieved herself under the berry bushes, “for fertilizer,” and shuffled inside.

Little stars sprinkled across the darkening sky. Alevtina sighed deeply in the direction of the porch. Nina, that's who he needs. Thirty-seven years old, a pharmacist, mother died recently, lives in a studio on the outskirts. Her few admirers had been shooed off by the old witch, who had been correct: where would the newlyweds sleep – under mama's bed? (Nina's mom was a distant relative of Alevtina's husband.) Well, well, hummed Alevtina. 

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

Hume declared for all time that while Berkeley's arguments admit not the slightest refutation, they inspire not the slightest conviction. That pronouncement is entirely true with respect to the earth, entirely false with respect to Tlön. The nations of that planet are, congenitally, idealistic. Their language and those things derived from their language—religion, literature, metaphysics—presuppose idealism. For the people of Tlön, the world is not an amalgam of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts—the world is successive, temporal, but not spatial. There are no nouns in the conjectural Ursprache of Tlön, from which its “present-day” languages and dialects derive: there are impersonal verbs, modified by mono-syllabic suffixes (or prefixes) functioning as adverbs. For example, there is no noun that corresponds to our word “moon,” but there is a verb which in English would be “to moonate” or “to enmoon.” “The moon rose above the river” is “hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö,” or, as Xul Solar succinctly translates: Upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned.

We read it in Collected Fictions.

The Old Mechanic

Here was a time when the shell shock of war was ignored. What the repercussions of warfare did to a man's brain. The seeing, hearing, and participating. And like the war, the abusing of a woman was overlooked. People pretended it never happened. This was a time when till-death-do-us-part was an enforced rule of matrimony. When wives didn't leave their husbands. They obeyed them.

But when the Mechanic beat the woman, violation rattled the opposite room's walls. The woman's body bounced from wall to wall like a winning pinball. There were no electronic harmonies for a high score. Just her thick please of sorry with no pity in reply. Just savagery. And with the door closed to the eight-by-eight box of a bedroom, violation traveled through the Sheetrock walls, arrived and infected the living room. Where, on a couch worn down to comfortable seating, two girls' adolescent eyes stayed glued to the black-and-white television. A television that decorated a corner with Tom and Jerry. With their own cartoon addictions to violence, displayed for a child's entertainment. Their slamming of doors on each other's various body parts. Shattering of dishes over each other's skull. Wooden mallets matching the fist pounding on flesh in the opposite bedroom.