For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 26: April 08, 2013

Once I attended a Q&A with Stephen King and someone asked him: What scares you? He said, Everything scares me.

Author of story collection Safe As Houses, winner of 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and longlisted for this year's Frank O' Connor award.

John Cheever in an interview with The Paris Review:

The legend that characters run away from their authors—taking up drugs, having sex operations, and becoming president—implies that the writer is a fool with no knowledge or mastery of his craft. This is absurd. Of course, any estimable exercise of the imagination draws upon such a complex richness of memory that it truly enjoys the expansiveness—the surprising turns, the response to light and darkness—of any living thing. But the idea of authors running around helplessly behind their cretinous inventions is contemptible.

Our recommendations this week


‘Come on, tell me it takes all sorts to make a world. They told me that in school. I don't know why you want to ask me questions. Is it that you're doing a piece in your paper called “Confessions of the Great”? I've seen that sort of stuff before. “How I became an Actress”, by Florrie Flapdoodle, or “My First Step Towards the Church”, by the Archbishop of Bunk. You want to pry into the lives of humble people like myself. “As a Kid I loved handling Corpses,” said the Undertaker. Is that it? So you want me to give it to you, hot and strong, straight from the shoulder.

‘Listen, you funny little fellow with your notebook and your inky fingers. I'll tell you a story. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. You can make what you like out of it and print it in big letters in the “Sunday Muck”: “What Led to My Entering the Profession”, by Mazie.’


The Dungeon Master

Not true of Cherninsky. He makes a habit of asking for it, though some tormentors hang back. There’s something feral and untutored about his schoolyard ways. You sense that he might take a bully’s punches to the death. He’s the kid people whisper has no mother or father at home, but of course he does, they’re just old and stopped raising him years ago, maybe when his sister drowned. He always plays a thief, and even outside of the game, when he’s just Cherninsky, he steals stuff from the stores on Main. He and the Dungeon Master are not so different, or this town hurts them the same, which is probably why they sometimes hate each other.

“Damn it, Brendan,” Cherninsky says now. “A tough decision? I say we go to that cave and get the gold. And then we get wenches.”

“Wenches?” Brendan says.

“Tarts,” Cherninsky says. “Elf beaver.”

It’s all a charade, because there is no decision. There is no alternative. We shall scale Mt. Total Woe or die trying. Most likely the latter.

“We’re going to grease that dragon,” I say.

“Grease?” Brendan says.

“Vietnam,” I say.

“Oh, right.”

We read it in The Fun Parts.

Originally published in New Yorker: October 4th, 2010.