For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 32: May 27, 2013

It’s a zigzag. It’s things that don’t work. It’s the next step after the stairs give way. Plot is something I love.

Author of story collection Look! Look! Feathers, and We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, a book of poems. He edits NOÖ Journal and runs Magic Helicopter Press.

Chris Abani in conversation with Tayari Jones in the Believer:

Because I have been censored in my life and I am very leery of censoring anybody, I am very suspicious of this hierarchical rendering of experience–of whose experience is more fascinating than someone else's. I just think that people are not pushed to go to the places where their stories are, so they just write generic stuff. What professors want, what publishers are looking for, what agents are looking for.

Our recommendations this week


Madam has the contours of a girl I knew in Dansoman and sculptures sold at Arts Centre and Bitter Lemon bottles. Slender top and round the rest. A perfect holy roundness that is proof of God's existence and His goodness furthermore. Her skin is ageless, creaseless, paint. Her lower back a hiding place. The colour brooks no simile. If you have been to Ghana, you know. If you have never been to Ghana then you might not understand the way the darkest skin can glow as with the purest of all lights.

We read it in Granta #123.

Seventeen Different Ways to Get a Load of That

One day, out walking in a neighborhood near campus, I had a very clear vision of the house where I grew up, as seen from overhead: the brown rectangle, the green rectangle, the white fence. In my vision, my mother was there, standing forlornly in a corner of the front lawn, and I suddenly came over with an idea. Since I could no longer write letters to Jill, and since I could no longer speak to my mother on the phone, I would write letters to my mother.

The first one was written with the kind of unthinking innocence that always reveals itself, in time, to be a form of deceit. I decided to type it because my mother had always complained that she could not read my handwriting. I obtained onionskin paper because it was the best lightweight paper available at the campus bookstore. (Perhaps the Shrink Fence would challenge both of these statements.) In that first letter, I affected a more adult tone because I wanted to impress her with my independence. “I know we haven't spoken for a while,” I wrote. “I wish it weren't the case. Life in the States is good.” The rest of it was small talk about the news, save for one long sentence at the end where I tried to communicate what I understood of human connection: “The way in which I faded away is unforgivable and I would not blame you if you agreed,” I wrote.

We read it in What He's Poised to Do.