For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 33: June 03, 2013

Spotlight: Machado De Assis (1839-1908)

If Borges is the writer who made Garcia Marquez possible, then it is no exaggeration to say that Machado de Assis is the writer who made Borges possible.

Salman Rushdie

Short story selections from Brazil's greatest author, who remained unpublished in the US until 1952. 

Salman Rushie on the internal world of fiction, in an interview with Powell Books

One of the ideas that I really enjoyed was that in what I was imagining as the world of this book as distinct from the real world, it would be right that fictional characters from other books should have the same status of reality as characters from my book, right? Whereas, let's say, the authors of those books clearly could not be in my book because they didn't exist in the fictional world. So that Zuckerman was real and Philip Roth didn't exist. And Humboldt was real and Bellow didn't exist. The internal world of books, the other fictional universes, are places you can get to from my fictional universe, but you can't get to the real world from there. Sal Paradise is real and Jack Kerouac is not.

Our recommendations this week

Beer Trip to Llandudno
Excerpt

The train scooted along the fried coast. We made solid headway into the Marston's. Mo was down a testicle since the spring. We'd called in at the Royal the night of his operation. We'd stopped at the Ship and Mitre on the way—they'd a handsome bitter from Clitheroe on guest tap. We needed the fortification: when Real Ale Club boys parade down hospital wards, we tend to draw worried glances from the whitecoats. We are shaped like those chaps in the warning illustrations on cardiac charts. We gathered around Mo and breathed a nice fog of bitter over the lad and we joshed him gently.

“Sounding a little high-pitched, Mo?”

“Other lad's going to be worked overtime.”

“Diseased bugger you'll want in a glass jar, Mo. One for the mantelpiece.”

Love is a strong word, but. We were family to Mo when he was up the Royal having the bollock out. We passed Flint Castle and Everett Bell piped up.

We read it in Tin House: 56.

Poor Visitor
Excerpt

What a surprise this was to me, that I longed to be back in the place that I came from, that I longed to sleep in a bed I had outgrown, that I longed to be with people whose smallest, most natural gesture would call up in me such a rage that I longed to see them all dead at my feet. Oh, I had imagined that with my one swift act—leaving home and coming to this new place—I could leave behind me, as if it were an old garment never to be worn again, my sad thoughts, my sad feelings, and my discontent with life in general as it presented itself to me. In the past, the thought of being in my present situation had been a comfort, but now I did not even have this to look forward to, and so I lay down on my bed and dreamt that I was eating a bowl of pink mullet and green figs cooked in coconut milk, and it had been cooked by my grandmother, which was why the taste of it pleased me so, for she was the person I liked best in all the world and those were the things I liked best to eat also.

Passengers, Remain Calm
Excerpt

“What do you think goes through your mind when you're going down like that? When you know you're going to die?”

“I don't know,” Hollis said. “But you know what I'd be thinking? I'd be thinking, ‘This is going to really, really hurt!’”

Wayne had laughed at that, and had told the old joke they both loved in childhood: “Q: What's the last thing that goes through a mosquito's mind when he hits your windshield? A: His butt.” And they'd laughed some more, full of beer and dumb camaraderie.

And it strikes him suddenly, a heavy blow. Wayne knew he was leaving, even as they sat there laughing and telling stale jokes. But he would never have told Hollis. Hollis can see himself as they see him, even as they are making their secret plans and living their secret lives. He is a distraction to them, an anger, too–he can see himself as Wayne saw him, full of earnest, innocent stupidity, chattering vacantly about the “weird things he'd noticed,” not someone who had ever really mattered. His cheeks grown warm, and he wishes that he'd responded to Wayne's question more seriously. What goes through your mind when you know you're going to die? He could have finally told Wayne about that kid, that kid whose corpse fell apart when he tried to pick it up. He could have said a lot of things. And maybe then Wayne would have respected him. Maybe Wayne would have told him the truth.

We read it in Among the Missing.