For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 34: June 10, 2013

Regionalism was more on my mind than gender—I didn’t want a book that held up stock conceits about Nevada as being hostile, barren, hard.

Author of story collection, Battleborn, winner of the Story Prize, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and more.

A.M. Homes in an interview with Granta:

If I’m going to ask people to stop living their lives and pay attention to my work or my book, it needs to be a condensed version of life. The other day I likened it to the difference between grape juice and wine. If I spend seven years writing something I really hope it’s not grape juice. I want it to have both the distillation and the intensity and the specificity of wine.

Our recommendations this week

Hailstones on Zamfara

I was pregnant by the end of that month. I had not been as sick as I normally was. I was sicker; sick all day. It made me thin. I was worrying about Fatima's schooling. I was running around for Junior Wife's newborn, Abu. She was refusing to touch him. She said he might as well have been born a stone. She cursed her parents who gave her to Our Husband in exchange for a dowry. She said marriage was like slavery.

“But you're a miserable one,” I told her. Everyone was quick to compare themselves to slaves. What slave had the power to tell Our Husband to let her sleep separately? I had to fake typhoid so that he would not come to me at night. My temperatures were easy; I was making his morning teas again. My nausea was convenient.

Junior Wife told me one evening, “You're hiding something from me. You seem one way while you are the other. You say one thing and mean the other. Our Husband says you do this to drive people to madness.” Her eyes were red, not from crying but from lack of sleep.

“Have you fed your son?” I asked.

“See?” she said. “You're doing it again.”

“Your son needs to be fed,” I said, sharply. Doing what?

“My son is like you,” she said. “A snake hidden in the grass. He does not cry, so that I will worry about him. That is why I no longer sleep at night.”

We read it in News from Home.

Nawabdin Electrician

The crops that year had been good, Harouni felt expansive in front of the fire, and so, much to the disgust of the farm managers, Nawab received a brand-new motorcycle, a Honda 70. He even managed to extract an allowance for gasoline.

The motorcycle increased his status, gave him weight, so that people began calling him Uncle and asking his opinion on world affairs, about which he knew absolutely nothing. He could now range farther, doing much wider business. Best of all, now he could spend every night with his wife, who early in the marriage had begged to live not in Nawab’s quarters in the village but with her family in Firoza, near the only girls’ school in the area. A long straight road ran from the canal headworks near Firoza all the way to the Indus, through the heart of the K. K. Harouni lands. The road ran on the bed of an old highway built when these lands lay within a princely state. Some hundred and fifty years ago, one of the princes had ridden that way, going to a wedding or a funeral in this remote district, felt hot, and ordered that rosewood trees be planted to shade the passersby. Within a few hours, he forgot that he had given the order, and in a few dozen years he in turn was forgotten, but these trees still stood, enormous now, some of them dead and looming without bark, white and leafless. Nawab would fly down this road on his new machine, with bags and streamers hanging from every knob and brace, so that the bike, when he hit a bump, seemed to be flapping numerous small vestigial wings; and with his grinning face, as he rolled up to whichever tube well needed servicing, with his ears almost blown off, he shone with the speed of his arrival.

We read it in In Other Rooms, Other Voices.

Originally published in The New Yorker: August 27, 2007.

The B.A.R. Man

And this was the first time Fallon realized how much the crowd in the office had changed over the years. In the old days, back around ’forty-nine or ’fifty, with the old crowd, anyone who didn't know what a B.A.R. was would almost certainly have kept his mouth shut.

“The B.A.R.,” Fallon said, laying down his fork, “is the Browning Automatic Rifle. It's a thirty-caliber, magazine-fed, fully-automatic piece that provides the major firepower of a twelve-man rifle squad. That answer your question?”

“How d'ya mean?” Boyle inquired. “Like a tommy gun?”

And Fallon had to explain, as if he were talking to children or girls, that it was nothing at all like a tommy gun and that its tactical function was entirely different; finally he had to take out his mechanical pencil and draw, from memory and love, a silhouette of the weapon on the back of his weekly pay envelope.

“So okay,” Kopeck said, “tell me one thing, John. Whaddya have to know to shoot this gun? You gotta have special training, or what?”

Fallon's eyes were angry slits as he crammed the pencil and envelope back into his coat. “Try it sometime,” he said. “Try walkin’ twenty miles on an empty stomach with that B.A.R. and a full ammo belt on your back, and then lay down in some swamp with the water up over your ass, and you're pinned down by machine-gun and mortar fire and your squad leader starts yellin’, ‘Get that B.A.R. up!’ and you gotta cover the withdrawal of the whole platoon or the whole damn company. Try it sometime, Mac–you'll find out whatcha gotta have.” And he took too deep a drink of his beer, which made him cough and sputter into his big freckled fist.