For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 48: November 04, 2013

If I feel crowded by fact, my imagination tends to shut down.

Author of the story collections, The Isle of Youth and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us.

Donna Tartt in a conversation with her editor, Michael Pietsch:

I am terribly troubled by the ever-growing tendency to standardized and prescriptive usage, and I think that the Twentieth century, American-invented conventions of House Rules and House Style, to say nothing of automatic computer functions like Spellcheck and AutoCorrect, have exacted an abrasive, narrowing, and destructive effect on the way writers use language and ultimately on the language itself. Journalism and newspaper writing are one thing; House Style indubitably very valuable there; but as a literary novelist who writes by hand, in a notebook, I want to be able to use language for texture and I've intentionally employed a looser, pre-twentieth century model rather than running my work through any one House Style mill.

Our recommendations this week

Everything Good That I Know I Learned from Women

Our grandfather would break out the leather belt at the least provocation. He’d soak it in water, order us to drop our pants to our knees, and flog us. It hurt to the bone. For days my cousins and I would be left with deep red stripes crisscrossing our asses and thighs. A week would pass before we could sit down again. But after a few days, like outlaws hardened by the punishment, we would fall back into the illegality. My grandmother, however, could trample you, could kill your ridiculous, insignificant child’s soul forever with two or three venomous words. I would double over laughing when I heard her tell someone else, “Go to hell.” Although what I understood was, “Go to smell.” My grandmother would say: “That son-of-a-bitch asshole isn’t worth shit.” And I understood: “That sandwich tadpole ate a banana split.” My grandmother, furious, would shout: “Go fuck your mother.” And I understood: “Good luck, brother.”

We read it in The Buenos Aires Review.

Imperial Chrysanthemum

“My husband was born in this house,” Cutie says, “and the silver was here then. His daddy was born here, and it was here then too.”

It used to depress me to think of being born so close by—the idea, I guess, was that I hadn’t gotten anywhere—but now I don’t mind as much. I’m able to see what has changed and what has been the same, even if those are not all good things. Somehow it’s a satisfying feeling, like staying to the end of a party to make sure you don’t miss anything.

We read it in Mattaponi Queen.

Originally published in The Paris Review: No. 192.

A Nairobi Story of Comings and Goings

Among people of a certain economic status, the word vacation is as potent as open sesame. I was good people, a gourmand, a hedonist, a connoisseur of the finer things in life, their expressions seemed to say. The silence lifted, the smiles beamed forth, the drinking glasses tinkled, and soon I found myself plied with questions from all sides.

—What do you think of Robert Mugabe?

—Obama has been a huge disappointment, wouldn’t you agree?

—Not to be rude, but why are so many Nigerians engaged in e-mail fraud?

—How about you get away from those wazungu and come sit beside an African sister?

That was Leo, slouched in her seat at one end of the table, her tennis shoe–clad foot propped on the table’s edge, a reefer dangling from her lips. From the first she was brazen, meeting my startled gaze with a twinkle in her smile. I moved to her side.

We read it in Love is Power, or Something Like That.

Originally published in AGNI.