For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 5: October 29, 2012

You tell people ‘Yes, I did translate this into English from my native Indian language’ because you don’t want to disappoint them.

Author of short story collection, Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings 

Steve Almond's “Funny is the New Deep” in The Writer's Notebook II

The idea isn't to crack jokes about your life. On the contrary, the idea is to engage in a ruthless pursuit of the truth, and to allow the comic impulse to do its intended and instinctual work. It's not some wrench you hoist out of your writer's toolbox when the action seems to be flagging. It's the impulse that naturally arises when you reach a moment that is too painful to confront without some form of self-forgiveness. It's not a conscious decision, but an unconscious necessity.

Our recommendations this week


Christmas Eve, 2007: Robert Joakes quietly sobbed, lips smacking as if from thirst, and asked to smoke just one cigarette. Helen considered it a moment, then untied his right arm. She carried the lantern to the cupboard and pushed aside a jar of pickled eggs, and there was the thin wooden box. The smell of tobacco came out strong. She kept the lid open, hoping the smell would overtake the odors of Joakes himself. She even held it beneath Joakes's nose. He shut his eyes and seemed to take solemn pleasure from the scent. Then he opened his lids and his red eyes drew onto her.

We read it in Volt.

Originally published in Virginia Quarterly Review.


Hoods were beginning to appear in the school, beginning to grow drastic haircuts, wear Flagg Flyer shoes, and sing Gene Vincent songs. They hung inside their cars from the wind vanes and stared at the girls I had grown up with in an aspect of violence I had not known. They wolf-whistled. They laughed with their mouths wide open and their eyes glittering, and when they got into fights they used their feet. They spent their weekends at the drags in Flat Rock. Jimmy and I loved the water, but when the hoods came near it all they saw were the rubbers. We were downright afraid of the hoods, of how they acted, of the steel taps on their shoes, of the way they saw things, making us feel we would be crazy to ever cross them. We were sportsmen.

We read it in To Skin a Cat.

Originally published in Playboy.

End of the Game

The best satisfaction was to imagine that someday Mama or Aunt Ruth would find out about the game. If they managed to find out about the game there would be an unbelievable mess. The G-flat and fainting fits, incredible protests of devotion and sacrifice ill-rewarded, and a string of words threatening the more celebrated punishments, closing the bid with a dire prediction of our fates, which consisted of the three of us ending up on the street. This final prediction always left us somewhat perplexed, because to end up on the street always seemed fairly normal to us.

We read it in Blow-Up and Other Stories.