For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 6: November 05, 2012

In a short story, there is a world and a history to the characters that a reader must imagine, must create and, in a way, write for themselves.

Author of The Bradbury Chronicles and Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews. Editor of Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury

Kevin Barry discussing his story, “Ox Mountain Death Song,” on Page-Turner:

At the level of the sentence, what interests me above all is its sound. I will happily subvert a sentence’s meaning for the sake of how it sounds, and then just go with whatever change results; I’ll let the sound dictate the story. I work it along like this, sentence by sentence, and try to give the story a melody or a tune. And yes, I very much wanted that mythic note—or maybe better to say an epic note. I was trying to write a compressed epic. I wanted a Big Story but told as economically as possible. It was kind of a test for me—how quickly can you tell something epic, mythic, of great proportions? Technically, this involved removing chunks of the narrative spine and presenting it in these fragments. It’s a story that’s also very influenced, I would say, by the fact that I spend a lot of my time now writing film scripts—it has jump-cuts, pans, fades, and so forth.

Our recommendations this week

Hagia Sophia, a Wall Painting
Excerpt

The architect spent days wandering all around the cathedral. Onlookers who watched him, just like the spies who kept an eye on him so as to report on his doings, alongside the Sultan's secret envoys, didn't have a clue what his meandering path meant. He did not go into the building at all. He just circled round it, as if his real concern were not Hagia Sophia, but her shadow. Spies' reports all expressed it almost identically: “He appears to be mainly concerned with the basilica's shadow.”

Trilobites
Excerpt

Through the door to the living room, I see the rock case Pop built for me. The white labels show up behind the dark gloss of glass. Ginny helped me find over half of those If I did study in a college, I could come back and take Jim's place at the gas wells. I like to hold little stones that lived so long ago. But geology doesn't mean lick to me. I can't even find a trilobite.

I stir the meat, listen for noise or talk on the porch, but there is none. I look out. A lightning flash peels shadows from the yard and leaves a dark strip under the cave of the barn. I feel a scum on my skin in the still air. I take my supper to the porch.

I look down the valley to where bison used to graze before the first rails were put down. Now those rails are covered with a highway, and cars rush back and forth in the wind. I watch Trent's car back out, heading east into town. I'm afraid to ask right off if he got what he wanted.

We read it in The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake.

Originally published in The Atlantic.

La Veneziana
Excerpt

He felt as if he were coming apart at the seams, as if it were his timidity that kept him from hitting accurately, and that, instead of an instrument of play, meticulously and ingeniously assembled out of resonant, amber catgut strung on a superbly calculated frame, he was holding a clumsy dry log from which the ball would rebound with a painful crack, ending up in the net or in the bushes, and even managing to knock the straw hat off the circular pate of Mr. McGore, who was standing beside the court and watching with no great interest as his young wife Maureen and the lightfooted, nimble Frank defeated their perspiring opponents.

The story was written in late 1929, but remained unpublished until recently.