For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 8: November 19, 2012

You have five senses, but you shouldn’t turn on all of them at once. Good short story writers know when to put on the blinders.

Author of The Unknown Knowns.

Milton Crane in introduction to 50 Great Stories:

What makes a great short story?

The sudden unforgettable revelation of character; the vision of a world through another’s eyes; the glimpse of truth; the capture of a moment in time. 

All this the short story, at its best, is uniquely capable of conveying, for in its very shortness lies its greatest strength. It can discover depths of meaning in the casual word or action; it can suggest in a page what could not be stated in a volume. 

Our recommendations this week

The New Year

“What made you think I was frolicking?” I said.

“You were waving your hands around.”

“I was cleaning myself,” I said, suddenly feeling my muscles beginning to spasm. “It's too cold to be frolicking.”

I then told him then that I would talk a lot more candidly if he would give me a moment to get out of the river and put on my outfit: my jeans and my jacket. Moany was silent, though he seemed to understand my needs, politely turning away as I emerged from the river. After I was dressed, I invited him to join me on my couch. When I'd first moved under the bridge, there was plenty of unoccupied space for the taking, but at the same time, there wasn't any real cozy spot I could all my own—a place where I could sleep, eat, and get some thinking done, while not constantly having to readjust my position due to the sharp stones on the riverbank. So I was really overjoyed, and at the same time, very humbled, when, one day, on the bridge above me, a head-on collision occurred between a furniture truck and a truck carrying combustibles, and as a result of the tragic accident, a smoky but brand new leather couch tumbled down the embankment, end over end, until it came to rest, right side up, at my feet.

“Say you were frolicking,” said Moany, “What would you have been frolicking for?”

We read it in Something in My Eye.

Originally published in Conjunctions:54.

Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ

True, there was a dark bronze man with very clear eyes at the wheel of the lorry. The murmuring in the crowd grew, as the untidy but immaculate-eyed man of ropegold presented one expressionless look after another. The old rain came back and wet the lorry. But the crowd remained dry. Father Vea was jumping about and praying at the same time, as the lone traditional priest, now come, poured libration at great speed. He was trying to beat the golden lorry to Asaae Yaa before it landed. The cries of goats were stuck in the mouth, and Father Vea was going round the mouths of goats trying hard to unstick the sounds. He shouted, ‘The more apocalyptic we appear, the easier it would be for the divine to pass us by! Let the goats be normal!’ ‘Go back to your African Gonja karate, Father!’ someone shouted back. At the edges of the small ponds the guinea grass was motionless with the cries of doves. Bishop Bawa had been told of what was happening while he was in his vast rice and pepper farms. He had been strolling up and down just behind his open-air raffia altar. He and Father Vea had jumped in surprise together, bur Father Vea had jumped higher.

The Supremacy of Uruguay

To all appearances Uruguay's conquest of the earth was complete. There remained, of course, the formal occupation by her armed forces. That her troops, being in possession of all their faculties, could establish her supremacy among idiots, she never for a moment doubted. She assumed that with nothing but lunacy to combat, the occupation would be mildly stimulating and enjoyable. She supposed her crazy foes would do a few rather funny, picturesque things with their battleships and their tanks, and then surrender. What she failed to anticipate was that her foes, being mad, had no intention of making war at all. The occupation proved bloodless and singularly unimpressive. 

We read it in Quo Vadimus.

Originally published in The New Yorker, November 25, 1933.