Tag Archives: fiction

New (Old) Story Online

The Stinging Fly, a fantastic literary journal from Ireland, published a story of mine in their IRL mag a few years ago. This was great and also quite safe-feeling for me at the time, as the story was only available in hard copy and across the sea. It has recently come to my attention that they have made some of their old content available on the webz. So check it out here, if you want. It’s a less-than-15-minute read, and against all my usual inclinations, I actually still like it quite a bit.

Read THE LOAD in The Stinging Fly.

In case that’s not enough to entice you, here’s an excerpt:

“When the father died, later than many expected, they rented a dumpster for the contents of the unfinished wing. A sofa, two washing machines, two meat freezers (one still functional, the other filled top to bottom with LIFE magazines). Stashed in and among the stacks of small boxes they found dog tags, photos of men in uniform, a purple heart medal none of them had seen before. Report cards from thirteen children times thirteen years. Love letters between the parents that no one felt comfortable reading in the presence of the others. A draft card. A hospital bill, yellow and cracked: $80 for delivery of baby. A worn black skirt and a child‘s snowsuit made from a wedding dress.”

The Stinging Fly, Feb. 1, 2015

Ferrante Fever

“Elena Ferrante” is what James Wood called her. Apparently we don’t know if it’s a real name or a real person or what. I don’t much care.

Ferrante is the author of a bunch of novels, including the lauded Neapolitan series, which catalogues the lives, from childhood, of two friends from an impoverished corner of Naples starting in the 1950s and progressing through their adulthoods.

Ok. I’m into it. I listened to My Brilliant Friend over a couple of days off, cleaning and running on the treadmill in the workout room of my apartment building in between the two garage modules. I love audiobooks, since I’ve realized that I’m an incredibly slow reader because I basically read everything out loud to myself, in my head, and pretty much can’t process anything non-aural. I continually despaired at my inability to finish books, from childhood onward, until I discovered that you could have people read them to you, while you did mundane shit like wash dishes and shop for groceries and walk to work and back. Things that don’t really need your full attention, and that would otherwise be occupied with your obsessive negative thoughts, anyway! Since this realization, I’ve finished a whole bunch of books that I’d have otherwise thought too long or boring to consider. Just ASK me about the Plantagenets! Somehow, just having someone keep going with the story, no matter what random thoughts also pop in to visit, is an amazing help. Go figure.

I’m five hours into The Story of a New Name, and though I repeatedly think, whenever I have to stop Hilary Huber’s electrifying voice in my ears to go to work or have a conversation, I can’t help thinking that the book is a bit soap-opera-y, a bit tawdry, though shot through with existential insights, and above all, profoundly “female,” which is something I can hardly stop thinking about since as my brother is the owner of the audiobook account I use and he recently told me he was listening to volume 1.   Continue reading

The Campers

They were occupying the only four-top in my section when I arrived. Customers of the happy hour server. This table represented one third of the seats for which I was responsible. Ours is a popular dinner spot. We turn the tables three, four times a night. They’d finished eating. Yet still, they sat.

I’d gone from friendly inquiry (“anything else I can get for ya?”) to obsessive water re-filling, to water withholding, to ignoring them, and finally, to making pointed eye contact whenever possible. No, they didn’t need anything. But they would not leave.

They were professional-looking middle agers. People who should know better. I’m fairly certain they were not stoned. The check was handed off and paid. And still, they sat.

Tables around them came, ate, drank, enjoyed desserts and digestifs, paid, left. One turn, two turns. Three. They sat. They laughed. They side-eyed me when I passed.

Just before the kitchen closed, they picked up their coats and left their empty water glasses behind. My sigh was exaggerated, but my colleagues sympathized. The night was a wash, worse than brunch. Looked like I’d be eating lentils and getting the budget cat food this week.

So I decided to follow them home. Don’t ask me how I found the address. The host is a friend of mine who doesn’t deserve firing.

When I arrived at their spacious bungalow with my tent, I was pleased to find a strip of city land adjacent to their property, an unused thoroughfare previously occupied by a defunct tram line.  I made camp on a spot with a view into their kitchen window.

It’s been two weeks. I cook my lentils on my coleman stove and wave when they come out on the deck. The police have been understanding. One of the nice officers’ daughters is a server. No telling how long I’m going to stay–until I feel good and ready to leave, I suppose. I’m not here to extort them. I just want them to get used to my face, the sound of my laughter when I stream movies over their Wifi. To remember these things, when they are tempted to linger in someone else’s space.

Nathan Englander

Every book better be fully intimate, it better be all you have. I’m obviously not shy because I’m going to talk your ear off today, but I’m private, which is different. But the idea for me to be truly intimate — for me to be naked and raw — the fiction allows me to do what I need to do emotionally. And with this book, certain stories were looking at things — it was a change for me to look at things that were right there. And in a sense, this was normality — this game — and I just took a step back and said, ‘My god, we’re pathological.’