Short Story (Well, me being me, not THAT short)

Thunderstruck and other stories Elizabeth McCracken

Short Story Textbook #1: Elizabeth McCracken’s brilliant Thunderstruck. This is nirvana.

Whatever this THIS is with which I have been contending for more than two weeks, this THIS that has forced me to take antibiotics for the first time in ten years, this THIS that has resulted in wild ten pound vacillations in my weight (for example, I weigh four pounds LESS today than I did yesterday when I weighed three pounds more than I had the day before), this THIS that kept me away from the gym for more than a week, this THIS that – until last night, thank you – had me waking in pain at least once each sleep-cycle with a near-overwhelming urge to projectile-spew from one or another or multiple orifices – not least of which were my eyes from which I have repeatedly in frustration and fear and just plain, whipped weariness – wept, this THIS which has depleted and defeated and exhausted and exasperated me, this This which has caused my brain to malfunction, memory to disappear, and in general rendered my ability to think, reason and respond into a shape I imagined I wouldn’t reach until dotage, this THIS which has taken on a personality of its own separate and apart from me, Charlie, and become, well, this THIS; It finally seems (shhh, not too loud) to be dissipating. Not quickly, not altogether, and not without – just when I thought I was safe to venture more than two minutes and ten yards from a restroom – recurrence, but, still, dissipating.

Purdy, James

James Purdy’s complete short stories with an intro by John Waters. How did I only JUST discover him last year? WHY?

During this This, I’ve been working in a form new for me: The Short Story. Anyone who reads my blog (which, I guess, would be you?) would scoff at the possibility of me being short and concise about anything. I don’t disagree. I don’t necessarily think the discipline and format and requirements of short story writing are things at which I am, by nature, inclined to excel. However, having been challenged to cut my novel by 30% and being about as successful at that as Jerry Lewis was at cutting back on being maudlin and mugging, I determined I needed to exercise literary muscles I had never bother to develop: Concision. Editing. Brevity. The Point without Parenthetical Meanderings.

Davis, Lydia davis-thecollectedstories01

Lydia Davis – ashamed to say I only discovered her in the past month. These are the problems with being an autodidact. While I would never have made it following the formal routes of education, I did miss some things along the way I might earlier have found.

Good luck. But I am giving it my best, which, during this This, has been unpredictable, fevered, chilled, less than focused – as I mentioned above, my thought processes and ability to reason/respond have been off and on like senility – and iffy. So, when I simply cannot write onemoreword, when the thought of spending one more second re-arranging the same string of words into a shape that actually conveys my heart makes me wail or weep, I turn to my textbooks. Oh, the joy I have experienced reading short stories. So, here they are, some of the best, scattered through this post. You’re welcome. I’m a giver.

Bowles, Paul Collected

Paul Bowles, my spiritual father. I think “Pages from Cold Point” is brilliant. I gasped the first time I read it, that someone could go the places he went without going there and yet going there with such force. Genius.

Bowles, Jane collected

Jane Bowles, my spiritual mother. Everything. She is everything. Just read her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do not mean to say that this list of short story writer is all-inclusive by any means. There is Alice Munro, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Roald Dahl, Elizabeth Spencer, George Saunders, and, of course, Dorothy Parker … and others. But, for me, right now, where I am, Elizabeth McCracken, Lydia Davis, James Purdy, and my parents, the Bowles, are most instructive. Enjoy your day. I’ve got to get back to work on finishing one of these damn shorts. Love and Light friends, Love and Light.

(Look Mommy and Daddy, less than 700 words!)

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