Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stories in your stocking

Christmas comes a little early for short-story lovers today at The Quivering Pen.  I've got a few gifts for you to unwrap.  Enjoy these short gems.

1.  This past weekend, while on a shopping trip to Bozeman, my wife suggested we spend the night at my parents' house on the outskirts of the city.  It was late in the day and the drive back to Butte suddenly seemed dangerous: fading light, ice-polished interstate, deer leaping out in front of the car.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't have any heartburn crashing for the night at Mom and Dad's, but in this instance, I hadn't packed my toothbrush, a change of underwear, or--worst of all--the book I'm currently reading (A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley).  A night without a book is simply unthinkable.  Lunatic bibliophiles out there, you know what I'm talking about.  I didn't have a toothbrush, fresh underwear or a book, but I did have a coupon for Borders Books.  A quick trip there solved my dilemma.  In no time at all, I was curled up on my parents' couch, reading 20 Under 40, the complete collection of tales from The New Yorker's acclaimed/controversial list of young writers chosen earlier this year.  I read 100 pages of the book in one sustained gulp, my eyes flying over stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chris Adrian, Daniel Alarcon, David Bezmozgis, and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum.  This first quarter of the collection was good, but I especially like Adrian's story "The Warm Fuzzies" which is about a Christian family band who makes happy Jesus music and life is all sunshine and rainbows....except for the teenage daughter Molly who is having a crisis of faith even as she jangles her tambourine.  Good stuff.  The entire book is worth your while and would make a nice Christmas gift to yourself (or someone else on your list, if you could bear to part with it).

2.  Montana author Craig Lancaster (600 Hours of Edward, The Summer Son) has written a story especially for the holidays.  "Comfort and Joy" is a sweet-hearted story about an 83-year-old widower named Frank Abrams (no relation to yours truly) who reaches out to a neighboring family suffering a devastating loss.  Lancaster is only charging $1 for the story and is donating all the proceeds (minus any PayPal fees) to a good cause: Feeding America.  So, you can feel good while reading a feel-good story.  You can buy "Comfort and Joy" (literally) in a variety of ways: at Amazon where you can get the story for your Kindle, at Smashwords, or at Lancaster's website.

3.  Andrew Klavan (The Identity Man) has a story, "The Windows," published at City Journal (allegedly the only fiction the publication has ever featured, apart from a story by Charles Dickens).  It's a knife-sharp portrait of a paranoiac holed up in his New York apartment.
       This morning, his coffee half-done, he stopped by the window beside his desk.  Lifted the slats on the shutter.  Peeked out at the sidewalk three stories below: the sidewalk and the brownstones and the pale green sycamores of West 69th Street near the park.  Suits and skirts on their way to work.  Artists and neighborhood ladies walking their dogs.  No one suspicious.  No one standing strangely still, watching his window.  As there sometimes was.  Or as he sometimes thought there was.
       He closed the slats.  He never opened the shutters.  Never.
You can read the entire story for free HERE.

4.  The Story of the Week at The Library of America's website is "I'll Be Waiting" by Raymond Chandler and it's a classic example of what makes pulp fiction click (like a pair of heels on a deserted sidewalk at midnight).  Written in 1939 and first published in The Saturday Evening Post, "I'll Be Waiting" is a tense tale of a hotel detective, a dame in trouble, and racketeering thugs--all of whom converge on Room 14-B.  It's filled with snappy, Chandler-esque phrases (a girl is curled up on a davenport "like a corsage in the florist's tissue paper," silence behind a closed door "like the silence of a glacier"--that sort of thing).  It's well worth your time if you'd like a little noir to darken your Christmas mood.  By the way, if you haven't done so already, you should subscribe to The Library of America's Story of the Week.  Every Monday, you'll receive a short work of fiction, a character sketch, an essay, a journalist's dispatch, or a poem.  It's a nice way to start your week.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, bud. Books left in the wrong place also give me separation anxiety...