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Daily Short Story Diary - Week 44

Day 301 Oct 27, 2019

THE SOUL WITHIN by Jennifer Nestojko

Stories We Tell After Midnight – 2019

Horror – 13 Pages

The writing in this one’s pretty pedestrian and it took a while to get into as two-thirds is backstory being filled in, so nothing enveloping. There’s also a lot of banking things off characters…so and so could see something, she noticed that the something was something, whatever, stuff like that. Once into, the topic digs in some bleak tendrils. The story was better than the writing.


Day 302 Oct 28, 2019

GUILT by Judy Budnitz

Flying Leap – 1998

General – 16 Pages

Holy, that’s two for two in this collection. A man sits at the hospital while his mother’s in care after a heart attack. Everyone thinks the man should give his mother his heart. Outrageous, but it gets you in that Shirley Jackson way when you’re panicky with why can’t these people understand reality? So good. The writing is fine and drags you in like few authors can. If this keeps up throughout the collection, Judy Budnitz will be sitting up there with Annie Proulx when it comes to shorts.


Day 303 Oct 29, 2019

THE TILT by Ray Cluley

Probably Monsters – 2015 (story originally published in Icarus, 2012)

Horror – 22 Pages

Use the term horror lightly, because it instilled nothing of the sort. So a man wants so badly to be super gay, he talks about nothing else, although he might be harboring some hetero thoughts. A woman, the man’s friend, is annoyed by the act, but still makes constant gay jokes. Redundancy really got in the way of this one. I’ve never seen it written the other way, like a pussy-crazed dude talking about nothing else for eighteen of twenty-two pages, and that’s because the point gets made and it becomes a fact of the plot. Simple. Established. The punchline of this one really relies on the man being other than what he insists, but it’s not at all enough to pay for the tedium to get there.


Day 304 Oct 30, 2019

HARMONY OF THE WORLD by Charles Baxter

100 Years of the Best American Short Stories – 2015 (story originally published in Michigan Quarterly Review, 1982)

General – 22 Pages

This is a thorough story about a man coming to terms with a lack of passion and then finding the passion of the defeated. One part really resonated: a mediocre artist being showered with praise, despite her huge and obvious—to the trained eye—flaws. Man, that’s indie horror incarnate. Anyway, this story was engaging and interesting, despite that I know exactly jack and shit about music. Maybe the main character resonated a bit beyond that, too…mostly an emotional robot until anger boiled.


Day 305 Oct 31, 2019

THE JOKE by Fredric Brown

Nightmares and Geezenstacks – 1961

General – 8 Pages

This one’s clunky and redundantly written, but entertaining, despite that it’s also obvious. Sometimes a character is a big enough presence on the page to overcome a good many pitfalls, and here, it happens. Pretty good fun.


Day 306 Nov 1, 2019

MENUDO by Raymond Carver

Where I’m Calling From – Selected Stories 1989

General – 17 Pages

A man sits up, unable to sleep, thinking about the neighbor woman with whom he is having an affair and had just received an ultimatum from. Totally human and understated, but what he’s going through has something universal about it. Maybe it poses some big questions about our natures or the natures of western relationships, who knows? Way above my pay grade. That said, I enjoyed this one quite a bit and the subtle punch at the end spoke volumes.


Day 307 Nov 2, 2019


Flying Leap – 1998 (story originally appeared in Story, 1997)

General – 14 Pages

Outrageous. This one is a fantastical play on women’s attire and the supposed setting of a woman’s existence. It’s funny and strange, and a little bit confusing how everything really fit together, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Judy Budnitz is a fucking all-star.


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