Here I'll try to be honest and forthright about what I think of the stories I read before I start my workday, but it's not really much of a review, just my thoughts and what I liked or disliked, sometimes I'll explain myself, sometimes not. Also, these are only the morning stories, some days I read many short stories, so these are just the pre-work stories.
Day 1: December 30, 2018
THE STREET ENDS AT THE CEMETERY by Clark Howard
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: August 2012
Crime – 25 Pages
Bought a bundle of these back issues on the cheap from the publisher’s website about a year ago, finally getting to them. This is the first story of my new effort to tackle a ton of shorts in the coming year (I know this is before the year begins, but my wall calendar starts on a Sunday and I live by my wall calendar). It’s the tale of some bad people trying to screw each other over for some heist cash. Simple enough and always has room to be done well.
This one opens with some moderate sexism and keeps on that thread so long I was starting to get pissed until I figured the author was using the sexism as a way to shift the gaze on who might win this caper. Right up to the end I was thinking boy, here it comes, the big bad lady takeover, but it didn’t come, and in not coming, missed a pretty cool opportunity for this story to come together in a big, entertaining way. Turns out sexist writing was pretty saleable (Ellery Queen offers pro rates) even as recently as 2012. That aside, the story was engaging...can’t deny that, but flat as Saskatchewan and the ending was less than a fizzle.
Day 2: December 31, 2018
NOBODY SAID ANYTHING by Raymond Craver
Where I’m Calling From – Selected Stories 1989 (story originally published in 1963)
General – 17 Pages
Carver strikes again. For me, this guy’s style was perfect. Simple, straightforward, and compelling. Now as for this story, it’s about a kid from a troubled home who jerks-off maybe a bit too much and is going fishing while playing hooky. As seemed to be Carver’s way, he Sunday drive meanders this plot; it’s like a scenic route that you love to take and in the end, you find yourself wherever and it doesn’t matter where because the route was so damned pretty. There’s no great payoff aside from realizing nothing should change because a kid has half a fish. Mom and Dad still hate each other.
Day 3: January 1, 2019
HEY DAD by Joyce Carol Oates
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: August 2012
Crime – 5 Pages
This feels like ones of those redemption stories, like, we know the first one in the magazine was a bit sexist, so we’ll pop in a great feminist story—where the women only appear in mention—to round things out. This one was written in a cool, second person but instead of YOU it’s addressing DAD. Quick and very rewarding, especially given its length. Wham-bam ending. Sometimes JCO really kills it.
Day 4: January 2, 2019
THE INTOXICATED by Shirley Jackson
The Lottery and Other Stories p – 1949
General – 8 Pages
This story might’ve fallen into a horror category (if such a literary category existed in 1949...I honestly don’t know) back then, it’s foreboding and bit atmospheric, and the clash between the idea of an innocent girl and her talking about downfall of civilization might’ve been revolting. Now, it’s off-putting and her words are no less foreboding, but some of the steam is off the pitch in a sense. That said, the atmosphere built in that kitchen between these two strangers is heavy and fantastic—Jackson surely was a master of atmosphere. It’s quick and sticks around a bit, like something you wished you’d written yourself.
Day 5: January 3, 2019
PURPLE SODA HAND by John F.D. Taff
Little Black Spots (2018)
Horror – 27 Pages
This one fits the mold for many of the stories I’ve read by Taff: something is out of place in an urban environment. It’s actually probably the majority type of story I’ve read by him, I think, and of them all, this was the one I liked the least. Too descriptive, and redundant at times in the descriptions, and too slow for the payoff. That no good left turns occur in this one makes it really disappointing, kind of plays to the simplest route and nothing means much.
Day 6: January 4, 2019
THE GAY OLD DOG by Edna Ferber
100 Years of the Best American Short Stories – 2015 (story originally published in Metropolitan Magazine in 1917)
General – 23 Pages
Certainly, the world of 1917 was a different one; the people, the situations, the stiff social guidelines, all strange. That said, fine storytelling shines through wherever it exits.
This story centers on a man. His mother’s dying wish ruined his youth—do not wed until after his sisters wed. The selfish sisters let big brother languish and age past the typical ripe (I don’t know, like nineteen, twenty?) age for marriage. The pruney, old, almost forty-year-old sees his floundering business boom thanks to the war and begins life as a man about town.
Not really a happy fun-time idea, could’ve probably been a comedy in the laugh out loud sense, had the author gone that way. Instead, it’s a story that closes on a rewarding righteous indignation. The topic is one that I’m not usually enthusiastic about, nor am I overly enthusiastic about the realistic view of the period, but this story does well to grab hold and make the finale worth it.
Day 7: January 5, 2019
THE CHARIOTS, THE HORSEMEN by Stephanie Malia Morris
Apex Magazine, Issue #110, July 2018
Fantasy – 5 Pages (about, digital)
This one is a fun play on the Christian mythology around ascending to God. It’s emotional and quick, very readable with great atmosphere and physical rendering to drag the reader in. Imaginative as well in the spec-fic sense. It also seems to be a fight against the patriarchy; what the patriarchy deems right, even against the will of their god. Has a good kick in the end too.
Picking a favorite for the week, I'd have to go with HEY DAD by Joyce Carol Oates.