Between 15th October – 10th November I read the following:
Chinese Whisperings: The Yin and Yang Books – ed. Jodi Cleghorn & Paul Anderson
As I have a story in this collection I won’t be reviewing this beyond saying that it was a real pleasure to sit down and read the whole arc of short stories in both the Yin and Yang Books. Some of the stories I had previously read in draft form and it was lovely to see how they had blossomed on the way to their final draft’s. The stories scheduled after mine in the writing cycle were new to me and were even more of exciting to read for that. Having seen the process from the inside it really should come as no surprise that the stories hang together so well but the reader in me can’t help but be bowled over by how well the stories stand on their own and simultaneously dovetail into each other effortlessly.
Bizarre fact about the male only authored Yang Book: this collection contains far too many scenes set in airport toilets.
Bizarro fact about the female only authored Yin Book: this collection contains more dead bodies per story than its counterpart, the female truly is more deadly than the male.
Electric Literature Issue 3 – Various.
I enjoyed the first issue of this high quality lit journal when it was released last year, so finding that a subscription was available for my Kindle for 99p a month pleased me no end. The third issue features the usual five pieces of short fiction from a mix of established and emerging authors that gives EL a focus and identity.
Best of this bunch is easily the Aimee Bender story, ‘The Red Ribbon’, which manages to take the disintegrating marriage cliche into unique and often beautiful territory. Here the reader is made to believe the story is about one thing, with Bender slowly unfolding events in quite another direction by the time the surprising and, at the same time, totally fitting ending plays itself out. Regular readers of this blog will know I recently fell hard for Bender’s brand of magical realism. This is yet another great story from a great writer.
Rick Moody’s contribution, ‘Some Contemporary Characters,’ is a story that was originally serialised on the Electric Literature twitter feed. In essence, this means the story is told in chunks of 140 characters or less. Surprisingly this works, with the two narrators of the piece taking it in turn to describe their date from their individual perspectives. I might have had trouble sustaining interest in a longer story written like this, indeed the form does start to grate a little by the end, but as an experiment in new modes of publishing short fiction it is a worthy piece. And the story itself isn’t at all bad.
Of the remaining three stories:
Patrick DeWitt’s ‘Reed & Dinnerstein Moving’ has some interesting moments and likeable characters but is overlong and suffers from a ‘meh’ ending.
Matt Sumell’s ‘Little Things’ makes good use of Tom Spanbauer’s ‘horses’ to bring the themes of grief and pity to life. Liked this one, just not as much as Aimee Bender’s.
Jenny Offill’s ‘The Tunnel’ provides a tender look at what happens when something terrible happens to someone you used to love and how lives are never truly divided once they have shared time together.