Raven Book Store

Raven Book Store in Harvard Square is my favorite place to buy used books.  Whenever I’m in there, I wish I could buy them all.  Today I needed to get a new copy of The Great Gatsby, having lost mine.  The only one they had on the shelf was this:

Books_Gatsby

The guy at the cash register took one look at it and said, “Oh, the movie one.  Usually we don’t carry these.”  That was kind of awesome.  I love Raven!

Bonus:

Someone has actually made an old-school Great Gatsby video game.

(Warning: Highly addictive.  And surprisingly challenging.  Watch out for the drunken revelers, and the evil eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg!)

 

Links

Like everyone else, I definitely spend too much time reading stuff on the internet.  One of my goals is to stop doing this.  However, there are occasionally things that are worth reading.  Here is a collection to prove that not all was a waste:

-Rebecca Makkai is not only a great short story writer, she also writes hilarious posts for the Ploughshares blog.  Here are a few:

Writer Nightmares

Amateur Author Spotting

An MFA For the Rest of Us

-This was an interesting review of Stuart Dybek’s latest collection and the state of MFA fiction

-An uplifting essay on how classical musicians are innovating to find new audiences and performance space

-Finally read this great essay by George Orwell today: Why I Write

-A piece on whether or not The Goldfinch counts as “Literature.”  I haven’t read it yet, but I tend to agree with one of the comments: “If a book sells a million copies and wins the Pulitzer Prize, who cares what the critics think?”

Flash Fiction

Some novelists write short stories to take a break from their novels.  I haven’t written any novels yet (though one is hopefully in the works soon…), so, in an equivalent move this summer, I wrote some flash fiction to take a break from my stories.

Some people have asked me what flash fiction is.  Usually it’s defined as a story shorter than 1,000 words, although some flash fiction sites demand less than 500.  The genre seems to have gained a lot of popularity in this age of sound bytes and short attention spans.  I don’t enjoy writing flash fiction as much as stories, but there is something gratifying about finishing a discrete piece of writing, and finishing it quickly.  You can write a flash in one or two days, whereas a story can take months.

So perhaps it’s exciting to say that my first piece of flash fiction has been accepted by Apocrypha and Abstractions, a review dedicated to stories under 500 words.  The piece, which is sort of odd–I think of it as a dark humor piece–will come out in March 2015.

“Cross” by Rebecca Makkai

I am a big fan of Rebecca Makkai’s short stories. She was in Best American Short Stories four years in a row (2008-2011). Her work is consistently strong and interesting. You can read examples at Five Chapters and Nashville Review.

Her story “Cross” (Michigan Quarterly Review) stuck out to me because it’s about musicians–a topic I hope to address at some point in my writing–and because it has a happy ending. My stories tend to be not-so-happy, and I find happy endings difficult to pull off convincingly.  This one was particularly nice because the story was not obviously one that would end well.  Read it and see what you think.

“The Grechtzoar” Available in Potomac Review Issue 55

woods

My new short story, “The Grechtzoar,” is now available in Potomac Review Issue 55, Fall 2014.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“We’ll need weapons,” Carl said.  They stood in Jimmy’s garage, surrounded by bags of potting soil and gardening tools.  Carl hefted a small shovel.  “Think you can handle this?”

Jimmy nodded and took it, lifting it nervously to see if he could swing it against an attacker.  Though only half his height, it was heavy, with a thick, sharp blade.

“I’ll take these,” Carl said.  He picked up a pair of long garden shears.  “Okay, here’s the plan.”  He opened his backpack to show Jimmy the contents: a folded blue tarp, a package of raw beef, and rope.  “We’ll follow its tracks into the woods.  When we find its lair, we’ll climb a tree nearby.  I’ll toss the beef, and when it’s eating, I’ll throw the tarp down on it.  Then we’ll tie it up.”

Jimmy kept hoping his mom would call them in for lunch, or that his cell phone would ring and he’d have to answer it.

“What if it attacks us?” he asked.

“It it attacks one of us, the other can fight it off.”  Carl pretended to snap his garden shears at a vicious beast.  “Take that!  And that!”  He laughed.

Jimmy imagined what they would look like to a monster sneaking up from behind: two vulnerable backs, laughably armed in the wrong direction.  Short twelve-year-old legs that couldn’t run fast enough, no matter how hard they tried….

You can read the rest of the story by purchasing the issue here.

Thanks to everyone at Potomac Review for creating such a beautiful issue, and thanks for reading!

Incompatible Truths

seamless fire flames border

My new short story, “Incompatible Truths,” has been published in The Summerset Review Winter 2014 issue.

An excerpt of the story is below:

For thirteen months now, Keller had wanted to burn the old Silverton house. It was a decaying two-story Victorian he’d discovered when he first moved to town. He’d taken a drive to investigate possibilities. He liked weary abandoned places, where time gathered softly like dust. Past the church and the pond, and past the old town library, with its bricks and bay windows, he found a driveway leading into the woods. He parked at the entrance. His feet crunched on the gravel, as loudly as a person breathing in an empty room.

He ignored the blackened “No Trespassing” sign, a futile sentry at the foot of the weed-grown yard. He inspected the house. The light blue paint was peeling. One of the upper windows had been cracked, fractures spidering out from the central eye. The railing of the front porch had broken loose from the siding; it dangled over a patch of wild daisies, as though it might jump to join them.

Most people felt disquieted by signs of the town’s decay. They dreaded shuttered stores and houses surrendered to dust. They turned their eyes from boarded windows, rusted cars, crumbling sidewalks claimed by tree roots. Most of all they feared the silence. It crept up on them in their homes, stealing silently like water spreading across the floor. Young people fled to cities, where noise obscured the sound of crumbling time.

But Keller liked the silence; he saw anonymity behind stands of trees. He saw lonely houses, aching for release from the emptiness of their rooms. He strode through the weeds and over broken steps onto the porch of the Silverton house, resting his hand on the windowsill. The wood was cracked and dry.

Read the rest at The Summerset Review.

The Beech Tree

Beech

My story “The Beech Tree” has been published in Literary Orphans Issue 13: Blondie (April 2014).

Read some of the story below:

Until I stood before her casket, Grandma was the only person I could not imagine dead. She’d looked as aged as ever when I saw her days before, a husk of raisin wrinkles, already so wizened it seemed time could do nothing else.  I thought she could live for centuries.  But now she lay still in her woolen dress; her lucent eyes were closed.  Her hands were leathered and grey, like the bark of an ancient beech.

The room was dim, the air thick with the scent of white chrysanthemums.  Mark stood behind me.  He was always watching for signs of slippage.  I leaned back against him, his body warm with concern.  I could feel right through him, through membrane and muscle, to dry, stiff bones beneath.  His skin felt like an apple peel: too soft to stop the flesh from bruising and falling away.

Continue reading at Literary Orphans.