Reading

Read Best American Short Stories 2012, New York Tyrant 4.1, and Christine Schutt’s Florida.

BASS 2012 has some great pieces in it — Tom Perotta, this years editor, seemed to want to strike a balance between traditional and experimental pieces, but the whole thing still felt a little safe. Some standouts: Nathan Englander’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” Roxane Gay’s “North Country,” Mike Meginnis’s “Navigators.” However, pieces like Lawrence Osbourne’s “Volcano,” and an unusually weak story from Stephen Millhauser made it more of a mixed bag.

New York Tyrant 4.1 has just about everything you’d want in a lit journal: a cohesive yet varied set of voices (guest edited by Luke Goebel), design that compliments the text, and new work from Gary Lutz. The standout in the collection is Rachel B. Glaser’s “The Ellens,” a story about a womans two or three inch tall doppelganger. It’s the kind of story that crawls under your skin, leaves you thinking about it for days. It’s perfectly paced — you don’t realize that the story is tightening up, increasing the tension, until it’s almost unbearably intense. And the part at the end about hors d’oeuvres: “All night she had been surprised by the hors d’oeuvres. One could not see what they were made of.”

Christine Schutt’s “Florida” is her first novel. You can read a recent interview with her here. “Florida” is very sentence focused, with short, pointed chapters. The plotting isn’t as deliberate as in the stories of “A Day, A Night, Another Day, Summer,” but that doesn’t hurt the book. The book is designed to be an account of the main character’s life and does not feel overly structured or artificial. Schutt focuses on the small moments as much as the big ones, therefore creating something that feels oddly realistic given its nontraditional form.

Some sentences:

“‘I think you’re pretty,’ I said with my fist around the money of a compliment, but the veiled crone asked, ‘Who taught you to lie like that?'”

“The preposterous blossoms, candy pink and stupidly profuse, were in the night light strangely come as from another planet.”

“Sometimes it is not the lake but a river that feeds into the lake that drowns him.”

“It may be no other words will follow or it may be a downpour of speech.”

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