Sunday, March 11, 2007

Five Short Stories

I've read 5 short stories in the last few days. "The Misogamist" by Andre Dubus (from "Finding a Girl in America") was an unsettling story about a soldier at the end of the second world war, and his fiancee waiting for him back home. Unsettling, as always with Dubus, in that you're put straight there in front of the emotions, without more than the vaguest hint of a back story. I then read "Under the Dam" by David Constantine (from the collection of the same name), and was frustrated by its deliberate avoidance of telling. It's a slippery story that I never quite got hold of, though maybe I'll go back to it. Then, China Mieville's "Familiar" and Jonathan Lethem's "The Dystopianist" (both from Conjunctions 39: the New Fabulists.) Both were bravado pieces that left me a little disappointed at the end. Mieville really grabs you from the start, in the nastiest possible way, and like watching something terrible happen, you can't pull your eyes away; but there's perhaps too much "difference" in the story - a witch, an old woman, a familiar - that means you can never rediscover the ground on which the story began. Lethem's is much more humorous - its like something out of "Heroes", the new Sci-Fi Channel series I've been watching, crossed with a bit of Terry Pratchett - but a sloppy ending. Then, from the last Transmission magazine, Rozalinda Buyong's "The Fragrant Farewell". It was strongly written with good characters, but felt it wasn't so much a short story as part of a longer piece. I've loads of short story books/collections/magazines around here, and I think this is the way to approach them; story at a time, dipping in and out.

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