short stories

Troubles Plague Appalachia, Past and Present, in Ron Rash’s ‘In the Valley’

Lee Polevoi

The stories in his new collection, In the Valley, are set primarily in Appalachian. They plunge the reader into challenging, sometimes life-threatening situations that often resolve in surprising ways. Stacy, a mentally fragile park ranger, must hold her own against a lawbreaker twice her size in “Flight.” During the last days of the Civil War, a widow named Rebecca is confronted by a gang of violent Confederates, in “Neighbors.” A young man named Brent takes drastic action when a rich client cheats Brent’s blue-collar father out of money owed in “When All Stars Fall.”

Immersive Reading for Our Year of the Plague

Lee Polevoi

If the global coronavirus pandemic is good for anything, it’s how we may rediscover the experience of immersive reading. With millions in the United States and around world who are confined to their homes, finding a short story collection, novel, or nonfiction tome that transports us to new, vibrant worlds can provide us with a blissful way to while away the hours. “Immersive” can mean books of great length or short stories you can read in an afternoon.

Laughing in the Dark With Ottessa Moshfegh’s ‘Homesick for Another World’

Lee Polevoi

Yes, these stories are bleak and the author seems strangely obsessed with acne, scars, and other unglamorous bodily functions. But Ottessa Moshfegh’s vision surpasses these particulars and Homesick for Another World emerges as among the most profound, absorbing short story collections to appear in years. And you can take that critical hype to the bank.

Mark Haddon Displays Compelling Fiction in ‘The Pier Falls’

Lee Polevoi

It's difficult to recall encountering another work of short fiction as well-crafted and emotionally devastating as the title story in Mark Haddon's new collection, The Pier Falls. Read first for shock value (and it is shocking), the story demands an immediate second reading for its sheer mastery of detail and timing. “The Pier Falls”– spoiler alert in the title—recounts the spiraling escalation of events when a crowded pier in an English seaside resort town abruptly loses one key load-bearing rivet and then another, paving the way for catastrophe. 

Comedy, Tragedy Collide in Thomas McGuane’s ‘Crow Fair’

Lee Polevoi

Flash forward some 40-odd years, and McGuane’s writing has grown leaner and more mature, while maintaining a characteristically deft balance between over-the-top comedy and heartbreaking tragedy. In Crow Fair, a new collection of short stories set mostly in Montana’s Big Sky country, he depicts better than most what one character thinks of as “the blizzard of things that could never be explained and that pointlessly exhausted all human inquiry.”

New Fiction: Florence the Forgotten

Maggie Hennefeld

This day and age, you only count as an undead being if you are fleshy enough to fall in love: anatomically correct vampires, Oedipal demons, baying werewolves who turn out to be your soulmate, and even coming-of-age witches. If there is no corporeal lust involved then you might as well have stayed dead for good. But my name is Florence and even though I am a specter without a body, I still think that my story deserves to be told all the same. 

New Fiction: Arnie Blank

Sam Chapin

Hayato wasn’t sure what he said but could tell that Ralph was frustrated so he rejoined the group. As he walked, Hayato looked at the city through his camera, tripping over the cracks and curbs in his path.  He spotted an old building with giant metal decals and a metal roof and lingered with his camera. He zoomed in and slowly panned down the building, noticing how it gradually got fatter as he made his way down. He got to the twentieth floor and stopped. There was a baby in the window. He watched as it crawled out on the ledge. 

New Fiction: Douglas at the Diner

Sam Chapin

Douglas opened his eyes and was temporarily blinded by the light from his lamp. He squinted as he sat up, replaced his reading glasses with the glasses on the nightstand, and inserted a bookmark into The Disenchanted. He slipped on his slippers and walked to the window, drawing the blinds. The light from the sun overwhelmed the light from the lamp, as he became temporarily blind once again. He squinted out the window, looking for what had woke him. He looked down the three floors to the street and saw, lying on the sidewalk, a dead pigeon. 

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