Short-a-Day Project

07/23/2011 § Leave a comment

Every day, I attempt to dissect a modern (or award-winning) short-story, in the hopes that I will be able to beg, borrow, and steal the techniques that work, and to recognize and subsequently avoid the choices and styles that, for me, do not. Occasionally, I might talk, instead, about a novel that I’m reading, particularly if it introduces — successfully — a new literary device, as, for instance, Adam Levine’s The Instructions does.

I’ve attempted this project before, intermittently posting on my old site, That Sounds Cool, and you can find those old write-ups here. Also, I’ve been ranking stories based on my own personal tastes and preferences, so if you’re wondering if the pieces I’m identifying might be of any use to you, consider this top-ten list of stories from the previous year:

  1. Dagoberto Gilb’s “please, thank you” from Harper’s, June 2010.
  2. Daniel Alarcon’s “Second Lives,” from The New Yorker, August 16 & 23, 2010.
  3. David Bezmozgis’s “The Train of Their Departure,” from The New Yorker, August 9, 2010.
  4. T. C. Boyle’s “The Silence,” from The Atlantic Fiction Issue 2010.
  5. Steven King’s “Herman Wouk Is Still Alive,” from The Atlantic, May 2011.
  6. Jonathan Safran Foer’s, “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly,” from The New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2010.
  7. Steven Millhauser’s, “Getting Closer,” from The New Yorker, January 3, 2011.
  8. Robert Coover’s, “The War Between Sylvania and Freedonia,” from Harper’s, July 2010.
  9. E. L. Doctorow’s, “Assimilation,” from The New Yorker, November 22, 2010.
  10. Daniel Mason’s, “The Miraculous Discovery of Psammetichus I,” from Harper’s, March 2011.

And the three highest ranked stories I read last year (though not from 2010-2011):

  1. Nam Le’s “Cartagena,” from A Public Space, No. 2, 2006.
  2. Preeta Samarasan’s, “Birch Memorial,” from A Public Space, No. 6, 2008.
  3. David Foster Wallace’s, “A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life,” from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, 1999.

In addition, I’ll be adding links to other sites that read fiction, particularly the ones that are either uniquely insightful or extremely critical: it helps if they’ve got a lively discussion, as they do over at Mookse and the Gripes.

My goal is to post a new review every weekday, late in the evening when my brain has been lulled into a less combative and more contemplative state; I hope you’ll stick around.


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