400 short stories: story 305

story: “Chechnya”

author: Anthony Marra

year: 2010

where: kitchen table, Abu Dhabi

note: Marra’s novel is on my list.

a line: “Time was marked not by minutes but by men. Eight one night, eleven the next. Each felt like a porcupine between her legs. Men from Rome, Naples, and Palermo. Men from Scotland, Luxembourg, and Germany. American men. Australian men. They called her Natasha, and she didn’t understand how they knew her name. Then another woman told her: That’s what any girl from Eastern Europe is called. We’re all Natashas.

& “She read the placard, written by a Victorian phrenologist. There are no characteristics to distinguish the cranium of a cannibal from that of an ordinary man.

theme(s): War, guilt, human trafficking, sisters, refugees

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400 short stories: story 304

story: “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One April Morning”

author: Haruki Murakami

year: between 1980 and 1991

where: kitchen table, Abu Dhabi

note: I’m unsure about the capitalization of that title. What I like about this story is that many people might find themselves in the initial situation. And I like that it doesn’t matter if you believe in love at first sight or not; the situation can exist either way.

a line: “This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.”

theme(s): Serendipity, true love, memory

400 short stories: story 303

story: “The Fruit of My Woman”

author: Han Kang

year: 1997

where: Post- mapo dofu; Abu Dhabi.

note: “Han Kang wrote this story in 1997, and it is in many ways a direct precursor to her 2007 novel The Vegetarian – in both, a married couple in their early thirties find their hitherto uneventful lives turned upside down when the woman starts to undergo a transformation.” From Granta.

& While I was in Lebanon for a conference this spring, I looked up from the campus of LAU and saw trees growing on the balconies of the apartments nearby.

a line: “The bruises that had been the size of a newborn’s fist the previous spring were now more like large taro leaves. On top of that, they’d darkened. They were the dull colour of a weeping willow’s branches, whose pale green seems tinged with a hint of blue at the onset of summer.”

& “Every time I questioned whether this woman really had any right to cause me such loneliness, I felt as though my whole being was flooded with a boundless abhorrence, isolating me like a layer of old dust.”

theme(s): Marriage, transformation, desire, nature

400 short stories: story 302

story: “Girls, At Play”

author: Celeste Ng

year: 2010

where: It is almost 6PM, but it feels like mid-afternoon.

note: First-person plural story. One part of this story feels like the scene in Clueless with Cher gives Brittany Murphy a makeover.

a line: “Don’t tell anyone if you hate it, if his tongue feels like a dead fish in your mouth, if his hands leave snail-trails of sweat down your sides.”

theme(s): Cliques, loss of innocence, high school

400 short stories: story 301

story: “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

author: Flannery O’Connor

year: 1953

where: Sum of Us

note: I read this story real slow today, drinking lemon ice tea. Maybe the slowest I ever read it, and in this slowness, it felt more violent than ever.

a line:  “Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth.”

theme(s): Survival, murder, the South, grace