Violet Allen “The Venus Effect” | Short Story #334

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2020 Short Stories

story: “The Venus Effect”

author: Violet Allen

year: 2015

where: Temporary office. I just finished teaching Namwali Serpell’s “The Banality of Empathy” and I am currently cringing at my younger self who believed that art encourages empathy and that empathy will SAVE US ALL!

note: “The Banality of Empathy” led me to this amazing short story. I suggest reading it alongside (or before, or after) Allen. This story’s structure uses what Bertolt Brecht calls the “estrangement effect”, which means that the structure continually makes the reader aware of the artifice of play. Thus, according to Serpell, the reader is not able to completely “dissolve” (i.e. the empathy model of art) into the character/story. By resisting this “dissolve” and keeping a measure of distance, we “visit” an experience “to learn and think when the specter of unexpected, unjustified, unjust state-sanctioned death hovers at every corner.” This story “takes our contemporary faith in the power of fictional empathy and twists it like a knife.”

note#2: This story is full of literary nods, including to Dino Buzzati and Yeats.

a line: “He was a pretty unlikeable protagonist, anyway, a petty, horny, pretentious idiot with an almost palpable stink of author surrogacy on him. I think there was a Kipling quote in there. Who’s that for? You don’t want to read some lame indie romance bullshit, right?”

theme(s): Senseless murder, police brutality, literature’s purpose, race, storytelling

Edith Wharton “Roman Fever” | Short Story #331

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2019 short stories

Dear Reader,

For the beginning of this new year, I have decided to try something new. I will be creating short story video reviews in addition to my regular reviews on my website. In December 2016, I began keeping a record of the short stories I read and my affection for the genre has grown and grown ever since.

I think short stories are the best kind of reading to recommend, because they are a shorter commitment than novels or non-fiction books, but their affect can be just as powerful. You can read short stories in one sitting. Some studies indicate that internet users are now spending an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking and messaging platforms. Imagine using a small slice of that time to read a short story. It is a better way to spend your time, I promise.

*Number should be 331