Joy Williams “Honored Guest”|Short Story #344

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2020 Short Stories

story: “Honored Guest”

author: Joy Williams

year: 2004

where: Philadelphia, the first day of Thanksgiving break

note: As can be expected, I have been reading a lot of short stories since returning to school full-time this August. With repatriating, Covid, schoolwork, bouts of melancholia, missing traveling, city life, dates, and hunkering down, and….and….and… I have failed at keeping this little short story journal up-to-date, but I’m interested in changing that. I’m going to do a list of the short stories I’ve been reading soon, hopefully after this regular entry. That way I can start fresh.

I chose “Honored Guest” because of all the stories I’ve read this semester this one sticks the most. It’s heartbreaking and and it feels like a winter story. It takes you places you don’t expect, but that you’ll most likely go during a lifetime.

a line: “She had been having a rough time of it and thought about suicide sometimes, but suicide was so corny in the eleventh grade and you had to be careful about this because two of her classmates had committed suicide the year before and between them they had left twenty-four suicide notes and had become just a joke.”

theme(s): Mother Daughter, death, the meaning of life, girlhood

Jamel Brinkley “Comfort” | Short Story #342

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2020 Short Stories

story: “Comfort”

author: Jamel Brinkley

year: 2020, Ploughshares

where: Quarantine, Duja Tower, Dubai

note: Today, I ventured to the gym for the first time in months. I booked an appointment and I had the 52nd floor all to myself with a view of Rashid Tower, the first skyscraper in the UAE.

a line: “Other than the natural redness of the wife’s hair and the fact that she, like her husband, doesn’t actually wear glasses, the photographs don’t show anything different. Officer Brody’s wife loves him. She loves his attention and his devotion to their boy and girl. It’s easy for Simone to imagine him as a wonderful husband and father during that time; and maybe he still is now, however long later, the best man he has ever been in his life, committed to the role, identifying completely with the idea of his innocence..”

theme(s): Police brutality, loss, healing

Alice Munro “Night” | Short Story #341

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2020 Short Stories

story: “Night”

author: Alice Munro

year: 2012 from Dear Life 

where: Quarantine

note: This story made me think about what Zadie Smith said about the difference between the past and now, and how in the past, folks discussed things so much less. I really liked the brief rumination on psychiatry near the end.

a line: “I knew now that he had not heard me getting up and walking around on just this one night. The person whose livestock was on the premises, whose earnings such as they were lay all close by, and who kept a handgun in his desk drawer, was certainly going to stir at the slightest creeping on the stairs and the easiest turning of a knob.”

theme(s): Mother daughter, Father daughter, Coming of age, dreams, therapy

Alice Munro “Carried Away” | Short Story #340

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2020 Short Stories

story: “Carried Away”

author: Alice Munro

year: 1991

where: Quarantine

note: This story came to me by a mention from Lorrie Moore. It is such an elegant story, full of historic markers big and small. There’s something at the end (the conflation of men and memory) that reminds me of what did Susan Minot did in House of Women (also published in 1991!), though Munro’s way is more subtle. There’s also a mention of the Spanish Flu!

a line: “Every Tuesday afternoon the ladies and girls of the Red Cross met in the Council chambers, which were just down the hall from the library. When the library was empty for a few moments Louisa went down the hall and entered the room full of women.”

theme(s): War love, Communication, Accidents, Expectations