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

Blake Butler “The Disappeared” | Short Story #339

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2020 Short Stories

story: “The Disappeared”

author: Blake Butler

year: 2013

where: Quarantine

note: I learned about this story from a charming essay on Lit Hub by Nick Ripatrazone. It was described as “a story about a boy’s longing for his missing mother during a pandemic, and how we have to hold on to hope even when the entire world feels like it is falling apart.”

a line: “The police showed up and bent him over and led him by his face out to their car. You could hear him screaming in the lobby. He sounded like a woman.”

theme(s): Family, abuse, pandemic, hope, the state, public health