Rebecca Makkai “A Story for Your Daughters, A Story for Your Sons” | Short Story #336

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2020 Short Stories

story: “A Story for Your Daughters, A Story for Your Sons”

author: Rebecca Makkai

year: 2020

where: Quarantine

note: This is a new story from the Spring 2020 issue of The Paris Review; the first paragraph is gorgeous and reads like a fairy tale. For people interested in stories of female utopias (Charlotte Perkins Gillman, Doris Lessing, etc.) this one is for your collection.

a line: “His father, before he died, had circled a small mountain village on his map, had noted that the trading was good but the trip took two difficult days.”

theme(s): Female utopia, secrets, men and women

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