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


300 short stories: story 276

story: “The Use of Force”

author: William Carlos Williams

year: 1938

where: Al Reem Island, summer

note: This early example of flash fiction appears in the syllabus for a Stanford University course on the rise of scientific medicine. The syllabus also includes the term “the medical gaze.” I think this is in my top 20 favorite short stories.

a line:  “The father tried his best, and he was a big man but the fact that she was his daughter, his shame at her behavior and his dread of hurting her made him release her just at the critical moment several times when I almost had achieved success, till I wanted to kill him.”

theme(s): Health, Power, Submission, Authority

300 short stories: story 270

story: “Light as a Feather”

author: Karen Shepard

year: 2017

where: Abu Dhabi

note: First weekend back from the USA

a line:  “Their story bored her. Their infertility bored her. It was the same as a million other people’s, some of whom she’d met in waiting rooms, all eying each other, as if there were only so many babies and the criteria for getting one hadn’t been made clear.”

theme(s): Miscarriage, dementia, mothers and daughters, marriage

300 short stories: story 263

story: “Bullet in the Brain”

author: Tobias Wolff

year: 1995

where: Aspen

note: Reread! Breathtaking.

a line:  “He did not remember Professor Josephs telling his class how Athenian prisoners in Sicily had been released if they could recite Aeschylus, and then reciting Aeschylus himself, right there, in the Greek.”

theme(s): Society, Memory, Death, Joy

300 short stories: story 261

story: “The Girl Who Did Not Know Fear”

author: Kelly Link

year: 2019

where: California Zephyr Train

note: From the last issue of Tin House

a line: “They don’t have sex shops in Quebec? After that, Martine went through this whole phrase.”

theme(s): Mothers and Daughters, Queer relationships, travel, fear