story: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
author: Joyce Carol Oates
note: Damon and I also watched Smooth Talk, the 1985 movie based on the short story. Much debate ensued.
a line: “But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of the music and the humid night air of July.”
theme(s): Dating, Mothers and daughters, Sexuality, Vanity
story: “The Witch”
author: Shirley Jackson
where: kitchen table
note: I’m looking for a story I read by Jackson a long time ago. I think the woman’s name is Mrs. X.
a line: “He was an elderly man, with a pleasant face under white hair; his blue suit was only faintly touched by the disarray that comes from a long train trip.”
theme(s): Train travel, strangers, motherhood, witches
story: “In the Shadow of Man”
author: Bell Boggs
where: Al Reem Island, babycakes
note: So many great observations about liberals and charter schools, but instead of being funny like one might expect, the observations are rather alarming and sometimes harmful.
a line: “Maybe Todd and Lori were having issues like that—Lori a programmer, so friendly and competent, and Todd with his weird odd jobs and reptiles, his way of standing silently off to the side at school functions, arms crossed over his belly. Ben could hardly even call his voice to mind, and he knew that it was hard to feel voiceless, extraneous. But that was a lot to put in a text.”
theme(s): Parenting, charter schools, liberals, school trips
story: “Eating Fish Alone”
author: Lydia Davis
where: Home, in bed
note: In The New Yorker, Davis’ eyes have been described as “blue milk glass”…and this sentence could almost constitute the length of an average story by Davis. In truth, I’ve read several dozen of her stories this week, but they are so short, it feels unconscionable to list them all here individually.
P.S. Thank you Isabella Simonetti for the book.
a line: “‘Most people don’t eat them,’ she said matter-of-factly. I thought of the waste, and the care with which the chef prepared, over and over again, the vegetables that no one ate.”
theme(s): Sustainability, consumption, solitude, eating out
story: “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden”
author: Denis Johnson
where: Le Brioche
note: This is the title story from Johnson’s collection and is an assigned reading for my workshop class in Aspen Words.
a line: “Rather than memorializing him, we found ourselves asking, ‘Who the hell was this guy?”
theme(s): Aging, death, career