Storytellers, Liars, And Bores by Leonard Michaels, 1975
The magic trick:
Establishing a tone of anxious, narcissistic comedy
When the narrator talks wisely about the old days when he would tear up his stories fearing they weren’t good enough, my mind boggles. Good lord, I think. If this is one you felt was good enough, how bad were those old ones?
I guess maybe this kind of free-form metafiction was enjoying a kind of moment at the time, but it’s just not my thing. Dreaming about Kafka at the end? Kewl, dude. I just really prefer Michaels when he’s writing less spastically about Nachman the mathematician. Anyway..
Let’s give it credit for its energy. It moves along recklessly, full of anxiety and excitement and self-loathing and narcissism and comedy. And that’s quite a trick on Michaels’s part.
One evening, while I was reading to my new friend, she yawned. It was the fifth time I had read this story to her. The hour was late. She had to get up at dawn to leave for work. But I had rewritten the story and had to read it aloud, start to finish. I watched her eyes go fluid, her mouth enlarge. I saw fillings in her teeth and the ciliations of her tongue. By the time she completed her yawn, our friendship had ended.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.