July 2014 favorites


July 2014

The July stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

1.       ‘Hot Ice’ by Stuart Dybek
2.       ‘The Babysitter’ by Robert Coover
3.       ‘Jeeves And The Impending Doom’ by P.G. Wodehouse
4.       ‘A Solo Song: For Doc’ by James Alan McPherson
5.       ‘City Boy’ by Leonard Michaels
6.       ‘You’re Ugly, Too’ by Lorrie Moore
7.       ‘The Flats Road’ by Alice Munro
8.       ‘Greasy Lake’ by T. Coraghessan Boyle
9.       ‘Train’ by Joy Williams
10.     ‘Testimony Of Pilot’ by Barry Hannah
11.     ‘The Joy Luck Club’ by Amy Tan
12.    ‘Liars In Love’ by Richard Yates
13.     ‘How To Date A Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, Or Halfie)’ by Junot Diaz
14.    ‘A Poetics For Bullies’ by Stanley Elkin
15.     ‘Greenwich Time’ by Ann Beattie
16.     ‘Pretty Ice’ by Mary Robison
17.     ‘Lechery’ by Jayne Anne Phillips
18.     ‘Here Come The Maples’ by John Updike
19.     ‘Territory’ by David Leavitt
20.     ‘Bridging’ by Max Apple
21.     ‘The Circling Hand’ by Jamaica Kincaid
22.     ‘Are These Actual Miles?’ by Raymond Carver
23.     ‘The Other Wife’ by Colette
24.     ‘A.V. Laider’ by Max Beerbohm
25.     ‘White Rat’ by Gayl Jones
26.     ‘Search Through The Streets Of The City’ by Irwin Shaw
27.     ‘The Dead Man’ by Horacio Quiroga
28.     ‘A Life In The Day Of A Writer’ by Tess Slesinger
29.     ‘In The Heart Of The Heart Of The Country’ by William Gass
30.     ‘The Indian Uprising’ by Donald Barthelme
31.     ‘The Facts Of Life’ by Somerset Maugham

‘Lechery’ by Jayne Anne Phillips

phillips, jayne anne 1979

Lechery by Jayne Anne Phillips, 1979

The magic trick:

Adding the haunting backstory details about Natalie

This is a relentlessly sad story. I mean, any story about child prostitution is bound to be difficult to the point of heartbreak, but even as far as child-prostitution stories go, this one is brutal. Phillips uses the first-person narrator to great effect. The narrator begins the story almost gleeful in her telling of the power she wields over the virginal boys she introduces to sex. That they are about the same age as her is the first clue that this is an extraordinarily sad situation.

Of all the stories she tells of her past, the ones about Natalie are the most affecting. In a life almost entirely devoid of love and kindness, Natalie is the exception. There isn’t a lot here about Natalie, and what is revealed isn’t very clear. The reader can’t even be sure if Natalie is real or just a concept. Either way, the mere mention of any means of salvation only serves to highlight the tragedy of the narrator’s reality. And that’s quite a trick on Phillips’s part.

The selection:

Natalie is standing in the sand. Behind her the ocean spills over, the waves have thick black edges. Natalie in her shredded slip, knobbly knees, her pale blue eyes watery. Natalie standing still as a dead thing spreads her legs and holds herself with her hand. Her fingers groping, her white face. She squeeze and pulls so hard she bleeds She calls for help She wants me. Faces all around us, big faces just teeth and lips to hold me down for Natalie. Natalie on top of me Natalie pressing down. Her watery eyes say nothing. She sighs with pleasure and her hot urine boils all around us.