April 2016 favorites

April2016

April 2016

The April stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Garden Of The Forking Paths’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  2. ‘Walker Brothers Cowboy’ by Alice Munro
  3. ‘Red Dress – 1946’ by Alice Munro
  4. ‘The Bear Came Over The Mountain’ by Alice Munro
  5. ‘The Gospel According To Mark’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  6. ‘The Office’ by Alice Munro
  7. ‘You Could Look It Up’ by James Thurber
  8. ‘Runaway’ by Alice Munro
  9. ‘Ambush’ by Donna Tartt
  10. ‘Sanity’ by Tobias Wolff
  11. ‘Edison, New Jersey’ by Junot Diaz
  12. ‘The Library Of Babel’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  13. ‘The Approach To Al-Mu’tasim’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  14. ‘Late’ by Steven Millhauser
  15. ‘Serve-And-Volley Near Vichy’ by Greg Jackson
  16. ‘On Exactitude In Science’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  17. ‘Do Stay, Giraffe’ by Wolfgang Borchert

What do you think about this story? As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

February 2015 favorites

February2015

February 2015

The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Death In The Woods’ by Sherwood Anderson
  2. ‘Cheap In August’ by Graham Greene
  3. ‘Debarking’ by Lorrie Moore
  4. ‘The Juniper Tree’ by Lorrie Moore
  5. ‘Flight’ by John O’Hara
  6. ‘To Build A Fire’ by Jack London
  7. ‘Harvey’s Dream’ by Stephen King
  8. ‘The Keyhole Eye’ by John Stewart Carter
  9. ‘The First Flower’ by Augusta Wallace Lyons
  10. ‘Subject To Search’ by Lorrie Moore
  11. ‘Thank You For Having Me’ by Lorrie Moore
  12. ‘Foes’ by Lorrie Moore
  13. ‘Spring In Fialta’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  14. ‘Talk To The Music’ by Arna Bontemps
  15. ‘The Contest For Aaron Gold’ by Philip Roth
  16. ‘The Old Army Game’ by George Garrett
  17. ‘Alma’ by Junot Diaz
  18. ‘Children Are Bored On Sunday’ by Jean Stafford
  19. ‘A Long Day’s Dying’ by William Eastlake
  20. ‘To The Wilderness I Wander’ by Frank Butler
  21. ‘Mammon And The Archer’ by O. Henry

‘Alma’ by Junot Díaz

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Alma by Junot Díaz, 2007

The magic trick:

Treating the end of a relationship with humor

We’ve had too much happiness here at SSMT this Valentine’s Week. Time for a good old-fashioned story about love gone wrong. Enter Junot Díaz.

“Alma” is a very funny story. Yunior, as always, is straight-to-the-point about why the relationship started and why it failed. His descriptions and pop-culture references are easily relatable and funny. The conflict is a classic: Alma discovers Yunior’s journal entry confessing to his cheating with another girl from school. His excuse – “Baby, this is part of my novel.” – is pretty good.

The end of a relationship doesn’t always have to be doom and gloom. “Alma” reminds us that, with some perspective at least, it can be pretty damn funny. And that’s quite a trick on Díaz’s part.

The selection:

Alma is slender as a reed, you a steroid-addicted block; Alma loves driving, you books; Alma owns a Saturn (bought for her by her carpenter father, who speaks only English in the house), you have no points on your license; Alma’s nails are too dirty for cooking, your spaghetti con pollo is the best in the land.

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January 2015 favorites

january2015

January 2015

The January stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘How I Met My Husband’ by Alice Munro
  2. ‘Bardon Bus’ by Alice Munro
  3. ‘One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts’ by Shirley Jackson
  4. ‘The Open Boat’ by Stephen Crane
  5. ‘Where I’m Calling From’ by Raymond Carver
  6. ‘The Drunkard’ by Frank O’Connor
  7. ‘The Wind And The Snow Of Winter’ by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  8. ‘Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker
  9. ‘The Enormous Radio’ by John Cheever
  10. ‘The View From Castle Rock’ by Alice Munro
  11. ‘Boys And Girls’ by Alice Munro
  12. ‘The Sun, The Moon, The Stars’ by Junot Diaz
  13. ‘The Skull’ by Philip K. Dick
  14. ‘The NRACP’ by George P. Elliott
  15. ‘Train’ by Alice Munro
  16. ‘The Other Foot’ by Ray Bradbury
  17. ‘Pigeon Feathers’ by John Updike
  18. ‘Jokester’ by Isaac Asimov
  19. ‘Tell Me A Riddle’ by Tillie Olsen
  20. ‘The Speech Of Polly Baker’ by Benjamin Franklin
  21. ‘The Star’ by Arthur C. Clarke

‘The Sun, The Moon, The Stars’ by Junot Díaz

Diaz, Junot 1998

The Sun, The Moon, The Stars by Junot Díaz, 1998

The magic trick:

Giving Yunior, the first-person narrator, the perfect blend of wisdom and confusion

So, here we have a story of a failed relationship told by someone after the relationship has ended. This narrator ought to have a pretty good sense of wisdom about what went wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple in this story.

Yunior, the first-person narrator, does have some things figured out. He gives the reader some remarkable insights here and there about how, looking back, even when things in the relationship were good, maybe they weren’t that good; maybe they were too comfortable, etc. What is notable, though, is how much Yunior still doesn’t understand.

Consider that Díaz starts the story by having his narrator say, “I’m not a bad guy.” It is as if he is on the defensive before the reader has even had a chance to accuse him of anything. Diaz then ends the story in the middle of a conversation with Yunior and his girlfriend, Magda. Yunior desperately pleads, “This can work. All we have to do is try.” At start and conclusion, Yunior is trying to convince himself of something. He can’t represent this relationship in any kind of realistic way. He isn’t in a position of wisdom at all. He is still confused and coming to grips with the entire episode.

Certainly, we all know that feeling. We’ve likely all been in that position before. It’s pretty common to human experience. I don’t know that it’s a point of view that is often represented in literature though. Certainly not this well. And that’s quite a trick on Díaz’s part.

The selection:

Anyway I won’t bore you with what happens after she finds out. The begging, the crawling over glass, the crying. Let’s just say that after two weeks of this, of my driving out to her house, sending her letters, and calling her at all hours of the night, we put it back together. Didn’t mean I ever ate with her family again or that her girlfriends were celebrating. Those cabronas, they were like, No, jamás, never. Even Magda wasn’t too hot on the rapprochement at first, but I had the momentum of the past on my side. When she asked me, Why don’t you leave me alone? I told her the truth: It’s because I love you, mami. I know this sounds like a load of doo-doo, but it’s true: Magda’s my heart. I didn’t want her to leave me; I wasn’t about to start looking for a girlfriend because I’d fucked up one lousy time.

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October 2014 favorites

october2014

October 2014

The October stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’ by Flannery O’Connor
  2. ‘A Good Man Is Hard To Find’ by Flannery O’Connor
  3. ‘The River’ by Flannery O’Connor
  4. ‘A&P’ by John Updike
  5. ‘The Life You Save May Be Your Own’ by Flannery O’Connor
  6. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman
  7. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe
  8. ‘Nilda’ by Junot Diaz
  9. ‘Young Goodman Brown’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  10. ‘The Lady’s Maid’s Bell’ by Edith Wharton
  11. ‘Luella Miller’ by Mary Wilkins Freeman
  12. ‘The Outcasts Of Poker Flat’ by Bret Harte
  13. ‘The Sutton Place Story’ by John Cheever
  14. ‘Premium Harmony’ by Stephen King
  15. ‘Paper Losses’ by Lorrie Moore
  16. ‘This Morning, This Evening, So Soon’ by James Baldwin
  17. ‘Three Players Of A Summer Game’ by Tennessee Williams
  18. ‘A Stroke Of Good Fortune’ by Flannery O’Connor
  19. ‘The Body Snatcher’ by Robert Louis Stevenson
  20. ‘Awake’ by Tobias Wolff
  21. ‘In Greenwich, There Are Many Gravelled Walks’ by Hortense Calisher
  22. ‘A Dark Brown Dog’ by Stephen Crane
  23. ‘Nothing Ever Breaks Except The Heart’ by Kay Boyle

July 2014 favorites

july2014

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

‘How To Date A Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, Or Halfie)’ by Junot Díaz

Diaz, Junot 1995

How To Date A Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, Or Halfie) by Junot Díaz, 1995 Continue reading