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

‘A.V. Laider’ by Max Beerbohm

Beerbohm, Max 1916

A.V. Laider by Max Beerbohm, 1916

The magic trick:

Bringing the existential debate of the characters onto the reader through some clever plot twists

A.V. Laider and the narrator engage in debate early in the story over the nature of truth, belief, and free will. Now, if there’s anything more tiresome than arguing such things it’s reading about someone else’s argument over such things. But that’s what Beerbohm gives us for the first five or so pages.

Thankfully, he transitions to A.V. Laider’s two narratives. The first is a spellbinding account involving palmistry, a train, and, possibly, murder. The second consists of Laider’s comments about the first narrative.

Not only are these tales far more entertaining than the existential debate that kicks off the piece, they also allow Beerbohm to manipulate the reader into engaging into the very same existential debate. The story ends, and we are left asking ourselves, “Which story do we believe? Both? Is belief truth? What is knowledge?”

The debate may be tiresome, but there’s no denying the story has its way with the reader. And that’s quite a trick on Beerbohm’s part.

The selection:

He smiled at my pleasure, and I, at the risk of re-entanglement in metaphysics, claimed him as standing shoulder to shoulder with me against “A Melbourne Man.” This claim he gently disputed. “You may think me very prosaic,” he said, “but I can’t believe without evidence.”

“Well, I’m equally prosaic and equally at a disadvantage: I can’t take my own belief as evidence, and I’ve no other evidence to go on.”