Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Singing the hitherto unsung- John Updike

From an interview John Updike conducted with himself, collected in Books of the Century:

" long as there is one unlucky person in the world, life is grim. (Writing) makes it less so. I cannot do justice to the bliss that attends getting even a single string of dialogue or the name of a weed right. Naming our weeds, in fact, seems to be exactly where it's at. I've been going out into my acre here (gestures toward a scruffy meadow visible from his windows) and trying to identify the wildflowers along the fringes with the aid of a book, and it's remarkably difficult to match reality and diagram. Reality keeps a pace or two ahead, scribble through we will. If you were to ask me what the aim of my fiction is . . . it's bringing the corners forward. Or throwing light into them, if you'd rather. Singing the hitherto unsung."

Friday, December 23, 2005


From Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld:

"Life is clearest when guided by ulterior motives: walking to chapel, I felt a sense of true purpose. I was on my way to kill McGrath Mills, a junior from Dallas whom I'd inherited from Allie Wray. I'd heard McGrath was good at lacrosse, and I thought that an athlete would be harder to kill--there was more of a chance he'd be into the game."


"'What's your name?' McGrath said. He had a Southern accent, a slight twang, and he'd stuck the orange sticker from his shirt onto the pad of his middle finger.

'My name's Lee.'

'Did you try to kill me back there, Lee?'

I darted glances at the faces of the other boys, tne looked back at McGrath. 'Kind of,' I said, and they laughed.

'Here's what I'm gonna tell you,' McGrath said. 'It's okay to try. But it would be wrong to succeed.'"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Best American Short Stories 2005

From The Best American Short Stories 2005:

"Wind was pouring into the car, and the sirens were growing louder, an army of them, and Gwen's face was an inch from yours, her hair falling from behind her ear and whipping across her mouth, and she was looking at you, she was seeing you--really seeing you. Nobody'd ever done that before, nobody. She was tuned to you like a radio tower out on the edge of the unbroken fields of wheat, blinking red under a dark-blue sky, and that that night breeze lifting your bangs was her, for Christ's sake, her, and she was laughing, her hair in her teeth, laughing because the old lady had fallen out of the bed..." - Dennis Lehane, "Until Gwen"

"She had been sitting for hours here on the outskirts of a Kansas mining town, waiting for dark, so she could find a bar and a man to buy her drinks. She was in a foul mood lately, as her plans for a life of riotous adventure had thus far come to nothing. She'd fled a teenage marriage in Canada after seeing a Wild West show, complete with save Indians and lady sharpshooters, and come west to seek her fortune among such fierce creatures. Her career as an outlaw was not going well. The problem was men. The problem was always men." - Tim Pratt, "Hart and Boot"

"Raccoon, an only child like me, had nothing. The Kletz brothers called her Raccoon for the bags she had under her eyes from never sleeping. Her parents fought nonstop. They fought over breakfast. They fought in the yard in their underwear. At dusk they stood on their porch whacking each other with lengths of weather stripping. Raccoon practically had spinal curvature from spending so much time slumped over in misery. When the Kletz brothers called her Raccoon, she indulged them by rubbing her hands together ferally. The nickname was the most attention she'd ever had." - George Saunders, "Bohemians"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

First paragraph: Bleeders

From Annie McFadyen's story "Bleeders" in Tin House vol 7, on stands now:

The dialysis outpatients with complete kidney failure are called Tanks, because they never pee. Bleeders are the patients with thin blood. Neil appreciates the Bleeders because their blood doesn't clot fast enough to clog the dialysis filters Neil cleans at night by hand, in a bucket with a special brush. During the day, Neil works in the clinic with the dialysis patients. He pumps the patients full of anticoagulant, to keep the filters from clogging, and then hooks the patients up to the dialysis machines. But when he unhooks the Bleeders from the machines, anticoagulant still in their thin blood, they never stop bleeding. The old Bleeders, the ones who have been on dialysis for years, have rubber tubes spliced into their arm veins so the veins won't collapse from so many needles.