Ah, but is it open-minded to read with a filter firmly in place? It is, as long as you keep your filter clean.
I try to pull my filter out for maintenance on a regular basis. I check to see if it’s clogged with prejudice, immature thought or unexamined points of view—attitudes that may cause me to miss an important truth because it doesn’t conform to a pattern of thought I’ve grown used to.
Ah, but is a filter necessary? It is, or debris will clog your inner workings. A properly sized filter will let in thoughts that challenge, upset, disturb, or delight you, but it will keep out spam.
Everyone’s spam filter is set differently. Mine is set to allow for strong language that serves a story well, but not over salted fare that deadens my senses: sex, yes; erotica, not for me.
Ah, but if you set your mind on faith messages, isn’t that limiting; boring, even? Let’s be honest, a diet consisting only of the fruits of the Spirit (love, peace, faithfulness, joy, goodness, gentleness, patience, self-control, kindness) makes you sick. In the rich context of struggle, however, it saves your soul. It makes for good reading, too.
Is it time to check your filter?
© Antaratma Microstock Images © Elena Ray | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Paucity emerges as a theme for this week’s reading; insufficient funds in the spiritual bank account that allows for human connection. Perusing two highly acclaimed story collections and one literary magazine this week: Pulse, by Julian Barnes, Tenth of December, by George Saunders, and Carve, Spring 2013.
- “Storm in a Teacup”, by Dan Powell, Carve
A good example of magical realism, the literal storm that builds in a small teacup mirrors the emotional lives of the regulars at the Tea Cosy, which sits in a stained part of High Town, UK; evocative and fun.
- “East Wind”, Pulse, by Julian Barnes
Vernon ventures into foreign territory when he begins a relationship with a mysterious expat. Unable to let well enough alone, he repeats a pattern that broke up his first marriage. This story is all the more interesting when Andrea’s past is revealed.Read More»
Ordinary lives look mundane to the casual observer, but not to the writer. A good story connects with experiences we have all been touched by somehow. A great story reframes that experience.
- “Running Alone”, by Halimah Marcus, One Story, Issue Number 176
Powerfully descriptive, Marcus causes us to feel what it’s like to run the distance –how your body feels, what goes on in your head. This is a layered account of three family members who are pulled apart to run a lonely race that is all their own.Read More»
It’s time to reflect on my resolve to read a short story a day for a year. I’ve heard writers say they don’t read like they used to because:
- They are writing instead.
- They don’t want what they read to influence what they are writing.
I find that reading one short story a day is like popping a vitamin—not much of a time commitment and good for my health. I hope what I’m reading will influence what I write.
Some days I have time to analyze why a story worked or didn’t work for me. Other days, fiction does a fast wash over me and leaves a thought, feeling, or theme to pursue in my own writing.
Why am I blogging about it? Tracking titles on Good Reads is not as satisfying as a writing exercise that challenges me to respond to what I’ve read with carefully chosen words.
Do I think I have an audience that breathlessly anticipates each week’s update? Nah; my modest hope is to be part of a resurgence of interest in the short story form that seems to be taking place.
A travel website wants me to do two more hotel reviews to get a specialist badge. Keep in mind that I’ve only ever done one hotel review, and that was at the request of a waiter with puppy eyes who told me reading reviews that mention him delights his mother, and earns him bonuses that he uses for college tuition. Who could resist that?
A website I used to post work on changed their mission from encouraging Christians to grow as writers to paying contest winners to promote evangelical websites.
What do these two opportunities have in common?Read More»
please you God
in her nest
by wind whipsawed
against the strife
cease your huffing
grant them life.
Not a week goes by when I’m in Arizona that I don’t check to see what’s new in the Lit periodicals section at Barnes and Noble. The Spring edition of Glimmer Train has arrived.
- “Old Teeth”, by David Goguen
A marriage that didn’t take, a dental problem triggered by poor hygiene—it’s enough to make a guy sing the blues.
- “Twinning”, by Joseph Vastano
A sad tale about self-medicated siblings shoring each other up; I struggle with stories about chronic addiction. I’m not sure what the author wanted the reader to feel, but I think perhaps a horse died needlessly in this narrative.
- “Body of Work”, by Tracy Guzeman
A father struggles to understand his son after the young man dies in a surfing accident, reminiscent of Martin Sheen in the movie, The Way.
- “The Unmoored”, by Jennie Lin
I like stories that begin with a beguiling concept. In a stressful time, who hasn’t thought about cutting ties and starting over from scratch.
- “Stand Clear of the Doors, Please”, by Adva Levin
Told in the second person, you come to understand the impact of leaving your homeland for a new life on your identity and relationships. It’s a mixed bag.
- “Boxes”, by Meredith Luby
What happens when we begin to replace the people in our lives?
When a daughter leaves her mother’s house, when a baby leaves an empty place in her mother’s womb and her life, these actions leave wounds that bind and separate at once.
- “Buch and the Snakestretchers”, by Abe Gaustad
Do the Blues seek audience with people who have small hope, or do people with little more energy for life than it takes to pop open a can of beer drown their pain in the Blues. It seems like a symbiotic relationship that’s not good for either party. Buch’s music would probably make a good soundtrack for a Zombie movie, I’m guessing.
Shopping for art for my southwest writing studio, I found My Soul is Dancing at Art Expo in Scottsdale. The artist, Pat Stacy, is late to her painting career in much the same way that I am late to my writing career, but we are both making up for lost time in accelerated growth in our art and high productivity.
I love the mature figure that is slightly off center (I can identify with that!) dancing in the light. What I especially love is that she is not alone. People stand in the background, a supportive community on the right; to the left perhaps her earlier self searching for a path through the ages and stages of life.
Pat suggested that I read the The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The book is about the struggle to sit in the chair (or stand at the easel) and do the work. In a time when the path to success is looks like a mountain trail that disappeared into an overgrowth of weeds, I appreciate a good book and a lovely muse to light the way. Thanks, Pat!
Maricopa County has assets other than Sheriff Joe; armed with my colorful new library card I took myself down to “Your Community Front Porch,” one of two regional and 15 branch libraries, and checked out The Best American Short Stories, edited by Richard Russo.
“PS”, by Jill McCorkel, from The Atlantic
Stories that evolve from a rant are not my favorite—more fun for a writer to write than for a reader to read. (I’m tempted to rant about this, but I won’t.) Rants invite us to try to figure out the truth. Here, we’re not impressed with the marriage counselor; even less so with the husband. We’re sort of on the wife’s side but, like most rants, we’re glad when it’s over. This was good for a chuckle.
- “Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go”, by Danielle Evans, from A Public Space
I liked the original title better: “Every Single Last [expletive deleted] on This Planet Is Going to Hell Someday.” This story is a sandwich board pointing to the empty aspiration. It’s a heart breaker.Read More»
In the parks, tourists sometimes do foolish things that get them carried out on stretchers and make headline news. I wondered what park visitors’ antics look like to the bears. The story form that best lends itself to nature’s point of view is the age old cautionary tale, the fable.
I’m pleased that Foliate Oak Literary Magazine has published my tale, The Foolish Tourist, in their April 2013 edition.