In the lead up to Picador’s February publication of REVENGE: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa we’re exploring the work of one of Japan’s leading fiction writers. To kick off our month-long celebration here is a short story that ran in The New Yorker in 2004.
The Cafeteria in the Evening and a Pool in the Rain
Juju and I moved here on a foggy morning in early winter. There wasn’t that much to move—just an old wardrobe, a desk, and a few boxes. It was simple enough. Sitting on the enclosed porch, I watched the small truck rattle off into the mist. Juju sniffed around the house, checking the cinderblock wall and the glass panel in the door, as if to reassure himself about his new home. He made little grumbling noises as he worked, his head cocked to one side.
The fog was rolling away in gentle waves. It was not the sort of suffocating fog that swallows everything; in fact, this fog seemed pure and almost transparent, like a cool, thin veil that you could reach out and touch. I stared at it for a long time, leaning against the boxes, until I felt as if I could see each milky droplet. Juju had grown tired of sniffing and was curled up at my feet. Feeling a chill on my back, I peeled away the tape on the box I had been leaning against, pulled out a sweater, and put it on. A bird flew straight into the fog and disappeared.
Read the rest here.
“Hardly any point in short fiction (“story”)—practically anything good must be 100 pp. long.”
From As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, Journals and Notebooks, 1964 - 1980, by Susan Sontag. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, p. 146. This quote is from 1965.
This post is part of a week-long miniseries celebrating National Short Story Month. Today, Picador intern Anya presents Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.
Wells Tower’s debut collection of stories is not for the faint of heart, or for that matter, the weak of stomach.
Tower’s characters seem to harvest emotional brutality and use it as ammunition in their most intimate and enmeshed relationships. Thrown into the mix are raw images, sounds, smells, and tastes that are wildly imaginative and hard to stomach. They linger and haunt you long after you’ve read them. Take, for instance, the story “The Brown Coast,” a sickening call to the senses replete with:
- cracker bits “stuck in the sweaty creases of his elbows and his neck, and…lodged deep into his buttock crack…”
- a refrigerator that breathes out a “sour-thermos smell”
- ice cubes that taste like “old laundry”
- “a square of plywood showcasing a row of withered turkey beards” (for those of you who, like me, are not familiar with turkey anatomy, this is the cluster of long, hair-like feathers that grows from the center of a turkey’s chest)
- an old fish tank containing a bottle of hair tonic, a “waterlogged bat corpse,” who’s aerator breathes “a steady green sigh of bubbles throughout the tank.”
Just the sight and sound of the words themselves seems to create a kind of literary synesthesia that could upset even the strongest of constitutions. But it is well worth the tummy-ache.
Watch animator Chris Roth’s short adaptation of the titular story here.
Thanks to BookRiot, we learned that May is National Short Story Month. This post is part of a week-long miniseries that will feature a different collection of Picador’s short stories each day for the last week of the month. First up is Sam Lipsyte’s Venus Drive.
Sam Lipsyte is funny. His stories are darkly, sardonically funny in a way that Jonathan Ames wrote, “make you wince, they make you look away, and then they make you look back.”
His collection Venus Drive, originally published in 2000, has a way of attacking life and death issues, including suicide, drug addiction, and abuse, with a kind of shocking rawness before making you laugh with an unexpectedly deadpan punchline. A certain fearlessness is required to truly absorb and appreciate many of these stories as Lipsyte so casually lays bare the darkest side of our humanity.
For more Sam Lipsyte, I personally recommend this hilarious Gchat interview he did with The Rumpus a couple of years ago, in which he talks about the recently hot topic of book blurbs as well as Gary Shteyngart, the future of paperbacks, and yoga.
THE PICADOR BOOK ROOM is a group publishing blog maintained by the employees of Picador Books. Any views expressed in these posts are those of the authors listed below.