Filed under: fiction, short stories | Tags: best american short stories 2008, harper’s magazine, heidi pitlor, jonathan lethem, rebecca makkai, reviews, salman rushdie, shenandoah, short stories, steven millhauser, the king of sentences, the new yorker, the wizard of west orange, the worst you ever feel
Best: x American: x Short: 9.5 Story: x
From The New Yorker, Jonathan Lethem’s “The King of Sentences” is an interesting story of fame and adoration. Two romantically involved bookstore employees become fascinated by a pulp author they refer to as the “King of Sentences.” Orgasmically quoting lines back and forth, the two eventually stalk the man and it’s disclosed that the King of Sentences has something of a dark and secret past
I chuckled about the bookstore references and definitely left the story wondering what Lethem had been thinking. In the author’s comments, he references the sort of worship fans develop as well as the bizarreness of the situation for the person being worshipped. Even though it’s been a few days since I read this story, I still keep thinking about it.
Best: ? American: x Short: 12 Story: x
From Shenandoah, Rebecca Makkai’s “The Worst You Ever Feel” is told through a child’s, Aaron’s, perspective as he looks down at a party his parents are throwing. A Eastern European violinist, who suffered through both Nazis and communism, is performing. Aaron senses or interprets fragments of the partygoer’s stories.
“The Worst You Ever Feel” was interesting and developed. It was good. It was a safe choice for the collection. But I didn’t really feel or care much for it, and when an author chooses to use things like music, Nazis, and communism the reader should feel a bit more about it.
Best: ? American: x Short: ? Story: x
From Harper’s Magazine, Steven Millhauser’s “The Wizard of West Orange” is told through a librarian’s perspective that works amongst scientists. Paranoia exists throughout the piece and becomes exaggerated when the librarian is asked to participate in secret experiment regarding the sense of touch.
Though the story is only 27.5 pages long, which isn’t all that long for a short story, it’s so far the longest within the collection. “The Wizard of West Orange” was a demanding story that begins with an almost rhyming quality, moves quickly, and is told through journals. I confess to scanning much of the jargon that infused the text. Millhauser cites a Thomas Edison biography as influence.