I read a lot of short stories. Not as many as a literary journal editor—the former editor of Crazyhorse (or maybe it was The Literary Review) estimated at one time that he had read 10,000! That’s a lot. Crazy many. Wilt-like.
Not counting my own stories—read and re-read on a seemingly endless cycle, editing or not—I read at least a story a day and usually two or three. This has reduced the amount of fiction I read in novel form. And, kind of contradictory to the novel result, I now read far more poetry than ever before. I don’t write (much) poetry, but I sure love reading a verklempt-provoking line, even if I don’t quite know WTF is going on, distracted as I am by the many swooshing sounds I hear over my freckled skull.
I no longer read newspapers, something I used to love—right up there with beer, bacon, and baseball. Now I get my newspaper calories from the internet. Columnists and pundits, wags and woebegonists.
A treat these last few years is to read the CNF and ramblings of my friends and those I would like to befriend. ML Driedger and Hoss Neufeld are among the former. (Two Snowbird Western writers who resemble Miss Kitty and Marshall Dillon. Or more so Marshall Dylan, when the gunsmoke clears.)
I also read many writers like me, whose lariats spin sometimes wild, sometimes lazy as we seek to lasso the moon. Some oh-bah-fine shorts I have read lately (or revisited, like Hwy 61) include:
“The Laughing Man”, Salinger. Find it online as easy as Bananafish pie.
“Bullet in the Brain”, Tobias Wolff. Also just a gecko-twitch away, via Google. (This month’s group read for the Wpg Public Library Writing Circle, led by W-I-R Carolyn Gray.)
“The Tree Planter”, Spencer Sekulin. On *Fiction on the Web* a UK joint edited by Sir Charlie Fish.
“Sparking Spot”, Ramona Jones Go to Ms. Jones FB page and track it down there.
“What We Bury”, Madeline Anthes. barrenmagazine.com
All this is part of my latest (and one of my bestest) rock-strewn trails: “Travel widely, experiment boldly, love deeply… ” Words to live by from one of my painting heroes, Winslow Homer. I can handle the second and the third as well as any cheroot-chewin’ gunslinger who cares to draw down on me. The travel one too, with buts and caveats—I can go where I wanna go, do what I wanna do, so long as Swoop flies there for next to frickin’ nuthin’, or our grandkids are there/going to be there, or I win the lottery. (The less common kind of lottery for which you don’t have to buy tickets to win.)
But maybe I don’t need to travel as widely as ol’ WH would have me do… I live in the four seasons of nature surrounded not by people and parking lots and coffee spoons, but rather by small-but-tough animals, white-capped water, and a forest of cross-country skis and tall timber. The love of my redheaded life sits across the dining room table from me each day and inexplicably, loves me deeply with her big brown eyes.
So, I hope interesting, unusual, flaky people can drop by Jessica from time to time, so I can hack the Winslow directive to travel widely. We’ll “welcome widely!”
3.11.20—Addendum: Here’s another story, one to make the hair raise up on your neck and your heart swell a little as it pumps: https://mastersreview.com/new-voices/skin-hunger-by-melissa-goode/ (I spotted this one on Madeline Anthes twitter feed. “Skin Hunger” by Melissa Goode.)
8.26.20—And another, read with passion and intelligence at 28:55 in this open mic (San Fran Mechanics’ Institute) by Bay Area author Francee Covington… her BLM essay, “Uneasy Lies the Head of the Black Mom.” https://youtu.be/CwijFbQ-YcM
P.S.—I chime in with a reading of “Freight Trains and Jet Planes” right after Ms. Covington’s performance.