I do this: read one short story on-line, each day, every day, and I am doing it for 365 days. Why? I need to know what’s going on out there and what I mean by that is this: I need to know what’s going on right here, as in, right in front of me on this here screen.
Ours was one of the last families in our little foothill town elementary school to purchase a home computer earlier in this century. It wasn’t until my MFA program, three years ago, that I swapped out pencil and pad for laptop to draft stories and poems. If you ever visit the place where I live and write, you’d see that there are hours of my writing/reading day where electricity eludes me.Yet, slowly, and with a certain amount of internal angst, I’ve come to love the world of electronic ink, how stories from all over the world can be conjured by a click.
So, when I’m all plugged in and charged up, I am digging what I read, the literary current, if you will. And I still yearn for the printed page, the paper in my hands. I straddle both worlds. So do many of the literary magazines I admire, so why angst about it? Why not save the unease for my characters?
This week, characters in the 7 of my 365 short story line-up are all about discontent.
Beginning with Mary Stein’s beautiful story “Vestigial Features,” about a woman’s quiet quest to feel herself fully-formed, and ending with A.K. Benninghofen’s “Torque” about the underlying tensions of mild-manner domesticity, each of the protagonists persist, torn in some way by the human condition. True of all good fiction, no? But something about the inner struggle, the doing it alone even when among others seem to ring true in the fictions that chose me this week.
In “People With Holes” by Heather Fowler, literally, people with holes seek connection with like-beings who also have holes. In “Jesus Doesn’t Love You and Neither Do I” the same author finds the metaphor for how we are alone with our holes even when among a townspeople. David Houseley’s character in “Toyota” stands alone by a window, looking out, coveting his neighbor’s latest acquisition while calling out to his disconnected wife to stand witness beside him.
How about this? “Some people can have arguments and discussions on the bus. They talk about money and shoes and bosses and medication and who has screwed whom and who is more righteous and when will they learn.” Ever think about how public display of personal content is another form of loneliness seeking connection? Andrea Dulanto’s story “Winter Clothes” explores the mind of a woman ready to risk privacy in a public arena.
Finally, in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” the town character demonstrates an over-arching collective discontent, demonstrating the ache within a people, and the blind following of a community tradition.
On that note, I can’t quite say, “Happy Reading!” but I can say hope the sun comes back to Vermont soon.
You can read my thoughts on print lit mags here.