Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"Dirt" by Etgar Keret and other fiction

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One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.  He did it while we were clearing the table; the children were quarreling as usual in the next room, the dog was dreaming, growling beside the radiator.  He told me that he was confused, that he was having terrible moments of weariness, of dissatisfaction, perhaps of cowardice.  He talked for a long time about our fifteen years of marriage, about the children, and admitted that he had nothing to reproach us with, neither them nor me.  He was composed, as always, apart from an extravagant gesture of his right hand when he explained to me, with a childish frown, that soft voices, a sort of whispering, were urging him elsewhere.  Then he assumed the blame for everything that was happening and closed the front door carefully behind him, leaving me turned to stone beside the sink.  
--From The Days of Abandonment, a novel by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions, 2005).  First published, as I giorni dell'abbandono, by Edizioni e/o in 2002.

Darrell had a face like a crumpled pack of cigarettes.  It was hard to believe he was only fourteen.  Every morning we had to stand in the hallway watching the kids walk into our classes because it was supposed to show them we were welcoming.  Darrell walked too fast and leaned too far forward when he walked, as if he was about to give someone a piece of his mind.  
--From "Fire," a short story by Krys Belc, Reservoir, Issue II (August 2016).

My father never even asks for a name.  He pulls up, I walk to the car, afraid the whole time it isn't really him, isn't really his car, and I open the door and I close it and I sit down and cross my legs and uncross them and cross my arms instead and say Hello and that's all he says back, Hello.  
--From "My Father Never," a short story by Krys Belc, Reservoir, Issue II (August 2016).

Benny Brokerage had been waiting for them in the doorway for almost half an hour, and when they arrived he tried to act as if it didn't make him mad.  "It's all her fault," the older man said, sniggering, and held out his hand for a firm, no-nonsense shake.  "Don't believe Butchie," the peroxide urged him.  She looked at least fifteen years younger than her man.  "We got here earlier, except we couldn't find any parking.  And Benny Brokerage gave her his foxy smile, like he really gave a shit why she and Butchie were late.  
--From "Eight Percent of Nothing," a short story by Etgar Keret, translated from the Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger, published in The Nimrod Flipout (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), pp. 43-47.  The story was featured in episode 285 of This American Life (Know Your Enemy, March 25, 2005).

Listen, a true story.  About three months ago a woman about thirty-two years old met her death in a suicide bomb attack near a bus stop.  She wasn't the only one who met her death, lots of others did too.  But this story is about her. 
--From "Surprise Egg," a short story by Etgar Keret, translated from the Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger, published in The Nimrod Flipout (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), pp. 55-58.

So let's say I'm dead now, or I open a self-service laundromat, the first one in Israel.  
--From "Dirt," a short story by Etgar Keret, translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston, published in The Nimrod Flipout (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), pp. 59-60.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Fall 2016 issue of the Apple Valley Review

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The Fall 2016 issue of the Apple Valley Review features short fiction by Arndt Britschgi, Robert Radin, and Karl Harshbarger; prose poetry by James Cihlar and Julie Brooks Barbour; poetry by JJ Penna, Donna Pucciani, Ellen Saunders, Pat Hanahoe-Dosch, Gail Hanlon, Lisa Zimmerman, Chris Anderson, and Adam Ortiz; and a cover photograph from Finland by Kotivalo.

The Apple Valley Review is a semiannual online literary journal.  The current issue, previous issues, subscription information, and complete submission guidelines are available at www.applevalleyreview.com.

Friday, September 9, 2016

My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante) and two poems

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My friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille's apartment.  I remember the violet light of the courtyard, the smells of a warm spring evening.  The mothers were making dinner, it was time to go home, but we delayed, challenging each other, without ever saying a word, testing our courage.  For some time, in school and outside of it, that was what we had been doing.  Lila would thrust her hand and then her whole arm into the black mouth of a manhole, and I, in turn, immediately did the same, my heart pounding, hoping that the cockroaches wouldn't run over my skin, that the rats wouldn't bite me.
--From My Brilliant Friend, a novel by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions, 2012).  This is the first in a series of four books referred to as the Neapolitan Novels or the Neapolitan Quartet.  Book One is My Brilliant Friend, Book Two is The Story of a New Name, Book Three is Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and Book Four is The Story of the Lost Child.  I was mesmerized by these, but please note that they contain numerous descriptions of interpersonal violence.  (The scenes are not gratuitous or unnecessarily graphic, but they can be quite brutal.  Violence itself is one of the many topics of the books.)      


In my other life the B-17 my father is piloting 
Is shot down over Normandy
And my mother raises her sons alone . . . 
--From "Two Lives," a poem by Carl Dennis, The New Yorker (April 18, 2016), pp. 66-67.


at length: the moon opens

a blank after the all-night
          crying.  Early morning, inexplicable

hush.  The toy endlessly chiming in the attic . . . 
--From an excerpt from Substantial (a love letter), poetry by Gina Franco, West Branch Wired (Winter 2016).

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Suddenly, A Knock on the Door

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These are from Suddenly, A Knock on the Door: Stories by Etgar Keret, translated into English by Miriam Shlesinger, Sondra Silverston, and Nathan Englander and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2012.  The collection was originally published in Hebrew as Pit'om Defikah Ba-Delet by Zmora-Bitan in 2010.

Two people were standing at the door.  A second lieutenant wearing a knitted yarmulke, and behind him, a thin officer with sparse, light-colored hair and captain's bars on her shoulders.  Orit waited a minute, and when she saw that they still weren't saying anything, she asked if she could help them.  "Druckman," the captain tossed the word, part command, part reprimand, at the soldier.  "It's about your husband," the religious soldier mumbled at Orit.  "Can we come in?"  Orit smiled and said that this must be some kind of mistake because she wasn't married.
--From "Simyon" by Etgar Keret, pp. 25-30, translated by Sondra Silverston.

I know a guy who fantasizes all the time.  I mean, this guy even walks down the street with his eyes shut.  One day, I'm sitting in the passenger seat of his car and I look over to the left and see him with both his hands on the wheel and his eyes shut.  No kidding, he was driving like that on a main street. 
--From "Shut" by Etgar Keret,  pp. 31-33, translated by Sondra Silverston.

Then one Thursday a fat, sweaty guy walked into the cafe and smiled at him.  Miron was caught off guard.  The last person to give him a smile was Maayan, just before she left him, five months earlier, and her smile had been unmistakably sarcastic, whereas this one was soft, almost apologetic.  The fat guy gestured something, apparently a signal that he'd like to sit down, and Miron nodded almost without thinking. 
--From "Healthy Start" by Etgar Keret, pp. 34-39, translated by Miriam Shlesinger.  "Healthy Start" is available online in Tin House

The man who knew what I was about to say sat next to me on the plane, a stupid smile plastered across his face.  That's what was so nerve-racking about him, the fact that he wasn't smart or even sensitive, and yet he knew the lines and managed to say them--all the lines I meant to say--three seconds before me.  "D'you sell Guerlain Mystique?" he asked the flight attendant a minute before I could, and she gave him an orthodontic smile and said there was just one last bottle left.
--From "Mystique"by Etgar Keret, pp. 58-59, translated by Miriam Shlesinger.

The first story Maya wrote was about a world in which people split themselves in two instead of reproducing.  
--From "Creative Writing" by Etgar Keret, pp. 60-65, translated by Sondra Silverston.

When the new great depression began, NW was hardest hit.  Its merchandise was meant for the affluent class, but after the Chicago riots, even the wealthy stopped ordering, some of them because of the unstable economic situation, but most of them because they just couldn't face their neighbors.
--From "September All Year Long" by Etgar Keret, pp. 142-145, translated by Sondra Silverston.

There are conversations that can change a person's life. 
--From "Joseph" by Etgar Keret, pp. 146-148, translated by Sondra Silverston.

There's a theory that says there are billions of other universes, parallel to the one we live in, and that each of them is slightly different.  There are the ones where you were never born, and the ones where you wouldn't want to be born.  
--"Parallel Universes" by Etgar Keret, pp. 153-154, translated by Miriam Shlesinger.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Short fiction by Haruki Murakami

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A mother and her son, Americans, were staying in the unit next door to my wife and me.  They seemed to have settled in long before we arrived.  The mother was around sixty, the son close to our age, twenty-eight or twenty-nine.  They resembled each other more than any mother and son I'd ever seen--both with identical long, narrow faces, broad foreheads, tightly set lips.  The mother was tall, her posture erect, her movements always alert and brisk.  The son seemed tall, too, but you really couldn't say for sure, as he was confined to a wheelchair.  Invariably, his mother was behind him, pushing the chair.  
--From "Hunting Knife," a short story by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, published in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories (Vintage, 2007), pp. 84-99.  First published in The New Yorker (November 17, 2003).

Taking the occasional sip of bitter coffee, I slowly read the article.  I'd read a few lines to myself, mull over how to put it into Japanese, then translate aloud.  A few bees popped up from somewhere to lick the jam that a previous customer had spilled on the table.  They spent a moment lapping it up, then, as if suddenly remembering something, flew into the air with a ceremonious buzz, circled the table a couple of times, and then--again as if something had jogged their memory--settled once more on the tabletop.  After I had finished reading the whole article, Izumi sat there, unmoving, elbows resting on the table.  She tented the tips of the fingers of her right hand with the tips of her fingers of her left.  
--From "Man-Eating Cats," a short story by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, published in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories (Vintage, 2007), pp. 112-130.  First published in The New Yorker (December 4, 2000).    

Every morning, [my roommate] was up at six on the dot, the national anthem his alarm clock.  So I guess the flag-raising wasn't a complete waste.  He dressed and went to wash up, taking an incredibly long time to finish.  Made me wonder sometimes if he wasn't taking each tooth out and brushing them individually.  Back in the room he smoothed out his towel, hung it on a hanger, and put his toothbrush and soap back on the shelf.  Then he'd switch on the radio and start exercising to the morning exercise program.  
        I was pretty much a night owl, and a heavy sleeper, so when he started up I was usually dead to the world.  When he got to the part where he began to leap up and down, I'd bolt out of bed.  Every time he jumped up--and believe me he jumped really high--my head would bounce three inches off the pillow.  Try sleeping through that.  
        "I'm really sorry," I said on the fourth day of this, "but I wonder if you could do your exercises on the roof or something.  It wakes me up."
        "I can't," he replied.  "If I do it there, the people on the third floor will complain.  This is the first floor, so there isn't anyone below us." 
        "Well, how about doing it in the courtyard?"
        "No way.  I don't have a transistor radio so I wouldn't be able to hear the music.  You can't expect me to do my exercises without music." 
        His radio was the kind you had to plug in.  I could have lent him my transistor, but it only picked up FM stations.
        "Well, at least could you turn the music down and stop jumping?  The whole room shakes.  I don't want to complain or anything, but . . ."
        "Jumping?"  He seemed surprised.  "What do you mean, j-jumping?"  
        "You know, that part where you bounce up and down."
        "What are you talking about?"
        I could feel a headache coming on.  
--From "Firefly," a short story by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, published in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories (Vintage, 2007), pp. 226-248.  First published in the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, 2012).    

Junpei left the house at eighteen when he went to college in Tokyo, and he became involved with several women, one of whom "had real meaning" for him.  He knew this with absolute certainty at the time, and he is just as certain of it now.  Before he could express his feelings in concrete form, however (by nature, it took him longer than most people to put things into concrete form), she married his best friend, and since then she has become a mother.  For the time being, therefore, she had to be eliminated from the list of possibilities that life had to offer Junpei.  He had to harden his heart and sweep her from his mind, as a result of which the number of women remaining who could have "real meaning" in his life--if he was going to accept his father's theory at face value--was reduced to two.  
--From "The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day," a short story by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin, published in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories (Vintage, 2007), pp. 312-332.  First published in The New Yorker (September 26, 2005).  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Short stories by Alice Munro, Lara Vapnyar, and Rebekah Bergman, and a poem by Ellen Bass

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Hazel was cold in this room.  When she checked into the Royal Hotel, earlier in the afternoon, a woman with a puff of gilt hair and a smooth, tapered face had given her the once-over, told her what time they served dinner, and pointed out the upstairs lounge as the place where she was to sit--ruling out, in this way, the warm and noisy pub downstairs.  Hazel wondered if women guests were considered too respectable to sit in the pub.  Or was she not respectable enough? 
--From "Hold Me Fast, Don't Let Me Pass," a short story by Alice Munro, first published in The Atlantic and reprinted in her story collection Friend of My Youth (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990/Vintage, 1991), pp. 74-105.

Vadik arrived in New York on a snowy Saturday morning in the middle of winter.  He woke up as the plane started its descent into J.F.K. and quickly raised his window shade, hoping to catch a glimpse of that famous Manhattan skyline, but all he saw was a murky white mess.  It was still thrilling.
--From "Waiting for the Miracle," a short story by Lara Vapnyar, The New Yorker (April 25, 2016), pp. 80-85.

A taxicab drove into her living room.  There was a gaping hole where her wall had been with half of a taxicab still inside it, and she felt like hosting a party.  She did not know why.  
--From "Theme Party," a short story by Rebekah Bergman, Hobart (May 31, 2016).

We play this age-old sport that's kind of like fetch, except instead of a tennis ball, it is our guilt.  Also, the goal of the game is that it won't come back to you.  
--From "Dog," a short story by Rebekah Bergman, Hobart (May 31, 2016).

I looked like a woman.  
--From "Failure," a poem by Ellen Bass, The New Yorker (June 6 & 13, 2016), pp. 84-85.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fiction by Yoko Ogawa

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Still, it wasn't immediately clear why a cousin, who was so much younger and had been out of touch for so long, should be calling to ask for something, nor could I imagine what I could possibly do to help him.  Instead of answering, I waited for him to continue.  "You see, I'm coming to college in Tokyo in April."
        "You can't be that old already!" I blurted out, honestly astonished.  He'd been a boy of four the last time I'd seen him.  
        "And I'm looking for a place to live, but I'm not having much luck.  Which is why I thought of you."
        "Me?"
        "Yes, I remembered hearing that you lived in a good dormitory when you were in school."  My years in the dormitory came back as we spoke, but the memories seemed as distant as those of playing with this young cousin.
--From "Dormitory," a novella by Yoko Ogawa, published in The Diving Pool: Three Novellas, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Picador, 2008), pp. 109-164.  "The Diving Pool," "Pregnancy Diary," and ""Dormitory" were first published in Japan (1990, 1991).

It was March of 1992 when the Akebono Housekeeping Agency first sent me to work for the Professor.  At the time, I was the youngest woman registered with the agency, which served a small city on the Inland Sea, although I already had more than ten years of experience.  I managed to get along with all sorts of employers, and even when I cleaned for the most difficult clients, the ones no other housekeeper would touch, I never complained.  I prided myself on being a true professional. 
        In the Professor's case, it only took a glance at his client card to know that he might be trouble.  A blue star was stamped on the back of the card each time a housekeeper had to be replaced, and there were already nine stars on the Professor's card, a record during my years with the agency.
--From The Housekeeper and the Professor, a novel by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Picador, 2009).  The Housekeeper and the Professor was originally published in Japan under the title Hakase no Aishita Sūshiki (Shinchōsha Publishing Co., Ltd., 2003).