The SHORT TALE Review aims to promote the art of the short story. This much over-looked, yet wonderfully creative form deserves a little more love and attention.

STR brings you links to some of the finest short stories written, plus insightful, fun and constructive reviews of stories by authors well-known or otherwise.

Submissions welcome.

Contact giles@chalkward.com for more details.

 

 

 

September 2016

 

 

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Last Night – James Salter

Something of a lost master of the short story, he published a number of collections in his lifetime, despite being better noted as a novelist.

READ THE STORY HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

 

 

August 2016

 

 

 

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Referential – Lorrie Moore

A double-header – two stories for the price of one! You choose which order you want to read them in!

Referential by Lorrie Moore was published in the Telegraph in 2014 and came from the collection ‘Bark: Stories’.

READ THE STORY HERE

“Written as something of a homage to Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Signs & Symbols’, or rather a sequel to the events in that tale, Referential cleverly references the original in both style and content. I came to the original after reading Moore’s interpretation – it might be worth reading Nabokov’s story first:”

Signs & Symbols – Vladimir Nabokov

READ THE STORY HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Two Boys – Lorrie Moore

Lorrie Moore is an internationally recognised American short story writer and novelist. Her first collection was Self-Help published in 1985. This story comes from the collection Like Life. There is a write-up about the collection here and an excerpt from the story.

READ AN EXCERPT HERE

“A wonderfully candid view of one woman’s relationship with two very different men. One is married and free-wheeling, the other available but intense. The narrator, Mary, refers to them  as One and Two throughout – we don’t need to know their real names, this isn’t about them, it’s about Mary – and ponders on an imaginary dream combination to make up Three. Full of delightfully phrased prose and steeped in misgivings, what-could-be’s and resigned realisation, this is trademark Lorrie Moore at her best.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

 

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Make Something Up (Short Story Collection) – Chuck Palahniuk

You can draw a line from Raymond Carver to Palahniuk taking a well-worth-it detour via George Saunders and have a pretty fair take on great American storytelling. Despite having published a number of individual short stories in various publications over the years, this is Palahniuk’s first collection and is worth checking out. “Zombie’ is typical of the whimsical imagination that litters the collection and the never-too-far-from-the-surface darkly tinged humour.

Zombie

READ THE STORY HERE

For the rest of the collection you’ll have to buy the book, but there are a number of older short stories to be found online, including:

Escort

READ THE STORY HERE

Cannibal

READ THE STORY HERE

Guts

READ THE STORY HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner – Alan Sillitoe

Maybe a little more than a short story, this famous tale comes in an eponymous slim volume accompanied by a number of other Sillitoe stories.

READ THE STORY HERE

“Cousin-by-association to perhaps the more famous ‘Kes’ by author Barry Hines, this story was written in the late fifties and helped paint a picture of gritty northern upbringing that has been replayed myriad times in the form of kitchen sink dramas. Hines and Sillitoe might single-handedly have made Coronation Street what it thinks it should be to this day. Loneliness… tells the story of a poor working class boy apparently bereft of prospect or hope. The long distance running of the title is the boy’s only escape and the story pulls you along with his every stride, sharing his frustration – you can feel the gorse at your ankles and the raw cold morning frost needle your thighs. Masterly.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Guts – Chuck Palanuik

WARNING: This story is not for the faint-hearted. From the joined-up short story collection ‘Haunted’ this story has something of a folklore following for the effect it’s had on some readers! Only read on an empty stomach – ha ha!

READ THE STORY HERE

“Don’t let Guts put you off Palahniuk’s short writing – it might not have been the best example of his oeuvre, but still, like all good short tales I bet it gets a reaction! Rather, you might like to check out his 2015 collection ‘ Make Something Up’ a wonderfully, eclectic mix of disarming tales. Reviews of a couple of those works coming soon!”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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New Stories – Giles Ward

His New Glasses

A previously unpublished story, but look out for it soon at www.platformforprose.com

READ THE STORY HERE

Jessica Burgess

And whilst we’re having fun, another (short) short tale about a lovely lady:

READ THE STORY HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

 

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Vertical – B.T. Stanwitz

Here’s a recently re-discovered short piece from BT Stanwitz. Originally published in the US Sci-Fi journal The Mars Periodical in 1963.

READ THE STORY HERE

“You may not be familiar with the name, but you will know many of BT Stanwitz’s stories from his many movie and television adaptations. Stanwitz was a formative proponent of the sci-fi genre, writing pieces for some of the most eminent science fiction publications of the forties, fifties and sixties. This is a little-known story, only recently re-discovered, written just two years before his death in an experimental rocket-fuel mishap at his home in Connecticut* (*Wikipedia citation).”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

June 2016

 

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Whilst The SHORT TALE Review takes a (very) brief sojourn, here are a few highly recommended short stories from around the web to keep you satiated:

City Lovers – Nadine Gordimer

From The New Yorker, an audio short story:

HEAR THE STORY HERE

Spring in Fialta – Vladimir Nabokov

READ THE STORY HERE

The School – Donald Barthelme

READ THE STORY HERE

Sea Oak – George Saunders

Yes, I know, Saunders again. Can’t apologise, I’m afraid – best short story around at the moment! Courtesy of the Barcelona Review:

READ THE STORY HERE

Chance Traveler – Haruki Murakami

A first for Murakami on this site. Always a pleasure:

READ THE STORY HERE

The Embassy of Cambodia – Zadie Smith

READ THE STORY HERE

Back soon…

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Caravan Thieves (Short Story Collection) – Gerard Woodward

Rather than a single short story, here is a collection of stories by author Gerard Woodward. This is his first collection published in 2008. His latest collection, Legoland, is out now. I don’t have a link to one of the stories to read, but I urge you to pick up the book if you can – a consistently good read. Don’t just believe me though:

READ THE GUARDIAN’S REVIEW

“There is a quietly under-stated malevolence at play in this series of short stories. The apparently mundane, even banal, comes to life with the slightest twitch of a reveal. It is this underlying darkness that gives these stories their potent mix of charm and intrigue. The power of suggestion is ever present and is handled masterfully leaving the reader with ample room for interpretation. Woodward writes with a willingness to let the reader do at least some of the work for themselves – making this an ultimately rewarding collection to read.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

May 2016

 

 

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2 B R 0 2 B – Kurt Vonnegut

This science fiction short story first appeared in the US digest magazine ‘Worlds of Science Fiction’ in 1962 and was eventually published with much of his other writing in the 1999 collection ‘Bagombo Snuff Box’.

READ THE STORY HERE

“After Carver last week, here is another heavyweight of the short story genre. If you are not familiar with Vonnegut don’t let the tag of science fiction put you off (if you’re not of fan of sci-fi that is). He is a master of all genres and never let himself be trapped by time and place. He is just as at home with crime, kitchen sink drama and the downright surreal.

In typical Vonnegut fashion he wraps big issues cleverly in amongst amusing lightweight conceits. He is the master of seduction drawing us in before disarming us with his real intent.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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No Corners – A. Joseph Black

This story initially appeared in The Incubator, the preeminent Belfast literary magazine, and described by the author as a good old-fashioned fireside yarn.

READ THE STORY HERE

“Here is the tale of a lighthouse keeper and the stories he spins for his grandson. Using the familiar story within a story device to winsome effect, the narrator takes a step back to let Eddie tell his tale. This is a clever ploy and ensures the reader is given permission to believe the outlandish nature of his tales: There’s nothing so charming as an old boy spinning his yarn. So, the tale Eddie tells is the surreal account of the unfolding events of what happens from the moment he stumbles upon the body of a dead turtle. As implausible as Eddie’s story is he tells it with a wry smirk that leaves both his grandson, and us, guessing what is real and what isn’t.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Vertical – B.T. Stanwitz

Whilst we are in the mood for a little retro science fiction, here’s a recently re-discovered short piece from BT Stanwitz. Originally published in the US Sci-Fi journal The Mars Periodical in 1963.

READ THE STORY HERE

“You may not be familiar with the name, but you will know many of BT Stanwitz’s stories from his many movie and television adaptations. Stanwitz was a formative proponent of the sci-fi genre, writing pieces for some of the most eminent science fiction publications of the forties, fifties and sixties. This is a little-known story, only recently re-discovered, written just two years before his death in an experimental rocket-fuel mishap at his home in Connecticut* (*Wikipedia citation).”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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The Bath – Raymond Carver

The Bath is a short story from Carver’s collection ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ first published in 1981.

READ THE STORY HERE

“So, mixed in amongst these reviews is a real heavyweight of the short story genre. Not only is Carver considered the natural successor to Chekov’s real-life short tale storytelling, but The Bath (and it’s later, longer version A Small, Good Thing) is regarded as one of his finest achievements.

If you are not familiar with Carver then you are in for a treat. He is renowned for creating tiny slices of voyeuristic wonder. His other collections include ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Elephant’, but there’s no better place to start than with ‘What We Talk About…’

It’s not for me to review! It’s all been said anyway. Just enjoy.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Orange Juice – Cath Barton

This short piece of fiction appears in Idler and was first published and illustrated by Sue Gent for Inktrap Magazine

READ THE STORY HERE

“This is a very short tale written with a confident freedom that keeps the pace moving. It centres on the reminiscences of the narrator and his friend as ten year olds. It is summer and the possibilities are endless. They are allowed to escape and explore the world in a way their mothers can’t and there is adventure to be had. But from the very beginning of the story something is not right and we are warned that something shocking happens. This is the pivotal device by which the story holds us. What at first appears to be a very normal trip promises to reveal abnormal events. This tension is maintained carefully and when the shock comes it hits hard. This is a well paced story, that might only have been improved by a little more background understanding of the motivations of the resulting actions.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:

The matter-of-fact tone and reveal is disarming and reminds me of the famous Carver story ‘Tell the Women We’re Going’ from his collection ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ about two life-long friends and the shocking change that comes over one of them. If you haven’t read Carver’s story read it here:

READ THE STORY HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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The Mission – Joy Williams

The Mission was first published in Little Star #5 and is published here by Harpers Magazine. Williams is the author of four novels, including Honored Guest, and three books of short stories.

READ THE STORY HERE

“The heroine (and she is a heroine) of this Joy Williams story has been imprisoned for a felony that she considers mundane compared her fellow inmates’ crimes. She has driven her car through a cemetery leaving her bemused at the disproportionate reaction; They howled for my ruin. I’d been told their anguish was existential and therefore without limit or promise of closure. Reparation would never be enough.’ It is this wonderful, disarming use of language that sets the tone for the story. Our narrator is an unreliable, yet engaging voice. She talks of her incarceration as one looking in from the outside. She is rebellious, mischievous and condescending of her fellow ‘guests’ and yet we have this feeling that actually she is rather proud of her ‘stay’.

This is a great story that moves at pace thanks to some marvellous dialogue, not only from our narrator but also from the part-players Mr. Hill and the Lawyer; ‘ “I want to be able to come and go out there.” “Don’t we all,” the lawyer said. “I mean in the deepest sense.”’ Ultimately her incarceration isn’t as it seems, but somehow – wonderfully – we don’t feel unhappy for her, we feel she has found herself exactly where she wants to be.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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A Place of Love – Anna Nazarova-Evans

Anna has had a number of short stories published in publications like Spelk Magazine, TSS Short Story and Firefly Magazine.

READ THE STORY HERE

“The funeral of an old man in a small Ukrainian town brings back his son and in doing so re-ignites the feelings of the townsfolk he left behind. Not least is Dasha, whose unresolved love has left her longing for his return. It is not only a longing for him, but also for their shared lost past and long-hoped-for future. Her Aunt is quick to warn Dasha that the returning Bogdan is no longer the person she thinks he is.

This is a tale with complex themes running through it – the longing for a future as yet unrealised and the loss of hope – that feel like they deserve deeper exploration. After opening on the funeral much of the story is revealed through dialogue, a device that at times feels a little rushed. There is a lot to be explained and the reader isn’t given much time to discover the protagonists’ motivations for themselves. That said, the premise of the story is both powerful and engaging, ultimately leaving us wanting to linger a little longer amongst these characters’ lives.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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The Grappler – Daniel Soule

This story first appeared in The Incubator Journal. Check out more of Dan’s writing at http://www.grammatology.co.uk/.

READ THE STORY HERE

“Maybe you are into wrestling, or may be you are not. But this story is for you. And surely that’s the secret of good writing – be it in its short or novel-length form – to draw you into subject matter you might not otherwise be compelled to read.

This is the tale of a wrestling match, not at first everybody’s cup of tea, however the detail in this case is handled with impressive aplomb. This level of description is not usually allowed breathing space within a short story. Lines like; ‘He usually circled to the left, his right, to the outside of my left jab, where unless I have some tricky spinning techniques, which I don’t, he’d avoid my big right hand and power-double.’ feel reassuringly authentic. Often writers put too much emphasis on the ‘story’ not on the mood and that can make for rushed prose. The Grappler is more about the moment in the style of short story masters of understatement like Carver or Chekov. And it’s much better for it.

Yes, there is a craving to understand more of the relationship between our narrator and ‘Pops’ – we suspect it is a dynamic responsible for many of the motivations in the story – and yes there’s a typo in the first line (should be to not too) but these are small gripes amongst a surprisingly engaging tale – and that’s from someone who doesn’t understand the first thing about wrestling!”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Things That Have Been – Giles Ward

This short tale is taken from the collection Spill (some stories) published in 2015. And has also recently been published in the wonderful Craik Review here:

READ AT THE CRAIK REVIEW

“Great story. Atmospheric and disturbing. All things I like.” – Wiebo Grobler

Spill (some stories) is now available on Amazon

BUY SPILL (some stories) HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Beach Glass Blues – Sara Codair

This story was first published in SickLit Magazine. You can find more of Sara’s writings at  https://saracodair.com/adjunct-thoughts

Beach Glass Blues – by SARA CODAIR

“As an ‘adult’ story about the world of mermaids, mermen and merfolk this could be, let’s be quite honest, a bit silly and childish in the wrong hands. Even more so when used as a device to question sexual politics. Thankfully Sara Codair is an adept enough storyteller to navigate us through these potential pitfalls.

Rather than being a one-dimensional story of a mermaid finding her place amongst her people (fish) this is an exploration of independence and growth universal in nature. Adding to the pace of the story is a cut-away to a human world told through the things – in this case broken glass – people have left behind. It is a sub-story that merits further exploration and there is a sense that we could have learned more about these characters and ultimately the motivations behind the consequences of their actions.

You can almost smell the brine. This story would be wonderful to read next time you are sat beside limpet-encrusted rock pools spying at the sun through a shard of discarded salt-sea worn glass.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Man On The Stairs – Miranda July

From the collection ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’

READ THE STORY HERE

“This short tale opens with the uncomplicated premise of a woman waking in her bed to the sound of a man’s footprints coming up the stairs. But there the familiar story device ends and we find ourselves entwined in a dark tale of anxiety and paranoia. The biggest worry we find isn’t who the man is, his intentions or the fear that the unknown brings, but rather it is the whirling thoughts within the narrator’s mind about the concerns that plague her life.

There are beautiful passages of wordplay here; ‘my breath was cowering, I couldn’t shape it.’ But what makes this story magical is the unexpected source of the narrator’s fear – fear not for unknown and unexpected, but rather for the known and expected; her relationship with her boyfriend, her own shortcomings, her disappointment in her best friend. Real life, we discover, scares her far more than any spooky, ghost-like stranger on the stairs.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

April 2016

 

 

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Goodbye Baba – Sana Arshad

READ THE STORY HERE

“This is the touching tale of Zee leaving behind his home, his past and his family’s faithful employee Baba Khan. We don’t know why he’s having to leave, where he’s going or what has happened to all the other residents of the home that we learn once lived there. And we don’t need to – that is the magic of this little story – we are left to fill in the gaps and finish the story the way we want. Often short stories try to cram far too much of the story in and leave us with very little opportunity to use our imagination. Less is definitely more in this case.

This is a sensitively written tale, the pace quietly confident and self-assured, with touching, simple observations throughout; ‘His street was slowly coming back to life after the quiet of the night.’ However, a small note of criticism might be in the consistency. In the very first line we are told; ‘Reluctantly, he handed over the key.’ Only to be informed moments later that ‘He locked the door for the last time turning the big steel key in the heavy iron lock.’ The magic key (pun intended) to a short story can often be found the smallest details.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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The Lottery – Shirley Jackson

First published in 1948 this is probably Shirley Jackson’s most famous piece and has been published many times since.

READ THE STORY HERE

“The Lottery is renowned for its clever use of the mundane to lead us to the shock of the extreme. If you are not familiar with the story I won’t spoil the ending other than to say that Jackson’s understated writing lulls us into a wonderfully sedate sense of security.

The lottery of the title strikes us as the most ordinary of community events as all the families of a small American town draw lots from a ceremonial black box. One piece of folded paper in the box has a black spot on it.

Jackson uses the analogy of the lottery to challenge the universal acceptance of customs and routines, religious or otherwise.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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At the Corner of the Garden Wall – Megan O’Russell

This story was included in the Athena’s Daughters 2 anthology, released by Silence in the Library Publishing. It is set in the world of The Tethering series, also from Silence in the Library Publishing.

READ THE STORY HERE

“In this fun short story we are led by a young girl, Claire, to a fairy kingdom hidden at the bottom of the garden. Claire is a witch with access to an online wizard world (great idea), pink cat, protective ring and magical spells she can use on a whim. So far, so fantasy world.

A disclaimer: This isn’t my genre. My knowledge doesn’t extend much further than a certain Mr. Potter and his travails, alongside a smattering of Hobbit action. But a story is a story and the reveal, pace and need to capture and hold an audience’s attention holds true whether it’s classified science fiction, steam punk or erotic romance. So, what we have here is a tale full of charm, a dash of mischievous humour and a great flow. Combining dialogue and description to good effect the reader is drawn into this fantasy world.

The tale is apparently part of a larger work and that might help the reader understand more about the world they are being pulled into. Within only a few pages we are thrown a lot of ideas – the home Claire lives in, the Latin spells, the fairy kingdom itself – it’s a lot to make sense of and maybe we need a little more time to familiarise ourselves with the setting: A little more description of the normal world Claire comes from, the mundane, might help highlight the surreal.

This is a fun and engaging tale that wants to take us by the hand and lead us further into this magical garden full of fantastical characters.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Short, short tales – Lydia Davis

If you haven’t come across Lydia Davis’ writing yet, you are in for a treat. She is a master of the flash fiction genre – short snippets of prose that capture a mood, feeling or moment in time.

Here are just a few examples:

READ SOME STORIES HERE

There are a number of her stories spread about the web and you’ll find Odd Behaviour reviewed here at STR.

We also recommend the wonderful collection ‘Almost No Memory’.

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Where? – Stein Riverton (translated by Lucy Moffatt)

Submitted to The SHORT TALE Review.

READ WHERE? BY STEIN RIVERTON

“I cannot comment on the faithfulness of the translation – without the translator’s art for language it is difficult for the reader to fully appreciate how reliably not only the words, but also the spirit of the prose are reproduced.

This tale was apparently originally written in the thirties and it has that other-timely charm about it. It takes on the ‘tale within a tale’ approach to the short story. It’s a device that can deliciously and deliberately wrong-foot the reader. My first instinct on this occasion, however, was the singular similarity between the voices (a symptom of the translation perhaps?).

After a stilted start that leaves us trying to understand what we are being told, the story settles into the tale of a mother driven to distraction by the anxiety of her children returning home from their Aunt’s house. This section is beautifully paced and is hauntingly brooding. We really feel the mother’s pain – she understands something’s wrong long before anyone else does. Even before the children are missing we hear: The mother leaned forward. I heard her whisper: Anne-Marie and Luise. It seemed natural for her to whisper. Since it was their mother whispering, the two children on the street would surely hear it. But then she straightened up. “No, it isn’t them,” she said…”’ It is a mother’s sixth sense revealing itself.

This is a cleverly constructed story that draws you in deeper and deeper until you are sharing the underlying menace. Riverton (with the help of Lucy Moffatt) is certainly a writer worth exploring further.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Diagnosis – Giles Ward

This short tale is taken from the collection Spill (some stories) published in 2015.

READ THE STORY HERE

Spill (some stories) is now available on Amazon

BUY SPILL (some stories) HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Haven – Alice Munro

From the 2012 collection ‘Dear Life’.

READ THE STORY HERE

Also (for a limited time) currently featured on BBC Radio 4

LISTEN

“Alice Munro needs no introduction as a short story writer. Her matter-of-fact approach to prose and detail is disarming initially but gradually reveals itself as a clever means to lead us through her stories. In ‘Haven’ she doesn’t judge a young girl’s idealistic view of her Aunt and Uncle’s relationship. She lets us do that.

The young girl is living / staying with her relatives. They seem so alien to her own family that instantly she is drawn to the manner of their relationship – the orderliness; the neat and tidy understanding; the happiness of her Aunt. Gradually we realise the cost by which this imagined happiness has arrived: An unflinching commitment and love for her husband covers the underlining malice of a very one-sided relationship.

The magic in this tale is the innocent eyes of the narrator who looks upon the scene with such simple appreciation, we want to scream for her to grow up and see what’s happening for real. She, however, can’t be blamed, she’s too young to understand. The Aunt, on the other hand, is a fully grown woman and her betrayal is so plain and painful for us to watch.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Angel’s Laundromat – Lucia Berlin

From the short story collection: A Manual For Cleaning Women

READ THE STORY HERE

“Loss and longing are at the heart of this short tale from Lucia Berlin whose career is having a long over-due re-assessment.

We don’t know our storyteller’s name but very quickly we are by her side, aware that there is deep loneliness and a yearning need compelling her to keep re-visiting the downbeat Laundromat on the opposite side of town to where she lives. A disparate cast of characters pass through the shop and it appears that she is looking for some kind of connection to them.

Of note are the elderly Mrs. Armitage, who despite hardly knowing the narrator, hands her a key to her flat for fear she should die and not be found, and the old Apache Indian, Tony. A beautiful relationship grows between our teller and Tony, and despite them both coming from very different worlds they are drawn together by a shared loss: He is yearning for the past of his lost tribe, the narrator loss closer to home, hints of which show themselves bit by bit.

Lucia Berlin is a master of knowing what to leave out, as much as of what to put in and this story is full of wonderful little detail: “…connected yellow plastic chairs, like at airports. They skidded in the ripped linoleum and the sound hurt your teeth.” And beautifully realised sensitivity: “I could see children and men and gardens in my hands.” Simple and powerful.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Alma (Dominican Girlfriend) – Junot Diaz

Published in 2007 in The New Yorker

READ THE STORY HERE

“This is a challenging and aggressive treatise on one couple’s obsessive, but ultimately doomed, love affair. Right from the outset our narrator is clear about the couple’s incompatibility: Alma is slender as a reed, you a steroid-addicted block; Alma loves driving, you books; Alma’s nails are too dirty for cooking, your spaghetti con pollo is the best in the land. You are so very different—she rolls her eyes every time you turn on the news and says she can’t “stand” politics.” They have nothing in common. She, he tells us, is passionate and unpredictable and you sense that, despite himself, our hero can see no hope for the relationship.

We are shown in gory detail how Alma’s vociferous sexual freedom and appetite disarms him and seduces him in equal measure. He is lost as to how he should feel. In the midst of their passion our narrator has lost control and his pride is all that he has left to reaffirm some semblance of control over the situation. Our storyteller keeps pushing Alma away until finally he pushes so hard he drives her away for good. His protestations are hollow and his motivations not as he describes. He has had an affair and yet does nothing to hide it from Alma, quite the opposite he details it in a journal she is able to find and read. His poor excuse that he is making notes for a novel feels as pathetic to us as it surely does to her. Who’s he trying to kid? He wanted out but he didn’t have the strength to make the break himself.

This is a subversive take on the age-old theme of ‘can’t live with, can’t live without’ that leaves us guessing throughout at our narrator’s true motivations. He is an unreliable witness to his own tale and it is for us, the reader, to judge what is real and what is false. A clever piece of storytelling full of distractions.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Short Stories About Mothers

Short Stories About… is to become a series of collaborative publications featuring writings from both published and unpublished authors. The first in the series is …About Mothers, coming soon is …About Madness.

Including illustration and photography alongside flash fiction length writing, this is an ambitious and intriguing project that can be found both online and collected in an impressively produced slimline publication.

Carefully curated throughout …About Mothers features engaging, funny and moving short writing celebrating what it means both to have a mum and be a mum.

The online blog features snippets of many of the stories from the publication as well as others that didn’t quite make it in. Whole-heartedly recommend you check it out.

READ THE BLOG HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Three Stories – David Olsen

Here are three Flash Fiction snippets from writer David Olsen (www.theamericanspeaks.com)

Neighbourhood Watch

READ THE STORY HERE

Static

READ THE STORY HERE

Samaritan

READ THE STORY HERE

“Here are three short tales from writer David Olsen. The first two are ‘flash fiction’ stories coming in at around 700 words. The third is a little longer. It is clear from the off that Olsen loves a story, an idea and a twist: Each story offers the reader a pleasing tease and reveal.

I won’t spoil anything – I like a twist too. Neighbourhood Watch and Static are particularly successful exponents and use the brevity of the flash medium impressively. There is mystery in both: We don’t know why our protagonist in Watch can’t join the outside world, or why in Static the character of an astronaut is talking as he is. The first uses the art of last line reveal to great effect and the second unravels at a pace that keeps us questioning throughout. Static is only slightly undermined by the discrepancy over whether the world beneath him has been destroyed or not: “but now he didn’t know if they were still there to miss him.” Followed not longer after by: “just in time for the world to suffer nuclear annihilation. Eddie had taken the end of the world pretty well.” And a conclusion that could only be motivated by an absolute certainty that there was nothing left on the planet below.

Samaritan opens with a premise that holds much promise. Sitting at home our narrator gets a wrong-number call from a woman calling the Samaritans. What a brilliant idea for a story. Unfortunately the following reveal doesn’t live up to that early expectation. Mental health and an individual’s responses under its influence is a complex subject. How the caller, Gina, talks and acts just doesn’t feel believable and we are offered very little opportunity to empathise with her situation. She is aggressive and defensive, yet has gone to great lengths in the story to ask for help. Again, I won’t ruin the reveal, but something about it doesn’t sit comfortably. This doesn’t feel like a flash fiction idea, but something with the potential to be much bigger and much more involved.

Check out David Olsen’s website for more stories.””

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Laika – Ian Green

Taken from the Anthology of short stories recently published by the wonderful Open Pen (http://www.openpen.co.uk)

READ THE STORY HERE

“Laika is a tender tale of an old man who has removed himself from life and human companionship. Instead he favours protective isolation until his nurturing of a wounded dog to health brings him back to the world.

It’s a touching concept but the narrative feels like it has missed an opportunity. We are intrigued at first by the old man’s eccentric behavior, but the backstory of his past life is revealed early on and the mystery is quickly swept away leaving a frustration that we could have been left guessing still longer. The writer doesn’t ask us to work very hard. There are wonderful touches of detail –“at three o’clock every day I eat a tin of sardines in olive oil“ – but they are sparse and undermined by the reliance on those few. The tin of sardines (sometimes salmon) pops up again and again, as does the smell of citrus and pennies (?) and although these are both themes that tie the timeline together, they are with us far too often.

Then there is the change of audience half way through. We are led to believe that we are the audience, but after caring for the dog the storyteller directs the story at him – “We go and you run and sniff at bushes. The wounds on your legs are scars now.” Where does that leave us?

The story has a real charm and a touching ending. We want to believe in the old man and understand his eccentricities, yet, although we are told why he is as he is, we are not fully shown how that affects him. We want to empathise with him, but occasionally the back-story threatens to get in the way. In this case a little ‘less story’ might have given us more opportunity to get to ‘know’ him more.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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I Like Small Rooms – Giles Ward

This short tale is taken from the collection Spill (some stories) published in 2015.

READ THE STORY HERE

Spill (some stories) is now available on Amazon

BUY SPILL (some stories) HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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D.E.A. (Minor) – Will Ashon

Taken from the Anthology of short stories recently published by the wonderful Open Pen (www.openpen.co.uk)

READ THE STORY HERE

“After a compelling opening salvo where we learn that our story’s protagonist, Travis, is being beaten to a pulp by a punky girl band whilst he contemplates how he got there, the story slips into a more steady pace. In some-ways this is a shame as this early intrigue and dark humour keeps us guessing. As he lies on the floor being kicked he critiques the girl band’s performance: He couldn’t deny there was a brutal, driving rhythm developing as they kicked him that he found thrillingly primal. Though he still preferred the diminuendo that occurred as they lost interest…”

Slowly we get the picture; Travis, thirty-something, is at a music festival and finding it hard to leave his youth behind. He has become darkly cynical of the music scene and is starting to see it for how it really is: The magic has been tempered by the lights coming on at the end of the disco. There’s a niggling feeling that the writer might be in the same place. The tale is littered with music scene references that lend authenticity yet risk alienating a wider readership: “the hope that Mark E. Smith might die onstage so you could say I was there, is a very niche reference. Someone’s a big fan – The Fall’s frontman is referenced continuously.

The story is cut into sections between story-reveal and dialogue. The dialogue comes at us at a cantering pace alien to the rest of the story. Through the dialogue we learn that Travis has a young child and ex-wife. In questioning the music scene is Travis questioning himself? The tale turns when Jenny, a girl from the band responsible for beating him up, comes to him in the crowd. We learn that his beating was mistaken identity (a missed opportunity to add more colour to Travis’ past – we are are under no pressure to like him after all) and he is drawn to her only to learn she is as lonely and as alienated as him. Suddenly he has a choice to make.

Despite the staccato feel of the dialogue, this is a story that reveals itself slowly taking us from questioning Travis, and his motivations, to Travis ultimately questioning himself – helping us slip from antipathy for the character to sympathy.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Odd Behavior – Lydia Davis

Something different: The review for this story threatens to be longer than the story itself. There’s short stories and then there’s really short stories. Odd Behaviour is so short I can quote it in full here:

You see how circumstances are to blame. I am not really an odd person if I put more and more small pieces of shredded kleenex in my ears and tie a scarf around my head: when I lived alone I had all the silence I needed.

Odd Behavior first appeared in the 1997 collection ‘Almost No Memory’ and has been recently illustrated in the Paris Review as part of their celebration of Davis’ work:  click here

“In two sentences Davis tells us everything we need to know about how the subject of her brief tale is feeling. In the story we don’t even know if they are male or female – Hallie Bateman’s illustration in the Paris Review portrays her as a girl – but that doesn’t matter, the feeling of a need to escape is universal. We don’t know if this is a momentary, passing need for silence, or a deeper cry for release and freedom, but we can all sympathise on some level with the frustration that the girl’s actions reveal. In reality what appears at first strange is anything but odd behavior.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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I Meet Geronimo – Charles Bane, Jr

Posted on Spelk Flash Fiction site @SpelkFiction

READ THE STORY HERE

“This is a short, sharp blast – hitting under 500 words – and is to be found on the ‘flash fiction’ site Spelk, itself worth checking out if you have a moment.

Maybe it’s because of the brevity of the form but there’s a feeling that there’s so much more to be revealed by the narrator in this story. Meeting Geronimo is a big moment in the young storyteller’s life and we desperately want to know more about he feels about it.

The story opens with some wonderful prose. “The day gaped open for work, and closed for rest” and “my body moved to the wind and I chased after it with long strokes that cut the summer wheat” are beautifully painted descriptions and you feel you are beside him in the fields. But the rest of the story reveals itself too quickly for us to be able to travel along with him comfortably. From here the tale relies heavily on dialogue to do the work (again possibly due to the self-imposed 500 word restriction) when there is a sense that more description – particularly of the smells and sounds of the showground – as well as the young man’s feelings, might have brought the whole story alive even more.

This is a busy, ambitious piece with a beautiful final touch that could have benefitted from a gentler pace and more words – something that is so rarely the case when so many short stories are the victim of being over-worked”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

 

 

March 2016

 

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Collectors – Raymond Carver

Taken from the collection ‘Will You Please Be Quiet Please’.

“Like many compelling short stories ‘Collectors by Raymond Carver’ teases our assumptions about the characters involved. From the moment Aubery Bell, a vacuum salesman, comes knocking at the door the reader is led to make judgments about him, his motivations and the man who answers the door.

This is the Slaters’ house and we assume it is Mr. Slater who reluctantly lets the salesman in to the house whilst his wife is out at work. The man, we are told, is lazing at home waiting for a letter that might bring him his next offer of employment. It is our assumption of these things – rather than the commentator’s explicit direction – that keeps us on our toes. And to extend the trite metaphor, continues to wrong foot us throughout the story.

There are the themes of loneliness and waiting throughout the story. Bell continues to persevere with his complimentary demonstration despite every indication that he won’t see any money for his trouble. You’ve got to ask why he carries on regardless. Whilst the man in the house is consumed with his role waiting for his letter. The suggestion that both characters are ‘somehow stuck’ in their circumstances pervades throughout and is maintained right to the reveal at the end.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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My Lover Has Dirty Fingernails – John Updike

Taken from the collection ‘The Music School’.

“In this short tale from 1967 we are at first given no clue to the relationship between the woman who enters the room and the man behind the desk. Only as her story unfolds do we realise he is someone she is confiding in and we are led to assume he is her therapist or doctor. They appear comfortable with each other as though these weekly visits have been happening for a while. This becomes even more apparent as she freely talks through the disintegration of a past relationship. Whilst she comes across as certain in her mind, her therapist appears frustrated by her and the magic of this short story is in the way that he feels free to challenge her motivations. The twist comes in her inability to accept his criticisms, artfully and manipulatively throwing his accusations back at him. She, surely, can’t be to blame for the ending of the relationship.

As one of America’s finest exponents of the short literary form, Updike is a master of the under-stated. What about this for a wonderful phase: ‘He was immobile, smiling the lightest of listening smiles…’? Rather than leaving you wishing for more the story gently but irrevocably shifts one hundred and eighty degrees to a conclusion as satisfying as the therapist’s own cautious final sigh.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

 

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Butter – Giles Ward

A new, as-yet-unpublished story.

READ THE STORY HERE

The SHORT TALE Review 2016

 

 

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Mother’s Day – George Saunders

The story Mother’s Day was originally published in the New Yorker:

READ IT HERE

“In typical Saunders this short story disarms and enchants in equal measure. There’s no sickly-sweet reminiscing here. This is cold-hard family realities brought home in spectacular fashion. Misunderstanding and disconnect are the key drivers in this short, powerful tale.

Paul is dead and his philandering has left its scars. We are shown how two women’s love for the same man can have very varied consequences. For his wife, Alma, it is the sacrifices towards her children that she has made for him. For his mistress, Debi, it is her willingness to play second fiddle. And for both families the consequences are far reaching and painful.

As with many of Saunders’ short tales it takes a while to understand what he is trying to tell us. The reality gently sweeps out of the swamp of minutiae and vernacular description that he spreads liberally throughout his stories, but that only serves to make the reveal more impactful when it at last appears.

If you haven’t read it yet STR highly recommends his short story collection Tenth of December.”

The SHORT TALE Review 2016