Tag Archive: reading picks

Stories to Read Online in July



For whatever beach, balcony or sweaty train you’re on today, some proper hot stories for the start of summer in these new summer issues:

About Her and the Memories that Belong to Her by Mieko Kawakami in Granta Online

Kawakami is a new discovery for me this month. The little prologue to this story is itself a stunning piece.

“If we think of our memories as having a shape, then one possibility is that they come in the shape of a box. I know that this is not entirely an original idea, but that doesn’t make it untrue,” the prologue begins. It’s a beautifully and confidently abstract beginning to a surprisingly specific, grounded story, set at the narrator’s middle school reunion, where she is shocked to learn that an old classmate of hers has died and struggles to remember why the girl is so significant to her.

Dole Girl by Barbara Hamby in the Boston Review

Rightly selected as the winner of the Aura Estrada contest 2015, this story feels so true and surrounding, even though I have absolutely no experience of a Hawaian pineapple canning factory. In fact, you can almost taste the pineapples. A ripe, vivid sense of time and place, plus a compelling character with a burning desire is a winning combination. This story has both in excess. It’s a real lesson in voice, too; the voice of our “Dole Girl” is strong, youthful, naive and streetwise at the same time, making me wish I could read a whole novel of it.

Taxidermy by Vladislava Kolosova in Ploughshares

Set in after-dark Moscow, this is an unsettling story about a young woman who has started having sex for money, to help pay for her studies. One night, she’s picked up by a charismatic, authoritative “New Russian” called Eva who buys a night with her and takes her home to her quiet, boxer-like husband. Like all good shorts, Taxidermy plants its real lightbulb moments just left of center. After the sex, after the drama, the quiet moment gives this story its edge.

My Life by Chantal Clarke in N+1

This is a terrifying but profoundly funny little story. We are tricked by the narrator at first, as in plain childlike language, she describes the bare bones of her life, “I HAVE A HOUSE, and it’s great. My money bought it, so it’s mine. I love to live in it,” she begins. But she reveals after a while, and with glee, that she’s really “Predator 923,” a drone who is “writing simply so you’ll trust me.” Be warned, this story might make you want to try all kinds of weird stuff in your work.

Congregation by Christopher Alessandrini in the Harvard Advocate

A little treat from a magazine very close to my heart. This story follows a girl working at a summer camp. From the outside, she seems to be on the brink of something, some beginning of real life, but to her, the world of the camp and the array of girls and boys that form her camp society, is its own special kind of real life. Searing sharp human observation meets beautiful lines describing the architecture, natural and otherwise of “Link’s Seafood & Bait” where the camp is situated: “Out by the sheds, the bulrush swells with frog song and birds, whip-thin plovers and orioles halving through the stalk like light on water, all that good gossip and whisper.”

What are your reading recommendations for July?

Top 5 Short Things To Read Online This Month



More unconventional stories to get you thinking this month, from journals, mags and other places online.

A Numbered Graph That Shows How Each Part of the Body Would Fit Into A Chair by Mary Jo Bang in Granta

A little square paragraph of poetry to bring out your experimental side today. The illusion of prose that Mary Jo Bang creates here gives a feeling of domesticity, of simple confession, but the inner workings and convolutions make it a much denser, deeper animal.

Tuesday Night Figure Drawing at the Community Center by Diana Smith Bolton in Anderbo

This delightful little scene is a great example of how effective it can be to create your own unique jargon as you write, a language that belongs only to the world of your story. Here, Bolton’s life model navigates different faces as she changes poses, each introduced by its nickname, the “Renaissance Face” transforming into the “Les Miserables Face;” this unique language creates a comic peculiarity that sticks in the mind after the story is done.

The Easing by Gary Joshua Garrison in decomP

This is an uncomfortable narrative. In a stream of violent sensations and little idea of the rules and physics of this setting, The Easing reminds me of the opening of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, huge, abstract scope but with a very real sense of menace. A good one to read if you’re trying to write some horror or suspense.

Pleasure to Make Your Acquaintance by Sarah Kokernot in Crazyhorse

Character and place are quickly and gorgeously evoked in this story, which follows the young, charismatic Magdelena Schuller as she begins to work for Mrs. Woods of Hot Springs, Arkansas one spring. Read for its exquisite sense of place and time, and the way detail, gesture, and routine create characters’ relationships with one another.

Dead Mouse by Caroline Macon in [PANK]

“There is a teeny tiny dead mouse on the back porch. He died about three days ago and looks corpsier every time I pass by.” What a way to start a story! This creepy but super colloquial voice has a strange fresh kind of lyricism to it. It lulls us in with its unserious tone and then comes out with gems of human observation – “It takes a lot of energy to miss someone I hardly know at all”  – and it comes with an audio version so you can get your fiction fix on the go.

What are your reading picks of the month? Share them with us!

5 Reasons You Should be Reading The First Bad Man by Miranda July


I have encountered Miranda July’s work at seemingly regular intervals since first discovering her when I watched a clip from her film Me, You, and Everyone We Know and then went on to buy the film and watch it probably three times in a row. She always seems to coincide, to crop up just when I’ve forgotten her or at an important moment, and that’s part of her talent; she makes you form a relationship with her, even if you don’t want one, and catches you out with moments of honesty so rare you almost don’t recognize them.

The latest episode in this relationship with July is her novel The First Bad Man, which follows narrator Cheryl from disappointing but vivid love life, reclusive bachelorette-hood, to new realms of motherhood and lover-hood that are at once shocking, almost repulsive, and thrilling. Here’s why you should put The First Bad Man next on your reading list:

It’s more than just a debut

The First Bad Man is July’s debut novel, but it’s also just the next in her line of Miranda July products. She seems unrestricted by genre and form, and for anybody trying to churn out their own debut novel, The First Bad Man is a great example of how not to succumb to the pressure of the all-encompassing, everyman novel, spanning lifetimes and generations, speaking to all the universal themes at once. A novel can emerge easily and with a sense of humor, and take its place humbly beside little films and short stories to enrich a collection rather than stand alone as a grand statement.

She admits how terrifying it is to love somebody

“Sometimes I looked at her sleeping face, the living flesh of it, and was overwhelmed by how precarious it was to love a living thing. She could die simply from lack of water. It hardly seemed safer than falling in love with a plant.” This is simple and sad but reassuring and shows July at her best.

She has found a new thing in quirky

“Quirky” is a word that follows Miranda July around. Sometimes her voice is so off-kilter, aware of itself, and ironical that she seems to be having a joke with us. And she sort of is. But it’s a joke we can all laugh at and see ourselves in. In The First Bad Man, July has found the magic spot between quirky style and truth. What it’s like to live on your own, what motherhood is like before you’re a mother, how you can love somebody without even knowing them. “We don’t always know what intimate life consists of until novels tell us,” Lorrie Moore said in her piece about July and I think July’s novel tells us almost constantly throughout its 200 odd pages.

It makes you realize just how abnormal everybody is 

It’s possible to react to July’s work with a sense of distant distrust. She seems to be talking about phenomena she observes in human nature, but the surface of her telling is so relentlessly aesthetic, cute, wry, modern, that sometimes we stop reading deeply, stop noticing the truth of her bizarre characters. Cheryl, even with her panoply of quirky traits, her globes hystericus, her obsession with her dish washing routine, her ongoing love affair with a particular infant, is actually mirroring you in ways you might not want to admit.

She has a treasure chest of work that you can explore afterwards

There’s always more to explore with Miranda July. With a lot of other writers, after their novel is released, they disappear, into some corner of their house and don’t appear again until they have a new book. But Miranda July is always on show it seems. Once you’ve finished The First Bad Man, you can watch her films, check out her app, her Twitter, go see her perform somewhere. Her fearless productivity is one reason why she’s definitely one version of the future of writing.

Image: from Somebody, somebodyapp.com

Literary Picks of the Web – January 2015

Patryk Sobczak

In the middle of a blizzard is the perfect time to catch up with the new offerings of literary places online. There are some cracking new digital issues out this month, and here are our picks:

What Happened to the Bird People by Monique Wentzel in Boston Review

The story centres around a mysterious “sinkhole,” discovered one night in a neighbourhood in Lubbock, Texas. As the bottomless hole grows, it swallows whole houses and effects the neighbourhood in wideranging, unpredictable ways. Then the birds arrive… The way the author conjures the community, the media and the military, and the strange transformation of the landscape into one where birds and citizens are caught up together in a mythic new existence, is ambitious, dreamy stuff.

Air Schooner Episode 48: War Portfolio

This audio episode of popular mag Prairie Schooner includes Edwardo Halfon reading from his story “The Lady in the Red Coat,” and Martha Silano reading her poem “Distressed Boyfriend Khaki’s.” Eduardo Halfon’s story is intensely personal, describing an important figure in his life, the woman in the red coat, an unlikely member of the guerilla that kidnapped his grandfather. Hear Halfon decribe this background and his urge to put together the fragments of his family’s real story.

Match by Kristen Keckler in Literary Juice

A sweet twist on the how-we-met anecdote in this piece of flash from Literary Juice. Keckler describes the simple details that form couples’ first attraction, the first details that persuade two people of their suitability for each other. “He’d read the latest DiLilo novel she had on her coffee table, and they’d both gone to college upstate,” her narrator recalls. Simple, and compelling storytelling.

Squirrel Trouble at Uplands by Castle Freeman Jr. in New England Review

This story follows Else the night she leaves her boyfriend, a cop with a possessive hold on her and a gun by his bed. She goes to stay at her sister’s unused house in the country, called Uplands, where her only company, apart from her sister’s nightly phonecalls, is the band of squirrels that inhabits the roof. As Else gets used to this temporary new life, the presence and absence of danger forms her landscape, and the writer does an excellent job of guiding our experience towards an uneasy ending.

Love and Fiction Part 1 by Sigrid Nunez in Little Star Weekly

I just discovered this lovely magazine. Little Star. For just 1.99, you can purchase a weekly – it’s a really easy and inexpensive way to support new fiction and fill your head with intriguing new stories every week. The first part of this story by Sigrid Nunez is touching, honest and observant, showing a young girl’s distress when a big-eared boy from school starts wooing her by riding his bicycle outside her house. I’m really looking forward to reading the next part.

What are your picks of the month so far? Tweet us your recommendations!

Image: Patryk Sobczak