Short Story Advent Calendar 2019: short reviews

Daily videos were great for a couple of years, but that’s gone out the window, so let’s catch up on the Short Story Advent Calendar with a few short reviews. It’s been a pretty good #ssac2019 so far, with a mix of old and new; and traditional and weird.

Day 1: Shelley Oria, “Beginnings”
A song about the end of a relationship that was doomed from the beginning(s). Reminded me of the Feist song “Let it Die”, which you’ll recall as a Seth/Summer song from The O.C., right?

Day 2: Enrique Vila-Matas, “Torre del Mirador” (trans. Margaret Jull Costa)
Wonderfully weird and creepy – not in a scary way, but in a “who’s watching me, who’s real and who’s fake, and do I really know anybody” kind of a way.

Day 3: Anthony Doerr, “Save-A-Lot”
The age-old story of a girl and her raccoon and her drug addicted mother and her kindly landlord. A bit on the nose for me but I still cried.

Day 4: J. Robert Lennon, “The Unsupported Circle”
This reminded me of “don’t laugh or grin” videos on YouTube, but my children inform me that no one watches those anymore, and indeed, TikTok is my go-to for moments of Zen these days. So this may be a bit dated. For an even more obsolete video format, check out my Vine comp:

Day 5: Maggie Shipstead, “Acknowledgements”
Supposedly by the author of Astonish Me, this story about an obnoxious young writer was clearly written by Guy In Your MFA.

Day 6: Casey Plett, “Hazel & Christopher”
Dating when trans is complicated. The complications in this story include unrealistic expectations, moments of vulnerability after years of dashed hopes, and wild coincidences. Just like any other love story.

Day 7: Olga Grushin, “An Errand in the Country”
Familiar themes of family obligation and small town boys becoming citified.

Day 8: Sarah Hall, “Bridgewalker”
I just want to know how this British writer got the voice of a small town American so right (in my estimation, not being American or from a small town).

Day 9: A. B. Cooper, “The Snow Man”
An early 20th century gem that reminded me of O. Henry. And the first dead author of the bunch. Presumably, unless it’s the same A.B. Cooper who wrote a 13-page book about Mindy Kaling in 2014?

Day 10: Elizabeth Crane, “Training Module”
I hate to say it, but I liked this better when it was the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter circa 2014.

Day 11: Jack Pendarvis, “The Wild Man of Mississippi”
I was looking forward to this one because the writer worked on Adventure Time, so it was sure to be weird. It didn’t disappoint, or the reason it did isn’t the story’s fault, it’s just… there’s a lot of writing about writing/writers in here and that’s not really my bag. I loved the deadpan humour, though.

If you prefer to watch me talk about these stories while hungover and being harassed by my children, here you go! Chances of a second update are slim, so checkout #ssac2019 on Twitter or Instagram to keep up to date.


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