Sunday, August 9, 2009

Stories for Sunday: Mega Catch-Up Edition

Work and other projects have side-tracked me from Pulp Serenade the past couple of weeks. In fact, it wasn't until a couple of days ago that I actually managed to find time to do any reading for myself. But -- last night on the job was kind of quiet, so I got some time to finish the book I was reading, so I promise a new review ASAP, and some other goodies coming up. And since I missed last week's Stories for Sunday, here's a Mega Catch-Up Edition will all the good stuff that's been going on during my absence.

First up is Nik Morton's "I Celebrate Myself" over at Beat to a Pulp. A couple months back I featured Morton's story "Spend Now, Pay Later" (which if you haven't already read, then take a break, read it, then come back). What both stories share is a keen awareness of social and economic plights that are empathetic rather than didactic, as well as a brooding anxiety over the fate of the next generation. In Morton's latest story, a police officer is called to dig through a trash compactor in the projects after someone claims to have heard a baby crying inside. Vividly caressed details make the characters and situation all the more real and relatable.
"The stench was overwhelming, a mixture of mildewed fast-food, feces, rotten fruit, used sanitary towels, crumpled tabloid sheets of the New York Daily News and God knows what. I gagged and fought back the bile that threatened to lead a revolt of my stomach as I crawled over trash in the shadows. If my husband could see me now, he'd have a fit."

Read Nik Morton's "I Celebrate Myself" here at Beat to a Pulp.

Speaking of Beat to a Pulp, Patti Abbott had a story there last week, "Esther Meaney," and it's really terrific (and we'd expect nothing less from her). In just the first paragraph of the story, a perceptive sentence like this reveals a world of pained memories outside of the story: "If other women took a baseball bat out of the basement when their husbands were away, Mom put hers down after Dad left." Reticent details like these are one of Abbott's specialities, and say more than a page full of labored lists ever could. Her latest story is about a twelve year old boy who gets a new babysitter, Esther Meaney, who surprises him by guzzling bourbon, chain-smoking cigarettes, reading comics – oh, and she robs convenient stores as well.
"Sometimes," she began, "a girl's got to do things she'd rather not." She looked at me closely. "Just to survive, that is."
Read Patti Abbott's "Esther Meaney" here at Beat to a Pulp.

You've heard me rave about Keith Rawson's stories before, and as long as he keeps pumping out stories I'll continue to push there here at Pulp Serenade. He has a new one over at A Twist of Noir called "What I Lost Along With My Keys" about a real estate salesman and his recently out-of-work wife and their growing estrangement. It's as bleak as it is hilarious, and everything comes to screeching, devastating, face-slapping halt in the last three paragraphs. I won't ruin Rawson's carefully orchestrated effect by telling you anymore, but I do want to quote one of the many pants-pissing funny moments in the story:
"I thought about buying her puppy, but I figured she’d end up drowning it in the bathtub in a fit of rage the minute the little furball took a dump on the carpet and would beat me unconscious with the corpse the second I walked through the front door; so I scratched the idea entirely and let her stew in her own juices."
Read Keith Rawson's "What I Lost Along With My Keys" at A Twist of Noir.

Another Pulp Serenade regular, Paul D. Brazill, has served up another of his specialties over at Blink Ink. This one's called "Bang!" – true to its title, it's a quick shot of Brazill's characteristic wordplay. Sometimes all you need is just 37 well-picked words.

Read Paul D. Brazill's "Bang!" here at Blink Ink.


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