16. King, Stephen (2009, November 9) Premium Harmony The New Yorker (Fiction) First line: “They’ve been married for ten years and for a long time everything was O.K. – swell – but now they argue.” Note: I first read King’s craft book, On Writing, a number of years ago, and more recently downloaded it from Audible.com (having loaned the book out into the Bermuda Triangle of loaned books). King narrated the audio version, which was an extra treat. My enjoyment of this story was enhanced by “hearing” King’s voice.
17. Eugenides, Jeffrey (2010, June 7) Extreme Solitude The New Yorker (Fiction) First line: “It was debatable whether or not Madeleine had fallen in love with Leonard the first moment she’d seen him.” Note: Nice illustration with the rumpled sheets, green frisbee with sensuous pears (one with a large bite taken out of it) and randomly scattered sugared candies — perfect evocation of the almost-final scene. I would be interested in your reactions. I would like to learn to read these stories without the heavy filters of my own age, being far away from any university scene and living in the woods in an insular, happy marriage. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, for me, reading anything Sam Shepard is ginger-flavored chocolate cake with a snifter of Calvados, whereas this particular Engenides story is a bit of work, maybe like undercooked broccoli.
18. Vonnegut, Kurt (2009, June) Little Drops of Water Harper’s Magazine (fiction) First line: “Now Larry’s gone.” Note: This previously unpublished story, published posthumously in Harper’s and included in a collection of other previously unpublished stories, Look at the Birdie (Delacorte Press, October 2009). This story from an old master was fun to read. It had a neighborhood tavern feel to it. Funny, too.
19. Franzen, Jonathan (2010, May 31) Agreeable The New Yorker (fiction) First line: “If Patty hadn’t been an atheist, she might have thanked the good Lord for school athletic programs, because they basically saved her life and gave her a chance to realize herself as a person.” Note: I must be missing something here. Cliff Garstang, at Perpeptual Folly, writes such good reviews, including one of this story. I’m glad to have rediscovered Cliff. In the future, I’ll write my “notes from a reader,” and then go to Cliff’s web site to read a genuine review. Cliff is also the editor of a beautiful, classy new journal, Prime Number. They are soliciting fiction, nonfiction and poetry submissions from emerging as well as established writers, so polish up something good and press the send button.