Literary magazines that publish short stories are an easy way to get a taste of a new writer’s work without committing to an entire novel. As a person who still actually pays for books–authors need to eat, too!–I know reading is a commitment of both time and money.
I’ve subscribed to Glimmer Train since (I think) its first issue and, four times a year, it brings me first-rate fiction, mostly by authors previously unknown to me. Quite a few of the stories in the current issue were by authors from other cultures, emigres, exploring dislocation, distance, fitting in, or not. Nine of the 16 stories are written in the first person. This does not mean they are memoir. Their authors used the first-person device to get to the heart of the story, closer and quicker, not having a novel’s 85,000 additional words to do so.
Here are just three stories I particularly enjoyed in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue:
- Eric Thompson’s “The King of India” is a man simultaneously obsessed with Elvis and the fate of his new son. (Do South Asians have a particular affinity for Elvis, I wonder, recalling the recurrent image in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things? Or is it that “The King” is universal?) Poignant and funny.
- “Waterside” by Marni Berger, captivated me with its opening epigram from Anne of Green Gables. It’s about an adolescent friendship between a boy and girl, how the world is seen through the friend’s eyes, and the shell of not-caring adolescents affect. It’s about what matters. The narrator, who buries herself in books, says: “Stories are shelters to hide inside, and you can hide inside someone else’s story to escape your own.” Which of us hasn’t been there?
- The story “The Tune” by Siamak Vossoughi humorously probes issues of connection through the tale of an American who calls her Iranian friend in San Francisco and hands the phone to the Iranian cab driver she’s just met in Chicago. Surely, they will have things to talk about, she believes. Life, for instance. What the two strangers don’t say to each other is as revealing as what they do. Vossoughi’s book Better Than War won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.
And, I learned a new word: scordatura. It means tuning a stringed instrument (a lute, a violin) a little differently, in order to produce a particular effect. Christa Romanosky used it in her story “Every Shape That the Moon Makes” in this nice sentence: “Moods come and go as quickly as rock falls, as a scordatura, moods your ring cannot discern.”
Explore the riches Glimmer Train and other literary publications offer. Find them in your big box book store’s magazine section, library, or online. Feel free to tell me and our readers what you discover!