Today my second set of students chose the readings from online magazines. These are the stories they chose (it was all fiction, to my surprise) and the things we talked about.
Yuvi Zalkow -- "Sketch of a Relationship" -- Storyglossia
Here of course the form is very important. The story sketches the progression of a relationship between two characters by showing us scenes sampled from certain days. We talked about the way it starts out pretty close and scene-based, but, as more time passes between sections, things are often more abstracted and narrative-oriented. Derives a lot of its narrative energy from this structure. Also the student appreciated its resolution of the relationship (she sees unambiguously happy endings as unrealistic; I wanted to tell her literary fiction largely agrees but it felt like the wrong time).
Liz Chamberlin -- "Sisters are from Mars, Sisters are from Vegas" -- Storyglossia
Storyglossia continues its domination. This student chose the story because he identified with it both because of biographical similarities (he has four sisters, and I guess some natural tension with them) and in spite of biographical differences (turns out the protagonist is a girl, which he isn't). This led naturally to a discussion of how specificity is necessary for universality. The energy derived from close observation. The arc of the sisters' relationship: he likes how bad things get, the bitter ending. We also talked about the way the second person works here (short version: usually 2nd person sucks, this time it didn't) and how the paragraphs always place "you" immediately. The structural similarities to the previous story, and the differences: both show us little pieces and we infer the whole, however this one is more regular in its passage of time and less dependent on disjunctions.
Mimi Vaquer -- "Creative Handwriting" -- Storyglossia
Okay clearly Storyglossia is doing something right here. My students seem to really like the site. Anyway, the student enjoyed the strange logic of the story, the progression from a fairly familiar situation to a totally unfamiliar one, the pleasure of each paragraph's relationship to the structure of the whole. We talked about the way the paragraphs relate to each other, as well: the empty space between each one (not characteristic of Storyglossia) can contain any amount of time, space, etc. The way each paragraph has its own little charge.
Daphne Buter -- "Why Do Parents Kill the Children of Other Parents" -- NOO Journal
The student emphasized the philosophical content of this story, and the way that in spite of its rather explicit argument there also enters some mystery in particular bits of description and image. Honestly a little sentimental for my liking but we had a good discussion about the choices that were made in terms of description, and in terms of what was said and what was not.
Traci O'Connor -- "Five-Gallon Bucket," "Cicada" -- PANK Magazine
These are my favorites of the bunch, which fact I admitted in class. The students appreciated the way in which the first story progresses exclusively through image and description, and then the way the last sentence reveals and twists so much. I pointed to the power of brevity for a story like this, the way the turn and the images are made more effective by our ability to hold it all in mind at once. We talked about the way "Cicada" gets so much energy out of its focus on and use of one structure, essentially one sentence. The power of her choice of word and image. And so on.