short story mixtape vol. 2: journeys + getaways

getting back on that fiction beat now that I’m home. but still in transition back to normal life. so here’s an attempt to bridge the gap: a list of short stories about voyages and vacationers and travelers and getaways.

descent of the aquanauts kathryn davis: a group of young girls at the beach are regaled with the tale of the aquanauts, as told by Janice, an older woman with a perfect golden-brown tan. the moon and the ocean are major players, but under the surface, Davis writes and youth and vulnerability in precise and original language that pops a punch.

a romantic weekend mary gaitskill: the title says it all (or does it? wink): a man and a woman go on a little getaway. Gaitskill is fearless and raw and edgy and funny in this brilliant story about relationships and power, and that gap between what we think and feel and what we say and do.

rock springs richard ford: also about a couple on a getaway. but a different kind of getaway. in a stolen getaway car. with a child and a dog. the narrator, the unforgettable, heartbreakingly well-intentioned but inescapably flawed Earl, gets a tattoo that says FAMOUS TIMES to commemorate it all. and you’ll want to, too.

interpreter of maladies jhumpa lahiri: this often anthologized story follows the Das family on vacation in India, as seen through the eyes of their hired driver, Mr. Kapasi. Lahiri’s eye for details and rich prose brings the vivid setting to life, and makes these complicated characters feel fully, believably human.

love and hydrogen jim shepherd: two star-crossed lovers journey from Germany to the United States on the doomed Hindenburg. the ending is obvious (it crashes!), but little else is. Shepherd’s unique knack for bringing historic details to life in fiction is on full display here, as is his winning humor.


short story mixtape vol. 1: swimming

short story mixtapes are stories organized by theme, the way all the best mixtapes from your high school sweetheart were, obviously.

volume one is stories for late summer swimming hole vibes. weird things happen in the water.

the swimmer John Cheever: probably the most famous of legendary Cheever’s stories, “the swimmer” follows what happens when Neddy Merril decides to swim across all the pools in the country. a flawless blend of the real and the surreal in the very real and surreal setting of suburban America.

where we must be Laura van den Berg: bigfoot, love, death, rotting pears, nighttime lake swimming: if you’re not sold by now I don’t know what else to tell you. Laura van den Berg is one of my favorite contemporary writers. her narrators always make you feel like they’re letting you in on a little shared secret, like they’re spilling their hearts out just to you, and the narrator here is no different.

child’s play Alice Munro: just Alice Munro doing her thing, being the reigning queen of short fiction, revealing the depths and complexities of the human condition. no big deal. this story follows two girls at summer camp, and one event that leaves them marked forever.

the swim team Miranda July: “swimming” is very loosely and delightfully interpreted here, and I won’t spoil the joyful surprise by telling you how. this is one of the shorter stories from July’s collection no one belongs here more than you. the characters are so delightful and endearing you’ll wish it was longer.

Men under water Ralph Lombreglia: if you are having a bad day, take some time to lose yourself in the misadventures of Flip and Gunther, a pair of business partners whose relationship manages to be both dysfunctional and touching. you’ll laugh at the delightful dialogues between Flip, Gunther, and a rock band called Acid Rain. you’ll be moved by the gorgeous underwater ending.