A case for the long short story

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 11.48.07.pngIt only takes a skim through Amazon Kindle books to confirm what most of us know, that short stories come extremely popular. Recent increased short story collection sales can only mean readers are happy with shorter work, can’t it? In this digital age, isn’t it natural to reach for the concise, flash fiction for example, that can be read from start to finish on the morning commute or in one Sunday sitting. As Sam Baker said in the Telegraph, “the short story finds itself the perfect fit for our attention spans and our mobile devices.” A shorter form momentarily satisfies a craving for what we cannot fit into our schedules; but can a short story or novella truly encapsulate the marvel of a fully-fledged novel?

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Curated: Sunrise Sunset by Edwidge Danticat

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Surely one of the best stories I’ve read this year. 

It comes on again on her grandson’s christening day. A lost moment, a blank spot, one that Carole does not know how to measure. She is there one second, then she is not. She knows exactly where she is, then she does not. Her older church friends tell similar stories about their surgeries, how they count backward from ten with an oxygen mask over their faces, then wake up before reaching one, only to find that hours, and sometimes even days, have gone by. She feels as though she were experiencing the same thing.

Her son-in-law, James, a dreadlocked high-school math teacher, is holding her grandson, Jude, who has inherited her daughter’s globe-shaped head, penny-colored skin, and long fingers, which he wraps around Carole’s chin whenever she holds him. Jude is a lively giggler. His whole body shakes when he laughs. Carole often stares at him for hours, hoping that his chubby face will bring back memories of her own children at that age, memories that are quickly slipping away.

continued on the New Yorker

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Review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

 

20180624_123012I had the great pleasure to meet author Clarissa Goenawan at On Rain, a book reading held by Sing Lit Station. Since we had the opportunity to chat about her book, Rainbirds, beforehand, I have to confess to having been biased in her favour when reading it. Continue reading “Review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan”

Short Fiction: Varying Hues of Solitude

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This is a short story from my archives. It was published as part of the Crossing Borders project run by the British Council. The story is set in Dublin, where I was living at time and brings back some wonderful memories. Enjoy! 

Agatha

Varying Hues of Solitude

8:30 Thursday night: as usual the door opened and he appeared. Tonight’s slight variation was that he carried a little black umbrella that he shook gently, letting the water run onto the floor. He quickly glanced around and then slid into his usual seat where he blended into the shadows obscured in the near dark.

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Review: The Last Immigrant

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In The Last Immigrant by Lau Siew Mei, an Australian born and raised in Singapore, Ismael battles loss and isolation in a nation increasing intolerant towards migrants.

Ismael, like his creator, is a Singaporean migrant to Australia where he’s established an ordinary life in the suburbs. His work is dull and unfulfilling and does not promise any change or promotion, though it significant as it is in the immigration department deciding who to allow into “Fortress Australia”.

When his neighbour – a friend – commits suicide, Ismail is set adrift on an emotional journey through his Iranian and Peranakan heritage, his stint in the United States and his Australian present.

I found the most poignant aspect of the book to be the death of his wife Nat, who eschews modern cancer treatment for prayer and homeopathic treatment. It’s a slow and painful death and perhaps the strongest element of the book.

After Ismael’s wife’s death, his daughter abandons him almost immediately and his cat disappears. I felt that this second section was distinctly weaker than the first. An onslaught of characters pushes Ismael to the side and I began to wonder whose story was being told. Elements of the supernatural enter and I felt they were not very well blended into the narrative.

Nonetheless, it’s a good addition to the Singapore literary canon and was longlisted for the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. I’d recommend it to those who like a touch of mysticism with their books.