Welcome to my first installment of a weekly feature, when I spotlight a short story I’ve read. Why? Because short stories are like knife fights in phone booths: short, sharp and deadly!
When I finished the Odyssey Writing Workshop back in 2005, I spent the next four or so years avoiding novels and reading and writing short fiction (all other reading and writing was focused on my dissertation). I wanted to give myself an informal MA in the short stuff, and hunted down cool collections, obscure anthos from libraries, and since I worked in a bookstore and got a mad discount, I bought a lot of them, too. But as I could only manage reading a few stories a week, I rarely finished a collection, and I still keep buying more and I’m still reading them! So, once a week, I’ll toss a recommendation at you from either “The World’s Most Dangerous Library” or something I caught online.
First up, Haruki Murakami’s “Nausea 1979,” from BLIND WILLOW, SLEEPING WOMAN.
A tale of adultery, vomit, and ghostly phone calls. What’s amazing is that with these elements, you’d think it was a horror story. Guy sleeps around with his friend’s wives and girlfriends, and the unvierse punishes him with ghostly threatening phone calls and nausea that gets worse and worse until he shapes up-
Nah! Murakami’s not interested in that kind of tension, and goes for a much funnier and satisfying conclusion. What drives the story instead of typical plot escalation is the character’s personality, which is, like a lot of Murakami characters, riddled with a kinetic energy. There is a theme through some of the stories in this collection about the price of adultery, how it can turn you into a ghost version of yourself (“Man Eating Cats” is an awesome tale of this nature, and in this case very much a horror story). But “Nausea 1979” is a different iteration on the same tune, and just as cool.
NEXT WEEK! A tale from an eclectic writer from the Pacific North West. Hint: She’s rejected ten of my flash stories, and we’ve appeared in the same magazine!
Now, go buy DEATH MATCH, the pro wrestling thriller that “The Man” doesn’t think you can handle!