Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

The Short Stories Of George Saunders So Far, In Order

35. "The Semplica Girl Diaries"

34. "Puppy"

33. "My Amendment"

32. "I CAN SPEAK™"

31. "Al Roosten"

30. "93990"

29. "The Barber's Unhappiness"

28. "Bohemians"

27. "Pastoralia"

26. "Tenth of December"

25. "Winky"

24. "The Falls"


An Unexpected Masterpiece

As National Novel Writing Month continues on, the next in our series about the novels that we started writing but, for whatever reason, never finished.

The novel I never wrote is spotless. Every sentence is a sickening surprise. The plot coils round you like a python. Your eyes water badly at the humanist climax. You do not trust this response.

It is three hundred and twenty-nine pages long. It is at least fifty-four percent true and took six days to write. Seventeen people conspired against it, and each died under odd circumstances.

The text is political but not polemic, learned but not dense. It is charged with alarming [...]


Until Further Notice: Non-Negotiable Instructions

Wake up when you have to.

Take as much air you need.

Examine trivial details, the bubbled foam on a just-used but not-yet-rinsed toothbrush.

Eat what you eat too often.


Have or dwell on the possibility of sex.

Envy things but realize it is not the things you desire so much as the comfort of envy itself, the notion that you might one day have more.


"Hecuba": From Miles Klee's "Ivyland"

Miles Klee's debut novel, Ivyland, takes place in a crumbling, violent, post-urban New Jersey. Published by OR Books, the novel's been getting praise for its dark vision of a burned-out world where drug companies rule, nature is reclaiming what it can, and locals like Hecuba—the bus driver in this excerpt—can only look on in weary disbelief as the past disappears.

One hangover-blasted Wednesday, Hecuba dreamt she was asleep at the wheel, lead-foot subconscious running her route. Eventually she admitted to herself this was no dream and hooked an instinctual right to avoid entering at 60 mph a drive-through ATM tube that would’ve shaved the top [...]


Some Revised Tourism Slogans

Acapulco: Not That Many Decapitations Per Capita

Touring The French Riviera? Well Heads Up Because For Some Reason The Casinos Make You Wear Shoes

Detroit — Don't Bother Locking Up When You’re Done

Berlin: Now With Flights To Barcelona!

Come To Sunny South Africa (Unless You Fear Black People, Of Course)

South Korea, Where That Quiet Weirdo From College Moved Shortly Before Never Being Heard From Again


Eleven Impossibilities

Doctor Says I Can’t Fly Anymore Something to do with kidney strain. Now, absurdly, my feet are what move me. I look to the sky, clouded by people: executives floating to work in suits… kids soaring too high, backpacks dangling by a strap. Police officers hover ten stories up, analyzing the flow of traffic. When my neck aches from tension and longing, I return to the rippled shade of the sidewalks, which are in severe disrepair, as everyone in this city flies. I avoid fellow terrestrial travelers, who inevitably seek to combine their misery with mine. The path is dim—is cracked, unreal and lonely—but veined with a sunlight sifted [...]


Drunken Notes from Last Night's Republican Debate That Will Also Serve as Notes for the Next Eleven Republican Debates


Grip the podium for dear life or don’t? This alone will determine who becomes president.

ONE SENTENCE INTROS. It’s like a round of speed-dating where you crossed everyone off the list beforehand.



A Few Environments

Playground next to low-income housing. At night. Modular squares of beaten rubber serve as gridlike, lunar ground. Swoop of a tubular plastic slide. Sag of a miniature plank bridge that joins a pair of raised platforms, one outfitted as nautical helm, the other roofed with a ziggurat. The vast brick cake—apartment complex—beyond. Counterfeit moons in clustered bulbs, the color of scrambled eggs, on poles.

Medicine cabinet mirror ajar. Shelves a mosaic: prescription orange, paradise blue. Twin hairs stuck to the grooved little shelf that should offer soap. Silver faucet a mounted bird’s neck. Raised drain-stopper whose ridge amasses a layer of slime. Damp jeans draped on translucent rod. Tile [...]


24 Varieties of Silence

The landlord is about to pounce. An odor of sweat via sweatshirt informs you halfway down the last flight of stairs. He is in the lobby, mopping, maybe. Or red-ink-emphasizing every line of his trash-collection dogma, taped up in furious triplicate. He will speak explosively at you, incensed by treasonous acts. You set off the roof alarm. You trod upon the sacred strip of dirt out front. You will nod; your nods will nod. I know it was you, he will say at least twice as you sidle past. But in theory your fate might still be unstitched; he has not yet seen you; he will turn his back [...]


How To Share Big Files

Try to attach a file that's 25 megabytes or bigger to an outgoing Gmail message and what do you get? I have no idea, because I would never attempt such a stunt, but I'm guessing it's a friendly error message informing you that the raw video trailer for your documentary about paperclips is the digital equivalent of a wide-load trailer and unfit for this particular mode of travel. What now? You've tried everything! Except no, you haven't.

For starters, if you're teaming up on this groundbreaking documentary of yours, and need to share the material with a partner 3000 miles away so they can edit and play around [...]


Actions Have Consequences, or, I'll See You in Hell

You go to hell. Or: hell comes to you. You are unemployed, pursuing work, any sort. You submit a cover letter so typo-ridden it breaks the Internet. The Internet, of course, is what braces the laws of thermodynamics. So now there’s a temperature colder than absolute zero. Though scientists keep that discovery quiet.

Initially it isn’t too bad, an indefinite shift, your coffee tasting like wine, your hair growing too fast, inert objects gleaming with raw and terrible life. In fact, it might just be you: you were always half-certain you’d lose your grip on things one day, and if not now, when? But reality is what’s unraveling—one can’t [...]


A Q&A with Subports

Subports is a retail mechanism disguised as fun. They provides vendors with a text "shortcode"—you know, like the way they vote on reality TV shows—that customers who have enrolled their credit cards can use to purchase products via text message. But instead of rolling out in support of big box retail, Subports chose to work with artists, designers and record stores, and build stores (both virtual and pop-up) as sales points. We spoke to Subports honcho Will Robison.

Q. Are there some retail experiments you have in mind but can't yet pull off?

A. I have a list of ideas the size of my leg. We have played [...]



As to those, who in presence of their betters are too lowly in speech so that they bring not their voice whole to the lips, it happened to me and without full utterance I began:1

Yes, it is terrible, and sudden2. He thrown everything off balance.3 And then he did go off balance on the ice, taking a step back from the eyes which had penetrated him and emptied his face.4 What was that dim distant music, those vestiges of color in the air?5 The penalty of light forever.6 Then he would be able to think about it and sort things out.7 [...]


Varieties of Things That One Rarely Bothers to Mention or Document

The week I had my wisdom teeth removed, I saw a man in line at the corner bodega drop a pencil, a nice-looking one, without noticing. I was fixed in a Percocet fog and stared at the pencil (handsome wood, something an architect would use) instead of telling the man he had dropped it. His transaction completed, he left, and I stepped up to the register, placing my beer next to it. I then turned to watch as an employee mopping the floor discovered the pencil, picked it up and admired it. I regretted not doing the same when I had the chance, but it seemed fair that all [...]


Last Night's Pavement Central Park Thundershow: Gen X is All Wet

Miles Klee: I think I have a little bit of a crush on Generation X. And seeing Pavement play a concert in an apocalyptic Central Park thunderstorm last night took it to a whole new level. It also didn't hurt that Cece and I ran into you, Dave, an authentic Gen X-er (if my math is sound)-by the way, you do the meanest air guitar I've seen in ages. But the point is, I pretty much swooned when I heard the opening bars of "Spit On A Stranger."


Future Fatigue: Gary Shteyngart's Attack on the Young

At the end of Gary Shteyngart's near-future satire Super Sad True Love Story, I sank into a curious exhaustion. I had impulsively bought the discounted hardcover while battling a poisoned haze of emotions-an agent is peddling my own near-future novel to publishers; I wanted to demonstrate the commercial viability of near-future-based literature; I wanted assurance that what I've written and rewritten over the past few years had not been made redundant overnight. I was afraid to discover better, streamlined permutations of my own ideas, and I was further afraid that Shteyngart's rich voice would alert me to the holes in my not-as-meticulous alternative universe. I came into the thing [...]


A Guide to the 2010 Republican Up-And-Comers

Ben Quayle: Competing to represent Arizona's 3rd congressional district. Figured that enough people would have forgotten his blithering not-Jack-Kennedy father to make his unfortunate genetics a non-issue, yet had the paterfamilias announce his candidacy on Fox News' "America Live" (a factless daytime chat show hosted by Greta Van Susteren's understudy) because he is a sniveling and fearful child. Tried to compensate for this transparent cowardice with the ad above attacking Barack Obama-who is not one of his nine Republicans opponents in the upcoming GOP primary-as the "worst president in history," and delivered his lines as though he were trying to convince an underage hooker to run away with him [...]


The Last Day In The Office

The company is moving its headquarters downtown, from Madison Avenue to a building on Broad Street, next to the New York Stock Exchange, that is bristling with security checkpoints and biometric thumbprint scanners-devices that, to judge by the expressions of suited security personnel repeatedly mashing their thumbs into them, have yet to catch up with science fiction. Thursday, July 29, 2010, was our last business day in the old space, which had already been stripped of cubicle decoration, shelves, filing cabinets, plants and, we were horrified to discover as of 10:40 a.m., vending machines. No light snacks this particular Thursday, or soda; the booze at our last happy hour [...]


The Museum Instinct and Sarcastic Amazon Reviews

Have you visited the saddest IMDb page in existence? It belongs to Anne Sellors, a woman just barely featured in the 1984 BBC television play Threads, which imagines the aftermath of nuclear armageddon in England. What role did Ms. Sellors play? "Woman who urinates herself." She did not receive a credit and understandably never acted onscreen again.

Twenty-six years later, that lone performance is being recognized.


'Futurama' Returns: Now More Than Whenever

Nerds: they talk about nerd things. Here, nerds Becky Ferreira and Miles Klee discuss the return/reboot of Futurama, now airing its sixth season on Comedy Central.

Miles Klee: Becky! I was half-watching Fellini's Satyricon last evening, and there's this mini-rant from a Roman poet about how Nero's empire doesn't produce art or theory, or anything to stimulate the national synapses. Where have all the philosophers gone? Pretty sure they're writing for Futurama, our animated authority on matters of bioethics, transhumanism and quantum fates. And as luck would have it, my DVR was recording the Futurama reboot at that very moment.