Sly Wit, Caustic Barbs…(Life is a short story:)

When Olena was a  little girl, she had called them Lieberries- a fibbing fruit, a story store- and now she had a job in one…

‘ Don’t I look like Eric Clapton?’

‘Eric Clapton would never have sat in a Woolworths photo booth like some high-school girl,’ Olena said, in the caustic blurt that sometimes afflicts the shy.

( From ‘Community Life’, short story by Lorrie Moore, 1994)


She had been married: it was as if she’d done an interminable, boring stretch on a transcontinental train and emerged- tired, dispirited and yawning uncontrollably- into the starless night of a strange city, where the only kindred soul was her suitcase.

( Tatyana Tolstaya, short story ‘The Poet and the Muse’, 1991)


I explained to my wife that on the plane going down I was going to have to do research and she said, ‘ Fine.’ My research consisted of reading the galleys of a detective novel someone wanted to make into a movie, and my enjoyment of it would have been increased if she had resisted, but she did not. So I struggled through the book. My three year old daughter watched Romancing the Stone, and my wife coloured in the kid’s colouring book for three and a half hours.

( David Mamet, A Family Vacation, short story, 1988)


My mother’s movements got deeper and smoother, and Mr.DeCuervo suddenly came alive, as though a spotlight had hit him. My father danced the way he was, warm, noisy,teasing, a little overpowering; but Mr.DeCuervo, who was usually quiet and thoughtful and serious, became a different man when he danced with my mother. His dancing was light and happy and soulful, edging up on my mother, tuning her, matching her every step. They would smile at all of us, in turn, and then face each other, too transported to smile.

‘ Dance with Daddy some more,’ my sister said, speaking for all three of us. They had left us too far behind.

(Amy Bloom, ‘ Life is not a pie ‘, short story, 1994)


‘Still not had it?’ The old lady who lived next door appeared at the fence, her leech-black eyes peering through the trellis of the honeysuckle. ‘ You must be very worried by now.’

‘ I’m all right,’ she said, taking a step backwards towards the kitchen door.’ How are you?’

‘ As you know, lonely as hell since Reg died,’ said Mrs Pightle. ‘ Sometimes I get so bored I wish even something nasty would happen.’

Wanting to avoid infection by contact with Mrs.Pightle’s misery, she took another step back.

( Helen Simpson, ‘Last Orders,’ short story, 1993)


From the Cosmopolitan Book of Short Stories.