Short Bites: Peep Show

Another story in Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, “Peep Show” takes us on a reflective journey.

In a weak and impulsive moment, a man takes a detour into a strip club. He knows he shouldn’t, but, heck, we are all entitled to make our own mistakes, so let him God. The man buys five tokens even if he’d only intended to see one show. Right. Well, I don’t think the main character enjoyed the four other peep shows that followed, but I did.

As always, Nathan Englander provides us with a lot of detail that it’s easy to visualize the story, the peep show. The first one wasn’t very surprising, and I was wondering what on earth I was getting myself into, but then the four others that followed were out of this world, and I needed to see how it ended. I’m not sure I would ever want my own peep show, but from an outsider’s point of view, that was one hell of a show. I can appreciate.

Short Bites: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” (the title story of this compilation) is about the generation(s) of Jewish Americans that grew up after the holocaust. For the most part, they’d lived generally worry-free lives, with some members of the generation eventually moving “back” from the US to Israel.

Speaking of US and Israel, this story does touch on some differences in culture between those in the US and in Israel. While those difference may exist in the details, some things, such as love and family, are universal.

Nathan Eglander spent the first part of the story creating context and building out this little world. Yes, it can get a little specific, but this story focuses on the universal things—things that anyone regardless of race and religion can relate to. While you need to know of Anne Frank and of the holocaust for context, the question asked at the end of the day is quite universal: do you trust your neighbors?

Short Bites: #connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere

I love Twitter threads. These can be especially funny when someone live tweets a strangers’ intriguing conversation at a coffee shop (think: Titas of Manila style). If the live tweeter is munching on popcorn, we can join in, too.

In “#connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere,” Seanan McGuire brings a haunted house to life through @boo_peep’s tweets. (@boo_peep and the crew have an accompanying live stream as well, but we readers are content with the tweets.) McGuire shows us how to rock a good story using an alternative medium.

I absolutely loved this story. Can someone please give Seanan McGuire a thousand gold stars for story, style, and execution? Thanks. But please don’t bother me again with ghost stories because no one’s home, and I’m done, done, done with scaring myself. Yet here I am still seeing What the #@$% is That? through… (See Those Gaddam Cookies and Little Widow for other short stories in the collection.)

PS: Earlier this week, I saw a copy of Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame, which I would have purchased earlier if not for my self-imposed book buying ban. If you’ve read it already, let me know how you liked it!

Short Bites: Little Widow

The saga continues. I am halfway through What the #@&% is That?, which I only read in the daytime. Not all of the stories involve creepy ghosts—I’d say Those Gaddam Cookies was more extra-terrestrial—but I’m not taking any chances. (Never again. Not after that one creepy story I read.)

The other day, I read “Little Widow” by Maria Dahvana Headley. It’s about a girl and her sisters who used to be a part of a cult called “Heaven’s Avengers.” Unsurprisingly, there’s a creepy founder and weird rules involved, but because of the nature of the cult, its members are far from fragile. The sisters in the story even possessed a kind of wisdom.

“Little Widow” was particularly interesting for me to read because I watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. As I read the story, I noted which details were similar to the show and which were different. Comparing the two (yes, I know, they’re very different genres) allowed me to be slightly less creeped out by the story. I liked how it ended—the story, I mean.

Short Bites: Those Gaddam Cookies

All of my friends know that I don’t watch horror movies (unless forced by peer pressure), so it is a little bit surprising that I own a copy of What the #@% Is That? Let’s clear the air: I bought this copy to support my friend, whose short story was published in this collection. (I haven’t gotten to it though; I want to see the whole book through.) So far so good.

Scott Sigler’s “Those Gaddam Cookies” is a story of a captain and his crew, with one of his crew members being an amazing baker. Unfortunately our baker prodigy has been out sick for days, so the captain must investigate. I mean, how can he be so sick he has to skip work but can find the time and energy to bake those gaddam cookies?!

Sometimes all I want from a story is a quirky detail to focus on—in this case, those gaddam cookies and the coolness of a space expedition. The characters’ obsession with the baked goods provided a lot of entertainment value, even if the story was a bit twisted. (After all, this is a short story in a horror collection.) The story also touches on some questions on morality, proving that even a crew on a spaceship are not above regular human problems.

As a huge fan of chocolate chip cookies, I approve of this story. But now I also want cookies.