Journal of Writing & Environment

Web Rove: Great Finds from the Bizarre Bazaar

Great Finds from the Bizarre Bazaar
By Tony Quick

Though we’re in the midst of November, I haven’t quite committed to winter. Iowa hasn’t given up on autumn. Ground-bound leaves that crunch under my boots but the trees are still thick with auburn, red, and gold. The season’s shift, the slice of time between summer and autumn puts me in a bizarre mood. Night arrives early, wildlife prepares for the approaching chill, and I search out the surreal. The short stories in this week’s web rove are strange and stand on the boundary line between the real and the fantastic, ready to push their audience in either direction.

Samsa in Love” by Haruki Murakami (from The New Yorker)

Haruki Murakami is no stranger to the bizarre, as any avid reader of his fiction will testify. In his latest short story, “Samsa in Love,” the Japanese author deconstructs and reimagines Franz Kafka’s famous story “The Metamorphosis” except this time the cockroach wakes up to find he has become Gregor Samsa.  Murakami’s retelling is a feat of wonder but stands strong even without the backbone of Kafka’s work to prop it up. He introduces us to a world ripe with confusion and terror, love and hunchbacks.

What of this Goldfish Would You Wish?” by Etgar Keret (from Something out of Something, Tumblr)

Etgar Keret is a talented Israeli author. In his best fiction, he’s capable of presenting the bizarre with a strong pragmatic plausibility and it isn’t hard to see the human heart beating at the center of his fiction. His most recent collection Suddenly, A Knock on the Door was just released in 2012. “What of this Goldfish Would You Wish?” begins with  a young man attempting to make a commercial posing his neighbors with an improbable scenario: If you had a wish-granting goldfish, what would you ask for? He finds a lone immigrant with an answer that changes the young man’s life forever.

Haunting Olivia” by Karen Russell (from The New Yorker)

In 2012, Karen Russell’s debut novel was named a finalist for the Pulitzer but her successes for 2013 are no less impressive. Along with the publication of another collection of short stories, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” the talented author is one of this year’s recipients of the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant. In her 2005 New Yorker fiction piece, “Haunting Olivia” brothers search a boat graveyard for the remains of their drowned sister.

Catskin” by Kelly Link (from Lightspeed Magazine)

It’s difficult to imagine a more suitable Sherpa into the land of the surreal than Kelly Link. Author of the novellas Strangers Things Happen and Locus Award winner Pretty Monsters, Link’s short story “Catskin” introduces us to a world of witches, familiars, and vengeance that reach beyond death. Half fable, half revenge plot: all awesome.