Friday, October 13, 2006

Asinine Project Bears Wholesome Fruit

In an arbitrary move which should be of no interest to anyone, a few months ago I decided to read one short story a day for a year... just one story per day, no more, no less, each by a different author. You mathematicians will have no trouble discerning the magnitude of my project: 365 stories by 365 different writers. Today I read story #65, "The Stick" by Kobo Abe, translated by Lane Dunlop. It was a real winner! It was so good that I ran out and bought Kobo Abe's novel, THE BOX MAN, which is about a guy with a box on his head in Tokyo. Now that's what I'm talking about! Anyway, it occurred to me that this is the kind of thing that people "blog" about. It's an exciting and titillating way to read: for example, now I want to read EVERY short story by Aimee Bender and Lorrie Moore... but now I have to wait until the year is up, or I'll be cheating! Well, I decided to do a little audit, and I discovered that I want to reread (for the umpteenth time in some cases, though I have tried to stick mostly to stories with which I'm unfamiliar) exactly 20 of the stories (so far) when my self-imposed literary exile is over. Here are those stories: "The Jelly-Bean" by F. Scott Fitzgerald; "Starving Again" by Lorrie Moore; "Feathers" by Raymond Carver; "The Calmative" by Samuel Beckett; "Up, Aloft in the Air" by Donald Barthleme; "So! I've Got You" by Robert Walser; "The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers" by Aimee Bender; "Uncle High Lonesome" by Barry Hannah; "Gloomy Tune" by Grace Paley; "Peasant Women" by Anton Chekhov (tr. by Richard Pevar and Larissa Volokhonsky); "Old Mr. Marblehall" by Eudora Welty; "Animals in Our Lives" by Tom Bissell; "Now I Lay Me" by Ernest Hemingway; "Hidden Ball Inside a Song" by Ben Marcus; "Say Yes" by Tobias Wolff; "Winky" by George Saunders; "The Adventures of King Dong" by Jonathan Baumbach; "Train" by Joy Williams; "Water-Message" by John Barth; "The Stick" by Kobo Abe. Now all you have to do is buy 20 books, each containing one of the above stories, find a Xerox machine and a stapler, draw yourself an imaginative cover on a piece of construction paper, and pretty soon you'll have an anthology edited and with an introduction by me (this is the introduction)! As an appendix you'll want to include the story "How it Floods" by Pia Z. Ehrhardt. The day I met her and heard her read, I was compelled to seek out one of her stories... though it violated my little obsessive-compulsive arrangement, as I had already read my "one" story for that day. Well, my friend Beth Ann told me only a jerk would write a book about this kind of exercise, and she was right! I've seen those books in the store and passed them by disdainfully! But I think it's okay to "blog" about. Okay, everyone, get cracking on your anthologies! I'm giving a prize for the best cover.