I’ve been wanting to read the Into The Wild book for a few years, but I never got around to it. While browsing the internet, I noticed that this book was originally written as a short article originally in “Outside” magazine, and is available on Byliner.com, so I read it. The story is fascinating, recounting a man’s encounter with Christopher McCandless, being probably the last person who ever saw him alive.
I realized this is the case with a lot of writers. I’ve heard about people like Alice Munro, Amy Tan, and Malcolm Gladwell but they’ve never been high enough on my “to read” list for me to set aside a few hours and read one of their books. Reading their short stories online feels like a cheat code. I can give any writer a five minute audition and see if I want more. It’s like the more modern (and efficient) version of reading a book jacket.
Here’s five recommends to start with:
Gallien asked whether he had a hunting license.
“Hell, no,” Alex scoffed. “How I feed myself is none of the government’s business. Fuck their stupid rules.”
When Gallien asked whether his parents or a friend knew what he was up to—whether there was anyone who would sound the alarm if he got into trouble and was overdue—Alex answered calmly that no, nobody knew of his plans, that in fact he hadn’t spoken to his family in nearly two years. “I’m absolutely positive,” he assured Gallien, “I won’t run into anything I can’t deal with on my own.”
In this painfully personal piece, Gay describes what it’s like to teach a creative writing class on “love, sex, and fiction.” Her style is deceptively simple, sneaking difficult truths into words that sound just like conversation. Gay’s work has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012.
I have shared stories with my students about very dark kinds of love—the kinds of love that make you question your faith in other people. At times, they have been uncomfortable. Darkness is uncomfortable. Seeing how people can twist love into something sharp and incomprehensible is uncomfortable. I asked my students, “Are these love stories?” They nodded. I have told them, don’t tell the love story that’s easy. I have told them, don’t be afraid to write a happy love story. I have told them, sometimes, happiness is transgression in an unhappy world.
Anyone who has fallen victim to the low-carb thing, or the no red meat thing, or any of the many diets to sweep the nation by storm, absolutely needs to read Michael Pollan. He is the bestselling author of Cooked and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and will make you never want to diet again.
Asked what comes to mind upon hearing the phrase “chocolate cake,” Americans were more apt to say “guilt,” while the French said “celebration”; “heavy cream” elicited “unhealthy” from Americans, “whipped” from the French. The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating than people in any other nation they surveyed. […] A well-developed culture of eating, such as you find in France or Italy, mediates the eater’s relationship to food, moderating consumption even as it prolongs and deepens the pleasure of eating.
What happens to girls that turns them from strong, self-assured children to quiet and apologetic teenagers? A Harvard Professor conducted a study to answer this question. Many experts disagree with her, arguing that there’s no fundamental difference between the way men and women develop. Whichever side you believe, it’s a fascinating read that’s relevant to everyone.
But as they get older the girls seem to undergo a kind of crisis in response to adolescence and to the strictures and demands of the culture which, in Gilligan’s view, sends a particular message to women: “Keep quiet and notice the absence of women and say nothing.” Or as a graduate student, Elizabeth Debold, says: “Girls don’t see themselves being what the culture is about. And that has to give them some kind of double vision.”
“And by 15 or 16,” says Gilligan, “that resistance has gone underground. They start saying, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.’ They start not knowing what they had known.”
This story opens as all seedy stories do, in Las Vegas, with a womanizing plastic surgeon. This surgeon also has a possible history of murdering his ex wives. Suzanne, his date, is intrigued…
The first law of gossip is that you never know how many people are talking about you behind your back. The second law is thank God. The third—and most important—law is that as gossip spreads from friends to acquaintances to people you’ve never met, it grows more garbled, vivid, and definitive. Out of stray factoids and hesitant impressions emerges a hard mass of what everyone knows to be true. Imagination supplies the missing pieces, and repetition turns these pieces into facts; gossip achieves its shape and amplitude only in the continual retelling. The best stories about us are told by perfect strangers.
In conclusion, Byliner is the internet’s answer to bibliomania — become a quick-read-connoisseur. A short essay or story fits easily into the 15 minute wait at the doctor’s office or the DMV line you’re stuck in. Don’t feel disappointed you aren’t able to read more “literature” or chisel away at your to-read list. Pare down the size of what you have to do into something you are able to accomplish in time you’d otherwise be wasting.