S.O. Book News

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IN THIS POST: Stephen O’Connor, Colson Whitehead, Shelley Jackson, Scarlett Thomas, Nicholson Baker.

This is the fourteenth installment in a series of twenty posts announcing — in no particular order — which 100 stories will be collected in the Significant Objects book (forthcoming in 2011 from Fantagraphics).


66. Stephen O’Connor’s BUNNY story. Excerpt:

Nobody could remember back before everything was Astroland, but some people pretended. Hop-a-Long was one—so-called because of his gigantic tinsel-furred ears, his rabbit-eye-red eyes, but not because he hopped. He didn’t hop. He rocked from foot to foot as he walked, like a chair coming down the hall by itself. “Back then everything was real,” he said. “It was boring. Fishtails weren’t worked by levers and springs. A world without a sense of humor.” Hop-a-Long the stinky. Hop-a-Long with the bubble-gum-wad nose. With the almost-topple-every-step walk.

“Blat!” said Flippy-Foot.

“How?” said Injun Joe.

“I don’t know,” said Hop-a-Long. “It was brainless existence. People had to make excuses to live.”


67. Colson Whitehead’s WOODEN MALLET story. Excerpt:

On September 16th, 2031 at 2:35 am, a temporal rift – a “tear” in very fabric of time and space – will appear 16.5 meters above the area currently occupied by Jeffrey’s Bistro, 123 E Ivinson Ave, Laramie, WY. Only the person wielding this mallet will be able to enter the rift unscathed. If this person then completes the 8 Labors of Worthiness, he or she will be become the supreme ruler of the universe.


68. Shelley Jackson’s CRUMB SWEEPER story. Excerpt:

When I first met him, the moon — a chip of bone in the pale blue of morning — was just past full. I can be sure of that, though it was only later that the phases of the moon became as familiar to me as the seasons or as my breath coming and going. He was crouching against a tree in Prospect Park, nearly naked despite the autumn chill, the pale skin stretched over his shuddering ribs disfigured with a rash. He was swiping at his red, swollen, and tearing eyes with one paw, while the other, with a very practiced motion, was employing what looked at first glance like a bar of soap, to harry clouds of short, coarse, whisky-colored hairs from a pair of loose drawstring pants and a tunic draped over his lap. I did not think anything of the fact that both items appeared to be inside out. I did not pay any special attention to the fellow at all, who seemed to me an everyday sort of eccentric, only (for I have an eye for curiosities, particularly those ingenious contraptions rendered pathetically de trop by advancing technology — clockwork computers, water clocks and the like) to the object he was holding, which I now saw to be a rounded bar of ivory (or an imitation) in which a cylindrical brush had been ingeniously set so that it might skim a smooth surface and rid it of debris — the tool of a butler or maître d’, I thought, for clearing crumbs from a place-setting.


69. Scarlett Thomas’ BIRTHDAY CANDLES story. Excerpt:

You can find all kinds of crap in the back of drawers. Here is the string we once used to tie the handles of the French doors together so that Julius wouldn’t open them and walk into the pond. Here is a thimble, and a seam-ripper, although I don’t think anyone in our family ever ripped a seam on purpose. Here is an incomplete pack of cards with topless women on the backs, the best ones stolen by my brothers. Here is dust, dust, and underneath a pair of dice: one small and black, one big and red. There is a blister pack with no tablets in it and the silver tape measure that bites your fingers when it snaps back. There are the birthday candles I bought when I was seventeen. After I bought them I walked home from the corner shop imagining the hot wax dripping onto my naked skin and Mark, who still owed me for the mayonnaise thing, peeling it off after it had dried.


70. Nicholson Baker’s MEAT THERMOMETER story. Excerpt:

Everything had a temperature in those days. Cheese was cold. Avocados were warm. My heart was a piece of hot meat pierced by love’s thermometer.


MORE NEWS: For updates about the Significant Objects project and forthcoming collection, visit the archive and subscribe via RSS. For Author Updates, visit the archive and subscribe via RSS. Also: Check out the Significant Objects Bookstore!


"Significant Objects combines one of the oldest of all media — the near-improvised short story — with the reinvigorated writer-reader relationship afforded by Web 2.0." — The Independent's Couch Surfer. Follow us on Twitter; join us on Facebook.

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