The week’s best online fiction, with recommendations from FictionDaily’s editors.
“The Inordinate Sexual Proclivity of Jared Montague” by John Lucas, Fleeting Magazine
Looking at people is political. When I walk down the street and I see two women standing next to each other I instinctively–as I’ve been instructed by magazine covers, movies, commercials or any of culture’s teachers–look at the woman that resembles a model, whose appearance matches the objective qualities we seem to require from “good-looking” people. The women see me seeing them suddenly we’re all agents of culture’s requirements. Obviously John Lucas, in this novel excerpt, is building on this experience to create a character that not only reinscribes the physical requirements culture asks of women, but manifests them. Here we have yet another dude hitting on random short-skirted, big-breasted, and skinny women who heed his every advance. Hooray for culture!–David Backer
In “For a letter to be any good,” Dunbar’s pen is akin to the seismometer’s needle reacting to every which wave and distant disturbance of his mind. I found myself riding the swells, up and down, on some sort of inner tube. On and on (studying the gulls’ behavior, ingesting chewable Dramamine), to the hard, bronze truth of that final line – “the vegetable is content to eat the sun if it has to” – whereupon it struck me, like a Red Cross relief package, I have been taking the sun for granted, coddling grains and fruits and dramatically underestimating vegetables. And then attempting to grab hold of a red-brick chimney I became separated from my tube and was rushed away by the charging floodwaters. Fact. —Ryan Nelson
It’s common to hear of a “new voice” in literature, but it’s rare that voice actually earns that praise, but the prose of “The Suicide Queen” demolishes the rules of writing and opens the reader’s experience to a promising frontier. In “The Suicide Queen,” J Brooke choreographs a marvelous dance of punctuation and narrative pacing the likes of which I’ve never seen, and improves what was already a solid story in the process. This goes beyond eschewing quotations or question marks like Cormac McCarthy — J Brooke is has the bold certainty of a top storyteller and the vision of a poet, taking language in a new direction while sustaining a solid footing for his story. Partnered with diction that’s visceral and vulgar without being boisterous, this artistry defines Brooke as a talent best described as fearless. Brooke doesn’t just guide his reader into a vile reach of the human heart – the journey is taken by a vehicle that’s a marvel itself.–Matt Funk