I'm writing a short story. Fine, written a hundred or so, but having just read a critical work on deconstructionism, I need to change something, although my feeling is that I've always deconstructed - smashed up the calcified bourgeois everything, or tried to. And must continue. 1997 and never more necessary.

Is what kind of short story valid? Question sounds academic, icy breezes through a skeleton. Hear 'em? - how can you not? Old people wheeze, and young people craving A's.

New Yorker type, long on soft-pedal suggestion? Let's say a guy stares at his crotch while things happen peripherally for thirty pages or years - like neon reflections in rainy blacktop being processed by a drunk. Hero's future, as they used to pronounce, is assured. Determined. Character is farts.

Something modeled on TV or movies? Perhaps a clownish dude who ultimately charms an independent lass with her independent ass. The touting of the screw as they fight, fuck, fight, fuck, and marry. Marry!


Staying with the inspiration of film, something happens at the end of the black 'n white archetype akin to the crescendo termination of a pop singer's most depraved single, elevating the banal to the insufferable. There's a corollary in fiction of course. The O'Henry ending had a certain flapdoodle charm, but this modern dodge resembles a literate grope towards your privates.

And ending a more recent pastel-color movie-y version: steam a-gurgle and carrying acceptable flotsam - no rubbers - as indeed we are all artily carried etc on the etc of LIFE etc. (Or willows wave as they are wont to do...rustling-sound up BIG. Oh wouldn't Adolph gravely nod assent?)

Not relevant, either one, unless we want PHILOSOPHY in our story.

So accept a tale most acutely modern wherein a woman, don't call her girl, gets the crap kicked out of her by abusers she has prudently chosen to do the job right, then snaps to, sick of being a “cunt!” - whereafter a sweet hello from accountant Clarence will provoke a reply threatening to cut his balls off.

In another version of this horseradish, a gross macho-mouth actually beCOMES Clarence! after INsights burn through the insanely driven everyday brute-fantasy of Capitalism.

Of course you can't sustain any of this stuff, even to the modest lengths of the form. Well I can't. Actually, can't stand it.


The strength of the greatest practitioners of most art in our time is that they can keep performing their schtick without puking. They deserve everything they get.

(When you know your work is truly vomit-inducing, then I guess you keep heaping it up. What else, in our time, can you do?)

There is padding, telling detail to stab some cretin's heart; there is repetition in every mode - somewhat cloaked if one pretends to craft. Also, most writers hint around, except Jack London and religious types.

(Well...must be SOMEthing here, reader puzzles.)


Let's see. Other types of stories? Of course, but why survey? We're both lazy enough.

If the short story were a turkey and it is, and is full of shit, however drizzly-inclined upon occasion, then it surely has been raised for Christmas.

How many times was Eugene O'Neill's father the Count of Monte Crisco? THE COUNT OF FUCKIN MONTE CRISCO!

And yet the most abjectly disgusting ploy is: I'm writing a short story. Oh if only I could kiss my own selfconscious ass! Mount-fuckin-Olympus. Well, then, I'm a crud? You? Both? Why do we have to ruin everything? And why not?


PEEK is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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