Category Archives: Original Fiction

How I Proposed to Her

How I Proposed to Her

1. She wouldn’t shut up about it. She got me in a headlock. Her lawyer served me with a crate full of paperwork outlining the case for matrimony in 10-point Arial, plus an audio recording of every single page in case I claimed to be legally blind. She flexed her biceps and I started to pass out.

2. We both ate too many Corn Nuts, and Corn Nuts have this unintended chemical side effect that makes you want to spend the rest of your life with someone. Read the bag. There’s a warning.

3. Long story short, I thought we were about to die.

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The Ancient Art of Falconry

Can we talk about something other than books for a second?

Four years ago I moved into my parents’ house for a couple of months, went slightly batshit crazy, and recorded a song — part a cappella, part rap — about falcons. Last week I shot some video on an iPhone to go along with it. And this came out.

You’re right. I’ll stick to books from now on.

- Brian Hurley

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STORY: High Five

Safety Pin Review is a new magazine that publishes very short stories. But nothing is ever printed on paper. Instead the stories are painted on a piece of fabric, the fabric is affixed to the back of a black studded leather jacket, and the jacket is worn around in public. I feel like I’m not even cool enough to KNOW about this, let alone describe it.

And yet their new issue is a story I wrote, called “High Five.”

Check it out here.

What I love about this magazine is that it’s every bit as functional as posting a chunk of text online – you can still click to view the whole story. But you also know that the story exists physically in the world. It’s moving around in ways you can’t control, coming into contact with strange people.

Simon Jacobs, editor of Safety Pin Review, paid me $4 million for the rights to this story. It’s the most I’ve ever earned for anything. And I, in turn, made a $4 million donation to Safety Pin Review.

- Brian Hurley

 

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The Wrong Idea

Don’t get the wrong idea about me. The last person who got the wrong idea about me, I had to bash his nose apart with my fists. Which is not the kind of person I am. I’m not a nose basher. So I had to drive this person to hospital, pay his medical bills, and stay with him during his recovery, so he wouldn’t get the wrong idea about me. We watched a lot of Seinfeld. He taught me pinochle. I had a long talk with his stepdaughter in the hospital corridor about how to show affection for a parental figure who’s been largely absent from your life. But that’s not the kind of person I am, either. I don’t go around paying for people’s medical bills and fixing their relationships with their stepdaughters, so don’t get the wrong idea about me.

- Brian Hurley

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Chester Beale, the Bespoke Review’s New Party Boy

[This is a parody of a New York Times article, which you may want to check out first. It's also a kind of sequel to this.]

In an office high above Madison Square Park, the new editor of The Bespoke Review is preparing to snort a fine, white powder.

“Mind if I toot?” Chester Beale asks.

Mr. Beale’s vintage snuff box—originally fashioned as a gift from Lord Byron to a Flemish mistress—is inlaid with Colombian emeralds and Tahitian pearls. But these days, instead of the more exotic stimulants that Byron enjoyed, the box contains a pulverized vitamin mixture designed by Mr. Beale’s in-home nutritionist.

As he begins his stewardship of what is arguably the world’s most prestigious literary magazine, Mr. Beale—who favors Roca Fela suits, Converse All-Stars, and gold pince nez (his signature accessory)—is returning the glamour and prestige to a profession that has lately seemed to be losing its luster.

Scattered around Mr. Beale’s desk are some of his cherished mementos: a bust of Edna St. Vincent Millay; a desiccated condom said to have been worn by Norman Mailer. Before he can take another “toot” of his vitamins, a team of interns arrives to dust and polish Mr. Beale’s relics. These unpaid workers make up eighty percent of the magazine’s staff.

In the short time since Mr. Beale assumed the chief’s desk at The Bespoke Review—his predecessor, Arthur Clay, was stabbed in an elevator by a rejected writer—his office has become a kind of informal, non-stop party, a place where Manhattan’s elite can swing by to chat about Proust, down some vodka gimlets, and ask Mr. Beale to recommend a good abortion doctor.

In another era, Mr. Beale’s role might have been played by George Plimpton, Gertrude Stein, or Caligula. “The literary set has been dying for someone to make educated, well-dressed white men sexy again,” says a former Bespoke intern. “Chester does that, thank God. He’s got sex appeal. For a magazine editor, I mean. By any normal standard, no.”

Chester Swinbottom Ebbersly Beale was born in 1983, son of the late novelist George Macaulay Beale, who was hailed as “the John Updike of the lower Hudson River Valley between Ossining and Dobbs Ferry.” But the younger Mr. Beale is quick to point out that he didn’t ascend the peaks of literary stardom because of his father. “Pup Pup always said I should avoid the writing life, since it never brought him anything but free martinis and rapacious female admirers. No, I got this job on my own. By sleeping with Lana Schulz, the publisher.” He stares out the window for some time. “But it was worth it.”

On a drizzly Saturday evening, Mr. Beale arrives at the New York Public Library in a black Cadillac Escalade with ruby-encrusted rims for the annual Elderly Lions party. But Mr. Beale’s engine is off. The luxury SUV has been outfitted with two wooden poles, thrusting forward from the chassis, and is being pulled by a team of Belorussian weightlifters in the manner of an Oriental rickshaw.

“Oh, it’s just a little joked I played on Lang Lang once,” Mr. Beale says as he enters the marble foyer. “Now people expect it of me.”

At the gala, media mogul Oprah Winfrey wraps Mr. Beale in a bearish embrace. Then she seizes him by the lapels. “Chester, I’m begging you. What should I read next?”

Not everyone is friendly with the new face of The Bespoke Review. After an incident that reportedly involved an essay collection, a ten-day cruise on the Danube, and an Autro-Tibetan supermodel, Sir Salman Rushdie has publicly sworn to bite Mr. Beale’s face apart if they ever meet again.

Readers of The Bespoke Review may be surprised to learn that Mr. Beale, whose taste in belles-lettres is regarded as infallible—he rejected Twilight by Stephanie Meyers because it was “not trashy enough”—can neither read nor write. Moreover, he doesn’t need to. “I don’t read words,” Mr. Beale said in an interview with the Corsican fashion magazine Fig. “I read people.”

As for his extra-literary views, Beale confesses that he’d like to see the United States return to its former status as a British colony. “They have so much to teach us,” he says, carving a boiled goose with his diamond cufflinks, “about the literary canon, and how to keep on imitating it forever.” More than a few heads nod in the library ballroom when he says this. In addition to his editorial duties, Beale is the secretary-treasurer of the New York City lodge of the American Loyalists to the British Crown.

“It’s a difficult road ahead for Chester,” says Esmerelda von Metternich, an arts reporter for The New York Chalice. “He needs to rebuild The Bespoke Review. He needs to rebuild literature. He needs to make it matter again.” From his place near the podium, Mr. Beale blows Ms. Metternich a kiss. “Luckily,” she says, “he only needs to make it matter to six or seven people in this room.”

- Brian Hurley

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Lakes I Haven’t Seen (and What I Think of Them Regardless)

Baikal

A superlative lake. The oldest, deepest, most voluminous and fresh, lucid from outer space. Russian, of course. Practically a sea. Ripped into the earth’s skin like a stretch mark, its shore scabbed over with mountains. One kilometer beneath the water is a neutrino telescope searching for dark matter. Has its own species of seal.

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Crater (Oregon)

A log bobbing in its blue eye for a hundred years. Rumor says a wizard drops by the island between 2:30 and 3:15pm on schooldays. So damn pretty you have to look away sometimes, like with Jared Leto, and recall that everything is evil at heart, especially nature.

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Victoria

Given like a severed head to a faraway queen. Once it brimmed with angelfish, then came a 400-pound predator with black jelly eyes. Worst extinction of vertebrates in the 20th century. A shame, since all the Vicki Lakes on Facebook and LinkedIn seem like decent people.

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AWARD: Supper with the Exorcist

A story I wrote, “Supper with the Exorcist,” has won an award: the storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2010.

The winners are announced here.

The story is here.

But what I really want to say is that “Supper with the Exorcist” was first published in Saltimbanque Review, a new online magazine that’s looking for submissions. If you write fiction or poetry or whatever else, send it to Saltimbanque Review.

They’re located here.

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Story: The North

A very cool magazine has published my latest story.

Check it out here.

You can read it, or hear me read it aloud.

I wrote this story in a hotel room in Pittsburgh. First I imagined a connection between America’s so-called culture wars and obesity—a connection that, if it played out over a few more generations, could result in a US population split between the super-obese and the “normal”-sized. Then I imagined a violent, Viking-style clash between them. I was partly inspired by a single word, “gigantomachy,” which means (kind of) war between people and giants.

Kill Author is a sick magazine: the editors are anonymous but they have great taste, and the web site is sleek and inviting. You can download the whole issue, for free, in all kinds of online and printable formats.

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