Desperate Characters

A collection of fiction selected by Deputy Editor Elliott Holt.

  • Spring 1998

    Spring 1998 Cover
    October 28, 2022

    Kaspar Hauser Speaks

    By Steven Millhauser

    Ladies and gentlemen of Nuremberg. Distinguished guests. It is with no small measure of amazement that I stand before you today, on the occasion of the third anniversary of my […]

  • Summer 1993

    Summer 1993 Cover
    October 28, 2022

    In Broad Daylight

    By Ha Jin

    While I was eating corn cake and jellyfish at lunch, our gate was thrown open and Bare Hips hopped in. His large wooden pistol was stuck partly inside the waist […]

  • Fall 1985

    Fall 1985 Cover
    October 28, 2022

    Pounding the Dog

    By Louise Erdrich

    We are very much like the dead,” Mary tells me, “except that we have the use of our senses.” She is kneading Polish sausage meat with her bare hands. Clouds […]

  • Winter 1979

    Winter 1979 Cover
    October 28, 2022

    The Old Folks

    By William H. Gass

    Who is not in league? The children waddle toward me, blue pants on the bigger one, yellow on the other. I lift them on the train. Away we go! We […]

  • Summer 1965

    Summer 1965 Cover
    October 28, 2022

    The Puzzleheaded Girl

    By Christina Stead

    Debrett liked his job in the old-style German bank in Broad Street, but he soon saw that the partners’ sons were coming into the firm and he could not rise […]

  • Summer 1956

    October 28, 2022


    By Flannery O’Connor

    Mrs. May’s bedroom window was low and faced on the east and the bull, silvered in the moonlight, stood under it, his head raised as if he listened–like some patient […]