Not too long ago, I was listening to a newly-discovered podcast called Selected Shorts (episode “Too Late”) an NPR program that enlists various celebrities or actors to read some short stories over the airwaves. This may not be the first time I cover a story from Selected Shorts, but as I only recently discovered this ‘cast, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. Though all the shorts in this episode were excellent – it was a tough choice about which one I would write – today shall talk a bit about Subsoil.
Subsoil is a short story by Nicholas Baker, and as I endeavor to improve my own craft regarding the making of short stories, this one is henceforth counted as a favorite. In this story, a man who by all accounts is an agricultural historian, goes off and stays at an inn on his way to the Museum of the Tractor. His trip is radically altered when he’s attacked by, as NPR puts it, killer potatoes.
Yes. Killer potatoes.
Now this sounds like some B Movie from the 80s, but Nicholas Baker does such a tremendous job writing it that I was instantly drawn into it. We’ve got serious whimsical, silly storytelling here – I’d almost go as far as to say that the narrative is akin to Terry Pratchett’s.
There’re loads of potato jokes and dry humor, a recipe for excellence any day of my week. If you’re unfamiliar with the podcast, highly recommended for anyone interested in fiction which, since you’re reading this, I’d safely assume might in fact be you. Or at the very least, find and read/hear Baker’s Subsoil. That’s a good twentyish minutes you will not regret!