The 30 Days of April Challenge

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The 30 Days of April Challenge

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Mar 30, 2012, 3:26 pm

Here we go - based on

Variant 1: Read 30 stories from 30 different Authors in April
Variant 2: Read 30 stories in April
Variant 3: Read 10 stories from 10 different Authors in April
Variant 4: Read 10 stories in April
Variant 5: User choice -- just let me know to add it here :)

I will set a few posts under this one to get the lists together.

No rules for posting - everyone post whenever they feel like that, say whatever they want about the stories they are reading and comment on what everyone else says, reads or whatever :)

Editado: Abr 2, 2012, 12:52 pm

Lists of stories read as part of the challenge

AnnieMod (Variant 1)

Poquette (Variant 1) - list in this message

letterpress (Variant 2)

dmsteyn (Variant 2)

detailmuse (Variant 3)

Petroglyph (Variant 3)

wandering_star (Variant 1/Variant 3) - list in this message

Linda92007 (variant 4)

msf59 (Unknown Variant)

sqdancer (Variant 4)

benitastrnad (Variant 2)

Mar 30, 2012, 3:26 pm


Mar 30, 2012, 3:26 pm


Editado: Maio 1, 2012, 1:48 am

My library contains many collections of short stories, many of which I have only dipped into. This will give me a wonderful excuse to sample and highlight them here, so my challenge will be to read 30 stories representing 30 different authors.

Hope to eventually have comments about stories from Sherman Alexie, Hans Christian Andersen, Donald Barthelme, Borges, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Kate Chopin, Colette, Isak Dinesen, Conan Doyle, Harlan Ellison, Fitzgerald, Frederick Forsyth, Hawthorne, Hemingway, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Maupassant, Kalman Mikszath, Nabokov, Poe, J.D. Salinger, Gilbert Sorrentino, Theodore Sturgeon, William Trevor, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Thomas Wolfe, Stefan Zweig.

ETA – I will list here and comment every few days in a new post below.

Unfortunately I ran out of days before I got to Stefan Zweig. Next time . . .

1 – "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven" by Sherman Alexie
2 – "The Drop of Water" by Hans Christian Andersen
3 – "The Phantom of the Opera's Friend" by Donald Barthelme
4 – "Ragnarok" by Jorge Luis Borges
5 – "The Enchanted Garden" by Italo Calvino
6 – "A Very, Very Great Lady and Her Son at Home" by Angela Carter
7 – "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
8 – "Mirror Games" by Colette
9 – "The Blank Page" by Isak Dinesen
10 – "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
11 – "Along the Scenic Route" by Harlan Ellison
12 – "The Bridal Party" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
13 – "Privilege" by Frederick Forsyth
14 – "The Great Carbuncle" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
15 – "Cat in the Rain" by Ernest Hemingway
16 – "Araby" by James Joyce
17 – "Unmasking a Confidence Trickster" by Franz Kafka
18 – "The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows" by Rudyard Kipling
19 – "The Lotus-Eater" by W. Somerset Maugham
20 – "The Conservatory" by Guy de Maupassant
21 – "Transients in Arcadia" by O. Henry
22 – "The Green Fly" by Kalman Mikszath
23 – "The Aurelian" by Vladimir Nabokov
24 – "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe
25 – "Day Million" by Frederik Pohl
26 – "Facts and Their Manifestations" by Gilbert Sorrentino
27 – "The World Well Lost" by Theodore Sturgeon
28 – "The Piano Tuner's Wives" by William Trevor
29 – "The Triumphs of a Taxidermist" by H.G. Wells
30 – "Circus at Dawn" by Thomas Wolfe

Editado: Abr 29, 2012, 6:30 am

I'll be in this (since my 12 in 12 is an absolute bombsite,why not take up another challenge? I do so well at them). I'll be going with Variant 2, simply because once I start a book of short stories, I can't put it down unfinished. Contenders (today) include Stefan Zweig, James Meek, Will Self, Dave Eggers, M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Sarah Orne Jewett and A.S. Byatt. The only definite is that everything I read MUST be from the Tower of TBR.

Edited for listing purposes...

How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers
1. Another
2. What It Means When A Crowd In A Faraway Nation Takes A Soldier Representing Your Own Nation, Shoots Him, Drags Him From His Vehicle And Then Mutilates Him In The Dust
3. The Only Meaning Of The Oil-Wet Water
4. On Wanting To Have Three Walls Up Before She Gets Home
5. Climbing Through The Window, Pretending To Dance
6. She Waits, Seething, Blooming
7. Quiet
8. Your Mother And I
9. Naveed
10. Notes For A Story Of A Man Who Will Not Die Alone
11. About The Man Who Began Flying After Meeting Her
12. Up The Mountain Coming Down Slowly
13. There Are Some Things He Should Keep To Himself
14. When They Learned To Yelp
15. After I Was Thrown In The River Before I Drowned

Amok and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig
16. Amok
17. The Star Above the Forest
18. Leporella
19. Incident on Lake Geneva

Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice by A.S. Byatt
20. Crocodile Tears
21. A Lamia in the Cevennes
22. Cold
23. Bag Lady
24. Jael
25. Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

Ghost Stories of M.R. James by M.R. James
26. The Mezzotint
27. The Ash-Tree
28. Number 13
29. A School Story
30. Count Magnus
31. 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'
32. The Treasure of Abbott Thomas
33. Casting the Runes
34. Martin's Close
35. The Residence at Whitminster
36. Rats
37. An Episode of Cathedral History
38. A View from a Hill
39. A Warning to the Curious
40. Wailing Well

Editado: Abr 21, 2012, 8:11 am

This sounds great! I was, coincidentally, planning on reading a lot of short stories this year, and have already started on some collections. I'll also be going with Variant 2, for the same reasons as letterpress. I'm busy with a collection of stories by a fellow South African, David Medalie, whom I know very well. I'm then moving on to Wells Tower (a re-read) and then some horror, fantasy and science fiction.

ETA - Keeping my list here.

From David Medalie's The Mistress's Dog: Short Stories 1996-2010
1. "Under the Dragon’s Tail" by David Medalie
2. "Indian Summer" by David Medalie
3. "Recognition" by David Medalie
4. "Friendly Fire" by David Medalie

From 50 Great Short Stories by Milton Crane (ed.)
5. "The Other Two" by Edith Wharton
6. "Theft" by Katherine Anne Porter
7. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor
8. "The Man of the House" by Frank O'Connor
9. "The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles" by Edmund Wilson
10. "The Curfew Tolls" by Stephen Vincent Benet
11. "The Gioconda Smile" by Aldous Huxley
12. "Father Wakes Up The Village" by Clarence Day
13. "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" by James Joyce
14. "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck
15. "The Door" by E.B. White
16. "An Upheaval" by Anton Chekhov
17. "A Haunted House" by Virginia Woolf
18. "How Beautiful with Shoes" by Wilbur Daniel Steele
19. "The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber
20. "The Schartz-Metterklume Method" by Saki

Editado: Abr 30, 2012, 5:27 pm

Happy to learn about this challenge! I started with Variant 3 (10 stories by 10 different writers) and moved on to Variant 2 (30 stories):

From The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
     1. “The Geranium”
     2. “Judgement Day”
From the anthology, The Plot Thickens
     3. “The Man Next Door” by Mary Higgins Clark
From Granta: Issue 109, on work
     4. “All That Follows” by Jim Crace
From The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber
     5. “The Catbird Seat”
From Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan
     6. “An Ex-mas Feast”
From Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
     7. “Unaccustomed Earth”
     8. “Hell-Heaven”
     9. “A Choice of Accommodations”
     27. “Only Goodness”
     28. “Nobody’s Business”
     29. “Once in a Lifetime”
     30. “Year’s End”
     31. “Going Ashore”
From The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction by Kate Chopin
     10. “At the ’Cadian Ball”
     11. “The Storm”
     12. “The Story of an Hour”
From Stories of Anton Chekhov
     13. “The Death of a Clerk”
     14. “Small Fry”
From McSweeney's 29
     15. “Labyrinth” by Joyce Carol Oates
From the Bellevue Literary Review Spring 2011
     16. “But Now Am Found” by Patti Horvath
     17. “Winston Speaks” by Jill Caputo
     18. “Happiness Advocates” by B.G. Firmani
     19. “Crazyland” by Ruth Schemmel
     20. “Odd a Sea’s Wake” by Nicholas Patrick Martin
     21. “Condensed Milk” by Danielle Eigner
     22. “The Day of the Surgical Colloquium Hosted by the Far East Rand Hospital” by Gill Schierhout
     23. “Minivan” by Anne Valente
     24. “Moab” by Jennifer Lee
     25. “Hamlet” by Benjamin Parzybok
     26. “Sisters of Mercy” by Joan Leegant

(#27-31 listed above under Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri)

edited to maintain list

Mar 31, 2012, 6:21 pm

This sounds like it could be a fun occupation. I've been working my way through several collections without actually making a lot of progress, so I guess I'll have an excuse now to finally do so. I'll be going for Variant 3, I guess. I'm doing too much reading for work to make 1 or 2 feasible.

Abr 1, 2012, 9:55 am

I'll be reading one of the Best American Short Stories, so will probably wind up somewhere between variant 1 and variant 3. If I manage to finish the BASS early enough I'll read some other short stories, but 30 may be pushing it...

Abr 1, 2012, 10:05 am

What a great idea, Annie. I hope you'll do this again some month when I'm not already over my head in reading. But I will plan for at least Variant 4, although I'm not inclined at this point to be too organized about it - no advance lists, but I have plenty on the shelf to choose from.

Abr 1, 2012, 10:17 am

Thanks for steering me over here, Linda. And thanks for starting this, Annie. I was wondering if we could just keep this Thread going for the year because I also have many story collections to get to.
We are having a David Copperfield Group Read this month, so that will soak up some of my reading time, but I am going to try for one or 2. I've been eye-balling Dancing After Hours by Andre Dubus.
Speaking of short stories, I just finished the excellent In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. I cannot recommend it higher.

Editado: Maio 1, 2012, 1:00 pm

I have a lot going on this month, but I think I can manage Variant 4. I'll keep my list here.

List :
1. Weather Witch by Elisabeth Waters
2. The Sixth String by Elisabeth Waters
3. The Secret Pleasures of Reginald by P. G. Wodehouse
4. Great sermon handicap by P. G. Wodehouse
5. Purity of the turf by P. G. Wodehouse
6. Metropolitan touch by P. G. Wodehouse
7. Delayed exit of Claude and Eustace by P. G. Wodehouse
8. Bingo and the little woman by P. G. Wodehouse
9. All's well by P. G. Wodehouse
10. Bertie changes his mind by P. G. Wodehouse
11. Fixing it for Freddie by P. G. Wodehouse
12. Absent treatment by P. G. Wodehouse
13. Rallying round old George by P. G. Wodehouse
14. Doing Clarence a bit of good by P. G. Wodehouse
15. Undue Influence by Elizabeth Ferrars
16. Going up and Coming Down by Muriel Spark
17. You Should Have Seen the Mess by Muriel Spark
18. Chimes by Muriel Spark
19. The Black Madonna by Muriel Spark
20. The Thing about Police Stations by Muriel Spark
21. Cold Spell by Elisabeth Waters
22. Tell Me a Story by Elisabeth Waters
23. Word of a Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
24. Traveller by Tom Finn
25. Mouse by Tom Finn

Not sure if I’d really count this one:
The dot and the line : a romance in lower mathematics by Norton Juster

Abr 1, 2012, 6:38 pm

I want to read In Other Rooms, Other Wonders but am also participating in the David Copperfield group read this month. That is two huge books for this month as I am also reading Warmth of Other Suns for my real life book discussion group. (Not that you guys aren't alive, but ...) I would like to keep this going for longer than the month, but am going to try to get to In Other Rooms. That would be variant 2 of the above selections.

Abr 1, 2012, 10:13 pm

>11 Linda92007:,12

If it is a success this month, I can start something similar in the next months as well (different rules maybe to keep it fun but keeping it fairly open).

PS: Updates to the thread and so on in the morning. :)

Editado: Abr 28, 2012, 7:20 am

I realised today that short stories I listen to on podcasts or read online also fit for this challenge, greatly increasing my chances of managing it. It's nice to be able to record these as I don't generally bother.

I'll keep my list updated in this message. I'll also link to the stories if they are available online.

1. A Different Kind of Imperfection by Thomas Beller, on the New Yorker fiction podcast. A rather beautiful story about a college student, trying to understand his dead father through reading his father's books with their annotations. (Coincidentally this story is also featured in BASS 92, so I read it again. Even better the second time).

2. Portraits by Rachel Cusk, another good one, about a painter and the way we perceive other people, sometimes just seeing the surface, sometimes looking beneath it.

3. M&M World by Kate Walbert, in which a mother takes her children out in New York on the first day of spring. This was nicely written, with the themes of love and loss unfolding quite gradually, but I didn't love it.

4. Echo by Laila Lalami, about a young academic coming to terms with the fact that she lost her job. It's one of the Guardian's series of "9/11 stories", commissioned to mark the 10th anniversary. I think the BBC did something similar, and honestly, I haven't been a big fan of any of them - even though they have often treated the theme or anniversary very tangentially so shouldn't be any more similar than any other work written on a particular theme.

5. While Trying To Save Another by Daliso Chaponda, one of the excellent Machine Of Death anthology - a collection of short stories, all by different people, all imagining what would happen in a world where there was a machine which could tell you how you would die. It's cleverly done - and because all the stories are written by different people, there is a wide range of visions. Do people embrace the new knowledge? Does the machine become an underground, shameful thing to have dealings with? This story is about love in the shadow of death. To be honest, it's not one of the best; my favourites really look at how the knowledge of means of death plays on human nature. But the collection is really worth checking out.

6. Mr Strogoff by Guillermo Samperio and 7. Variation on a theme by Coleridge by Alberto Chimal, both on the same episode of the Small Beer Press podcast. Both come from an anthology of Mexican fantasy short stories, Three Messages and a Warning. They are both very short and pretty good - Mr Strogoff is about a strange, black-coated figure and his encounter with two men whose wives he seduces, and Variation... starts with the narrator getting a phone call from herself, on a mobile phone she'd lost the year before. (I also enjoyed the story in a previous episode, “The Hour of the Fireflies” by Karen Chacek).

8. Sinners by Edna O'Brien, on a Selected Shorts podcast. A slightly disturbing little story about an Irish landlady and her encounter with a group of English people staying in her B&B. I would possibly have liked it more if it had been read better.

The next two are also from a (different) Selected Shorts:

9. Bayonne by John Cheever, my favourite story so far, about a middle-aged waitress and her pride in her territory.

10. Fjord of Killary by Kevin Barry, a good story ruined by terrible reading (over-acted and awful Irish accent). This story is about a poet who, having problems writing, has moved to the West of Ireland to run a bar. Rather than giving him inspiration as he had hoped, he is frustrated by his new life there. The story takes place one evening in the bar, as an almost Biblical rainstorm falls outside. Text available here.

11. I have finally started the Best American Short Stories 1992, with The Last Lovely City by Alice Adams. In this story, a recently widowed, well-respected doctor is invited by a young woman to a party. At that party, he runs into several figures from his past - all of them unwelcome. I really enjoyed this story. From the start, I had the sense that the day's events would be unpleasant for the doctor, but they turned out in quite an unexpected way. I also liked the fact that Adams portrayed him as a very compromised character - but the reader still felt very sympathetic towards him.

12. Days Of Heaven by Rick Bass, also from BASS 92. Another excellent story, told by a man who is caretaking a ranch in Montana, mainly about his hatred for the owner of the ranch, a Wall Street trader who comes down for short visits. It doesn't sound like great subject matter, but it's very effective in showing both the narrator's love for the wilderness, and the way it is spoilt by the galumphing city types.

In the South, where I had come from, tenants held the power of a barnburning if their landlords got out of hand. Even a poor man or woman can light a match. But not here: a fire in this country wouldn't ever stop.

13. The Naturalist by Maureen F McHugh, another Small Beer Press job. A rather disturbing story set in a future penal colony which is also a zombie preserve.

14. A beautiful story, available online: The End of a Dynasty or The Natural History of Ferrets by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin. This is from the collection Kalpa Imperial, which apparently contains 12 stories, all telling different aspects of the history of the Empire of Kalpa, which lasted 4 billion years. This story is about the last Emperor of one of the dynasties - and why he is the last emperor. It's also beautifully translated - it didn't read like a translation at all. I'm sworn off buying new books for the next few weeks, but this will be my first purchase when the book fast ends.

15. Silver Water by Amy Bloom, BASS 92. A beautiful and tragic story about a young woman and her schizophrenic sister. I cried.

16. A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler, BASS 92. An elderly Vietnamese man living in New Orleans receives nightly visits from the ghost of his old friend Ho Chi Minh. Another very beautiful story.

17. Across The Bridge by Mavis Gallant, BASS 92. A naive young bourgeoise in 1950s Paris finds ways to keep her dreams of romance alive despite rather dull prospects. It's hard to explain this story - that synopsis doesn't really do it justice, but I've thought up several synopses and this is the best one. It's a slow-burning story with a great payoff.

18. Same Place, Same Things by Tim Gautreaux. A travelling pump repairman during the Great Depression meets a woman desperate to escape from her life. Very good, subtly told.

19. The Pugilist At Rest by Thom Jones. A Vietnam vet remembers incidents from his life and how his war experiences continued to affect him. I liked the 'voice' of this one - convincingly someone who was both messing up his life and knew that he was doing so.

20. Junhee by Marshall N Klimasewiski. A Korean-American is haunted by the ghost of her mother. At the same time, her husband becomes suddenly accident-prone. It's an interesting counterpointing of the way two people react to a bad event with - perhaps - their own superstitions?

21. Community Life by Lorrie Moore. A relationship between misfits - one a reserved librarian, the other a street salesman and leftwing campaigner. This is probably my least favourite of the BASS stories so far - it's not bad, but it's not outstanding as the others have all been.

22. Birds Of Africa by Mary Morris. A young boy likes to break into empty houses and take one small thing - a jigsaw puzzle piece, a single cufflink. One day, he breaks into the house next to his, a family very different from his own, and starts being drawn to being there. Not quite as interesting as that sounds.

22b. (Not counting for the challenge because it's a repeated author): Fish Story by Rick Bass. A boy is looking after an enormous catfish, that a neighbour has given to his father in repayment of a debt, while the father and mother prepare for a huge cookout. The neighbour's family, though, think the fish is worth much more than the debt and keep trying to get it back.

Abr 2, 2012, 8:36 pm

From The Complete Stories, I read Flannery O’Connor’s first published story, "The Geranium" -- about Old Dudley, a Southern white man yanked up to New York City to live with his daughter and next door to a black couple. Lovely and heartbreaking.

Then I couldn’t resist following it with O'Connor's final published story, "Judgement Day" -- a reworking of "The Geranium" where an old man plans his return to the South. Smoother and angrier.

I’ll maintain a list in msg#8 above.

Editado: Abr 30, 2012, 8:35 pm

I'm trying for Variant 1, pulling from these sources:

Southern Review issues
McSweeny's issues
Firebirds Rising
Flannery O'Connor LOA volumes
James Agee LOA volumes
Penguin 60s
Anthology of Japanese Literature
The Ends of the Earth
Louisiana Sojourns
Selected Writings by Ruben Dario
LOA Story of the Week
Oxford America issues

I'll keep my list updated here here, but post thoughts as I read in separate messages.

#1 Story in Harlem Slang by Zora Neale Hurston
#2 As You've Planned It by Line-Maria Lang
#3 Welcome, Lost Dogs by Vanessa Blakeslee
#4 Like (Love!) in Mississippi by Elizabeth Kaiser
#5 The Sickness, the Dinosaurs, Baby Dan, and the Swollen Hand by Mike Powell
#6 Groundscratchers by Gabriel Welsch
#7 Angel’s Wolf by Nalini Singh
#8 The Best Party Ever: But What’s Wrong with Mama? by Cary Holladay
#9 Last Summer by John Brandon
#10 Action Figure by Adam Prince
#11 Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews
#12 We Are Taking Only What We Need by Stephanie Powell Watts
#13 Nocturne by Sharon Shinn
#14 Ascension by Meljean Brook
#15 Section 8 by Jaquira Diaz
#16 After the Winter by Kate Chopin
#17 Huntress by Tamora Pierce
#18 The Doll by Charles W. Chesnutt
#19 Unwrapping by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
#20 The Real Thing by Alison Goodman
#21 Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de Lint
#22 I’ll Give You My Word by Diana Wynne Jones

#1 (040112): Story in Harlem Slang by Zora Neale Hurston; Library of America’s Story of the Week

Jelly, a Harlem pimp, is trying to find someone to buy him a meal. He runs into an acquaintance; they trade some barbs and try to convince a young lady to feed them. Excellent start to my little project as it was quite funny and had a 3 page glossary.

#2 (040212): As You've Planned It by Line-Maria Lång; The Southern Review- Winter 2011 and read here by the author; translated by K.E. Semmel

A very short (3 page) story about sitting with a loved one who is dying.

Editado: Abr 9, 2012, 10:00 pm

I'll go with Variant 1 after all. Here's what I've read so far, courtesy of a few back issues of The New Yorker I'm catching up with:
1. Los Gigantes by T. Coraghessan Boyle, New Yorker, 2/6/12 issue
2. Citizen Conn by Michael Chabon, New Yorker, 2/13 & 20/12
3. A Prairie Girl by Thomas McGuane, New Yorker, 2/27/12
4. Haven by Alice Munro, New Yorker, 3/5/12
5. Ever Since by Donald Antrim, New Yorker, 3/12/12
6. Chapter Two by Antonya Nelson, New Yorker, 3/26/12.
Heavyweights all, and highly readable stories.

Abr 5, 2012, 11:21 pm

Enjoying all the titles and comments so far.

I am doing Variant 1, 30 stories, 30 days, 30 authors. So I have been purposely looking for the shortest stories so that I will be able to follow through on the commitment. The interesting thing about the very short masterpieces is that in many cases they carry a sharp bite or some element that causes one to stop and think.

Here are some thumbnails about my first five stories:

1. "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven," title story in a collection by Sherman Alexie This story evokes the sense of "other" that the narrator feels trying to thrive in a white society.

2. "The Drop of Water" by Hans Christian Andersen, from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, Second Series An old man looks with his magician friend at a drop of ditch water through his microscope and sees a village full of people squabbling. He feels helpless in being unable to intervene.

3. "The Phantom of the Opera's Friend" by Donald Barthelme, from Sixty Stories The phantom's friend finally persuades him to give up his place in the bowels of the opera. But does he follow through?

4. "Ragnarök" by Jorge Luis Borges, from Labyrinths in this fable the Gods return after many centuries in exile to be greeted with suspicion by the people and to find they could not communicate amongst themselves. Overcome by fear and suspicion the people take out their guns and joyfully — oops! Don't want to spoil it!

5. "The Enchanted Garden" by Italo Calvino, from Difficult Loves Two children unwittingly step into the garden of an old villa where temptations abound in which they indulge themselves, always expecting to be driven out. Instead, they experience an epiphany.

Abr 6, 2012, 5:33 pm

Great stories, Suzanne! All of them sound very interesting.

I've finished the David Medalie collection, so here are my thoughts on four of his stories:

1. 'Under the Dragon’s Tail' by David Medalie

A woman goes to meet with her ‘father’, a South African who became a famous actor in America. He is in South Africa making a film based on King Lear (the title of the film and the story comes from Lear). There are interesting ties to Lear throughout: the man disowns his daughter, denying that he ever knew her mother, and they are finally reconciled after a major storm forces them to shelter together. The title also refers to the migraines the women suffers from, which she describes as a lizard seated on her head, wrapping its tail around her head.

All-in-all, a very good story. Medalie obviously has a great knowledge of twentieth-century Hollywood, as he intersperses interesting anecdotes throughout (obviously, they are somewhat adapted to fit into the story).

2. 'Indian Summer' by David Medalie

A very short story (only 2 ½ pages), this one concerns a woman who befriends her ex-husband’s parents. He has convinced them to emigrate from South Africa, despite their friendship. Emigration is a very pressing concern in contemporary SA, and Medalie handles it interestingly. The title refers to the weather conditions of the story, but also to the friendship of the protagonist and the older characters: a brief reprieve before loneliness.

This story told a bit more than it showed, but was still fairly good.
Short Story 3: 'Recognition' by David Medalie

An old woman, the wife of an ex-prime minister of the previous (Afrikaner) regime in South Africa, is invited to a reception by the new president (probably Nelson Mandela, though Medalie never mentions his name), together with the widows of other previous prime ministers as well as widows of veterans of the armed struggle. She is seated next to a black woman, whom she only recognises after the president talks to her. Medalie is reticent about the details, but this black woman obviously represents the widow of Steve Biko. The two women, who apparently have little in common, ‘recognise’ in each other the wish, as the old Afrikaner lady expresses it, ‘to make sure that no one is going to take the past away from me.’

This story has complex resonances, and hints at the problems of reconciliation. It is also somewhat prophetic, as it was only written in 1996, before the real difficulties of the new South Africa were as clearly crystallised as they are today.

Short Story 4: 'Friendly Fire' by David Medalie

In this story, ten-year old Linda and her slightly older sister Pam accompany their parents to the farm of the two most popular girls in Pam’s grade. While playing a game of hide-and-seek, the popular girls play a terrible prank on Linda. To Linda’s surprise, Pam sides with her, rejecting the friendship of the other two girls. Years later, Pam cheats on Linda with Linda’s husband. Linda is able to forgive her husband, but she cannot forgive Pam because, as Linda tells her friend, ‘Pam chose me’.

The best part of this story was Medalie’s evocation of childhood and the isolated setting of rural South Africa. It is probably the most universal story in the collection; anyone can empathise with the pain of childhood and divided loyalties.

Abr 6, 2012, 11:25 pm

Medalie's stories sound very appealing. I'm going to have to check on whether they are available here in the US.

Abr 9, 2012, 9:57 pm

Still working on Variant 1. My first six stories were from The New Yorker (>19 Hagelstein:). This next group is from literary journals. I didn't comment on the first group, but have added some comments for these:

7. Invasive Species by Jacob Appel, New Millenium Writings, 2012.
A wonderfully written story in which a mother tries to cope with her young daughter's cancer and imminent death.

8. Call it Love, Name it Hate by John Chattin, Bayou Magazine, Issue 54.
A woman badly disfigured in a nightclub fire deals with the aftermath.

9. Roger and Jodeen by Kevin Breen, Bayou Magazine, Issue 55.
A compelling story of seemingly mismatched postal workers that meet, fall in love, get married, and have two boys. The story could end there, but there are medical complications that draw out the true nature of all the characters in the story.

10. Caiman by Bret Anthony Johnston, Agni Magazine, Issue 69.
A loving mother and father face the fear of bringing up their young son in a sometimes dangerous world.

11. The Garden by Lauren Cline, Mangrove Review, Volume 7.
A wife finds independence from her belittling husband through gardening.

12. Empty Coffins by Rebecca Ormiston, Mangrove Review, Volume 7.
Two childhood frends that never really understood each other grow older into disparate lives.

Abr 10, 2012, 2:30 am

It sounds like you've been reading some interesting stories, Hagelstein. I haven't heard of any of these writers. The family theme seems to run through most of them.

Abr 10, 2012, 9:12 am

>23 Hagelstein:
A compelling story of seemingly mismatched postal workers that meet, fall in love, get married, and have two boys. The story could end there, but there are medical complications that draw out the true nature of all the characters in the story.

Sounds novel-worthy. I'm curious as to how many pages?

Editado: Abr 10, 2012, 9:53 am

>24 dmsteyn: The literary journals have some newer writers and you're right, the family theme does seem dominant.

Abr 10, 2012, 9:54 am

>25 detailmuse: That story is 13 single-spaced pages and it does successfully pack a lot of life into a short story.

Abr 10, 2012, 11:21 am

I will be traveling today and will be listening to Haruki Murakami. I have After the Quake on CD and will be taking it with me. I will let you know how I like it when I get back.

Abr 10, 2012, 1:00 pm

38) Dancing After Hours: Stories by Andre Dubus 3.7 stars

There are fourteen stories here, about love, fidelity, desire and loss. Intertwined with these tales are four linked snapshots of a single couple, called Ted and LuAnn, as they meet, marry and deal with the struggles of marital life.
Dubus is a fine writer, evoking Raymond Carver and Richard Yates and completely understands this distinctive story form. His prose is strong and deft, if just a touch cold around the edges.
“The earth itself was leaving with her sad and pitying husband, was drawing away from her. Stars fell. That was a song, and music would never again be lovely; it was gone with the shattering stars and coldly dying moon, the trees of such mortal green; gone with life itself.”

Abr 10, 2012, 2:33 pm

Hagelstein – an unusual selection of stories, which sound intriguing indeed.

msf59 – I am embarrassed to say I have never read anything by Andre Debus, although I've been meaning to for years. Dancing After Hours may be a good place to begin.

Continuing with my 30 short stories by 30 authors in 30 days, here is another group of stories that I have read. My brief summaries unfortunately leave out the genius of the stories themselves.

6. "A Very, Very Great Lady and Her Son at Home" by Angela Carter, from Burning Your Boats The story begins: When I was adolescent, my mother taught me a charm, gave me a talisan, handed me the key of the world. Said talisman serves the protagonist well until she reveals it to her son. At the same time lyrical and scatalogical, this is a masterpiece in miniature.

7. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, from Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories; also available on line at; thanks to detailmuse for suggesting this story — A woman learns that her husband has been killed in a train wreck. Her emotions run the gamut from grief to a strange sense of liberation. And then . . .

8. "Mirror Games" by Colette, from The Collected Stories of Colette Two women, one more beautiful than the other, vie for the attentions of a man who seems to favor one over the other, but does he? The women mirror each other's mannerisms in the belief that copying the other will make her more attractive.

9. "The Blank Page" by Isak Dinesen, from Last Tales A story set in Old Portugal which illustrates how a blank page may be more eloquent than "the most perfectly printed page of the most precious books."

10. "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in The Complete Sherlock Holmes An exceedingly large blue gemstone is recovered from the crop of a Christmas goose; and how it got there and who found it are the questions raised and answered by the great Sherlock Holmes.

Abr 10, 2012, 6:05 pm

Some more:

“The Man Next Door” by Mary Higgins Clark (from The Plot Thickens) -- a woman-in-peril story about a publicist whose serial-killer neighbor has his eyes on her.

“All that Follows” by Jim Crace (from Granta 109: Work) -- a British jazz saxophonist, in personal flux and considering helping in a hostage situation, recalls a time he did save the day.

“The Catbird Seat” by James Thurber (from The Thurber Carnival) -- the funny story that became an idiom: a company man gains advantage over his nemesis before she can reorganize his department.

“An Ex-mas Feast” by Uwem Akpan (from Say You're One of Them) -- a Nairobi family living in squalor scrounges a dark Christmas.

From Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri:
   “Unaccustomed Earth” -- after her mother’s death, a woman begins to get to know her father.
   “Hell-Heaven” -- a woman recalls a man whom her family befriended, especially her mother.
   “A Choice of Accommodations” -- a married couple attends a wedding that shines a light on their own marriage.

Abr 11, 2012, 2:05 am

Ok, for a longish post, the first six stories I read from 50 Great Short Stories, as edited by Milton Crane.

Short Story 5: 'The Other Two' by Edith Wharton

Waythorn is the third husband of Alice. They are called back from their honeymoon because Lily, Mrs Waythorn’s child by her first husband, Haskett, has contracted typhoid. Over the next few weeks, Waythorn keeps running into Varick, Alice’s second husband, who moves in the same circles as Waythorn. He also meets Haskett, who has moved to New York to be closer to his child. All three men finally meet while visiting Waythorn’s house on different errands, leading to much social embarrassment.

Not having read any of Wharton’s novels, I can only say that this seems typical of her subject matter of New York bourgeoisie. Waythorn’s treatment of his wife seemed a bit unkind, and his embarrassments somewhat paltry, but -this may be because I am seeing them through a 21st century lens. A very well-written story with interesting characterisation.

Short Story 6: ‘Theft’ - Katherine Anne Porter

I always find these very short short stories hard to review without giving away everything about the story. In this one, an unnamed woman goes home in the rain, and leaves her purse out to dry in her room. The next morning, it’s gone. But the story is not really about this ‘theft’ per se. Rather, it is a meditation on ‘theft’ in general:

‘In this moment she felt that she had been robbed of an enormous number of valuable things, whether material or intangible…’

I found it interesting, but I was a bit confused about the setting. I assume it is New York in the 1920’s, but you cannot really tell much from the details of the story.

Short Story 7: 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' - Flannery O'Connor

A family go on holiday, only to run into a band of… misfits. Meaning, serial killers. No, I’m not going into the details.

What a strange story! It begins with farcical elements – the unnamed grandmother is hilarious, as are the children, John Wesley and June Star – but things go to hell in a handbasket pretty soon after the family set off on holiday. The grandmother doesn’t want to go to Florida because a murder, ‘The Misfit’, has broken out of ‘Federal Pen’ and is also on his way there. Should have listened to the grandmother.

This is quintessential Southern Gothic, almost a parody of the genre. Needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely…

Short Story 8: 'The Man of the House' - Frank O'Connor

A young boy has to take over the running of the household after his mother falls ill. He goes to buy medicine for her, but things do not work out as expected.

That sounds very vague, but the story really is more complicated than this summary might imply. There is delicious characterisation, and the way O’Connor handles the symbolic relationship of boy and mother is quite beautiful.

Short Story 9: 'The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles' by Edmund Wilson

Stryker loves the ducks that live on his pond, but hates the snapping turtles that kill them. He makes various attempts to get rid of the turtles – yes, including shooting them – but in the end his neighbour, Clarence, convinces him to rather exploit the turtles. The two men start a turtle soup business, which flourishes. The story, however, comes to an unfortunate ending for both men.

This and the Flannery O’Connor story were my favourites so far. This story is exciting and ingenious: not only is the story interesting in itself, but it also has many possibilities for symbolic interpretation.

Here is my favourite extract:

“If God has created the mallard,” Stryker said, “a thing of beauty and grace, how can He allow these dirty filthy mud-turtles to prey upon His handiwork and destroy it?” “He created the mud-turtles first,” I said. “The reptiles came before the birds. And they survive with the strength God gave them. There is no instance on record of God’s intervention in the affairs of any animal species lower in the scale than man.” “But if Evil triumphs there,” said Stryker, “it may triumph everywhere, and we must fight it with every weapon in our power!” “That’s the Manichaean heresy,” I replied. “It is an error to assume that the Devil is contending on equal terms with God and that the fate of the world is in doubt.” “I’m not sure of that sometimes,” said Stryker, and I noticed that his bright little eyes seemed to dim in a curious way as if he were drawing into himself to commune with some private fear. “How do we know that God isn’t getting old? How do we know that some of His lowest creatures aren’t beginning to get out of hand and clean up on the higher ones?”

Short Story 10: 'The Curfew Tolls' by Stephen Vincent Benet

General Estcourt is convalescing in France in 1788. He writes letters to his sister, in which he describes the local people. One man catches his eye, and they become, if not friends, then at least acquaintances. The man, from Sardinia or Corsica, is also convalescing, after having served as a major in the French Royal Artillery…

The title of this story pretty much gives away its intent: it is from Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’, in which he laments those who might have achieved greatness, had they had the right opportunities. I assume that most of you can guess who this epistolary alternate history refers to…

The story is quite interesting, though Benét is a bit heavy-handed in pushing his themes. I would have preferred a subtler reflection on fame and destiny. But for anyone interested in, well, you-know-who, this is a great meditation on his character.

Abr 11, 2012, 9:49 am

Dewald - I really like the way you are reviewing the stories - I too often find it difficult to review a short story as the 'story' and the 'content' are often a little different - never mind explaining how I feel about it!

Abr 11, 2012, 10:05 am

Why, thank you! I still feel like I might be giving away a bit too much in some cases, though I try too keep the exposition to a minimum for stories that have a real 'twist'.

Abr 11, 2012, 10:39 am

These sound like wonderful stories Donald, and I think your synopses give just enough information. A Good Man is Hard to Find is one of my favorites.

Abr 12, 2012, 1:01 am

I've finished my first collection, How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers. For me, Eggers is one of those writers whose work I love while at the same time wanting to give them a clout for being such clever po-mo sods. Best example in this collection? There Are Some Things He Should Keep To Himself, which consists of blank pages. Smartie? Yes. But it also leads the mind down some interesting paths. What should he keep to himself? Who is he? Eggers? The reader? What do I keep to myself? Should I?

The stories vary in length, some cover barely a page. Some contain a strange, exhilarating blend of the familiar, almost mundane, and the raw emotion, frustration, pain and joy that motivate and are inspired by the everyday. She Waits, Seething, Blooming is a penetrating evocation of a mother waiting up for her teenage son who is late coming home. In Climbing To The Window, Pretending To Dance a man reflects on and questions his own place in society while once again travelling to see a chronically unsuccessful suicidal relative in hospital. The masterful Up The Mountain Coming Down Slowly follows a woman on a tourist climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. The climb begins as a personal challenge to her own perceived habit of settling, of being forced into situations by others, but becomes something that shocks her to look beyond herself. About The Man Who Began Flying After Meeting Her is a swift, sweetly poignant account of a man's imagined life with a lover.

Other stories dip their toes into the slightly fantastic. Notes For A Story Of A Man Who Will Not Die Alone presents itself as just that, a series of notes and ideas about a character who wants to die surrounded by thousands of people and how he and his friends and family would set about to achieve his wish, with Eggers revising plans, plots, and where the reader thinks it's all going. The last story in the collection is now a firm personal favourite. After I Was Thrown In The River And Before I Drowned is told by a dog. And it is wonderful.

Editado: Abr 12, 2012, 2:23 am

>35 Hagelstein: - Thanks! 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' is definitely one of the best stories I've read in a long time.

>36 letterpress: - Eggers sounds very interesting, although that first story, well, I could've not written it... but, of course, I didn't :-)

Abr 12, 2012, 9:02 am

This challenge is thrilling me to the stories waiting in my unread collections. And this thread is becoming a treasure trove for future reference. Thanks to everyone!

Abr 12, 2012, 12:54 pm

Coud not have said it better myself!

Abr 14, 2012, 1:15 am

There’s no special theme to this next group of stories:

13. Labyrinth by Roberto Bolaňo, New Yorker, 1/23/12.
The late Chilean poet and novelist, in the story Labyrinth, examines a photo that appears to have been taken in Paris in the 1970s of eight people seated at a table in a café. He extrapolates from the photo the lives of the eight and how they are intertwined. The story is strangely gripping, perhaps because there are faces to go with it.

14. He Becomes Deeply and Famously Drunk by Brady Udall. From the collection Letting Loose the Hounds.
A 17 year-old delinquent returns from the city to the ranch where he was raised until his father died. He is determined to become a cowboy like his father was, but is haunted by the idea of exacting revenge on the man responsible for his death. Letting Loose the Hounds is a collection of stories set in the American West where pain, loss, and humor are deeply intermingled.

15. There’s No Business by Charles Bukowski.
This is actually a short story in a thin folio with illustrations by R. Crumb. On what is probably his last night of employment, Manny Hyman is a burned-out comedian in Las Vegas who faces being replaced by a newcomer who "does dirty tricks with soap bubbles." A typically acerbic Charles Bukowski story in nice packaging.

16. Links by Lynne Barrett. From the collection Magpies.
Lynne Barrett’s Magpies is a collection of eight elegant and subtle stories which won the 2011 Florida Book Award Gold medal for General Fiction. In Links a “luddite” writer gets a job at a run by 28 year-old A.D.D. phenoms after the magazine where she worked for eight years folds. The contrast between her steady and seemingly old-fashioned values and those of her employers is at the heart of the story.

17. Refresh, Refresh by Benjamin Percy. From the collection Refresh, Refresh.
A searing story of boys in Oregon haunted by the absence of fathers off fighting in the Middle East. They try to become the rough men they imagine their fathers to be and wait in dread for the knock on the door telling them they are now the men in the family. The story was originally published in The Paris Review:

Abr 15, 2012, 2:30 pm

Five more:

11. "Along the Scenic Route" by Harlan Ellison, from The Essential Ellison George has a hissy fit when some other driver cuts him off on the freeway. A car chase from hell ensues and everything runs amok.

12. "The Bridal Party" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald Americans in Paris at the time before the ravages of the Great Crash had had a chance to set in. But a fancy wedding takes place even though the groom receives a telegram during the bachelor party announcing that he has lost everything.

13. "Privilege" by Frederick Forsyth, from No Comebacks In England a reporter falsely libels a small businessman who could sue but the costs would most likely outweigh the damages. But there is more than one way to restore one's honor, retaliate and come out smelling like a rose at practically no cost.

14. "The Great Carbuncle" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, from Twice-Told Tales and Other Short Stories In the time of Capt. John Smith, a Seeker, an alchemist, a merchant, a Cynic, a poet, a dandy and a pair of newlyweds – each with his own selfish purpose – embark on a quest in the Crystal Hills for the Great Carbuncle. Perhaps "quest" is the wrong word.

15. "Cat in the Rain" by Ernest Hemingway, from The First Forty-Nine Stories A vain American wife on holiday with her husband at a deserted seaside hotel spies a cat huddling under a table out of the rain and decides on impulse she must possess it.

Today marks the halfway point in our challenge. All the stories I have read so far are good, each in its own way, but there are two real standouts for me. One is the Angela Carter story "A Very, Very Great Lady and Her Son at Home." It is very short, only a couple of pages, but stylistically it is a small masterpiece. The tone Carter uses immediately captures the atmosphere and this is carried through almost to the ending where she shifts her voice in such a way as to snap you to attention. I was very taken with the way this story was told – the vocabulary, the tone, the diction. The same goes for "Mirror Games" by Colette. Sometimes Colette's stories sound like they were written by a teenage girl. But other of her stories seem almost to have been written by a totally different person, and "Mirror Games" is one of those. The word "mirror" is a metaphor of what takes place in the story, but Colette conveys this also in the way the story unfolds. Again, this is a relatively short story, but it is a model of what can be accomplished by a skilled writer in very few words.

Abr 15, 2012, 4:25 pm

Hi! As I'm doing a year-long short story personal challenge, this is a natural for me. As it's the 15th and I'm just finding out about it now, I will go with Variant 3: 10 stories by 10 different authors.

I will return shortly with the stories I've read so far this month.

Thanks, Suzanne, for pointing out this challenge and this group.

Abr 15, 2012, 9:30 pm

Okay, back with my stories. What I've read so far this month:

1. "Birthday," by David Wong Louie (1991), from Points of View. Told by an ex-boyfriend of a woman, who no longer has contact with her young son. The son lives with his father, and the ex-boyfriend is still trying to maintain the relationship. Slowly the reader understands his inappropriate and obsessive behavior.

2. "The Passing," by Durango Mendoza (year unknown), from Points of View. Subtly powerful story of a young boy who knows an older boy "in passing." Great story, but I don't want to say too much and ruin it.

3. "The Voice from the Wall," Amy Tan (1989), from Points of View. Odd story. Tan isn't my favourite writer, but it was okay and there were some interesting things going on. I think writes Chinese-North American culture very well.

4. "Country," by Jayne Anne Phillips (1979), from Points of View. The characters in this story are dirt-poor and have really nasty lives. I have to admit that I probably didn't understand this story--one of the reasons I suspect that is because I have no idea why she would even name it "country." I disliked it very, very much.

5. "Nil's Wedding," by Roshi Fernando (2010), from Homesick. One of 17 short stories in this book that form a composite novel. This one is about the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants in London, on her wedding day as she marries an English man. A lovely sketch of her doubts and internal conflicts. Highly recommended, as is this whole book.

I'm doing Variant 3, 10 books by 10 authors. It's halfway through the month and I'm halfway there.

Abr 16, 2012, 3:13 am

You're off to a good start, Joyce. As you alluded to in story #2 it is so difficult to sum up a story and capture its magic and not give it away.

Abr 16, 2012, 10:53 am

Short Story 11: 'The Gioconda Smile' by Aldous Huxley

A perhaps overly long story which is also difficult to summarise. Mr Hutton seems to be in an enviable position – he is rich, married to a devoted wife, and has an equally devoted mistress. Then there is also Miss Janet Spence who, like wife and mistress, is enamoured of Mr Hutton. He is intrigued by her, especially her ‘Gioconda Smile’, which seems to conceal something mysterious beneath her veneer of sophistication. Despite Mr Hutton’s happy situation, things start going wrong for him when his wife suddenly dies…

As I said, the story seemed a bit lengthy, but other than that, it is a fascinating study of obsession and betrayal. Huxley is a better writer than he is sometimes given credit for; not just a ‘writer of ideas’, but also a sophisticated stylist. I have only read the ‘big one’, Brave New World, which I enjoyed less than this story, so I will be reading more of Huxley’s works.

Short Story 12: 'Father Wakes Up The Village' by Clarence Day

A very funny autobiographical story about Day’s father, who insists on having ice-cold water at all times, especially after a hard day’s work in the city. One hot day, the ice man doesn’t show up: there is hell to pay.

Not one of the best stories I've read this month, but quite humorous.

Short Story 13: ‘Ivy Day in the Committee Room’ by James Joyce

Several Dubliners spend the evening in the Committee Room on Ivy Day, drinking and talking. That’s about it as far as the story goes – Joyce apparently prided himself on never having devised a plot in his life.

This may sound somewhat boring, and, in a sense, the story is ‘pointless’, but that misses the ‘point’ of Joyce’s artifice. His dialogue is, as always, brilliant in its verisimilitude, and his insight into Dublin society is as sharp as ever. The story, although not ‘about’ anything in the traditional sense, does present the different characters’ response to the legacy of Parnell, the Irish nationalist leader. I would have got more from the story if I actually knew more about Parnell and Ireland.

Short Story 14: ‘The Chrysanthemums’ by John Steinbeck

Elisa is planting chrysanthemums in her garden when an itinerant tinker comes by, offering to fix her pots and pans and sharpen her scissors. They discuss flowers and the tinker lifestyle. Elisa gives him chrysanthemum sprouts to take to a woman ‘down the road a piece’.

Did I understand the full import of this story? No. I got the idea that it was about a woman’s place in society: Elisa asks whether a woman could follow the tinker lifestyle, and the man replies that it would be very hard. There is also a sexual tension running through the story that made me somewhat uncomfortable. So, not my favourite story, although it was quite well-written.

Short Story 15: 'The Door' by E.B. White

A very peculiar ‘story’ of which I cannot give a synopsis, as that would imply that I actually knew what was happening. But the text is obviously meant to be discombobulating: White uses ‘and’ continuously to hurry the reader on, preventing you from actually forming a picture of what is happening, and there are many parentheses containing seemingly pointless information. I think the story is about someone who is mentally unstable, or who has been experimented upon, or both. Luckily, it is very short, so I didn’t have to hurt my mind too much in reading White’s tortuous prose.

Not bad, but a bit too post-modern for me, even though it was published in 1939. I can’t believe White also wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web!

Abr 16, 2012, 10:58 am

Well, that's the half-way mark. I've really enjoyed this challenge so far, and I really enjoy reading about the other stories people have been reading. Favourites are definitely 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' by Flannery O'Connor and 'The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles' by Edmund Wilson. I also enjoyed Huxley's 'The Gioconda Smile' and Joyce's 'Ivy Day in the Committee Room', though neither is really the sort of story I usually enjoy.

Abr 16, 2012, 12:06 pm

I disliked it very, very much.
Did I understand the full import of this story? No.
I cannot give a synopsis, as that would imply that I actually knew what was happening.

I'm also encountering some of these, now the task of summarizing...

Abr 16, 2012, 3:58 pm

With these, I’ve completed my “10 stories by 10 writers” challenge, which has included mostly good and great stories. I’m already well on my way to variant 2 (“30 stories”).

From Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction:
   “At the ’Cadian Ball” -- which man will charm the beautiful and exotic Calixta at the upcoming Acadian (Louisiana) dance: good-guy Bobinot or wealthy Alcee?
   “The Storm” (a sequel to the above) -- where the other guy gets his chance.
Both felt like fragments, so I re-read “The Story of an Hour” -- a tiny story with a full narrative arc, where Chopin beautifully uses a description of setting to foreshadow a new widow’s sense of optimism.

From the Stories of Anton Chekhov:
   “The Death of a Clerk” -- at the opera, a man sneezes on a general sitting in front of him; he apologizes and is waved off, but then just won’t leave it alone. I thought the ending of this very short story was ridiculously unearned … until I remembered Chekhov’s direct address to the reader near the beginning: “Life is so full of the unexpected!” whereupon I chuckled and acquiesced.
   “Small Fry” -- a low-level bureaucrat who lacks the courage to earn respect from powerful people, resorts to harming the powerless.

“Labyrinth” by Joyce Carol Oates is a horror story printed on the back endpapers of McSweeney's 29. The story is thin but the experience is full -- the format (below) requires the reader to turn the book around and around, faster and faster as the spiral tightens and the protagonist descends the stairs to a basement.

“But Now Am Found” by Patti Horvath, from Bellevue Literary Review Spring 2011 -- when teens’ sexual awakening is discovered, the girl, with severe scoliosis, is sent away to a church school where she is not permitted to wear her brace: “{T}hey do not believe in deformity, it being a mark of sin.”

Abr 16, 2012, 4:41 pm

Echoing the sentiments of letterpress in 6 above, why not? I will try variant 1, which may become variant 2 if I find myself on a roll with someone I really like, like Dubus. It is midmonth, so this will be two stories a day, which I started with yesterday.

Great idea for a challenge!

Abr 16, 2012, 10:38 pm

Re: message 15, I think this is an excellent challenge and would be up for further variants in future months. I am particularly enjoying the opportunity to log all the short stories I am reading/listening to. (Of course, it also helps that the anthology I am reading is particularly strong so far...)

Editado: Abr 16, 2012, 11:35 pm

Some intriguing stories here. I'm especially interested in the Oates and Joyce.

Abr 17, 2012, 4:43 pm

Fictions from Bellevue Literary Review Spring 2011 -- my favorite literary journal but alas not my favorite issue:

     17. “Winston Speaks” by Jill Caputo -- when a new caregiver doesn’t view 43-year-old Winston first and foremost as disabled, he begins to not do so, himself
     18. “Happiness Advocates” by B.G. Firmani -- a freelance creative team works on a project from hell
     19. “Crazyland” by Ruth Schemmel -- sisters’ sibling rivalry flares as they and their mother deal with their father’s dementia*
     20. “Odd a Sea’s Wake” by Nicholas Patrick Martin -- a riff on a partner’s final decline, narrated in second-person point of view; while I didn’t like this story, it caught me at some point and I felt profound sadness at the end
     21. “Condensed Milk” by Danielle Eigner -- a woman travels across a Haitian town, whose residents are simultaneously earthquake-devastated and World Cup-fixated, to bring a remedy to her sister whose daughter has attempted suicide; I learned a lot about Haiti**
     22. “The Day of the Surgical Colloquium Hosted by the Far East Rand Hospital” by Gill Schierhout -- a man whose hand was reattached after a mining accident attends the medical conference where his case is presented**
     23. “Minivan” by Anne Valente -- exploration of a man’s sense of helplessness, still, months after his girlfriend’s rape
     24. “Moab” by Jennifer Lee -- a woman with a breast-tumor scar notices scars on other people
     25. “Hamlet” by Benjamin Parzybok -- a man bottles a batch of homemade beer instead of attending his mother’s funeral; not sure I "got" the story and have no interest in re-re-reading it
     26. “Sisters of Mercy” by Joan Leegant -- a glance at nurses covering for a doctor***

*very weak story
**very good story
***excellent story!

Abr 17, 2012, 6:33 pm

I started listening to After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. This consists of a series of short stories that are all linked by the earthquake at Kobe, Japan. These stories are all different but they all carry Murakami hallmarks. I am about half done listening and am enjoying this collection.

Abr 19, 2012, 11:00 am

I am really enjoying this mid month decision to jump in, as I am having difficulty settling into a full length book. Here's what I have managed to date:

!. The Fisherman an his Gweedwife in Selected Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated from Low German to Scots by Gilbert McKay

The traditional story of the fisherman who throws a fish back into the water, and of his greedy wife who forces him to make ever escalating requests of the fish, until the fish in exasperation returns them to their original state of penury. This version was in Scots, a language neither English nor Gaelic. A sample:
Syne the gweedman gaed hame, and his wife wiznae sittin in the chantiepot noo, but there was a wee chaumer stannin there...

2. Out of the War in The Complete Fiction by Francis Wyndham

Written when Wyndham was in his late teens, this tells the story of a young man who spends a week in an orthopaedic ward during WWII. The man in the bed beside him repeats the same story morning and night, but only on the young man's last day on the ward is the story finished.

3. "Where is the Voice Coming From?" by Eudora Welty in The Portable Sixties Reader, editor Ann Charters

A chilling fictional account of the murder of Medgar Evers, told in the voice of his killer, for whom it was a completely rational act. I hadn't read anything by this author before, but will look for her now.

4. The Gentleman from San Francisco by Ivan Bunin, translated from Russian by David Richards, in The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories by Ivan Bunin

A self important but nameless gentleman has prospered from the work of his Chinese coolies enough that he can take his wife and daughter on a two year European tour "purely for entertainment". Nothing is as advertised, however, especially the return voyage. This was written in 1915 and the coincidence of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic made the shipboard scenes that much more vivid.

5. The Wives of the Dead by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates

Two young sisters in law, sharing the same house, are widowed on two successive days. One husband is lost at sea, the other in battle. Exhausted by a long day of receiving mourners, they retire to their respective rooms for the night. During the night, each independently receives news of her spouse, but is reluctant to wake the other. Dream, fantasy, ghosts, or reality? The reader is left to decide.

6. In the Town of Berdichev by Vasily Grossman, translated from Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, in The Road: Stories, Journalism and Essays by Vasily Grossman

Comrade Vavilova, a Soviet commissar in the war against Poland, is granted forty days pregnancy leave from her battalion and is billeted with local townspeople. She had desperately tried to terminate her pregnancy without success and had hidden all signs of it until the last possible moment. However, once the child was born, Vavilova became a doting mother. When the Red Army is forced to retreat from the town by a Polish advance, Vavilova has a flashback to a rally in Red Square and makes her choice between child and country.

Abr 19, 2012, 2:41 pm

Those sound like excellent stories, SassyLassy, very varied and intrinsically interesting.

Editado: Abr 20, 2012, 2:13 pm

This group is from Irish writers that I admire. I'm reading most for the first time. A couple of the stories I've read before, and it was nice to come back to them.

18. Mags by William Trevor, from The Collected Stories.
After her death, a couple realizes that Mags, the wife's childhood friend, has consumed their marriage by her presence in their home. A typically masterful Trevor story in which his subtlety belies the stakes.

19. Dante and the Lobster by Samuel Beckett, from A Samuel Beckett Reader.
An early Beckett story in which Belacqua Shuah, a student in Dublin, not particularly strong in mind or body, picks up a lobster for dinner with his aunt. He's shocked to find it still alive at the end of the day, and more so that it has to be boiled that way.

20. God's Own Country by Benedict Kiely, from The Collected Stories of Benedict Kiely.
An amusing story in which Jeremiah Slattery, a reporter, is assigned to cover an American Bishop's visit to one of the
Aran Islands, near Galway, and is surprisingly successful.

21. Ponchos by Joseph O'Neill, from Dislocation: Stories From a New Ireland. A book editor breakfasts in a New York City diner, where the other regulars never speak with him, and reflects on the difficulty he and his wife are having in conceiving, and on "how alone we are!."

22. Wheels by John McGahern, from The Collected Stories of John McGahern, in which a young man who has moved to Dublin rebuffs his father, a widower and now remarried, when he wants to follow his son to the city.

23. Everything in This Country Must by Colum McCann, from Everything in This Country Must.
A Catholic girl in Northern Ireland experiences the hatred of her father toward the British soldiers that help save his favorite horse from drowning.

24. The Green Hills, by Walter Macken, from The Coll Doll and Other Stories. Derry O'Flynn leaves Ireland for America, trying to convince his love, Martha, to accompany him. Derry promises to return for her, and does, only to be buried as a casualty of war.

25. Where The Water's Deepest by Claire Keegan, from Antarctica. An au pair in America takes care of a small boy, keeps him safe, and ponders what's beyond that.

Abr 20, 2012, 6:04 pm

I am thoroughly enjoying all your comments on these countless stories — most of which I have not heard of much less read.

Almost all of the stories I have read come from collections that are sitting on my shelves and they are mostly by very well-known writers. Two were from the Internet. But of the stories from my own books, I have in some cases actually read two or three in order to find one that I wanted to comment on. So while this is a challenge to read 30 stories, I will have probably read 50 or more by the time we are finished.

Here are five more:

16. "Araby" by James Joyce, from Dubliners Boy loves girl next door and makes himself almost ill with anticipation of the Araby bazaar where he plans to buy her something. By the time he arrives, the lights go out.

17. "Unmasking a Confidence Trickster" by Franz Kafka, from Metamorphosis and Other Stories "At last I arrived, about ten in the evening, outside the grand house where I was invited to a party." It suddenly dawns upon the narrator that the man who had been following him around for the previous two hours was nothing but a con man.

18. "The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows" by Rudyard Kipling, in Rudyard Kipling: Selected Stories An old man talks of how he gradually became enslaved by "The Black Smoke" in an opium den owned by an old Chinese man from Calcutta.

19. "The Lotus Eater" by W. Somerset Maugham, in 65 Short Stories A young man falls in love with the Isle of Capri and decides not to return home from vacation. However, there is an ultimate time limit on his early retirement — self-inflicted.

20. "The Conservatory" by Guy de Maupassant in Guy de Maupassant: Stories A married couple, having tired of each other, bickered constantly until one night when they thought they heard an intruder.

Abr 21, 2012, 8:22 am

I agree with Suzanne - great stories by writers I have often never heard of.

16. ‘An Upheaval’Anton Chekhov
A young woman returns to her lodgings to find everything in ‘an upheaval’: the lady of the house has had her valuable brooch stolen. Being suspected of the theft causes the young woman a great amount of distress, which is compacted when she finds out who actually stole the brooch.

Another one of those stories that sounds humdrum in a summary, but which really has to be read to be appreciated. Chekhov as always brings acute psychological insight to his depiction of Russian life, whether it is the young woman, the lady of the house, the master, or the other servants.

17. ‘A Haunted House’Virginia Woolf
A beautiful prose-poem more than a story, this is another one of those pieces that I am not quite sure I understood completely. But I think Woolf wants it to remain open to interpretation.

I really liked this, despite its nebular qualities. Even though I prefer shorts that have more narrative to them, I thought this was elegant and poignant.

18. ‘How Beautiful with Shoes’Wilbur Daniel Steele
This story begins with the strangely-named Amarantha Doggett busy doing chores on the farm, when her fiancé arrives with the news that a ‘loony’ has escaped from a nearby institution. The fiancé leaves to help the town search for the man, and, as these things go, the loony turns up on the farm. He falls in love with Amarantha because of her name (it’s from a poem by Richard Lovelace), and decides to take her for his own. Will she escape from him? And how will this experience affect a poor farm girl?

This story, although a bit ambitiously long, had brilliant moments of tension and lyrical beauty. Steele’s description of the ‘loony’, Humble Jewett, was also tremendous. It made me think about what is really ‘sane’, about what we sacrifice to remain mentally stable (things like caprice and spontaneity, perhaps even poetry), but also about the dangers of sentimentalising insanity. Very good.

19. ‘The Catbird Seat’James Thurber
Mr Martin lives simply – doesn’t drink or smoke, doesn’t speak much, works for F & S with the file system that has always worked very well, thank you. When a new employee gains the trust of one of his bosses, and starts bringing about changes to his perfect system, Mr Martin comes to the only logical conclusion: he will have to kill her. As things turn out, however, there are sometimes better ways of getting rid of one’s problems...

This is a very well-known story, and I can see why: it’s very clever and interesting, and introduces some chilling concepts. I did not, however, think it was as brilliant as the hype might imply. Despite its cleverness, I doubt whether the story could actually work, even in 1942. That said, I enjoyed it.

20. ‘The Scharz-Metterklume Method’ Saki (H.H. Munro)
A young lady misses her train, and is mistaken for the new governess by an older lady who comes by to pick up said-governess. The young lady decides to have some fun, and introduces much-needed education reforms into the lives of the children by way of the ‘Scharz-Metterklume method’.

This was quite funny, but not as hilarious as I expected. It’s more witty than laugh-out-loud, which I may have been expecting. But it was charming and enjoyable.

Editado: Abr 21, 2012, 1:14 pm

I finished listening to the recorded version of After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. This book of short stories was published soon after the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan, but the earthquake is not the object or the center of the stories. Each of the stories is connected by some mention or connection, and mention is the optimum word in this case, as the connections are literally sometimes, just a mention of the quake. The earthquake is by no means the center of the stories.

The stories themselves are classic Murakami. There are six of them and they vary in length. Some of them are bizarre and some of them more simple, but they all contain some of the elements that have become associated with Murakami. In particular they deal with people who have to make major decisions about the direction of their life. I really enjoyed the story about the Super-Frog Saves Tokyo, All God's Children Can Dance, and Thailand.

I listened to these stories while driving and found them a great way to pass the time. I have read Murakami before but have never read any of his short stories. I like his writing style so I knew what to expect. These stories are not a departure from his usual and while there was nothing unexpected in the technique I enjoyed the stories and found myself listening for familiar elements. The story "Thailand" brings in jazz music and, while it was not a surprise since Murakami almost always includes lots of music in his writing, I was happy to hear particular songs and musicians spoken of in the story.

If you haven't read any Murakami you might not pick up on these elements, but I think these stories could be enjoyed by a wide audience.

Abr 23, 2012, 12:38 pm

Here is the second half of my challenge reading. I was doing the 10 stories, 10 authors challenge. Since post #43, I've actually read another 15 stories, because I've been working my way through the anthology Points of View. I don't have something to say about all 15 of the stories, but here are some comments on the more memorable ones (warning--I included a spoiler in the first story but not the others). I recommend all of these:

6. "The Five-forty Eight," John Cheever, 1954
Told from the pov of a not very nice business man, he tries to allude a woman that he treated poorly. She wins. Sorry to spoil the ending, but his humiliation is so worth it, it just needs to be said.

7. "The Stone Boy," Gina Berriault, 1957
Who's the stone boy? Is it the dead brother, or the one who shows insufficient emotion?

8. "Doby's Gone," Ann Petry, 1971
Heartbreaking story of a small black girl being bullied in a waspy New England town.

9. "Sinking House," T Coraghesan Boyle, 1989
Told by two neighbours in an LA suburb. When the older woman's husband dies, she turns on all the water and starts a flood. Funny and serious at the same time.

10. "Strong Horse Tea," Alice Walker, 1968.
Heart wrenching story of an illiterate woman's attempts to save her dying baby.

11. "Fever Flower," Shirley Ann Grau, 1954
Unusual story as it was told from three points of view with flash forward paragraphs. The author does a fabulous job of describing the sticky heat of summer in the deep south (which I've never experienced, but feel like I have thanks to her writing).

12. "Inez," Merle Hodge, 1975
A terrifically clever story about a young mother's struggles with dire poverty, racism, spousal abuse, and sexism. Told from multiple povs, none of them being the mother's. When I looked at comments about this story on the internet I was disappointed to see how many readers found it too confusing to understand, and even more disappointing, how many people thought Inez was a bad mother. Must be nice to sit and judge others from a comfy position of middle-class privilege.

13. "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson, 1948
This is a 4th or 5th reading of this one for me--going back to grade 9 English class. A story everyone should read just because it's a modern classic, and it's short and available easily on the Internet.

Well, those are the highlights from my recent reading from Points of View. I highly recommend this anthology. There are 44 stories, grouped by narrative technique (interior monologue, dramatic monologue, letter narration, diary narration, subjective narration, detached autobiography, memoir, anonymous narration--single, dual, and multiple character pov, and anonymous narration, no character pov). The stories were written between the mid-1800s and 1990s, half the authors are female, most are American--but they reflect vast diversity within the US population, and there's a good balance between popular and obscure authors.

What I really liked about the anthology is that I learned a lot while reading a bunch of great stories.

Abr 25, 2012, 2:08 pm

>55 dmsteyn: Thanks, dm. I'm amazed at how diverse the stories are for the entire group, with very little overlap.
Like Poquette, everything has come from my shelves, but there's lots here to pursue later!

7. The Tall Coorter by Sean O'Faolain in The Bedside Esquire, edited by Arnold Gingrich
A tale of three lovers and what befell them: one faithful, one mad, one desperate. The madhouse setting has the reader wondering who is truly mad, and what is madness and what mere folly?

8. The Three Fat Women of Antibes in Cakes and Ale and Twelve Short Stories by W Somerset Maugham
In the era between the two world wars, a trio of women is completely happy with each other in their world of spas, casinos and holidays on the Mediterranean. All they lack is a fourth for bridge. When one is found, the dynamics shift remarkably. This story was very well written, the observations acute and funny. Sadly, I found it very dated, as attitudes toward lesbians, fat and even bridge have changed drastically since it was written.

9. A Whisper in the Dark by Louisa May Alcott in Louisa May Alcott Unmasked: Collected Thrillers, edited by Madeleine Stern
The author of Little Women and other 'moral pap for the young", as she called it, had a secret life supplying sensation stories to nineteenth century magazines. A Whisper in the Dark has all the required elements: the threat of familial madness, the battle for the family fortune, the controlling guardian, and the young lovers who must find their way to happily ever after. If you are after sensation fiction, I would say read Lady Audley's Secret instead.

10. That Pig of a Morin in Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant
Why does everyone refer to Morin as "that pig of a Morin"? The answer is given in a gossipy narrative by Labarbe, who at first had thought he could help Morin out of his dilemma, only to become a participant in it. Well written, with a great ending, the story shows why the author is considered a master of the short story form.

11. Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor in Stories of the Modern South, edited by Ben Forkner and Patrick Samway
Spite, pride, contempt, deceit, and most of all, boredom are the hallmarks of the lives of three lonely women: a widow, her one legged daughter and the woman who works for them. One day a travelling Bible salesman comes to the door and each woman reacts to him accordingly. Just deserts.

12. The Ship at Anchor by Frederic Tuten in Granta 91: Wish You Were Here, edited by Ian Jack
One summer night, a young artist, a widower, contemplates death and the dead in the studio of his seaside home, while his mother and young son are asleep in the house. Suddenly his young son appears to say that his grandmother has died. Father and son then go out to a ship which has been sitting offshore all day. There, the boy negotiates with the pirate crew, who trade in souls, for that of his grandmother. Not as far fetched as it sounds, the story leaves the reader with a different interpretation than that of the narrator.

Abr 25, 2012, 6:39 pm

Because this is a very busy month for me, I chose Variant 4. While I originally intended to read a broader variety of authors, I became enthralled by two, both Irish but from very different periods: Colum McCann and James Joyce. I plan to finish both of these wonderful story collections and will reflect on them further in my reviews.

From Fishing the Sloe-Black River by Colum McCann

"Sisters" – A woman, bitter from years of promiscuity following the tragic death of her mother, illegally enters the United States to visit her dangerously ill sister, a nun who suffers from severe anorexia and self-abuse.

"Breakfast for Enrique" – A man decides to report late for his job as a fish-gutter in order to prepare breakfast for his very ill, gay lover.

"A Basket Full of Wallpaper" – A teenage boy finds summer employment with a quiet Japanese émigré to Ireland who is obsessed with hanging wallpaper. Unable to learn the man's history, the boy invents stories about him being a survivor of Hiroshima.

"Through the Field" – Two maintenance workers at a State School for juvenile delinquents plant a field of klein grass to supplement their income. One of the men reacts in an unusual, and to me puzzling, manner after learning that a resident who committed murder turned himself in because he was afraid of being alone in the dark forest.

"Stolen Child" – An Irish immigrant, working as a counselor at a NYC children’s home, develops a surrogate-father relationship with a blind resident and struggles to accept her plans to marry an older, disabled Vietnam veteran.

"Step We Gaily, On We Go" – An elderly boxer who is slipping into senility, steals articles of women’s clothing, imaging them to be gifts for his wife.

From Dubliners by James Joyce

"The Sisters" – A young boy mourns the death of a priest with whom he had an unlikely friendship that was discouraged by his family.

"An Encounter" – Skipping school for a day’s adventure, two boys encounter an eccentric and vaguely threatening old man.

"Araby" – A young man longs to attend a bazaar to buy a gift for a desired young woman, but arrives late and encounters disillusionment.

"Eveline" – A young woman plans to elope to Buenos Ayres with a sailor, wishing to escape a hard life to which she is bound by a promise to her deceased mother.

Abr 25, 2012, 7:22 pm

"Araby" – A young man longs to attend a bazaar to buy a gift for a desired young woman, but arrives late and encounters disillusionment.

Oh, THAT's what "Araby" is about. Thanks It was one of the first stories I had to read for university, and I had no clue what it was supposed to mean! I should go back and read it now that I'm so much older and wiser.

Abr 26, 2012, 1:31 am

When I began this project I decided to select stories in alphabetical order by name of author so I wouldn't waste a lot of time shilly-shallying around trying to figure out what to read next. If you knew me you would understand what a good idea this was! But I ran across this charming story on line by O. Henry a few days ago, and I'm going to throw it into the mix just for fun even though it is out of order. No point in being compulsive about it. This puts me a bit ahead of schedule.

21. "Transients in Arcadia" by O. Henry, from The Voice of the City; also available on line at Project Gutenberg — Two people meet in a stylish Manhattan hotel, but each has a vital secret which is revealed in typical O. Henry fashion at the end of the story.

22. "The Green Fly" by Kalman Mikszath, from A World of Great Stories An old peasant with a young wife is bitten by a fly. Infection sets in. A doctor says amputate or die. What does he do?

23. "The Aurelian" by Vladimir Nabokov, from Nabokov's Dozen "Aurelian" is an old-fashioned designation for lepidopterist. The Aurelian in question is a seller of mounted butterflies who daydreams constantly of traveling to collect butterflies in storied places. At last he manages to save enough money and the day arrives.

24. "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe, in Great Tales of Edgar Allan Poe I chose this story because I had not read it before. It concerns the solution by Poe's Sherlockian detective M. Dupin to a perplexing case of the theft from a very important personage of a letter. The feeling of the story is very reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

25. "Day Million" by Frederick Pohl, in The Norton Book of Science Fiction The human life form undergoes dramatic changes between now and then, a thousand years hence, but people will still be people.

26. "Facts and Their Manifestations" by Gilbert Sorrentino, from The Moon in Its Flight A man has formed a certain mental image of his mother who dies when he was four years old in front of the Plaza Hotel, and he is repeatedly attracted to women who remind him in some enigmatic way of this image.

Abr 26, 2012, 6:13 am

>63 Nickelini: Well, that was my take on it anyway, but I'm far from an expert.

Abr 26, 2012, 10:48 am

I read "Araby" as well (see #57) and had a similar take to Linda's but expressed slightly differently. I can see how, for a young person, this story would seem hard to penetrate. I tried Dubliners when I was in my twenties and simply couldn't relate. But like Linda, at this point many decades later and with a bit of understanding of what Joyce was doing with these stories, they don't seem quite as opaque as they once did.

Abr 27, 2012, 12:29 pm

I hope this challenge is repeated sometime. Wanted to participate but we are moving this month.

Abr 27, 2012, 1:26 pm

I'm up for repeating it any time this year, as 2012 is my short story challenge year.

Abr 28, 2012, 12:46 am

>62 Linda92007:. Two great collections Linda.

Editado: Abr 28, 2012, 12:51 am

I’m completing the 30/30 challenge with more stories from the New Yorker. This challenge was a great idea and has been some fun.

26. Costello by Jim Gavin, The New Yorker, 12/6/10 issue.
A minor masterpiece. The story of a Los Angeles plumbing supply salesman adapting to his wife’s death from cancer a year earlier. One of my favorites of the past couple of years.

27. P.E. by Victor Lodato, The New Yorker, 4/2/12.
A father and son both bonded and torn apart by the suicide of their wife and mother reunite – not especially successfully - after years apart. I liked this so much I ordered Lodato’s last novel.

28. The Porn Critic by Jonathan Lethem, The New Yorker, 4/9/12.
A porn shop clerk uncertain of his own sexuality has a threesome of sorts with two women. More humorous than I make it sound.

29. Miss Lora by Junot Diaz, The New Yorker, 4/23/12.
A young Dominican man in New York has an affair with an older woman, a teacher. More sensitive than I make it sound.

30. Hand on the Shoulder by Ian McEwan, The New Yorker, 4/30/12.
A sinuous story in which a woman reminisces about being recruited by MI5 in the 1970s, by a professor with whom she was having an affair.

Editado: Abr 28, 2012, 11:54 pm

I was on vacation for the first ten days of the month, so I started later than most, but here are the first ten stories I’ve read. I'm working on the 10/10 plan and should have at least two more stories reviewed soon to pass 10 different authors.

Story 1: ‘The Wreck of the Titan, or Futility’ by Morgan Robertson (1898)

John Rowland is a member of the crew of the Titan. Onboard he meets Myra, the woman he loved and who rejected him. The ship, deemed unsinkable, strikes and iceberg and sinks, with only a handful of survivors, including Rowland, Myra and Myra’s daughter, also named Myra. Rowland and the daughter end up on the iceberg where they survive more danger and eventually rescued and returned to London. From there he travels with little Myra to New York to reunite her with her mother.

Rowland is an atheist, which is why he was rejected by Myra, and both before and after the sinking he ponders about the existence, or non-existence, of God. Just before he and little Myra are rescued he sinks to his knees and “lifted his eyes to the heavens, and with his feeble voice and the fervor born of helplessness, prayed to the God that he denied.” As the quarter-boat approaches he mutters, “That bark was there – half a mile back in this wind – before I thought of praying.”

This story is remembered because the ship in it, the Titan, was deemed unsinkable, carried too few lifeboats, and struck an iceberg and sank, just as the Titanic did 14 years later. However, for all the similarities it also has many differences which are not remembered, including it sank in minutes and all but a handful perished with the ship. Still, the parallels are striking and leave me to wonder why Robertson was able to see the flaws in a ship like the Titanic, but not others.

Story 2: ‘The Last Woman’ by Thomas G. Gardner (1932)

The story centers on the last woman on Earth, born by mistake after the top male scientists had eliminated the need for women. She is kept as an exhibit to show what the female of the species looked like. When a male human ends free from the drug that suppresses unwanted emotions the two fall in love and plan to escape Earth with fatal consequences for them.

I was stunned by this misogynistic story. I briefly wondered if it was actually a dystopian story, decrying the elimination of woman, as well as most males of normal intelligence, but I found nothing in the story suggesting that’s the case. Instead it’s made clear that woman and emotions are what held human kind back and the elimination of both have allowed a utopian scientific society to flourish. I read this is an anthology published in 1949 that claims this story is one of the hall of fame reprint selections from Startling Stories in 1943 and “in effect, the pick of science fiction stories that have survived both the years and today’s amazingly swift scientific progress.” That the story was originally published is one thing, but that it was reprinted twice and held up as one of the pick of science fiction stories is stunning.

Story 3: ‘Catch ‘Em All Alive’ by Robert Silverberg (1956)

Clyde, Lee and Gus are exploring worlds looking for new species to bring back to Earth. They come across an unexplored planet is zoologist’s dream, as it is full of new and different species. However, the earthmen learn to late the reason for this.

This simple adventure story was not very though thought provoking, but I did find it enjoyable. I’ve only read a small amount of Silverberg’s work and he’s not one of my favorite SF writers based on what I’ve previously read, but I think I’ll try reading some more of his works.

Story 4: ‘Who Am I?’ by Henry Slesar (1956)

Gilwit and Fisher find an unconscious man drifting in deep space and rescue him. Once he regains consciousness the young man displays four distinct personalities. One of the personalities convinces his rescuers to travel to an unknown planet where we learn what more about what happened to him and the team he travel to the planet with.

This story is as much of a mystery as it slowly unravels what happened to the rescued man before we first met him. It turns out that Henry Slesar also wrote mystery and detective fiction so it makes sense that he wrote a SF mystery story. Another writer I’ll try reading more of.

Story 5: ‘Everyday is Christmas’ by James E. Gunn (1957)

Frank returned to Earth after being alone on an outpost in the asteroid belt for the past three years. He is immediately struck by the persistent audio/video advertising everywhere. He comes to learn that “scientific advertising” started shortly after he left on his three year assignment and most people can be manipulated by it to buy anything that is advertised.

I found this story to be quite interesting because my favorite short story is ‘Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus’, which is similarly based on marketing/selling for the Christmas season. However, this story focuses on the advertising and how it has changed the world, both politically and socially and ends on a dystopian note. It also leads into…

Story 6: ‘Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus’ by Frederik Pohl (1956)

George Martin manages the sales for a large department store and when he needs additional help for the Christmas season he is sent Lilymary Hargreave. In just a short time he falls in love with her and then has to try and balance his work and personal life as he gets to know her and her family. In the end love wins and he accepts her for who she is and agrees to accept her Christian life to be with her.

I’m a romantic so I love this story and consider it my favorite short story and I read it every year. I wasn’t planning to read it for this challenge, but the previous story immediately reminded me of it and I felt I had to read it again. It also shows what the over commercialization of Christmas could do to society. However, as it is first and foremost a love story, most of the details about the commercialization of Christmas are not described, so when I read ‘Everyday is Christmas’ I was able to see this story in a new light. I think that they are complimentary stories which both warn of the over commercialization of Christmas from different perspectives.

Story 7: ‘The Midas Plague’ by Frederik Pohl (1954)

Morey and Cherry are newlyweds settling into life together. She’s rich and he’s poor, put in this future the poor have to consume more than the rich. He tries very hard to make her comfortable consuming and later tries to consume for both of them. He soon finds a way to consume what they are required to and eventually realizes that it can help everyone.

This is another Pohl story I immediately thought of when I read ‘Everyday is Christmas’. There is a short scene in that story which touches on the consumerism and the wastage due to the need to constantly buy new products. As this story is about how to handle that wastage, I read it again as well. However, unlike the previous story, this one is much more utopian in outlook. Rereading it I noticed a number of problems with the logic of the world and how it works, but overall I found the story was still a fun read.

Story 8: ‘I’ll Take Over’ by A. Bertram Chandler (1957)

Spaceships are controlled by super computers called Brains, but human crews are still required to for them to be insured. The Brian on one ship develops self-awareness and kills one of the crew that suspects what has happened. It then fools the other crewmen and leads them to land on an “out of bounds” planet that had a stone age level civilization. Once on the planet the crewmen are captured by the natives, but are well treated. In gratitude they give the tribe the wheel and dugout canoes. Eventually the tribe brings them back to their spaceship for a surprising revelation.

This appears to be another story in the long line of cautionary tales about man being usurped by his creations. However the humans in the story don’t appear to be concerned about it happening to other Brains. Instead they are concerned about the newly aware Brain’s naivety and what it might do once it learns the laws of survival. I find this view interesting and not one that I have read before.

Story 9: ‘The House of Mirth’ by Peter De Vries (1956)

A husband tries to get his wife to feed him straight lines at social gatherings so he can show of his wit with cappers. However, it doesn’t go quite as he plans and in the end it appears that his wife is the better of two at his game.

This was a short story published in The New Yorker, and I think it shows. While I love high class British humour (especially television series), I’m not as appreciative of high class U.S. humor. That said, this wasn’t bad, but it didn’t make me smile, let alone laugh.

Story 10: ‘The Tax Man’ by Bruce Jay Friedman (1971)

Ullman is being audited by the IRS and he allows the IRS to send an agent to his East Side apartment he has claimed as a “working office”. The agent arrives and asks Ullman questions about the apartment, as well as other deductions he has claimed. Eventually Ullman spends the night with the IRS agent and the agent’s girlfriend in his apartment. The next morning the audit continues as if nothing had happened.

This story is a product of its time, as marijuana and sex (homosexual and three-way) are openly written about, although there are no graphic sex scenes. I understand the reason for the sex scene in the story and have no objection to it, but I just don’t find much humor in the story as once again, it wasn’t the type I enjoy.

Abr 29, 2012, 6:58 am

I've really enjoyed this challenge, THANKS to everyone, I've now got a great list for future dipping. First of my final three collections, Amok and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig, has to be my favourite collection for the month. Only four stories, two long and two short, but absolutely packed with passion (they all share a common theme which I won't divulge).The title story is told by a mysterious stranger to the narrator aboard ship, almost Ancient Mariner style, by a man whose passion for a woman has led him to a point where he has given up everything to honour her last wish. Leporella tells of a maid brought to life by the casual attention of her employer and the devasting results of her devotion. The Star Above the Forest is a poignant, at times almost mythical tale of a waiter's love for an aristocratic guest at the hotel where he works, while Incident on Lake Geneva tells of a Russian soldier's attempt to return home to his family. All four stories are intensely emotional and beautifully written. Zweig can imbue the simple act of placing flowers on a table with an almost religious solemnity, and he turns what could easily be melodrama into disturbing, deeply felt portrayals of love.

Abr 29, 2012, 7:18 pm

Here are another two stories that I read the past few days.

Story 11: ‘The Secret Vice’ by Tom Wolfe (1964)

The story is about the secret vice of certain men, custom tailored suits. The subtle differences between off the rack suits and custom tailored suits is small, but for those who know the difference is very important.

I really don’t know what to think about this story. It certainly is ‘high-brow’ humor, and I did like it. However, I don’t get the punch line of making fun of Lyndon Baines Johnson for wanting custom tailored suits. I guess I need to read a biography of him to see it that helps explain it.

Story 12: “Vacation ‘58’ by John Hughes (1979)

The Griswolds go on vacation and drive from Grosse Point Michigan to Disneyland. They have many assorted mishaps, accidents and travails before finally arriving at Disneyland to find it closed. Dad loses it and goes after Walt Disney, before the family, sans Dad, flies home.

I have never seen National Lampoon’s Vacation and I have no desire to see it. However, I’m glad I read this story it’s based on, even though it is ‘low-brow’ humor which I tend to not like. Having taken a three week car trip across the country with my family when I was young some of the Griswold’s travails resonate with me (although we didn’t make it to Disneyland). I also just drove to Disney World and it’s interesting to compare how car travel has and hasn’t changed over the decades.

I still have quite a few stories to read in the books I read these in and I was also looking at all the other short story collections I have in my library today. I have so many more stories to read I hope that we have a May Challenge.

Abr 29, 2012, 11:31 pm

Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice by A.S. Byatt

I'm a huge fan of everything I've read by Byatt and her short stories are no exception. This collection features her usual blending of reality and fantasy, with a full-blown fairy tale or two thrown into the mix.

In Crocodile Tears a woman's husband dies suddenly and she immediately takes flight to France. Settling in a hotel in Nimes, she meets Norwegian Nils Isaksen who is determined to "save" her. A series of encounters between the two, interwoven with snippets of Norwegian, French and bullfighting folklore, eventually sees each help the other to face what it is they have attempted to escape from. A Lamia in the Cevennes follows the attempts of an artist to capture the blue of his swimming pool, with little success, until he discovers a lamia living in it. She wishes only to be made human, he wants to keep her as a lamia for as long as he can, so he can paint her colours. Then a visitor comes to stay.

Cold is the classic fairy tale, a princess who is also an ice woman must marry, and so a selection of princes are invited to court her and present her with gifts. The gifts which enthrall the princess are not those offered by the ice prince, but the stunning glass sculptures, so like the ice she needs to survive, created by Prince Sasan. He is the prince she falls in love and marries, the one who can thrive only in the midst of a great desert.

Baglady is a slim tale of a woman who gets separated from a tour group and becomes lost in a foriegn shopping mall, with her avenues of escape entirely cut off (I have something of a fear of huge shopping malls, so this one resonated with me perhaps more than it might with other readers, but it does demonstate how fragile our identity is once we are outside our own territory, so to speak). Jael is the musings of a woman who works in advertising, as she remembers bible studies, schoolyard gangs, and her first experiences of art and creativity, and Christ in the House of Martha and Mary tells of how a cook is encouraged in her art by a young Velasquez, and how she comes to appear in one of his paintings.

Highly recommended

Abr 30, 2012, 12:04 am

Good to hear about Elementals-- I hav that in my TBR stack somewhere.

Abr 30, 2012, 1:07 am

>75 Nickelini:

There are a lot of posts that have had me scanning my shelves, there are quite a few collections sitting there that I'm that much more eager to get to.

OK, tying up the loose ends with Ghost Stories of M.R. James by M.R. James (strangely enough). Proper, eerie (? I've just realised I've no idea how eerie is spelled), tell them by candlelight and scare yourself to bits ghost stories. I absolutely loved them. A number of the stories were familiar to me, though I've not read James before, which I think indicates how good they are (I read recently somewhere or other that 'Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come to You, My Lad' was responsible for the idea that ghosts appear covered by or draped in sheets). So aside from a hapless fellow whistling up God alone knows what, there is a witch taking revenge through an ancient ash tree, an alchemist so angered by a publisher's rejection that he unleashes a curse, a cathedral renovation that unearths something unearthly, in short a fantastic selection of uncanny events and beings. How ghastly they are is left entirely up to the reader. It is the unkown and unexplained, set against a thoroughly prosaic background, that makes these stories so effective. And James had a sense of humour, which he gently eases into his tales now and again;

'I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now Full term is over, Professor,' said a person not in the story to the Professor of Orthography...

Yes, I'm being a bit lazy and not describing individual stories, but well, if you like ghost stories and you see something by M.R. James, I'd recommend you read it. At night.

Abr 30, 2012, 9:54 am

Here is my next half dozen, all by Scottish authors. There's a certain spareness of language that makes short story writing an art form in Scotland. Several of the following stories have children as protagonists, but they are definitely not children's stories.

13. Sredni Vashtar in The Complete Short Stories of Saki by Saki (H H Munro)

A sickly small boy living with his overbearing guardian has only two companions: a Houdan hen and a ferret, both hidden in a garden shed. His guardian finds the hen and has it removed, telling the boy it is for his own good. The boy then devotes all his energy to the ferret, but when his guardian discovers it too, his life changes.

14. Friday Payday in Now That You're Back by A L Kennedy

A young Scottish teenager is working as an underage prostitute in London, although she does not actually admit to herself what it is that she does. On this Friday, trying to bring clarity and order to her life, she reviews the possibilities and decides what she would like to do best.

15. Bus Queue by Agnes Owens in Lean Tales by James Kelman, Agnes Owens and Alasdair Gray

A young boy misses his bus and is forced to wait for the next one. Slowly a queue forms in the bus shelter as the boy waits outside by a fence. Complacent talk fills the shelter as the boy becomes a figurative outsider as well. Two other youths join the boy. The bus arrives and the boy is forced to deal with the youths as the passengers drive off in the bus in a cloud of self congratulation.

16. Death in a Nut by Duncan Williamson in The Devil and the Giro: Two Centuries of Scottish Stories edited by Carl MacDougall.

Yet another young boy, this one gathering wood on the seashore, meets Death coming for his mother. Enraged, he battles Death and throws him out to sea. What happens to a world without death?

17. Jenny Stairy's Hat by Margaret Hamilton in Streets of Stone: Glasgow Stories edited by Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte

The harsh realities of poverty have marred Jenny McFayden's youth and scarred her adult life. An all too common tale, well told without embroidery.

18. Sealskin Trousers by Eric Linklater in The New Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories edited by Ian Murray

The Selkie is a seal that can take on human characteristics on land, luring humans into the sea, where they are transformed into seals themselves. This creature appears often in Scottish stories involving the sea.

Elizabeth Barford is waiting for her fiance on a ledge high above the sea. When he appears, he discovers only her clothes, a giant lobster and a pair of sealskin trousers. The answer is obvious to him, but others are not as believing.

Abr 30, 2012, 12:59 pm

I only managed to listen to the one collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami this month, but enjoyed seeing all the posts from the other readers. I did order a recorded version of Murakami's Blind Willow Sleeping Woman and will listen to it sometime soon. Thanks for reminding me that there are short stories out there to read, and I need to spend some time reading them.

Abr 30, 2012, 2:01 pm

Another half dozen, this time all translations into English. These writers have all not only managed to reduce a story to its essence, but also to maintain that essence in another language and culture.

19. The Great Wall by Ismail Kadare, translated from Albanian to French by Jusuf Vrioni, then to English by David Bellos in Granta 91:Wish You Were Here

A Chinese inspector posted to the northern section of the Great Wall contemplates directives from the capital to repair the wall yet again in preparation for a possible barbarian invasion. On the other side, the Nomad Kutluk is scouting the wall on the orders of his commander, whom we learn is actually Tamerlane. A meditation on fear, the walls that divide and enclose us, and the ultimate wall between life and death, sprinkled with a few good barbs at officialdom, this story was also interesting given the ties that existed between Albania and the People's Republic.

20. An Injustice Revealed an Anonymous Chinese story, translated from French by Alberto Manguel in Black Water: The Anthology of Fantastic Literature edited by Alberto Manguel

In another story of Chinese officialdom, two honest civil servants are great friends. One dies far from home. When his friend is sent to that same town, the dead man appears to tell his tale. His spirit had been detained by the Court of Hell, where in a bureaucratic mixup, his name appeared in the Book of Complaints and Punishments. This meant his spirit was unable to travel home for burial with his body. He has come to his friend for help.

21. The Bloody Countess by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from Spanish by Alberto Manguel in Other Fires: Short Fiction by Latin American Women edited by Alberto Manguel

At first I found this story of the Countess Erzebet Bathory too awful and put it down. I picked it up again the next day and was intrigued by the idea of the Countess resembling Melancholia in old engravings and that in her time a melancholic person was a person possessed by the Devil. This was not forgiveness on the author's part. She strongly condemns Bathory, while at the same time being completely immersed in her story.

22. The Conjuror Made Off with the Dish by Naguib Mahfouz translated from Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davis in The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories edited by Daniel Halpern

A simple errand for his mother leads to a world of questions for a small boy. Decisions, distractions, dilemmas, and death fill the boy's day as they reveal the ways of the world to him.

23. An Epitaph in Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov translated from Russian by John Glad

They all died said the narrator. Starvation, cold, madness, typhoid, casual execution were the forms of death that came to each inmate in the labour camp. Geologist, party member, officer, or economist, each man is given his only epitaph by the narrator who has survived and can remember them. What would the remaining inmates do if they were released from such an environment? Each gives his idea and one his own epitaph.

24. I'm Your Horse in the Night by Luisa Valenzuela translated from Spanish by Deborah Bonner in The Art of the Tale

A young Argentinian woman is tricked by the police into revealing her association with her lover. Was her last night with him a dream or reality?

Abr 30, 2012, 4:46 pm

Finishing off the challenge with six of my favourites, which includes more Scots.

25. How Love Came to Professor Guildea by Robert S Hichens in Black Water: The Anthology of Fantastic Fiction editor Alberto Manguel

Professor Guildea is a highly rational man of science with an international reputation. Father Murchison is a devout man of faith. The two have little in common, but both enjoy their occasional visits at the professor's home. One evening, the professor is not himself. He confesses to the irrational belief that a presence has entered his library and is trying to smother him with affection. The scientific manner in which he is eventually able to convince the priest of this presence has both questioning their philosophical beliefs.

26. The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson in Black Water: The Anthology of Fantastic Fiction editor Alberto Manguel

A young man buys a magic bottle. The imp in the bottle can grant him anything except escape from death. However, the bottle comes with a curse; if the owner dies with it in his possession, he is condemned to hell for eternity. The owner may sell the bottle though, but never for more than the purchase price. What happens to the person who buys it for one cent?

27. Time and Again in The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by Breece D'J Pancake

A snowplow driver picks up a hitchhiker in the mountains of West Virginia. It becomes apparent to the reader, but not to the passenger, why the driver's son has run off and why he will never return.

28. To Everything There is a Season in As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories by Alistair MacLeod

A man reflects on the Christmas he moved beyond childhood, telling it from the perspective of his eleven year old self. It is as if I have suddenly moved into another room and heard a door click lastingly behind me.

29. "The Gowk by Jessie Kesson in The Other Voice: Scottish Women's Writing Since 1808 edited by Moira Burgess

In Scottish writing , gowk can be used to describe the village idiot.

Liz Aitken, hoping to be off to university, discovers she is pregnant. Terrified to admit who the father is, she blames the gowk, who is ultimately revenged.

30. Beattock for Moffatt by R B Cunninghame-Graham in The New Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories editor Ian Murray

A dying man is travelling from London, where he has been living, to his old home in Moffatt, Scotland with his Cockney wife and his brother. The only thing keeping him alive is the desire to die at home. The realism of the two Scottish brothers is contrasted with the useless denials of the urban wife.

Finished Variant I! This was a great challenge, thanks AnnieMod!

I really wanted to include James Kelman, one of my favourite authors, but as anyone who has read him will realize, it is almost impossible to reduce or summarize his stories.

Abr 30, 2012, 5:40 pm

I'm wrapping up by finishing the stories in Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri:

27. “Only Goodness” -- a woman who sneaked her under-age brother his first beer is burdened by his adulthood alcoholism; a scene here about a toddler will leave parents in a cold sweat.

28. “Nobody’s Business” -- a man relates the love life of one of his housemates, a woman who spurns Bengali match-ups in favor of a dysfunctional relationship; Lahiri approaches psychological suspense in this one.

29. “Once in a Lifetime” -- the first in a trio of stories that are linked into a sort of novella; here, Hema relates her early experiences with three-years-older Kaushik: as children at a farewell party before his family leaves Massachusetts to return to India, and as teens when his family comes back to the USA, startlingly Americanized, to live with her family while his parents search for a house.

30. “Year’s End” -- in the vein of the other stories in this collection (and most of Lahiri’s stories), Kaushik wrestles with identity and displacement and recalls his rebellious early adulthood.

31. “Going Ashore” -- Hema and Kaushik reconnect in their thirties and the book seems destined for a flat ending; I couldn’t believe Lahiri would do that and couldn’t conceive how she’d do otherwise at that point; and she didn’t! -- she used a word about a dozen pages from the end that lifted a veil and completely earned a stunning ending.

I’ve edited msg#8 above to include my full list.

Abr 30, 2012, 7:33 pm

I finished up with the following. No comments as I wanted to get my complete list posted today.

Story 13: ‘Simple Prays a Prayer’ by Langston Hughes (1944)

Story 14: ‘Corrections’ by Calvin Trillin (1990)

Story 15: ‘Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia’ by The Onion (1996)

Story 16: ‘What I’d Say to a Martian’ by Jack Handey (2005)

Story 17: ‘Your Three Wishes: FAQ’ by David Owen (2006)

Story 18: ‘Ask the Optimist!’ by George Saunders (2006)

Story 19: ‘Awake’ by Jenny Allen (2008)

Story 20: ‘The Pony Problem’ by Sloane Crosley (2008)

Story 21: ‘If Not an Apology, at Least a “My Bad” ’ by Larry Wilmore (2009)

Story 22: ‘I Want to Go Home’ by Robert Moore Williams (1958)

Abr 30, 2012, 7:41 pm

I think I have two stories to add (don't have the book with me at the moment) bringing my total to 24 - much better than I thought I would do. This has been fun! Can we do it again??

Abr 30, 2012, 10:34 pm

I didn’t quite make it to 30 stories or manage to read one a day, but I did pretty well and will probably knock out a couple more tonight.

Short Story #3 (040612): Welcome, Lost Dogs by Vanessa Blakeslee; The Southern Review- Winter 2011 – A woman struggles with her life alone in Costa Rica after the kidnapping of her rescue dogs.

Short Story #4 (040812): Like (Love!) in Mississippi by Elizabeth Kaiser; Oxford American No. 73 – Excellent, atmospheric story about first love and the ability to recognize it.

“Women get old fast here, in the South, in my town. There are other things to console you, friends and the limbs of live oaks and the heat wrapping around you like arms. But it’s not the same, and it’s not good to stay too long. I’ll be getting out any day now.”

Short Story #5 (040812): The Sickness, the Dinosaurs, Baby Dan, and the Swollen Hand by Mike Powell; Oxford American No. 73 – Another excellent short tale working like a series of linked vignettes.

“But one thing I’ll never get over is being fed. I will never get over someone standing in their kitchen and making food so that I can eat it. I will never get over eating the food and feeling like there’s a presence in my stomach where there was once an absence, especially if the presence has hot sauce on it. And then being able to say I was hungry and you fed me: A manageable but humbling debt.”

Short Story #6 (041412): Groundscratchers by Gabriel Welsch; The Southern Review- Winter 2011 – Very interesting story of a grounds supervisor at a large estate as his life falls apart.

Short Story #7 (041412): Angel’s Wolf by Nalini Singh; Angels of Darkness – A damaged vampire is assigned to help a powerful angel discover who is trying to poison her.

Short Story #8 (041612): The Best Party Ever: But What’s Wrong with Mama? by Cary Holladay; Oxford American No. 73 – A young girl observes her family preparing for her older sister’s birthday party as she enters her teens.

Short Story #9 (041612): Last Summer by John Brandon; Oxford American No. 73 – A very sad story about a man fixing up a restaurant, feeling stuck in a sort of limbo life.

“A lot of us were already looking forward to hurricane season because a great storm might direct our energies, because specific misfortune was purifying, and so we regarded the constant breeze lisping night and day as a squandering of strength.”

Short Story #10 (041712): Action Figure by Adam Prince; The Southern Review- Winter 2011 – Pretty freaky narrative tracing a meth addict’s descent.

Short Story #11 (041812): Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews; Angels of Darkness – A woman is drawn into a parallel world of demons and other fantastical creatures and must figure out how to navigate the perils to save her son.

Short Story #12 (041812): We Are Taking Only What We Need by Stephanie Powell Watts; Oxford American No. 73 – An African-American family takes on a white babysitter after the mother has left, and things soon become complicated for the daughter.

Short Story #13 (041812): Nocturne by Sharon Shinn; Angels of Darkness – A cook discovers a broken angel living in an off limits house on a school campus and determines to find out why he is there.

Short Story #14 (041912): Ascension by Meljean Brook; Angels of Darkness – An angel is tracking a demon and runs into an old flame.

Short Story #15 (042412): Section 8 by Jaquira Diaz; The Southern Review- Winter 2011 – A powerful and sad tale of two friends discovering their sexuality in a neighborhood dangerous for those who are different.

Short Story #16 (042712): After the Winter by Kate Chopin; Library of America Story of the Week - A strange story about a reclusive man and Easter redemption of a sort.

Short Story #17 (042912): Huntress by Tamora Pierce; Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy – A teen encounters a group of pack hunting teen runners.

Short Story #18 (042912): The Doll by Charles W. Chesnutt; Library of America Story of the Week - A southern politician tests a northern black barber with a story of his father’s murder.

Short Story #19 (042912): Unwrapping by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy -

Short Story #20 (042912): The Real Thing by Alison Goodman; Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy – A short interesting story about best friends and secrets.

Short Story #21 (042912): Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de Lint; Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy – A girl moves into a new home and discovers a Little living behind her baseboard.

Short Story #22 (042912): I’ll Give You My Word by Diana Wynne Jones; Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy – A boy tries to protect his strange big-word using younger brother.

Maio 1, 2012, 1:44 am

Well, ladies and gentlemen, there is a surfeit of riches here in this thread. So many intriguing stories to draw upon and yet it feels as though we have barely scratched the surface. This has been a slow reading month for me, relatively speaking, and I for one have appreciated having this short story challenge to encourage stolen moments away from work. Here are my final stories:

27. "The World Well Lost" by Theodore Sturgeon, from E Pluribus Unicorn The planet Dirbanu has force-field technology that prevents landing by ships from Earth. Their first and onlhy ambassador to Earth leaves in disgust after a brief visit. This disdain is only explained when two fugitives from Dirbanu must be returned and a shocking misunderstanding about Earthlings is revealed.

28. "The Piano Tuner's Wives" by William Trevor, from After Rain Two women wanted to marrhy the piano tuner when he was a young man even though he was blind. He married Violet who was dumpy and drab but had a gift for feeding his imagination with her descriptions of the world around him. After forty years, Violet died and he married the beautiful Belle who, after so many years, cannot shake her disappointment over being second choice, and this manifests itself in unexpected ways.

29. "The Triumphs of a Taxidermist" by H.G. Wells, in Thirty Strange Stories In his cups one evening a taxidermist reveals his penchant for "forging" convincing specimens of extinct or even nonexistent birds.

30. "Circus at Dawn" by Thomas Wolfe, in A World of Great Stories As recently as the 1930s when a circus came to town they pitched their tents in an open space where curious children could go and see the elephants raise the tent poles and watch the magic unfold. This evocative story captures the sights and smells of that lost era.

Like detailmuse I have kept a complete list in #5 above. Until next time . . .