Short Story Collections Community Readalong November 2013

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Short Story Collections Community Readalong November 2013

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1richardderus
Nov 1, 2013, 9:44 pm

Wow am I behind in writing reviews. It's gettin' scary!



Just published! I'm excited to read In These Times the Home is a Tired Place.

2CarolynSchroeder
Nov 5, 2013, 12:22 pm

Looks good, Richard, let us know your thoughts.

I picked up I Cannot Tell A Lie Exactly, stories by Mary Ladd Gavell and I am weaving them into some NF reading and so far, I am really liking them ~ a bit old-fashioned and different. I am really super tired of all the hate, violence and cruelty in short stories these days, so nice to have a break from that.

3CarolynSchroeder
Nov 11, 2013, 8:10 pm

I Cannot Tell a Lie Exactly did not really hold my interest, kind of dated and geared towards traditional marriages (not that I have anything against them - just not that interesting to me), I think. Most were just really dull.

I am about 4 stories into the outstanding anthology of Best American Short Stories 2001, edited by Barbara Kingsolver. Now, these can absolutely go either way and so far, the one I liked the best was Best American Short Stories 2007, edited by Stephen King. I think I am finding if I resonate with the guest editor's introduction and "get" how the picked the stories, it helps a lot. But since so many of these anthologies tank, I will reserve judgment until I am done. But so far, some excellent, well-written choices and thank God, no mystical realism (or whatever people turning into chairs and/or wolves mating with humans is).

4CarolynSchroeder
Nov 18, 2013, 1:46 pm

I finished The Best American Short Stories 2001 edited by the divine Barbara Kingsolver (wonder introduction - definitely worth a read!) and have to say, overall a strong, strong collection in this otherwise spotty anthology series. Maybe it is as simple as liking the guest editor!

I am now sucked into The Granta Book of the American Short Story Volume One edited by Richard Ford (who I am not really a fan of). So far it is really good, with some unusual suspects and just an interesting look at American writing (I am presently in the 1940s).

5Polaris-
Editado: Nov 25, 2013, 1:18 pm



Between Friends by Amos Oz

On our kibbutz, Kibbutz Yekhat, there lived a man, Zvi Provizor, a short fifty-five year old bachelor who had a habit of blinking. He loved to transmit bad news: earthquakes, plane crashes, buildings collapsing on their occupants, fires and floods.

With these opening two sentences I am there. I know exactly who Zvi Provizor is, and I know who we're dealing with in the opening story of Amos Oz's latest collection of short stories. These are a series of eight vignettes set in a fictional collective settlement of late '50s or early '60s Israel. It's a place that the reader will come to know surprisingly well for so slim a volume. The tales are above all about humanity.

I lived on a kibbutz once for several years, and no one of those communities is quite like another. That said, there are though certain traits and themes and character types that do tend to crop up in every one I ever encountered or heard about. Oz has captured with an amazing economy of words, and a clarity that is so satisfying, precisely who might live there and what preoccupies them.

In "The King of Norway" our blinking bachelor Zvi and Luna Blank, a widow, fall into a new routine - talking every evening. "Two Women" exchange letters - Osnat the launderess has recently become separated, and Ariella, who works in the chicken coop and heads the culture committee, is the tall, slim divorcée to whom her husband Boaz has run. The title story sees Nahum, a widower of about fifty, approaching the subject of his only remaining child, Edna, having moved in with David Dagan, a teacher and one of the kibbutz founders and leaders - a man his own age.

(A Tale of Love and Darkness SPOILER ahead - next paragraph)

"Father" is a story which I think is the most autobiographical: Sixteen year old Moshe is a 'boarder' newly arrived at Yekhat after his mother has died, and father and now uncle have both fallen ill. With the greatest poignancy we see Moshe finish work early one day and make the difficult trip to visit his ailing father. To anyone who has read Oz's 'A Tale of Love and Darkness' - this is a glimpse of what might have happened next. I was extremely moved.

"Little Boy" is another heartbreaker: The emotional volatility of the shared children's housing hits dad Roni in a way that doesn't quite affect mum Leah the same way. "At Night" sees Yoav the kibbutz general secretary turn night guard for the week. Nina needs his help with a problem that won't wait until morning. In "Deir Ajloun", Yotam the young adult son of another widow, Henia, receives an invitation from Uncle Arthur to study in Milan. Whatever will the general assembly have to say?

The final story, "Esperanto", is about an older member of the kibbutz - Martin, a holocaust survivor who hid from the Nazis in Holland. Martin is the community shoemaker and is a former Esperanto teacher; he has trouble breathing and is dying. He is an anarchist to the very end:

And once, when two brisk nurses came in to change his pyjamas, he grinned suddenly and told them that death itself was an anarchist. 'Death is not awed by status, possessions, power or titles; we are all equal in its eyes.'

All of the characters we've met are present in this final tale, though they crop up here and there in the other stories - maybe on the path, or making a speech in a meeting - just as they do on any kibbutz. Amos Oz has written a first class and moving collection of interwoven stories. The final mosaic is a piece of art to behold. I had to pace myself to read this book as slowly as I could, I wanted to savour its quality for as long as possible. (Perhaps I should have just torn through it and reread it immediately?) Five stars and highly recommended.

(Edited for touchstones.)

6CarolynSchroeder
Editado: Nov 25, 2013, 5:36 pm

Holy schmoly, FIVE STARS! I have found his novels wildly inconsistent, but I can totally see how he'd be a wonderful short story writer. Thanks for the nod, Polaris- ... off to the library! Great review(s).