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Posts from the ‘out of comfort zone’ Category


The New Yorker: 10 Sept 2018 “excellent short story”

  • Author: Saīd Sayrafiezadeh
  • Title: Audition
  • Published: 10  September 2018  The New Yorker
  • Trivia:  Sayrafiezadeh was a finalist for PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize
  • and he won a 2010 Whiting Writers’ Award for his memoir.
  • List Challenges 2018
  • Monthly planning
  • #DealMeIn2018  Jay’s  Bibliophilopolis


What is the hook?

  1. Well it has to be the first sentence:
  2. “The first time I smoked crack cocaine was  the Spring
  3. … I worked construction for my father on his new subdivision Moonlight Heights.”
  4. But no, this is not going to be all about drugs,
  5. Sayarfiezadeh tells us in the second line what he wants to achieve.
  6. I quote him because I could not have said it better….in a nutshell.
  7. “…jotting down details about the poeple I observe so I can
  8.   replicate  the human condition on screen  with nuance and veracity.”




1.Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
Audition refers to the main characters desire to become a stage actor.


2. What is the predominant element in the story?
a. 90 % Inner dialogue: the speech of a the narrator to himself.
b. He hears it and the reader hears it, but other
c. characters have no idea what’s going on in his head
d. 10% dialogue


3. Who is the single main character about?
a. Nameless narrator
b. boss’s son forced to learn life the hard way
c…..working at Dad’s construction subdivision.
d.”…just another working man in wet overalls.”


4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
a.external – a self made-father vs son “dreaming of fame, art and exhault” as actor
b.internal – an outsider seeking friendship.


5. How is the conflict resolved?
a. External – a real job carrying 60 pound drywall across
b.“damp floors and up banisterless staircases”
c. is better than being a carbon copy actor with no talent.
d. Internal – befriending Duncan Dioguardi
e. same age…19 years older but looks 10 years older
f. from a down and out working class neighbourhood.


6. How does the author handle characterization ?
a. Description by narrator (unreliable?) about himself and others.
b. Narrator: American teenage voice with adult voice behind it
c. Language is conversational, simple
d. Not defined by famliy (tension between father and son)
e. 19 yr, out of shape, gone to best schools,
c. at 15yr attending weekend acting lessons.
c. Duncan Dioguardi: 19 yr but looks 10 years older
d. at 15 yr chipping bricks at a demolition site for a nickel a brick.
e. Father: in powder blue Mercedes,
f. just another big shot in 3 piece suit and safety vest.


7. Who tells the story? What point of view is used?
a.1st person narration captures my attention
b. narrator is an unnamed 19 year old spoiled smart-ass.


8. Where does the primary action take place?
a. Subdivision building site Moonlight Heights
b. working class neighborhood of weather beaten 2-story red brick homes
c. basement/bedroom ‘theater’


9. What is the time setting for the action?
a. Spring 1990’s


10. How does the story get started? What is the initial incident?
Narrator recounts is on-the-job training at his father’s building subdivision.


11. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
a. Narrator describes the difference between himself and the labourers.
b. “ My problems were not their problems but I wish they were.
c. Their problems were “immediate, distinct, resolvable.”
d. My problems were “long term, existential and impossible.”


12. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
a. Epiphany – The author keeps the reader waiting
b. until the last paragraph…..builds tension!
c. ”I knew I was traversing some essential but unstated boundary,
d. but I traversed it anyway.


13. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
a. Narrator realizes he still has time
b. to make new life decisions
c. that have nothing to do with the theatre.
d. ” It was midnight. Midnight was still young”.


14. Does this story create any special mood?
a. There is a mood of pathos created in the story.
b. Experiences that stir up emotions of pity, sympathy, and sorrow.
For Duncan it was job that is going no where.
d. Stacked in the corner were some carpentry manuals for beginners.
e. ”I dabble with those sometimes,” he said ”
f. but they won’t give a guy like me a chance.”
g. This evokes feelings of sympathy in readers.


15. Did you identify with any of the characters?
a. Of course, you can identify with the narrator and Duncan
b. Who has never wanted to make  a dream a reality
c….only to have their bubble burst?


16. Does this story contain any of the following elements?
a. Motif: –
There are many subtle and obvious references
b. to the theater and acting roles.
c. Father vs Son: “we played roles that  were generic superfical and true”.
d. Repetition, alliteration, contrasts, platitudes euphemisms
e…they are all there!
You have to pay your dues…
It takes as long as it takes…
It is mind over matter…
Whatever you set your mind to…
f. This makes the story a memorable experience of language.
g. Bravo, Saīd Zayarfiezadeh!
h. Irony: Duncan Dioguardi is bossy.
i. ”Put this here, put that there. He enjoys the power while the narrator
j. ”enjoys the cold comfort that I could burst his bubble by
k. telling him who my dad was.
l. But a good actor never breaks character.” (motif)


17. Can you find any examples of figurative language?

a. Images: Duncan:
b. He had a tattoo of a
c. ”…snake coiling around his bicep crawling up toward his neck
d. en route to devour his face…”
e. Images: nameless narrator
f. “…never get a tattoo
g. a performer must always remain a blank slate.
h. So here I was playing
i. …the role of general laborer with flawless skin.”(motif)


18.  Does the story have a thematic message?
After reading the story I had to think of the
b. lyrics of Eminem’s song “Nowhere Fast”.
c. This  song (…it is really a poem) expresses the feeling
d. I got reading about two boys from different
e. points on the economic spectrum
f….yet they bond and come together
g. …because they are so alike.

“Wasted youth, always on the road
Never lookin’ back and we’re never gettin’ old
‘Cause the skies are black
But our heart’s made of gold.”


19. What was the sentence that impressed you the most?
a. Duncan: “He’d lived twice the life that I’d lived,
b. while having none of my advantages.
c. He was what my father had been before he hit it big.
d. But Duncan Dioguardi was most likely never going to hit it big.
c. His trajectory seemed already established.”
e. This reminds me of the fatalism that oozes from this story.
f. Events are predetermined and Duncan
g….is powerless to change them.



  1. Strong point:  quite funny, and emotionally engaging
  2. Ending: an inevitable surprise
  3. satisfying but without neatly tied up conclusions.
  4. Depth: goes beyond the surface,
  5. goes beyond what characters are wearing.


  1. Strong point: The story felt like a bildungsroman
  2. …novel of maturation
  3. but compressed in a short story!


  1. Note:  I listened to the fiction podcast on The New Yorker wesite
  2. then I re-read the magazine copy.
  3. The podcast was the best!
  4. I can hear the rhythm of language, the alliteration, the contrasts.


  1. Message:
  2. “Who is the fool who agrees to move
  3. …thru space without saying a word?”
  4. #MustRead
  5. #MustListen


Last thoughts:

  1. After reading this story…I couldn’t go to sleep.
  2. I kept thinking and pondering this narrative.
  3. Two young men and
  4. “This was an outsized struggle in a midsized city.”
  5. That is impressive because not many novels
  6. affect me that way!
  7. The next morning I just sat at the laptop
  8. …and this review ‘wrote itself’.
  9. I may just concentrate only on short stories
  10. …for the coming weeks.
  11. Short stories are much harder  to write
  12. because the author has to do so much with so few words.
  13. Every word packs a punch.
  14. Writing short stories is truly a skill!
  15. Bravo, Saīd Zayarfiezadeh!



Mapping Irish Theatre

Irish cottage (or kitchen)….is often the setting of Irish plays!


Writer : Chris Morash, Shaun Richards
Title: Mapping Irish Theatre (175 pg)
Published: 2013


Who is Chris Morash?

  1. Professor Chris Morash is the first
  2. Professor of Irish Writing
  3. …in Heaney’s name at Trinity College.
  4. This appointment is permanent.
  5. The professorship was announced shortly before  Seamus Heaney’s death.
  6. Dr Morash is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada
  7. …with no Irish connection.
  8. He came to Ireland in 1985 to study Irish writing in Trinity.


What is theatre?

  1. Seamus Heaney put it very simply:
  2. …theatre is a machine for making place from space.
  3. Mapping Irish Theatre examines the
  4. …relationship between a society and its theatre.
  5. Irish plays are deeply entrenched sense of place.
  6. Place in Irish theatre involves a particular set of
  7. …relations to memory, loss and nostalgia.


What did I learn?   (…essential to understand if you read this book!)

Three forms of space:

  1. perceived -to be aware of directly through any of the senses
  2. conceivedto form or develop in the mind
  3. livedto be experienced between the performers and audience
  4. Space is different from performance to performance.
  5. Space is different through historical periods.
  6. Example:  I just read Tartuffe.
  7. It was performed 1669.
  8. But Chris  Hampton’s translation and adaptation
  9. ..that is to open in May 2018 in London
  10. …will be very different.
  11. Elements of language, dialogue, scenery
  12. will change over time.


Theatre space:

  1. It is an unspoken element of the text
  2. a zone filled with gaps where
  3. gestures and movements unfold.


What was the most difficult issue to understand?     Theatre signals

  1. The stage radically transforms all objects.
  2.  These objects have a signifying  power which
  3. …they lack in  their normal social function.
  4. All that is on stage is a sign.
  5. Door = theatrical signal
  6. For instance in a play…..we see a door.
  7. It is not only means of entering and leaving the stage.
  8. It is the focus point.
  9. Behind it is an imagined offstage world
  10. …that is just as important as the dramatic action on the stage!


What was the best part of the book?     I discovered so many types of plays!

  1. Padraic Colum’s The Fiddler’s House (1907)
  2. …stranger-in-the-house
  3. Brian Friel’s   Dancing at Lughnasa (1990)
  4. ….(cottage) kitchen  the kitchen- and- sink- play.
  5. Conor McPherson’s  The Weir (1997)  a pastoral play
  6. …our outside concerns are suspended  so that an
  7. act of inner healing to be achieved
  8. Tom Murphy’s Famine (1977)  historical outcome (unknown to characters)
  9. …but glaringly self-evident to us….famine/depopulation hangs like a cloud.
  10. Brian Friel’s Freedom of the City (1973) past-in-the-presemt play
  11. Characters  are simultaneously dead and
  12. …present before the audience!


What will I do now when reading a play…that I didn’t do before?

  1. Note: notice the first lines of plays….what do they refer to?
  2. Note: what is implied as happening or a place ‘offstage’ ?
  3. Note:  what is the conflict between  offstage  vs  on-stage?
  4. Note: important objects on stage…( first character we meet in
  5. Dancing at Lughnasa is is Marconi…the radio!
  6. Note: space on the stage: is it familiar to the characters?
  7. …home kitchen in  The Aran Islands (Synge)
  8. …exiles in an abandoned church  in Sanctuary Lamp (1975) T. Murphy
  9. The  characters have to learn about the space along with the audience.



  1. This was a very academic read.
  2. Example:
  3. Difficult way of saying things…!
  4. Morash: Play produced dialogically…
  5. Nancy: ….in other words …written in dialogue.
  6. How else are you supposed to write a play? (pg 115)
  7. It took me 3 days to read the book and my
  8. determination paid off.
  9. I never realized that a play is MUCH more
  10. …than a script  and actors!
  11. Chapters 2-3-4-5  were the best.
  12. Morash explains in more detail  specific Irish plays and
  13. …that was what I was looking for!
  14. The central to the craft of play-writing (Irish)
  15. …is the  shaping of experience into scenes.
  16. Opening of a play and starting to read it
  17. … is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.
  18. Characters unfold in time and
  19. …first impressions  will be modified by later ones!
  20. #TimeToReadIrishPlay

 Chris Morash



Did you know there are 3 types of  theater spaces?

Arena – audience surrounds the actors


Thrust – audience is positioned on 3 sides of the stage ( Ancient Greece)


Proscenium –  the arc of the stage seperates  the actors from the audience


The Abbey Theatre  Dublin:

  1. The theatre first opened its doors to the public
  2. …over a hundred years ago, back in 1904.
  3. The original building was damaged by fire in 1951 and
  4. the Abbey had to be re-located but still remained active.
  5. The theatre offers a unique sound experience
  6. due to its wooden pallets, which are
  7. not obtainable anymore and can only be
  8. found in a few remaining locations worldwide.
  9. The Abbey holds 394 seats, that all share the same view.
  10. The idea was to get rid of the social hierarchy and
  11. guarantee every audience member the same experience.



The Grief Hole


  1. Introduction:
  2. Theresa helps to place abused clients in a safe house.
  3. She can see ghosts around the clients
  4. ….and the clients will probably die by their hands.
  5. She watches the ghosts...and she sometimes intervenes.
  6. Sometimes she does NOT intervene .
  7. …but makes small choices, small changes…..hoping  it was enough.
  8. After an intervention Theresa
  9. ….suffers physical pain, headaches, boils, vomiting.


  1. Style: Novel’s most frightening elements remain
  2. unspoken…they lay beneath the surface.
  3. This is similar to the style of Shirley Jackson.
  4. Jackson said:
  5. “A story must have a surface tension which can be stretched
  6. ….but not shattered.” ( pg 483, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life)


  1. Cover: One of Amber’s sketches is  the book’s cover
  2. what secrets does it contain?
  3. I see eyelashes (stripe lines) = sketch is Amber’s vision….what she sees.
  4. I stared long and hard….with a little extra distance and I saw
  5. Amber’s face!
  6. long open door in middle = bridge of her nose
  7. left: sweeping lines = eyelashes
  8. right: if you look there is a short white band that resembles an underlid of the eye
  9. pupils:  use your imagination to visualize the white spaces about lids….as eye pupils
  10. black shadows  = are coloring for eye sockets
  11. ….and the shadows  take human forms
  12. ….  as menacing ghosts tormenting Amber.
  14. …do you see what I see?
  15. Fish: small fish can be seen in the ‘open space’ in bridge of the nose
  16. …this must be a connection to the sea, beach or drowning.
  17. This is just a guess ….!


  1. Questions: Warren uses the classic technique to
  2. keep the reader gripping the book….a page turner.
  3. Warren drops clues…and we MUST know the answers.
  4. Warren makes us ask questions…
  5. Paranormal skills….is this a family ‘curse’ ? (Amber, Theresa, Prudence)
  6. …and the paranormal world
  7. Amber’s paintings changed radically a year ago
  8. …after Aunt Prudence has contact with Amber.
  9. what happened to Amber?


  1. Clues: Aunt Prudence uses cryptic messages
  2. ….to make Theresa and the reader think and
  3. ….try to solve the puzzle.
  4.  — Each monster has one way to die
  5.  — Not all death can be seen
  6.  — I see the victims…you see the monsters…her mother sees the shadows.
  7.  — Every killing lays a curse


  1. Symbol: Balloons....what does Prudence mean to do with them?
  2. Aunt Prudence has grey ash….on her cheek….on her balloon
  3. …what does this mean?
  4. Sol Evictus ( Sun latin…or homonym for ‘soul’ )
  5. (Evictus = latin conquered)
  6. ….has something to do with the strange things in this book.
  7. Art Collection done by Amber….disappears!



  1. I am not going to write more about this book
  2. ….you must discover it yourself.
  3. What I can say is…
  4. …this book is very good and the ‘bloody horror’ is NOT
  5. over emphasized.
  6. Thank goodness from this faint-at-heart reader!
  7. The book is good enough to convince me
  8. to read more  paranormal/horror fiction!
  9. That in itself is an achievement!
  10. I never gave this genre a chance.
  11. Kaaron Warren  has a ‘position’ in paranormal/horror writing world.
  12. But I must admit Shirley Jackson still has  a ‘presence’.
  13. Jackson is still queen of ‘shivers down your spine’
  14. Kaaron Warren won Best Novella Shirley Jackson Awards 2012
  15. she is definitely a rising star!


Last thoughts:

  1. I’m not very much into junior fiction or YA or paranormal...but I just finished
  2. The Grief Hole (K. Warren) and am tempted to read more.
  3. At the moment I’m starting (…really going out of my comfort zone)
  4. Controlling the Elements (The Manipulator Series Book 1) by N.R. Spratlin.
  5. What does this book have that sends its readers into list of superlatives and ‘wow’s’?
  6. I aim to find out!
  7. #TakeAChance