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Posts from the ‘short story’ Category

2
Oct

#RIPXIV: E.A. Poe Imp of the Perverse

Author:  Edgar Allan Poe
Genre: short story in the horror genre
Title:  The Imp of  the Perverse
Published:  July 1845  in Graham’s Magazine
Length of story:  4 pages [16 paragraphs]
Published by  Penguin Books
Setting: 1830-1840’s in prison cell, narrator tells his story…how he got on death row
Theme:  an impulse forcing people to act irrationally

 

 

 

Introduction:
• The Imp of  the Perverse is a  short story that begins as an essay.
• It discusses the  narrator’s self-destructive impulses, embodied as  The Imp of  the Perverse.
• Poe wrote it to justify his own actions of self-torment and self-destruction.
• Many of Poe’s characters display a failure to resist The Imp of  the Perverse.
• Murder in The Black Cat
• Narrator in Tell Tale Heart
• The opposite  is displayed in the character  C. Auguste Dupin.
• He exhibits reason and deep analysis.

 

Structure:
• Part 1 Is written in essay style mentioning subjects
• in philosophical terms (primum mobile, à posteriori) ), logic (phrenology) and mysticism (Kabbala)
• Poe cleverly reveals the ‘narrator’s own ‘imp’ by being so wordy!
• The narrator admits he has always wanted to anger the listener (reader) with confusing language.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing….”
• “I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.” (pg 281)
• Part 2 contains the narrators story….
• He inherits an estate after murdering its owner.
• He ends up on death row after a perverse impulse causes him to confess the murder.

 

Characters:
• The Narrator: An apparently demented man who appears intelligent and well educated.
• The Listener:  Unnamed person listening to the narrator’s story.
• Madame Pilau: Woman who died after inhaling the smoke from an accidentally poisoned candle.
• The Murder Victim: Unnamed person whose property passed to the narrator.
• Pedestrians:  People who witness the narrator’s confession.

 

Style:  first person point-of-view with an unreliable narrator
• Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have
• misunderstood me altogether or […] fancied me mad. (pg 283)

 

Symbols:   Imp
• This is a spirit that tempts a person to do things….they would normally not do.
• Poe explains that the  ‘imp’  is an impulse in each person’s mind.

 

Language:
• Alliteration:  laconic and luminous language (pg 281)
• Climax: Poe uses a climax words that are arranged  to increase their importance.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing ( to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker and in defiance of all consequences) in indulged.” (pg 282)

 

Voice of Poe:
• Poe states we use the word ‘perverse’ without really knowing what is means.
• Perverse = headstrong, obstinate, contradictory
• Poe is a master when it comes to entering human thoughts.
• He describes how we ‘put off until tomorrow that we could do today’ because we are perverse.
• With each passing day the anxiety grows.
• I do exactly what Poe describes…
• when I have to make an appointment for the dentist!
• “The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare.” (pg 282)

 

Voice of Poe:
• In  paragraph 6  we read one of the famous lines:
• “ We stand upon the brink of a precipice.”
• Poe describes the uncontrollable urge to jump.
• I could only think of the Austrian, Felix Baumgartner.
• In 2012 he stood who on the ‘precipice’ of space before making his famous skydive from the stratosphere!
• Goosebumps!

 

Conclusion:
• This is one of Poe’s  lesser known works.
• I expected great writing and got loopy sentences going on and on about nothing!
• After further reading I realized this was Poe’s intention….to irritate the reader!
• The story just kept getting better and better.
Weak point:  the first 4 paragraphs are difficult to get through.
• This almost deterred and discouraged me…but I did not stop!
Strong point: the story in itself is ‘perverse’ .
• Poe deliberately  uses confusing writing and structure to irritate the reader.
• A writer usually wants to please the reader!
• Poe preforms this “perverse” act that defies logic and reason.

 

Last thoughts:
• I thought I would just breeze through 4 pages of The Imp of the Perverse.
• How wrong I was.
• I have read each and every word in this story…twice!!
• That is an accomplishment in itself.
• Below is a summation of each paragraph.
• Read it ….or read the story first ……your choice.
• I was surprised by the style, structure and  plot.
• Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe are works of art….
• …and deserve a high score.

6
Mar

#Ireland: Edna O’Brien

 

Shovel Kings 

  1. An absolutely feel good story.…it is the longest in this collection.
  2. Title:  Shovel Kings refers to the young Irishmen who
  3. …came to England to do  construction and digging work.
  4. On payday they felt like (shovel) kings!
  5. Edna O’Brien describes Rafferty (60+)…
  6. “He doesn’t belong in England and ditto Ireland
  7. ….exile is in the mind and there is no cure for that”
  8. Rafferty and Edna O’Brien  have something in common:
  9. …both felt themselves as exiles having lived in England for 50 years.

 

Sinners

  1. Delia runs a small B&B in a rural village.
  2. The beating heart of this story is her response to events internally.
  3. Her thoughts run wild
  4. ….imaging what her 3 guest are doing in one bedroom.
  5. Flashbacks of her marriage and her children combined with a
  6. bizarre dream of saints disrobed
  7. ….drives her to frantically taking a sleeping pill.
  8. Strong point: pace
  9. Pacing feels like a hand pressed in the middle of our backs.
  10. …pushing us along.
  11. The sense of trying to catch up with Delia’s thoughts.
  12. This sense must never slack.
  13. Delia alludes to lewd machinations
  14. ….going on under her roof.
  15. We want to know more….sort of voyeurism!

 

Madame Cassandra

  1. Mildred is the first person narrator sitting on the steps of
  2. …Mme Cassandra’s caravan hoping for a meeting.
  3. Her marriage is falling apart.
  4. In a moment of emotion she quotes W. B.Yeats:
  5. ...”Never give all the heart outright.”
  6. Does the older wife have a card up her sleeve ?
  7. Can she outplay the young lover’s trump card?
  8. Strong point: Tension increases.
  9. We want to know what Mildred will do.
  10. How can Mme Cassandra help her?
  11. This was impressive writing
  12. ….creating a flow of thoughts with a whiff of humor
  13. …that seems erratic but is so very well constructed.
  14. Strong point: Edna O’Brien is a champion ‘withholder’.
  15. It is her unwillingness to over explain.
  16. She lets the story end ….and the reader must decide.

 

Black Flower 

  1. Woman: Mona, painting teacher
  2. Man: Shane …in prison 15 years …just out a few weeks ago
  3. Mona and Shane meet to take a drive and have
  4. dinner in a restaurant.
  5. Shane is free but his enemies
  6. …are still looking for him.
  7. This was a short depressing story.
  8. I didn’t like it.

 

19
Feb

#Short Story: J. Tiptree jr. …but not her best work!

 

 

19.02.2019 – READ – The Girl Who Was Plugged in

  • This is a ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde story about a female monster.
  • 17 yr ugly girl makes a Faustian bargain.
  • She will be kept in a cabinet strapped with electrodes.
  • She will animate the artifically grown body of a perfect girl
  • …her dream..to be beautiful!.
  • Tiptree submitted this story for publication
  • …but is was REJECTED so many times
  • …she shelved it.

Last thoughts:

  • Now I know why it was refused….it was awful!
  • The story lurches, stumbles is at times painful to read
  • …because I know Tiptree can do better!
  • I read that Alice Shelden (Tiptree)
  • …was a longtime user of Dexedrine (speed).
  • It feels like Tiptree let the drug
  • …push her creative mind a bit too far for this reader!
  • #MonsterOnSpeed

 

18.02.2019 – READ  And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side

  • Title:  is from “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad”  by John Keats
  • “Frame” POV: unnamed narrator (news reporter) tells the reader about
  • a nameless station engineer at the Orion docking junction who
  • is …telling his story about seductive aliens.
  • Tone: is NOT sentimental….but erotic, lascivious
  • Message: the man  warns reporter that
  • “Man is exogamous…one long drive to find and impregnate the stranger.”
  • In this case…aliens: Procya, Lycran, Sirians, Sellice…
  • This biological drive is where humans are most at risk
  • At risk not from a monster from a star
  • ….but a signal from the human brain stem.
  • #Strange

 

9.04.2018 – READ    The Last Flight of Doctor Ain:  (1969)

  • The story drifts between the past and present.
  • Dr. Ain is on a mission to save the world for a “later race”.
  • Allusions to W.H. Hudson’s novel Green Mansions and
  • the “Gaea Gloriatric“….Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life
  • are the keys that will unlock the theme in the story.
  • Dr Ain boards his last flight and
  • …no one sees the  moral insanity inside him.
  • Note: After the first reading I was confused.
  • It took a second reading and some note taking to
  • finally appreciate this
  • …classic short story by one of SF   ‘grande dames’.
  • #Readable

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I’ve reviewed 4 of James Tiptree jr.’s short stories.
  2. The Screwfly Solution….was very good,
  3. ..but I may have to read some ‘duds’ before I
  4. finished all the selections.
  5. I’ve included a  Wikipedia link about Alice Sheldon’s life
  6. It was unconventional….and ended in double suicide.
  7. #ReadShortStories

 

 

17
Feb

#Non-fiction: The American Short Story

Raymond  Carver

William Faulkner  

John Updike

Flannery O’Connnor

 

 

Finished: 17.02.2019
Genre: non-fiction, literary reference
Rating: A


Conclusion:

  1. This was an excellent overview of the American short story!
  2. The short story is no longer the baby brother of the novel.
  3. It is a genre open to experimentation, new ethnic voices and
  4. focuses on the most intense and life-changing experiences.
  5. Raymond Carver kept a 3×5 card on his desk with a quote by
  6. Anton Chekhov:
  7. …and suddenly, everything became clear to him…”
  8. This was an expression of the essential short story effect.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. In this digital age with our declining attention spans
  2. …some may consider short stories as
  3. bonbons for lazy readers.
  4. I’ve discovered  genius the day I dared to give up
  5. …on reading novels and read short stories.
  6. Example: The Complete Stories  by Flannery O’Connor.
  7. Invite the coyote into your life!
  8. Invite the short story into your TBR!

 

 

 

28
Jan

#Classic Flannery O’Connor

 

Conclusion:

  1. I’ve had this book on TBR for 2 years!
  2. I was very, very impressed.
  3. It would be bleak stuff if it weren’t so enthralling,
  4. ….and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
  5. O’Connor works in major social issues (race) and religious themes
  6. …( suffering, epiphany), but doesn’t hit the reader over the head with them.
  7. Some stories are dark with a surprise ending.
  8. Strong point: She writes the Negro dialect as if she
  9. …spoke it herself, and portrays
  10. southern speech patterns easily.
  11. I took me 4 days to read all 31  (long) short stories.
  12. A Displaced Person is 42 pages
  13. The Lame Shall Enter First is 38 pages
  14. 10  stories are between 20-29 pages
  15. 54% very good stories!
  16. Reading up on O’Connor’s life, which came to an early end from illness,
  17. ….it wasn’t hard for me to see how some of
  18. …her own personal trials must have informed her work.
  19. #MustRead Classic

 

Table of Contents:

  1. The Geranium – Old man (lives with daughter NYC) homesick for the South (YES)
  2. The Barber – man and barber have a political discussion (YES)
  3. Wildcat – blind man can’t see but can smell the wildcat (YES)
  4. The Crop – writer (O’Connor?)….glimpse how a writer plots a story
  5. The Turkey – young boy…chases turkey, wants to impress family (YES)
  6. The Train – young man on train trip…felt like a pointless story
  7. The Peeler – Fast talking potato peeler salesman vs blind street preacher
  8. The Heart of the Park – Enoch spies on ladies at the swimming pool strange story
  9. A Stroke of Good Fortune – Ruby is having a baby…but she doesn’t know it!
  10. Enoch and the Gorilla – Enoch stares at the ape in the zoo
  11. Good Man is Hard to Find – famous O’Connor story (YES)
  12. A Late Encounter With the Enemy – grandfather attends granddaughter’s graduation
  13. The Life You Save May Be Your Own – one-arm drifter marries young girl (YES)
  14. The River – young neglected boy taken to river baptizing by his babysitter
  15. A. Circle of Fire – three teenage boys come for unexpected visit
  16. The Displaced Person – widow (dairy farm) tries to decide if she will fire employee (YES)
  17. A Temple of the Holy Ghost – 14 yr girls (Catholic school) visit their mother’s friend (YES)
  18. The Artificial Nigger – Grandfather takes grandson on first train trip to Atlanta (YES)
  19. Good Country People – Bible salesman comes to the door….fools everybody. (so-so)
  20. You Can’t Be Any Poorer Than Dead – grand uncle-nephew…bury me. (YES haunting)
  21. Greenleaf – widow owns dairy farm with 2 lazy sons – neighbour’s bull is in her herd! (YES)
  22. A View of the Woods – grandfather – granddaughter (9 yr)..his heir – haunting story (YES)
  23. The Enduring Chill – son travels from NYC back home to mother. (very funny…YES)
  24. The Comforts of Home – Mother takes ‘con-artist’ in home… (surprise ending…YES)
  25. Everything That Rises Must Converge  Mother-son on a bus ride (absolutely amazing YES)
  26. The Partridge Festival – young man (23 yr) visits his two great-aunts (very good..YES)
  27. The Lame Shall Enter First – Father-son (11 yr) grieving for dead mother (powerful…YES)
  28. Why Do the Heathen Rage? widow faced with having an immature and inept young son
  29. Revelation – strange patients in the doctor’s waiting room
  30. Parker’s Back- drifter/handy-man ends up marrying hyper-religious wife…trouble.
  31. Judgement Day – Old man (lives with daughter NYC) longs to return to the South to die

 

 

16
Dec

#Short stories The Pull of the Moon

 

Introduction:

  1. The slow reader is like a swimmer who stops
  2. counting the number of pool laps they have done
  3. … just enjoys how their body feels and moves in water.
  4. For the first time I approached
  5. ….a collection of short stories
  6. as a slow reader.
  7. I read each and every word Julie Paul wrote.
  8. Not every story is a home-run
  9. ….but she hit a few out of the ballpark!

 

Short stories:

  • I read the collection from
  • beginning to end as Ms. Paul arranged them.

 

  • I could not detect a flow in the arrangement of the stories.
  • They did not build on each other.
  • There were 2 stories that felt just pointless (9,12)
  • with paper thins characters.

 

  • Three stories had potential ….but endings were ambiguous
  • …and left this reader wanting. (8,10,11)

 

  • The BEST stories were Black Forest, Crossing Over and Flip
  • …all good feeling endings….love conquers all! (1, 3, 6)

 

  • Setting: 6 of the 12 stories mentioned NO location specifics
  • …which made the stories colorless.
  • It does not take up much space in the story
  • …to at least mention the name of a town or state!

 

Characters:

  1. Children:  Jenny – Simon – Sammy – Beany – Angela – Lulu
  2. Marriage:
  3. Vicki/Larry – Jim/Fran – Mr./Mrs Poole
  4. – Bob/Dee Hudson – David/Erica – nameless wife/Michel
  5. — Sue/Fraser — Jess/Dylan
  6. Couples:  Warren/Lacy  — Claudia/Rodger — Billy/Allan — Mario/Sheri
  7. Brother and sister:  Warren/Gwen  – Stravos/Alexa
  8. Sisters: Tirsh/Donna
  9. Brothers – Owen/Jasper
  10. Teenagers: Jenny – Juna
  11. Neighbor: Carl — Mia — nameless woman (5th story)

 

Themes:

  1. Looking at this character list you can see the
  2. …most common theme was
  3. marriage, family loyalty vs denial dynamics.

 

  1. Many fathers feared they were not a good enough parent.
  2. The most common themes were
  3. doubts about parenting,
  4. marriage, separation, custody battle, family secrets,
  5. accepting no medical intervention for a sick husband and
  6. …a husband dealing with post traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD)
  7. ..and Diana (49 yr) tries  to make a home-made baby with a turkey baster!

 

  1. Couples/relationship dynamics swirled about tropical vacations:
  2. 4 young people’s dream trip went haywire.
  3. Claudia and Rodger took a chance on the flip of a coin
  4. …and found love in Cuba!

 

  1. One couple broke up…. Lacy/Warren 
  2. …Lacy felt The Pull of the Moon and booked
  3. …a one-way ticket with the Lunar Pilgrim shuttle!

 

  1. Gwen: What do you do when all you have in the world
  2. …is a brother and a cat named Fluffy?
  3. She felt “…as lonely as a lighthouse.”

 

1. Black Forest

 

  1. crisis: Mother abandons family
  2. struggle: Lawrence must be father-mother for his daughter.
  3. discovery: Jenny is growing up and father feels  separation anxiety
  4. transformation: Jenny who needs guidance…
  5. is the ‘adult’…and  ends up guiding her parents!

 

...it is really about the cake!

 

2.  Damage

  1. crisis: PTSD
  2. struggle: recover from trauma
  3. discovery:  trauma can be a source of growth
  4. transformation: Jim feels a greater appreciation for life,
  5. ….a greater sense of personal strength.
  6. He pushes himself to ‘meddle’ with the neighbor’s problem.

 

3.  Crossing Over

  1. crisis: Should a cat have a grave?
  2. struggle: brother (balanced, reasonable) vs sister (emotional, lonely)
  3. discovery: grief is real be it for a cat or a wife….
  4. transformation: Roy realizes that grief is simply a part of life.
  5. There is no need to suppress or deny the pain.

 

4. Pilgrim

  1. crisis: the rise of New Age spirituality in a skeptical world.
  2. Lacy wants to follow course Angel Reading cards (…talk to guardian angel)
  3. struggle:  Lacy is a believer: “That stuff got me so amped up!
  4. discovery: If the moon controls the tides, affects crops, etc.,
  5. …it seems logical that it has some sway over us too.
  6. transformation: Lacy books a one-way-ticket to the moon!

 

5. Adios

  1. crisis: Mr. Poole (neighbor) suddenly dies
  2. struggle: narrator feels guilty
  3. ….she did not prevent Mr. Poole from wandering off.
  4. discovery: narrator is burdened with regrets and seeks redemption
  5. transformation:  Mrs. Poole calls narrator a gift from God.
  6. Ironically.…narrator does not feel she is the answer to a prayer.

 

6. Flip

  1. crisis:  Single librarian lives alone with her cat.
  2. struggle:  Roger (co-worker ) asks her to go to Cuba with him!
  3. …What should she do?
  4. “…a vacation with Rodger? “
  5. …they only know each other in the coffee sense,
  6. ….she likes lattes with extra sugar and he like Africanos…!”
  7. discovery: Claudia discovers that it is sensible to want
  8. …more than what keeps the flesh alive and mobile.
  9. transformation: Love blossoms
  10. ….Claudia she is brought back to life… a little resurrection.

7. Tropical Dream

  1. crisis:  couples have problems….flirting with each other.
  2. struggle: Fraser flirts with Billy – Billy….flirts with his wife Sue!
  3. discovery: boys find girls locked in a passionate embrace
  4. transformation: Sue is confused….feels the ache of unfinished business

 

8. The King is Dead

  1. crisis: Trish feels as an outsider from the secret family club
  2. struggle: tension b/t Trish and family….what is wrong? what is the secret?
  3. discovery: before Trish was born
  4. ….her  brother Patrick drowned (father was drunk could no save him).
  5. transformation: Trish internalizes her grief and anger
  6. If she explodes she will never see her nephew again
  7. ….her ‘stand-in-little-brother’.

 

9. Viable

  1. crisis: Juna’s mother (49 yr)  asks Stravos (17 yr)
  2. …to donate sperm so she can have a baby
  3. struggle:  Stravos weighs the pros and cons.
  4. discovery:  ???
  5. transformation:  ???
  6. Conclusion: pointless!

 

10. Weeping Camperdown  (tree)

  1. crisis: man divorced, woman married feel themselves falling in love.
  2. struggle: Andrew does not want his daughter to know he is looking for love.
  3. discovery: After a few incidents
  4. ….Andrew suspects this woman is stalking him!
  5. transformation:  “Something in her voice made Andrew’s hair prickle”
  6. Conclusion: story had great potential but the ending just fizzled out.
  7. Last sentence:  “He began to count”.
  8. Me: Count what?

 

11. Her Full Name Was Beatrice

  1. crisis: custody battle Erica  vs and David for their child Beany
  2. struggle: David is awarded custody  of Beany. (Beatrice)
  3. discovery: Erica cannot accept this decision
  4. transformation: Narrator (nameless)  is guilt-ridden
  5. ….what signs did she miss….could she have helped Erica?

 

12 Squirrel People

  1. crisis: Jess cannot bear to live near neighbors Mario/Sheri  from upstairs
  2. …they keep feeding the squirrels It drives Jess crazy!
  3. struggle: Dylan bring home puppy for Lulu (daughter). Jess is livid!
  4. discovery:  role reversal
  5. transformation: Dylan has become just like Mario
  6. ….just wants to make people happy
  7. Jess his wife turns  into Sheri
  8. raging when no raging was necessary.
  9. Conclusion:  pointless story

17
Nov

#Classic Canterbury Tales The Knights Tale

 

Conclusion:

  1. The Knight’s tale is the longest.
  2. Firstly I read the summary of the tale (1 hr)
  3. At times the tale felt never ending,
  4. ….but it was worth every minute!
  5. Impressive and very touching.

 

Characters: Palamon, Arcite, Emily, Duke Theseus

Plot: a love triangle Palamon – Emily – Arcita with backdrop of courtly love

Structure:

  1. Parts 1-4 end either with reflective question
  2. …(which lover suffers most?) or cliffhangers.
  3. Young knights battling ankle-deep in blood;
  4. proclaiming rules for jousting; final showdown to decide victory.

Strong point: dramatic irony

  1. The reader knows something the characters don’t know.
  2. Disguise: Arcita is disguised as a servant in Duke Theseus’ court
  3. Mixed messages: Arcita (Mars) and Palamon (Venus) pray to these gods
  4. to help them win Emily’s hand in marriage.
  5. Emily prays to Diana:
  6. “That I would be a virgin all my life, and would be neither mistress, no, nor wife”.

Strong point:  mise-en-abyme

  1. Palamon and Arcita fight after praying to the gods.
  2. Theseus stops them.
  3. The gods who help each lover also fight, Mars and Venus.
  4. Jupiter stops them.

Memorable passages:

  1. Descriptions of temples (Mars, Venus, Diana)
  2. Palamon’s prayer to Venus in the language of chivalry
  3. Duke Theseus forgiveness speech to fighting rivals (Palamon, Arcita)
  4. Blow-by-blow description of jousting preparations and battle.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. This was a good  classic read before I immerse myself into
  2. Mrs. Dalloway by Virgina Woolf.
  3. I’m sure her book will take some time to process!

 

10
Oct

#CanBookChallenge Zolitude (short stories)

 

  1. Zolitude  (14 short stories)
  2. Paige Cooper 
  3. Published: 2018
  4. Hashtag:  #CanBookChallenge
  5. Update: 4/15  read
  6. Trivia: Longlist Giller Prize 2018
  7. List of Challenges 2018
  8. Monthly plan

 

Conclusion:

  1. Every single story is a struggle
  2. ….this was not an entertaining book.
  3. What’s the point in writing if readers cannot relate to it?
  4. I read another review:
  5. “… I found two or three of them to be excellent, but I had no patience with the rest.”
  6. I cannot tell you how many times
  7. …I almost threw the book in the garbage bin!
  8. But no, I was determined to finish every single one of these ridiculous stories
  9. …and I did.
  10. How this book managed to reach the longlist for the Giller Prize 2018 is beyond me.
  11. Where is the jury report?
  12. Please, explain to me what the criteria were to elevate this book to a finalist place?
  13. What am I missing?

 

Last Thoughts:

  1. I really feel for Paige Cooper...
  2. ….to have the strength of mind to write these stories
  3. is incredible but they were just to chaotic…
  4. …too ‘way out there’, too experimental for a simple reader as I.
  5. I find writing a short sentence about each story was
  6. the best way to review it. It was late last night when I finished the book
  7. ….so my comments have a whiff of exhaustion in them!

 

1. Zolitude – breakup for Simone…and love and longing for Ms Berzina. #Average

2. Spiderhole – Vietnam vet’s memories with a score of animals…lizards etc. #Erratic

3. Ryan & Irene, Irene & Ryan –  mailbomb, 3 dream scenes add up to a confusing story. #Bizarre

4. Thanatoscould not follow this at all…please, a normal story, please! #Flummoxing

5. The Emperor – snake with red eye, rat tried to crawl back up its own body,…lost again!  These stories are absolutely ridiculous. #Creepy

6. Slave Craton  – 9,4  quake, tidal wave, Erin and Michael’ relationship in flashbacks. #Seismic

7. Moriah –  Book-mobile; librarian Moriah, and townspeople Victor, Matthew, Tyler, Adrian, Keller…and a strange mythical eagle protecting its diamond egg. #Farfetched

8. The Tin Luck – Girls from the street in unnamed Russina town…Merope pines for ‘good  ol’ days.’ Title is impossible to understand from the story. #Depressing

9. Record of Working – Arthur is project manager an the work is NOT on time, NOT on budget…and Arthur is a NO SHOW for a meeting! Paige Cooper dumps paragraphs of ‘fake tech mumbo-jumbo’ on the reader. #WORST short story I ever read. #Pointless

10. La Folie  Where is the SHORT in this story? ...it’s a  #Novella!

11. Pre-Occupants – Oh, now we’re in space. #HoHum

12. Retirement – Olympic Gold medalist Turin 2006 remembers his glory days…but now in retirement….#Average

13. Roar –  Deer hunting lodge, guests, helicopter, dogs. #NothingSpecial

14. Vazova on Love –  Back in Russia and still incomprehensible…..thank goodness this is #TheLastStory.

 

 

17
Sep

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.”

 

SHORT STORY ANALYSIS

 

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.
c.
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?
a.
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.

 

Conclusion:

  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!

 

4
Sep

R.I.P. Dark Entries

 

Strong point:   These stories get under your skin!

  1. I re-read the first story and
  2. …found so many new clues and  insights.
  3. My first reading was just…”tell me what happens!”
  4. My second reading had me
  5. …noticing the books Aickman mentions
  6. …subtle tidbits of dialogue
  7. …the use of ellipses for three sentences
  8. …why omit words here?
  9. Lesbian relationships clearly fascinated Aickman.  (Sally-Mel)
  10. They form the clear subtext of a story such as
  11. The School Friend, but even so that
  12. never impedes the advent of paranormal dread.
  13. Bits of dialogue – gestures....contain hidden secrets!

 

Strong point:

  1. Aickman has a extensive knowledge of the occult
  2. psychological insights – sense of place.
  3. I tried to pinpoint  the year the
  4. …first story took place 
  5. ..but I only found a reference to a book
  6. The Constant Nymph published 1924.

 

The Constant Nymph

  1. The Constant Nymph is a 1924 novel by Margaret Kennedy.
  2. It tells how a teenage girl falls in love with a family friend,
  3. …who eventually marries her cousin.
  4. The novel was a best-seller after it was first published (1924).
  5. A significant part of its success was due to its (for the time)
  6. …shocking sexual content, describing, as it does,
  7. …scenes of adolescent sexuality and noble savagery.
  8. Tessa  main character in the book)
  9. reminds Mel (narrator) of Sally Tressler.

 

Characterization:

  1. There are gestures that reveal more about…Sally and Mel.
  2. The author uses first person to hook the reader.
  3. Aickman writes was what he called “strange fiction”
  4. …reminiscent of the short stories of Shirley Jackson.

 

Style:

  1. Aickman’s fiction is often ambiguous, opaque even cryptic.
  2. This is not your run-of-the-mill  ghost story!
  3. He tends toward atmospheric
  4. …rather than frightening ghost stories.
  5. With a low ‘fright limit’ I was
  6. …more than pleased to read Aickman’s stories!
  7. Endings are at times hard to understand.
  8. The School Friend left this reader
  9. ….scratching behind her ear!
  10. “What was in that house?”

 

Locations:

  1. Moving between homes and hospitals,
  2. …and indeed room to room
  3. …within the school friend’s home allows
  4. …Aickman to a set up multiple places through
  5. …which the hauntings might occur.

 

Conclusion:

  1. I forgot how much fun it is to read a suspenseful short story!
  2. Two school girlfriends meet in the village after 27 years.
  3. Sally and Mel are opposites but still have a connection.
  4. Sally returns to her father’s house after his death.
  5. Mel notices…during the next few weeks
  6. …that  Sally has changed.
  7. The School Friend
  8. …slowly builds up a sense of dread.
  9. What is in Sally’s house 
  10. that has affected her so visibly?
  11. I finished the story and  was
  12. …not quite sure how it ended!
  13. Again I wonder: “What was in that house?
  14. #Excellent
  15. Now I need to take a deep breath
  16. .and start  reading something more relaxed!