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The most peculiar property of language is its symbolic function. The writer exchanges meanings for marks, while the reader performs the opposite task. There are no meanings outside us, or if there are, we do not know them. Personal meanings are made with our own hands. Their preparation is a kind of alchemy. Everything that we call rationality demands imagination, and if we did not have the capacity to imagine, we could not even speak morality or conscience.
—Leena Krohn, "Afterword: When the Viewer Vanishes"
Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have done wonders for the availability of contemporary Finnish writing in English with their Cheeky Frawg press
, and in December they will release their greatest book yet: Collected Fiction
by Leena Krohn.
I've been a passionate fan of Leena Krohn's work ever since I first read her book Tainaron
ten years ago. I sought out the only other translation of her writings in English available at the time, Doña Quixote & Gold of Ophir
, and was further impressed. I read Datura
when Cheeky Frawg published it in 2013. It's all remarkable work.Collected Fiction
brings together all of those books, plus more: The Pelican's New Clothes
(children's fiction from the 1970s, just as entrancing as her adult work later), Pereat Mundus
(which I've yearned to read ever since Krohn mentioned it when I interviewed her
), some excerpts and stories from various books published over the last 25 years, essays by others (including me) that give some perspective on her career, and an afterword by Leena Krohn herself.
This book is as important a publishing event in its own way as New Directions' release earlier this year of Clarice Lispector's Complete Stories
. It's a similarly large book (850 pages), and though not Krohn's complete stories, it gives a real overview of her career and provides immeasurable pleasure.
One of the wonders of this collection is just how big
it is. I keep jokingly referring to it as KROHN!
, and not just because of Jeremy Zerfoss's gorgeous cover, but because this is a doorstop of a book that collects the work of someone whose writing might often be described as delicate, miniature tales. Her books don't tend to be especially long, and even her novels are built of miniatures. But now we can hold this huge collection of decades of writing and its solidity is stunning.
In a helpful overview of the first thirty years of Krohn's writing (1970-2001) included here, Minna Jerman writes: "Gold of Ophir
is constructed in such a way that you could easily read its chapters in any order, and have a different experience with each different sequence." This is true for most of Krohn's novels, it seems to me, and is another virtue of her writing, something that makes it feel so different from so many other books, so truly strange, and yet so captivating, like a puzzle that isn't especially insistent about its puzzle-ness — or, to quote the great John Leonard
, it embodies "Chaos Theory, with lots of fractals."
This is what I want to tell you, then: Reader, you should get this book at the first opportunity and you should spend a year (at least!) reading through it in whatever order you feel like, letting it be a magical, mind-warping cabinet of curiosities, a wonderbox of a book. You should not devour Leena Krohn's writing. Savor it, take it in in small bits, because there are so many glorious small bits here. Why rush? This is rich, rich material. Just as no rational person would ever guzzle a truly fine scotch, so you should sip from Krohn's fountain of dreamwords.
And this is what I want to tell you
, O Writerly Types: This book is a gift to you, a tome of possibilities. Stop writing like everybody else. We don't need you to make your vision fit into the airport bookstore shelves. Those shelves are full. We need more writers who will do what Leena Krohn has done, who will seize language as a tool for dreaming back toward consciousness, who will find forms that fit such dreaming, who will not replicate the conventions of now but instead reconfigure their own conventions until they seem inevitable. Learn from this book
, O Writers. Let it inspire you to write in your own new ways, your own new forms, your own truthful imaginings.
In a trance, his hand already numb and senseless, accompanied by the rustle of the rain and the croaking of frogs, Håkan was taken through the eras toward the wondrous time when he did not yet exist.
—Leena Krohn, Pereat Mundus: A Novel of Sorts
Small independent journal The Quilliad (Toronto) seeks flash fiction, short stories, poetry, comics, photography, and art from Canadian writers and artists. Looking for literary science fiction and horror; magic realism; fairy tales, folk tales, myths, and legends; monsters, death, magic, and fear. Submit 1-5 pieces. Deadline: October 20, 2015. Payment: $12 honorarium plus copy. Guidelines.
PRISM international is now accepting submissions for their 2016 Short Fiction Contest, judged by Lee Maracle. First prize: $1500 + publication; more prizes available. Length: 6000 words max. Entry fee: $35-$45 (includes subscription). Deadline: January 20, 2016. Guidelines.
Words & Brushes invites writers to write a short story (length: 2000-5000 words) around an artwork from their image gallery. First prize: $300. Participants may enter as many stories as they like. No entry fee. Deadline: December 1, 2015. Guidelines.
The Los Angeles Review invites submissions for Vol. 20. Theme: Ekphrasis. Publishes fiction (“hard-to-put-down shorts”) under 1000 words as well as sequences of such shorts and/or stand-alone lengthier stories up to 4,000 words; nonfiction (1000-4000 words); flash nonfiction (“that cat-burgles expectations”), poetry and book reviews. Reading fee: $3. Deadline: December 1, 2015. Guidelines.
ArtAscent seeks submissions on the theme of “Haunting.” Write about spooky creatures, frightening places, eerie experiences. Entries may include fiction, poetry, short stories and other written explorations (up to 900 words). Open to international artists. Deadline: October 31, 2015. Guidelines.
Tethered By Letters is accepting submissions for the TBL Fall Literary Contest. Categories: Short story (1000-7500 words; $500 prize); flash fiction (55, 250, or 500 words; $150 prize); and poetry ($150 prize). Looking for engaging stories, vivid characters, and fresh writing styles. Winners published in F(r)iction. Entry fees: $7-$15. Deadline: December 1, 2015. Guidelines.
You can now order my upcoming collection Blood: Stories from the publisher, Black Lawrence Press.
The book will be released in January 2016, and BLP is offering it for a bit of a discount before the publication date (it's a big book — 100,000 words — so will retail for $18.95).
Should you pre-order it? I don't know. Yes, of course, I would like you to. And if you're going to order it online, this is a good way to do it, because you'll get it pretty quickly and a larger percentage of your money will go to BLP, so you'll help a small publisher stay solvent. Once the book is published, you'll also be able to buy it from bookstores, and since I support people spending as much money as possible in local bookstores, that's a great way to get it as well.
Actually, you should probably both pre-order it and buy it from bookstores, because why would you want only one copy? You need to be able to give them away to friends — or, if you don't like the book, to enemies...
Read the rest of this post
Blog: Perpetually Adolescent
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After its recent tumultuous history, the Qld Literary Awards are growing from strength to strength under the banner of the State Library of Queensland and a bevy of eminent sponsors. The 2015 shortlists have just been announced and the winners will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony on Friday 9th October in Brisbane. Some categories […]
I must apologize for not remembering on whose blog I first learned about Through the Woods by Emily Carroll because I owe that blogger a big thank you. Through the Woods is a short story collection like no other I have ever read. Why might that be? It is a book of graphic short stories.
When I got it from the library I didn’t remember about the graphic part of it and I worried that perhaps I had made a mistake. How can you do a book of graphic short stories? Novel, memoir, biography, but short stories? But you know what? It totally works and it is great!
The stories are of the very short and ambiguous kind and they are successful because the art and the text work so well together to move the story along. They have a fairy tale quality to them and they all felt vaguely familiar because of that but they are completely original. They all feature girls or young women. They are about things like a cold snowy winter and dad has to leave his three daughters alone. He tells them if he isn’t back in three days they are to go to the neighbor’s house. Of course he doesn’t return. The eldest daughter refuses to leave, insisting that dad will be back any time. The youngest doesn’t really seem concerned about anything in particular. And the middle daughter, the one telling the story, insists they follow their father’s wishes because if they don’t they will be completely snowed in and without food. And then during the night someone comes to the door and the eldest sister goes with that someone and doesn’t come back. The night after that, the youngest sister goes with the stranger. The middle sister is left all alone. The food is gone. She walks most of the day through the deep snow to the neighbor’s house and…
Another tale is about a father marrying off his beautiful daughter to the richest man in the county. The house is huge and gorgeous but something is not right. Someone keeps her up at night singing a strange song. Her husband tells her she’s hearing things that aren’t there. One night while her husband is away, she goes looking for the source of the song and discovers more than she bargained for.
The art in this book is amazing. Stark, deeply saturated color in a limited palette of black, white, scarlet red and deep blue, creates high contrast and a rich lushness that magnifies the creep factor of the stories. I raced through them all in less than an hour one evening before bed. The final story gave me such chills that I told Bookman if I have any nightmares Through the Woods is at fault.
A perfect RIP Challenge read for sure, but guaranteed excellent for any dark night or stormy afternoon no matter what time of year.
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Test your knowledge of Sherlock Holmes with this quiz, based on the novels and short stories, the canon's history and its place in modern day life.
The post How well do you know Sherlock Holmes? [quiz] appeared first on OUPblog.
I was so excited to read Kelly Link’s newest story collection Get in Trouble. I read Magic for Beginners a long time ago and really liked it. It was so quirky and strange. The stories would be perfectly normal expect for the zombies. Or the rabbits. Or some other weird twist that made everything shift just a little off the reality axis.
Get in Trouble has much of the same thing going on. I am reading and the story seems ho-hum and then a small detail slips in and — wait, what, did that just say she has two shadows? But as weird as a story might get, the characters in it find nothing weird going on and they have the most banal conversations. It keeps the stories grounded and prevents the slightly off-kilter from wobbling into the absurd.
I should have liked the collection. And I did like several of the stories. There is one called “The Summer People” that manages to be both innocent and creepy at the same time. Another, “Secret Identity,” is everyday enough. A teenage girl playing online pretends she is much older than she is, hops a bus to New York City to meet the guy who likes her in person only to end up at a hotel where there are two conventions going on, dentists and superheroes. Everyone keeps asking her if she is a sidekick or there to apply to be a sidekick. And the man she is supposed to meet? Turns out he is a superhero but she never meets him for various reasons. It’s a good story about the masks we wear and who we really are underneath.
“The New Boyfriend” is also pretty good. Teenage girls and synthetic boyfriends that you can buy — take your pick between vampire, werewolf, or a few others. The ghost version is no longer on the market because there were problems. But Ainslie always somehow gets what she wants and Immy just can’t stand it any longer. Not a story so much about boyfriends, Immy has had a real boyfriend and Ainslie has not, but more about friendship and jealousy, popularity and social power.
The rest of the stories were uninteresting to me. The humor and weirdness rubbed me the wrong way. The strange was expected instead of surprising and it was even at times boring; the charm and shine faded.
Overall I was disappointed. I seem to recall other folks reading the collection and finding it lacking a bit too. Unfortunately I don’t remember who they all are. If you have not read Kelly Link before and have heard what a good story writer she is and want to see for yourself, don’t choose Get in Trouble as your collection of discovery. Go for Magic for Beginners instead.
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A very, very short story published on the 50-Word Stories website!
LYNNE NORTH: Progress
August 27, 2015 Artistic, Submissions civilization, Lynne North, nature, tree
‘People pass; most don’t notice my existence.
I lived through two world wars, bearing witness to horrors. I harmed no one.
Yet they want me gone.
They come to end my life. I hear the saws, suffer the cuts in my trunk. Soon I will fall.
They call it progress.’
Lynne North writes humorous fantasy novels for children. She decided it was time she tried something else…
|Littleton Opera House, Littleton, NH c.1900, a location in the story|
I have a new story — my first (but not last) of this year — now available on the Conjunctions
website— "The Last Vanishing Man"
This one's a bit of a departure for me, in that it is a serious story that will not, I'm told, make you want to kill yourself after you read it. In fact, one of my primary goals when writing it was to write something not entirely nihilistic. Various people have, over the years, gently suggested that perhaps I might try writing a ... well ... a nice
story now and then.
(I actually think I've only written one story that is not nice, "Patrimony" in Black Static last year
. And maybe "On the Government of the Living"
. Well, maybe "How Far to Englishman's Bay"
, too. And— okay, I get it...)
So "The Last Vanishing Man" is a story that has an (at least somewhat) uplifting ending, and the good people triumph, or at least survive, and the bad person is punished, or at least ... well, I won't go into details...
Here's the first paragraph, to whet your appetite:
I saw The Great Omega perform three or four times, including that final, strange show. I was ten years old then. It was the summer of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, a time when vaudeville and touring acts were quickly fading behind the glittering light of motion pictures and the crackling squawk of radios. What I remember of the performance is vivid, but I am wary of its vividness, as I suspect that vividness derives not from the original moment, but from how much effort I’ve put into remembering it. What is memory, what is reconstruction, what is misdirection?Continue reading at Conjunctions...
And the winner of The Book Awards top Kindle book for July 2015 is…
As a little addendum to my post
about the somewhat narrow aesthetics of Ben Marcus's New American Stories
anthology, let me point you to Nick Mamatas's "Anti-Fragile"
, a story that does pretty much everything I was hoping to find somewhere in New American Stories
On Twitter, I said:
And that about sums up my feelings.
Well, also: I may be partial, as I am an avowed and longstanding lover of long sentences
, and this story is a wonderfully skilled, thrillingly long sentence. It's well worth reading and thinking about.
Ben Marcus's 2004 anthology The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories
is a wonderfully rich collection for a book of its type. I remember first reading it with all the excitement of discovery — even the stories I didn't like seemed somehow invigorating in the way they made me dislike them. I've used the book with a couple of classes I've taught, and I've recommended it to many people.
I was overjoyed, then, when I heard that Marcus was doing a follow up, and I got it as soon as I could: New American Stories
. I started reading immediately.
Expectations can kill us. The primary emotion I felt while reading New American Stories
was disappointment. It's not that the stories are bad — they aren't — but that the book as a whole felt a bit narrow, a bit repetitive. I skipped around from story to story, dashing in search of surprise, but it was rare. I tried to isolate the source of my disappointment, of my lack of surprise: Was it the subject matter? No, this isn't quite Best American Rich White People
. Was it the structure of the stories? Maybe a little bit, generally, as even the handful of structurally adventurous stories here feel perfectly in line with the structurally adventurous stories of 50 years ago, and somewhat tame in comparison to the structurally adventurous stories of 80-100 years ago. But that wasn't really what was bothering me.
And then I realized: It was the style, the rhythm. The paragraphs and, especially, the sentences. It wasn't that each story had the same style as the one I'd just read, but that most (not all) of the stories felt like stylistic family members.
And then I thought: What this book really demonstrates is the deep, abiding, and highly dispersed influence of Gordon Lish
. Lish's shadow stretches across the majority of tales in Marcus's book, as it did the previous book, and understandably so: not only is Lish a good candidate for the title of the most influential editor of "literary" short fiction in the US in the second half of the twentieth century ... but Marcus was nurtured by him, with Lish publishing quite a bit of his early work in The Quarterly
and then publishing Marcus's first book, The Age of Wire and String
. (The title of both the Anchor Book
and New American Stories
is a bit of a give-away, too: the subtitle of Lish's The Quarterly
was "The Magazine of New American Writing".) The effect feels more repetitious in the new book, perhaps because I'm now a decade older and have all those more years of reading short stories behind me (including readings tons for the Best American Fantasy
anthologies); but also, I expect, because the new book is more than 200 pages longer, and so the opportunity for repetition is greater.
It's not that either the Anchor Book
or New American Stories
is an anthology of stuff from the School of Lish (as Sven Birkerts called it back in the '80s). Some of Lish's students are, indeed, in these books — in the new one, I know that Sam Lipsyte, Joy Williams, Christine Schutt, and Deb Olin Unferth all studied and/or were edited by him, and Don DeLillo is a good friend and admirer of him. Plenty of the writers in the book may never have even heard of Gordon Lish. The influence is easily picked up from the writers Lish not only guided or influenced directly, but venerated by publishing them or saying good things about them to the world. Lish didn't just teach people to write in a particular way; he taught them to value particular moves in texts.
The writers in New American Stories
are all different in their approaches and backgrounds, certainly, and at least a few of them are writers whose work Lish would not himself value, but there's a bit of an echo between them, the echo of the Lishian sentence (the best analysis of which is probably that of Jason Lucarelli in "The Consecution of Gordon Lish"
). These are stories that (overall) value straightforward diction, relatively simple sentence constructions, and conversational tones and syntax. They prefer the concrete and the active. Many are built with odd repetitions and quirky juxtapositions.
You can feel it in the first lines — Lish famously calls first sentences the "attack sentence" and reportedly tells
students, "Your attack sentence is a provoking sentence. You follow it with a series of provoking sentences."
Here are some opening sentences from New American Stories
(I'll identify the writers later):
1.) Davis called, told me he was dying.
2.) "What you got there, then?"
3.) "Just let me out of here, man," said Cora Booth. "I'm sick. I'm dying."
4.) Four of them were on one side of a dim room.
5.) Like in the old days, I came out of the dry creek behind the house and did my little tap on the kitchen window.
6.) "What are you doing?" a guy asked her.
7.) It was the day before his cousin's funeral and Del ended up at the Suds washing his black jeans at midnight.
8.) Once, for about a month or two, I decided I was going to be a different kind of guy.
9.) "I don't know why I committed us to any of those things," Otto said.
10.) The day I got my period, my mother and father took me to pick my madman.
11.) I know when people will die.
12.) Root canal is one fifty, give or take, depending on who's doing it to you.
The first six of those are the entire first paragraph of the story. All of the sentences are pretty short, with the longest being #5 at 24 words. (And #3 is actually 3 sentences.) The diction is simple, with most of the words being one or two syllables, and none more than three syllables. Four of the openings are direct dialogue, with implied dialogue in others (e.g. #1). All of the openings are about people. The word guy
appears more than once.
I chose these openings pretty much randomly by flipping through the book, and I only organized them to put the ones that are a paragraph unto themselves together. The 20 other stories that I have not sampled here would generally seem similar. From those 20 other stories, here are the opening sentences that, to my eyes and ears, seem most different from those above:
A.) Father comes home after many years of forgetting us, of not sending us money, of not loving us, not visiting us, not anything us, and parks in the shack, unable to move, unable to talk properly, unable to anything, vomiting and vomiting, Jesus, just vomiting and defecating on himself, and it smelling like something dead in there, dead and rotting, his body a black, terrible stick; I come in from playing Find bin Laden and he is there.
B.) Though alien to the world's ancient past, young blood runs similar circles.
C.) After they shot the body several times, they cut its throat with a scaling knife; after that, they pinched its nostrils and funneled sulfuric acid into its mouth; while some set to yanking the body's toenails out with a set of pliers, others fashioned a noose from a utility cord they had found in the trunk of their car.
A and C are longer than 1-12 (behold: semi-colons!), and B is not quite about a human being. Interestingly, they're all about bodies, bodily fluid, and, in the case of A and C, pain, death, suffering. A is notable for its lyricism, B for its weirdness, C for having the only 4-syllable word that I've noticed among any of these opening sentences ("utility"). These are, then, the most extreme and radical opening sentences in the book.
Most of the writers of all of these sentences, whether 1-12 or A-C, likely do not know Gordon Lish's commandments for writing attack sentences. But I suspect we see the influence of Lish in two ways here: first, in how Lish has influenced Marcus's taste, since the one thing we can say about all of these stories is that Ben Marcus valued them; second, in how Lish's protégés have gone on themselves to influence the perception of what is "good writing" in the lit world.
Let's look at who the writers are:
1.) Sam Lipsyte
2.) Zadie Smith
3.) Wells Tower
4.) Jesse Ball
5.) George Saunders
6.) Maureen McHugh
7.) Donald Ray Pollock
8.) Kelly Link
9.) Deborah Eisenberg
10.) Lucy Corin
11.) Deb Olin Unferth
12.) Charles Yu
A.) NoViolet Bulawayo
B.) Rachel B. Glaser
C.) Kyle Coma-Thompson
(It's amusing to note that the two writers whose opening sentences include the word "guy" are Maureen McHugh and Kelly Link — writers who admire each other, and Kelly Link's own Small Beer Press published McHugh's [excellent] story collections. There's nothing to say about this coincidence except that Ben Marcus apparently likes opening sentences that include the word guy
The only Lish students I know of among those writers are Lipsyte and Unferth. But sentences 1-12 seem to me more similar than different in their approach. To know how much of this is just Marcus's own taste selecting stories that have such sentences and how much is stylistic similarity between the writers generally, we would have to examine collections of each writers' stories and see if they tend to begin their stories in the same way. That work is more than I can do right now, but it would be an interesting research project.
Compared to most of the writers in New American Stories
, the writers of A-C have fewer books published by major publishers and fewer awards (though NoViolet Bulawayo won the Caine Prize and her book
, from which the story "Shhhh" is taken, has done very well — still, until recently she was not part of the big lit machine), and I think this matters. One of my disappointments with New American Stories
is how much it reprints writers who have been published by major publishers and won major prizes. I had had hopes that the book would be more eclectic and surprising than this. For all his attempts at variety, what Marcus has given us overall is a bunch of stories that are valued by the kinds of people who give out major literary awards. And they are good stories — I don't mean anything I say here to reflect badly on any of the individual stories, many of which are extraordinary and all of which are in some way or another interesting. But the range of stories in the book is more narrow than I had hoped for.
Coming back to Lish, what's interesting is how his taste has so defined what I think of as the establishment avant-garde. We should put "avant-garde" in quotes, though, because it's not really out in front, and it's not particularly innovative anymore — indeed, it's the establishment because its structures and rhythms are passed down through writing workshops, editorial decisions, and awards committees. You can see this in the case of somebody like Gary Lutz
, a Lishian who may not be well known to the general public, but who has had a significant influence on a lot of contemporary short story writers in the lit world, as well as on creative writing teachers, particularly through his essay/lecture "The Sentence Is a Lonely Place"
(which I've myself recommended to some advanced writing students because it demonstrates to an overwhelming degree the depth with which one can think about sentences).
The effect of all this is to create a relatively narrow range for what is recognizable as "quality" in a short story. The familiar replicates itself. What a discourse community can perceive as good and bad, effective and ineffective, quality and kitsch depends very much on what it has previously seen as good, bad, effective, ineffective, quality, kitsch. Sometimes, that can be liberatory — Charles Yu, Maureen McHugh, and Kelly Link might be dismissed as writers of genre fiction if their tone and style was not close enough to that of the other writers in the anthology to sound familiar and thus be recognizable as part of the family of quality. I love that they're part of this book, but to understand why they fit so well in it, we don't have to speculate about the growing acceptance of genre content in the lit world, but simply note the similarity of tone, syntax, and diction to what is also here.
There's a long history to the particular qualities celebrated by Marcus and most of the writers he likes, and it's a history that predates Lish — if these stories feel like they have a lot of family resemblances, then it may be because they are the stylistic grandchildren of Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. (Or, to make a different comparison, the music they seem to favor is that of chamber concerts and small indie rock bands, not jazz clubs. Indeed, the echoes I couldn't hear at all in these stories are the echoes of jazzier writers like Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. Maybe I'm tone deaf.)
So perhaps it is best to think of New American Stories
as a kind of family portrait, a reunion of the offspring (whether they know it or not) of Grandma Gertrude and Grandpapa Ernie by way of Daddy Gordon (and maybe Mama Amy Hempel
), along with a couple of kids who seem to have wandered in from the neighbor's house and who are nice to have around because they liven things up. New American Stories
is a good anthology, well worth reading, full of interesting stuff. It is not, though, a broad representation of what short stories can do or be, and for all its writers' concern with tone, resonance, and rhythm, the songs they play sound more alike than not.
The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War by by David Almond, John Boyne, Tracy Chevalier, Ursula Dubosarsky, Timothee de Fombelle, Adele Geras, et al. | Read by Nico Evers-Swindell, JD Jackson, Gerard Doyle, Richard Halverson, Sarah Coomes, Nick Podehl
(2015, Brilliance Audio) is a powerful collection of short stories that view World Ward I and its repercussions from many different points of view.
The link to my short review for AudioFile Magazine is below. An audio sample is available at the link as well. Publisher recommended for grades 5 and up.
I'm still working on a follow-up post to my trip to the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco. It was a great experience.
February's Short Stories (original sign-up post
) (my list of 52
) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis
- Ace Diamonds "The Grey Woman" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
- 3 Hearts "At Five O'Clock in the Morning" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
- 10 Diamonds "Mr. Cosway and the Landlady" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
- Jack Spades "A Day At Niagara" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
"The Grey Woman" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
- Premise/Plot: Readers learn the story of Anna Scherer and how she became "The Grey Woman." It's a story revealed through Anna's own letter to her daughter, a letter that has been passed down through the generations. The narrators of the story take shelter during a rain storm, see a portrait, ask about it, and are given a letter. In this letter, she's confessing to her daughter--telling her the whole truth. The story has a very gothic feel to it. This is a great read!
"At Five O'Clock in the Morning" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
- Premise/Plot: Murray lacks tact but gets the girl--most likely--anyway. I can't say that this story wowed me. It's not one of L.M. Montgomery's better short stories--there are so many that are GREAT. It's a mistaken identity, miscommunication, courtship story.
"Mr. Cosway and the Landlady" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
THE guests would have enjoyed their visit to Sir Peter's country house—but for Mr. Cosway. And to make matters worse, it was not Mr. Cosway but the guests who were to blame. They repeated the old story of Adam and Eve, on a larger scale. The women were the first sinners; and the men were demoralized by the women.
- Premise/Plot: Readers learn of an unpleasant house party. The guests have not had a happy stay particularly. Soon EVERYONE just *has* to know the history of Mr. Cosway. What has happened in his past? There has to be some reason, some explanation for his strange-to-them behavior. The mystery is solved when a news story is shared. The story in the paper is about a boat accident: two women and a man have drowned. When Mr. Cosgrave learns the names, well, he gets REALLY excited: almost jubilant. Mr. Cosgrave's friend later tells the guests why. You see, Mr. Cosgrave as a younger man was TRICKED into marrying a landlady. The story is cleverly told. I enjoyed it.
"A Day At Niagra" by Mark Twain, from the Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, this particular story was published in 1903, I believe.
NIAGARA FALLS is a most enjoyable place of resort. The hotels are excellent, and the prices not at all exorbitant. The opportunities for fishing are not surpassed in the country; in fact, they are not even equaled elsewhere. Because, in other localities, certain places in the streams are much better than others; but at Niagara one place is just as good as another, for the reason that the fish do not bite anywhere, and so there is no use in your walking five miles to fish, when you can depend on being just as unsuccessful nearer home. The advantages of this state of things have never heretofore been properly placed before the public.
When you start out to "do" the Falls you first drive down about a mile, and pay a small sum for the privilege of looking down from a precipice into the narrowest part of the Niagara river. A rail- way "cut" through a hill would be as comely if it had the angry river tumbling and foaming through its bottom. You can descend a staircase here a hundred and fifty feet down, and stand at the edge of the water. After you have done it, you will wonder why you did it; but you will then be too late.
- Premise/Plot: This is a comic piece. The narrator is relating to the reader his experiences at Niagra Falls. One thing after another after another leads him to regret his visit
Here I followed instructions, and divested myself of all my clothing, and put on a waterproof jacket and overalls. This costume is picturesque, but not beautiful. A guide, similarly dressed, led the way down a flight of winding stairs, which wound and wound, and still kept on winding long after the thing ceased to be a novelty, and then terminated long before it had begun to be a pleasure. We were then well down under the precipice, but still considerably above the level of the river. We now began to creep along flimsy bridges of a single plank, our persons shielded from destruction by a crazy wooden railing, to which I clung with both hands-- not because I was afraid, but because I wanted to. Presently the descent became steeper, and the bridge flimsier, and sprays from the American Fall began to rain down on us in fast increasing sheets that soon became blinding, and after that our progress was mostly in the nature of groping.
- But the worst he brings upon himself in a way. He starts jabbering complete nonsense to three different "Native Americans" in the gift shop, I believe. The people dressed up as Indians, readers learn, are not the real deal. (They are all Irish.) And they don't appreciate his ridiculousness. You can't really blame them for their response, perhaps.
"Is the Wawhoo-Wang-Wang of the Whack-a-Whack happy? Does the great Speckled Thunder sigh for the warpath, or is his heart contented with dreaming of the dusky maiden, the Pride of the Forest? Does the mighty Sachem yearn to drink the blood of his enemies, or is he satisfied to make bead reticules for the pappooses of the paleface? Speak, sublime relic of bygone grandeur-- venerable ruin, speak!'
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Last Friday in my weekly goals and objectives post, I wrote about planning to submit a manuscript to a journal that is only open for submissions for part of each month. It opens on the 1st and closes when it reaches 200 submissions. That's the number of submissions the staff feels it can deal with in a month.
As it turned out, yesterday was the 1st. So I planned to submit yesterday or today. I was on the road most of yesterday, worked on completing the revision of a chapter today, and when I went to submit the manuscript in question, maybe ten minutes ago, the journal was already closed to submissions. It reached it's 200 mark in less than 48 hours.
Clearly I should have rearranged my time and tried submitting this morning. Or last night after getting back from a day trip. Or yesterday morning before I got on the road at 8:30.
I did not schedule my time correctly. And, you know, I did have a feeling I wouldn't have more than a couple of days to do this.
Istanbul Noir edited by Mustafa Ziyalan and Amy Spangler
Ok, do you all know about Akashic Books City Noir series? So far there are sixty-nine titles (I think I counted that correctly)-- each is an anthology of noir short stories, taking place in a specific location, with the stories written by authors who are from there or live there, or write about the city a lot. Many of the volumes are international--if I counted correctly, 24 of the currently-out titles are international, with locations ranging from Paris to Manila, Kingston to St. Petersburg, Tehran to Copenhagen. (There are also 3 titles coming out this summer-- Providence, Beirut, and Marseille-- and another 21 that have been announced. Of the 24 that aren't out yet, 16 are international.)
I love this series so hard. It's the best of armchair travel, because you're going into neighborhoods and situations you don't usually get (because, well, noir). As the authors are mostly local, or write like a local, the city is the setting, and it's a character that links the stories, but there's no expositional tour guide voice that can run through books that take place in a location the readership might not know very well. There's just the city and culture in the background and part of the story, which in a way is more enlightening. Between all the stories, you usually get a wide range of neighborhoods, people, and economic status--and not a lot of the touristy stuff we usually see. While the concept itself is diverse, there's also tremendous diversity within each volume. Also, with the international ones, you get to read a lot of authors that haven't published in English before, or that you might not otherwise have come across.
So, as much as I read and love this series, I haven't reviewed it yet because, well, Istanbul Noir is the only one I've actually finished. Not because the others aren't good, but they're short stories! So I tend to dip in and out of the collections, and then they're due back at the library, and so I'll return it and pick up a new city. I've found short stories are the best bus reading, because that's usually how long I have. I haven't really gotten into short stories before, but I think my friend and co-worker Megan put a finger on it when she explained why she doesn't like them--they're too short for her to really connect to and like a character. That's the best part about noir--you're not really supposed to like most of these people.
So! If you're looking for some great short stories by authors you may not know, or want a new look at a city you love, or a very different introduction to one you've never been to, this series is for you.
Also, what cities do you wish they covered? Personally, I'm crossing my fingers for Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong (and maybe a separate Kowloon volume, like they split up the boroughs of New York City?), Cape Town, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Karachi.
Book Provided by... my local library
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March's Short Stories (original sign-up post
) (my list of 52
) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis
- 9 Spades "The Story of the Bad Little Boy" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
- 3 Diamonds "Six Weeks at Heppenheim" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
- 8 Spades "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
- 2 Hearts "An Adventure on Island Rock" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
- 5 Clubs "Second Chance" by Orson Scott Card from Worthing Saga
"The Story of the Bad Little Boy" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
- Premise/Plot: A Parody of 'religious fiction' of the day written to "motivate" children to behave. His character is bad and nothing horrible ever happens to him, he does what he wants no matter how wrong or bad, and he has a very good and long life.
But the strangest thing that ever happened to Jim was the time he went boating on Sunday, and didn't get drowned, and that other time that he got caught out in the storm when he was fishing on Sunday, and didn't get struck by lighting. Why, you might look, and look, all through the Sunday-school books from now till next Christmas, and you would never come across anything like this. Oh no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning. Boats with bad boys in them always upset on Sunday, and it always storms when bad boys go fishing on the Sabbath. How this Jim ever escaped is a mystery to me.
"Six Weeks at Heppenheim" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
- Premise/Plot: A very entertaining and satisfying story. The hero is on a European tour of sorts, he gets sick, and is tended to/nursed at a local inn. During his stay, he gets to know the family and the servants. There is a romantic element to this one. (The narrator is not involved. He's a witness nothing more to this sweet story).
"The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
- Premise/Plot: A funny story about a man who gets "caught" by a man who talks WAY too much. Can he escape the man's acquaintance, or will he have to listen to this man go on and on and on forever?!
In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that, if I asked old Wheeler about him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it should be useless to me. If that was the design, it certainly succeeded.
"An Adventure on Island Rock" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
- Premise/Plot: A dog, Laddie, saves a young boy, Ned, and is saved in the process from being sold by "mean" Uncle Richard. Ernest, the dog's best friend, is overjoyed.
"Second Chances" by Orson Scott Card (1979) Printed in Capital and Worthing Saga
- Premise/Plot: Abner Doon is in love, but, he won't be getting a happy ending. For the woman he loves is duty-bound to care for her parents. Both are in horrible health/condition. Conveniently, he convinces her for a few short hours, that she deserves a chance to be happy, to be with him. During these brief hours, he convinces her to get her mind taped (or bubbled?). (This is tied in with the drug, Somec, and preparing to go to sleep.) But she changes her mind. Decides that she couldn't possibly be happy with him if her parents were miserable and alone. This time the decision is final, or is it? What happens years later, when she's lost both her parents. Will they get a second chance?
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
April Short Stories (original sign-up post
) (my list of 52
) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis
- King Diamonds "The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens
- 2 Diamonds "Curious if True" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
- Ace Clubs "Death Ship" by Richard Matheson from The Time Traveler's Almanac
- Ace Hearts "A Correspondence and A Climax" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
"The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens
- I loved reading "The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens. Here's how it begins, "Once upon a time, a good many years ago, there was a traveller, and he set out upon a journey. It was a magic journey, and was to seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got half way through." I thought it was beautiful in its imagery. It is about a "traveler" who first meets a young child, then a boy, then a young man, then a middle-aged gentleman with a family, then an old man. It was an incredible read.
"Curious if True" by Elizabeth Gaskell
- I persevered through it, and, it could have just been a case of bad timing, but, I couldn't make any sense out of this short story at all. Other than it was set in France. And the narrator was someone--a man? a woman? probably a man? doing genealogical research and hoping to find out how he was related--if he was related--to John Calvin. And half of it was probably a dream of sorts. Probably. It's not that I love first person narrative to begin with, but, in a short story it can be even more disorienting. I wasn't impressed with this one.
"Death Ship" by Richard Matheson (1953)
- Premise/Plot: "Death Ship" was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode in 1963. The story introduces three astronauts to readers. (Mason, Ross, and Carter). Their mission, I believe, is to scout out other planets to see if they are suitable for colonization. But their mission is fated to fail, in a way. It begins with them exploring a 'flash' or sorts. It ends up they're investigating the crash of what appears to be an earth spaceship very much like their own. What they find inside the ship, well, let's just say that they have a very hard time making sense of it. Will readers do a better job?! Perhaps, especially if they've seen the Twilight Zone episode a few times.
"A Correspondence and A Climax" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
- Premise/Plot: Readers meet Sidney a young woman who has been swept up into a fantasy world of her own creation. She writes a young man all about how wonderful and glorious and full her life is--a real social whirl. In reality, she's a poor, hardworking country girl. When she learns that he's on his way to visit her, she's in for quite a shock. As is he. But it's a pleasant one for the most part. He doesn't mind her lies. He loves her as is.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
I just told Ray Russell at Tartarus Press that I think the impending release of The Strangers by Robert Aickman
is the publishing event of the year. That's not hyperbole. Aickman's stories are among my favorite works of 20th century art, and I always thought the canon was complete. Indeed, I thought that once Tartarus had brought all of Aickman
back into print that I was done with being insanely grateful to Tartarus. But no!
The Strangers and Other Writings includes previously unpublished and uncollected short fiction, non-fiction and poetry by Robert Aickman. Dating from the 1930s to 1980, the contents show his development as a writer. Six unpublished short stories, augmented by one written for broadcast, follow his fiction from the whimsical through the experimental to the ghostly, with ‘The Strangers’ a fully-formed, Aickmanesque strange tale. The non-fiction samples Aickman’s wide-ranging interests and erudition: from the supernatural to Oscar Wilde; from 1940s films to Delius; from politics to the theatre; from Animal Farm to the canals.
Included with the book is a DVD of the documentary film Robert Aickman, Author of Strange Tales:
Featuring rare film, photographs and audio recordings, the film sheds new light on Aickman’s role in the development of the ghost story, his interest in restoring the British canal system and his wider involvement with the arts. Jean Richardson and Heather and Graham Smith share their memories of Aickman’s friendship, and writers Jeremy Dyson and Reggie Oliver evaluate Aickman’s literary legacy.
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Flying Free by Adrienne M. Frater (Atawhai Press)
When the author asked if I would review this book I have to confess I wasn't enthused with the idea of a self-published book with only one author's short stories including pages saying why she wrote those stories. I was very pleasantly surprised when the book arrived in the post, however. From the professionally designed cover with a child's drawing of a bird kite with blue-green water colour wash background, to the child-like fonts, good quality paper, and children's drawings scattered throughout, it's a beautiful book. The short stories are all entertaining and pitched exactly right for the intended audience. Most have been published before in anthologies and the School Journal, or read aloud on the Radio. And from a teacher's perspective I could see a lot of use for the introduction before each story where Adrienne explains where she got the idea for the story. Kids love to know a back story. See below for how I would use this section in the classroom.
Flying Free contains 25 short stories ranging from a technology cat, a drought, a dance rehearsal, a boy who hates the fuss at birthday parties, rescuing stranded whales, kite flying, and ghostly friends. They'll thoroughly enjoy reading this collection of stories. There's something for everyone ... funny stories, spooky stories, sporty stories, stories about friendship, and stories about succeeding in spite of problems etc. Recommended for home and school libraries!
Teachers could use this book when teaching how to write short stories. The students could be inspired to write a story with Adrienne's prompts. For example:
- a child who doesn't like birthdays
- a sailing trip
- a cat who's fascinated with technology
- helping rescued stranded whales float
- having to move to another town
- a vivid memory of an event
- things that make one person happy but make another feel the opposite
If you read Adrienne's stories before the students write you'd have to stress that you don't want them to write that story - you want them to write their own unique story using things that have happened to them as prompts but also changing it as much as their imagination wants to. Students could also look closely at the techniques Adrienne has used in the story and use some of those in their stories.
ISBN: 9780473319144 Published: April 2015Pages: 216 RRP $24.50Buy here.