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The Stories of Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury. 1980/2010. Everyman's Library. 1063 pages.
It would be difficult to try to review a collection of one-hundred short stories by Ray Bradbury. My thoughts on these stories are scattered over two years. (To visit the other posts in the series: first twelve, next twenty-six, next three, next ten, next twelve, next-to-last twenty-two, final fifteen.) The collection is very diverse: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realistic fiction. There are stories celebrating friendship, love, marriage, and family. And stories depicting the break down of human relationships. Some of the stories are extremely dark and disturbing, others very light and humorous.
Here are my thoughts on the MOST memorable:
There was any amount of banging and hammering for a number of days; deliveries of metal parts and oddments which Mr. Charles Braling took into his little workshop with a feverish anxiety.
"The Coffin" is just creepy. Readers meet two brothers--Charles and Richard. One brother dies soon after completing his "custom" coffin. He boasts to his brother about how revolutionary this coffin is--how it is a complete all-in-one funeral experience. "Simply place body in coffin--and music will start." His brother is curious. Perhaps a little too curious?!
There Was an Old Woman
"No, there's no lief arguin'. I got my mind fixed. Run along with your silly wicker basket. Land, where you ever get notions like that? You just skit out of here; don't bother me, I got my tattin' and knittin' to do, and no never minds about tall, dark gentlemen with fangled ideas."
"There Was An Old Woman" shows just how stubborn one woman is to conquer death. She refuses--I mean REFUSES to believe in death. So what happens when she dies and her body is taken away? You might just be surprised.
Quite suddenly there was no more road.
"The Scythe" is also quite interesting! It is about a desperate man with a family who suddenly finds himself in a new situation. Finds himself in plenty for once. But there is a price to pay for having everything so perfect. Is he willing to pay that price? He may have no choice!
There Will Come Soft Rains
In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty.
"There Will Come Soft Rains" is a very, very, very lonely story where we get a glimpse--just a small glimpse perhaps--of the desolation and destruction of life as we know it in at least one human city. We see the ending of an era, perhaps. There are no human characters in this one.
Music moved with him in the white halls. He passed an office door: "The Merry Widow Waltz." Another door: Afternoon of a Faun. A third:
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In the comments of yesterday's review of the short story collection, BECAUSE OF SHOE, there was interest in what's in my short story tub. Here's what I've collected over the years. Any other great ones that I'm missing?
Where should I put this book in my classroom library -- on the shelf with the dog books, or in the tub with the collections of short stories?
Actually, it might be fun to create a display with this book and the books of the nine authors who contributed stories to the book! Wouldn't it be fun to compare Jon Muth's Zen picture books with his story of the sculptor Brancusi and one of his white dogs?
There's a real mix of stories in this collection. One of my favorites is the story (by Pam Muñoz Ryan) that gives the collection its title. Lily is telling this story, and she is a TALKER, which makes her a great story teller. I can imagine studying this story in writing workshop to think about voice in writing. (Also, it begs to be compared to Because of Winn Dixie!!)
If I gathered multiple copies of this book from the library, the whole class could read the book jigsaw style -- one story per group -- and then have cross-group discussions, and finally a whole class discussion. It would be interesting to see how many kids would go back to read stories from other groups, based on the discussions.
As you can see, this is a book with lots of potential!
I was reading through some of our older science fiction titles, and I came upon Worlds of Wonder by David Gerrold (published in 2001). As I was flipping through the book, I read an opening line that intrigued me:
“All writing is list-making. Nothing more. The trick is knowing what to put next on the list.”
This seemed a puzzlingly simple notion–that developing the plot of your story was in some way akin to the act of jotting down your grocery list. And yet, as I started to read further, what the author was saying made a lot of sense:
The thing about Lego bricks is that you can build just about anything you can imagine–if you’re patient enough. People have built whole cities out of Lego bricks. The problem is that you have to figure out yourself how to put the things together. While there might be instructions on how to build a specific kind of Lego castle, there are no instructions on how you can build the castle that exists in your own imagination.
Planning your story is the same experience. You have a sense of what you want it to be, how you want the pieces to fit together, but actually getting this brick to fit next to that one…. Pretty soon, you start to wonder how the hell Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven and Frederik Pohl and Richard Matheson and Jack Finney and Anne McCaffrey and C.J. Cherryh and Connie Willis can make it look so easy.
David goes on to suggest this exercise, which I share with you below. (A sidenote: What’s particularly amusing about it is that he is the writer of the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” from Star Trek: The Original Series, which is, in my opinion, one of the best Star Trek episodes ever.)
Get yourself a stack of index cards. Write a one-line synopsis of each specific scene that you think should be in your story, one scene per card. Don’t worry about writing them down in any specific order. Just write them down as fast as you think of them:
Lt. Uhura brings a tribble aboard the Enterprise.
Lt. Uhura first gets the tribble from a local merchant.
Uhura’s tribble has a litter of little tribbles.
Scotty discovers tribbles in the air vents.
Kirk finds a tribble on his captain’s chair.
Kirk and Spock beam over to the space station. Kirk opens up the storage compartments and lots of tribbles fall down on his head.
But this isn’t enough for a complete story. You need a second plot line too, something to complicate the first one:
The Klingons want shore leave, but what they really want is … to disrupt the plan for Sherman’s Planet.
The Klingons are on the speace station. A barroom brawl breaks out.
Kirk investigates the fight. He bawls out Scotty and restricts him to quarters. Scotty is glad for the chance to read his technical manuals.
The plan for Sherman’s Planet is that Earthwillplant a new grain. If nothing earthlike will grow, the Klingons get the planet.
The Klingons are here to poison the grain.
The tribbles eat the poisoned grain, reproduce like crazy and fall on Kirk’s head, but McCoy discovers that they’re dying.
Now, take all these separate cards and shuffle them together and start laying them out on the kitchen table in the order you think they should go. First organize each plot line in its own thread. Then you can go back and forth between separate threads, picking up the next appropriate scene from each.
When you have all the cards laid out in order, go through them as if you’re reading a comic book or a storyboard and see if they re
26th February, 1827.—The doctor has just called for the third time to examine my husband's eyes. Thank God, there is no fear at present of my poor William losing his sight, provided he can be prevailed on to attend rigidly to the medical instructions for preserving it. These instructions, which forbid him to exercise his profession for the next six months at least, are, in our case, very hard to follow. They will but too probably sentence us to poverty, perhaps to actual want; but they must be borne resignedly, and even thankfully, seeing that my husband's forced cessation from work will save him from the dreadful affliction of loss of sight. I think I can answer for my own cheerfulness and endurance, now that we know the worst. Can I answer for our children also? Surely I can, when there are only two of them. It is a sad confession to make, but now, for the first time since my marriage, I feel thankful that we have no more.
I tend to love Wilkie Collins. And I did enjoy his short story collection, After Dark. But I didn't find all six of the short stories equally compelling. And while I *loved* some of the stories in this book, I didn't love them all. I found them all worthwhile, all entertaining.
There's a framework to After Dark. A portrait-painter, William, suffers damage to his eyesight, the doctor tells him he needs LOTS of time to recuperate if he hopes to be able to see again. He can no longer count on his painting to bring in the income and take care of his family, so, the family is forced to come up with plan B. Plan B just happens to be writing and publishing a book of stories. These are stories that have been told to the painter--usually while his subject is being painted--through the years. He will now recollect the best stories he's ever heard and relate them to his wife, Leah, who will write them down each night...after dark. (That is after her long day's work is through.)
The six stories are:
The Traveller's Story of a Terribly Strange Bed (1852)
The Lawyer's Story of a Stolen Letter (1854)
The French Governess's Story of Sister Rose (1855)
The Angler's Story of The Lady of Glenwith Grange (new for After Dark)
The Nun's Story of Gabriel's Marriage (1853)
The Professor's Story of the Yellow Mask (1855)
Five of the six short stories were reprints, only one story was brand new and written especially for this book.
In my opinion, the best, best, best short story in this collection is The French Governess's Story of Sister Rose. This story has DRAMA and action. It is set during the French Revolution. And in my opinion, this story is a MUST read. Not only if you're a fan of Victorian literature OR a fan of Wilkie Collins, but if you're a fan of historical fiction set during the French Revolution, you should really consider reading this novella.
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The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories. Edited by Michael Sims. 2011. Walker & Company. (Late December 2011). 608 pages.
The Dead Witness is a short story collection that I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Now I am not usually a short story person, I feel it's important for everyone to know that. There are a couple of authors whose short fiction I enjoy, but, for the most part I like my novels. But. I just LOVED this collection. I think it is a real MUST-READ.
Readers are introduced to twenty-two authors and twenty-two short stories. Each introduction was written by Michael Sims who did a fabulous job. There's just enough in each introduction to make you curious and eager to read their work, some of the introductions tease more than others. For example, they mention other stories, other novels, etc. The introductions are anything but boring! The authors presented are English, American, Canadian, Australian, and French. The collection includes men and women authors and men and women detectives! Some were narrated by a man or woman who just 'accidentally' got involved in the case, who just happened to put the clues together to solve the mystery. Others were narrated by amateur and professional detectives. (For example, The Diary of Anne Rodway is narrated by someone who just happens to become involved in this mystery. Her good friend, her roommate, is killed. She feels it was murder and has a clue or two to go by.)
The Secret Cell by William E. Burton
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe
On Duty With Inspector Field by Charles Dickens
The Diary of Anne Rodway by Wilkie Collins
You Are Not Human, Monsieur d'Artagnan by Alexandre Dumas, pere
Arrested on Suspicion by Andrew Forrester Jr.
The Dead Witness, or, The Bush Waterhole by W.W. (Mary Fortune)
The Mysterious Human Leg by James McGovan (William Crawford Honeyman)
The Little Old Man of Batignolles by Emile Gaboriau
The Science of Deduction by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Whitechapel Mystery by Anonymous
The Assassin's Natal Autograph by Mark Twain
The Murder at Troyte's Hill by C.L. Pirkis
The Haverstock Hill Murder by George R. Sims
The Stolen Cigar-Case by Bret Harte
The Absent-Minded Coterie by Robert Barr
The Hammer of God by G.K. Chesterton
The Angel of the Lord by Melville Davisson Post
The Crime at Big Tree Portage by Ernest Bramah
The Case of Padages Palmer by Harvey O'Higgins
An Intangible Clue by Anna Katherine Greene
Chances are you're familiar with some of these authors. But some of these will probably be as new to you as they were to me.
My favorite favorite story was "The Diary of Anne Rodway," which I just LOVED and ADORED. True, I was already familiar with his work, but, even if I hadn't been, I think I would have loved this piece. The short story is a series of diary entries by a young woman, a poor woman. She's good friends with another young woman, Mary Mallinson. The two are in similar situations--in a way--both poor, both working hard to survive, both in love but facing obstacles to their happiness. But when Mary is murdered, Anne Rodway takes it upon herself to try to solve the mystery and discover the identity of the man who killed her friend.
I also enjoyed "The Secret Cell" by William E. Burton first published in 1837--several years before Edgar Allen Poe's oh-so-famous detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." I personally preferred The S
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I loved Poirot Investigates. Perhaps because I had low expectations? This was my first experience reading Christie's short stories. And since I'm not generally a fan of short stories, I didn't have great expectations for enjoying these fourteen stories. Each story is narrated by Captain Hastings. And he is a character that I tend to love and adore. I've found that Hercule Poirot needs a little help either from Hastings or Ariadne Oliver to help tame his arrogance. I have definitely come to love Hercule Poirot through the mysteries I've read, but, it was a long road for me. It wasn't instantaneous like it was with Miss Marple.
This collection of short stories was originally published in 1925. So it is "early" Poirot. The short stories in this collection are:
The Adventure of the Western Star The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor The Adventure of the Cheap Flat The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge The Million Dollar Bond Robbery The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan The Kidnapped Prime Minister The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman The Case of the Missing Will The Veiled Lady The Lost Mine The Chocolate Box
It's not that any one story is amazing or incredible. That's not why I loved this collection. For me it is all about the relationship between Poirot and Hastings. Their conversations. Their friendship. Seeing these two together. There is just something DELIGHTFUL about spending time in their company.
A few years ago I made a good attempt to read The Stories of Ray Bradbury. This collection of short stories is over 1,100 pages!!! I did manage to read just over 400 pages. But. It wasn't until his death that I decided I really needed to make a second attempt. Here are the three posts that cover the first attempt: first twelve, next twenty-six, next three.
"The Man Upstairs"
He remembered how carefully and expertly Grandmother would fondle the cold cut guts of the chicken and withdraw the marvels therein; the wet shining loops of meat-smelling intestine, the muscled lump of heart, the gizzard with the collection of seeds in it.
My thoughts: While this one wouldn't normally ever be listed among my favorites, viewed solely in terms of the ten stories I'm sharing today, it would probably be among the best. It is creepy, odd, and the details are, well, disgusting. But it actually made sense, a twilight zone kind of sense, but sense. You knew what the beginning, middle, and end all meant. As for what it is about, well, let's just say something not quite human moves into Grandma's boarding house, and, Douglas, the young hero of the story, sees it for what it is.
"Touched With Fire"
They stood in the blazing sunlight for a long while, looking at the bright faces of their old-fashioned railroad watches, while the shadows tilted beneath them, swaying, and the perspiration ran out under their porous summer hats.
My thoughts: This one would be among my favorites--viewed solely in terms of this ten. This story is about two men who try their very best to warn a cranky old woman to watch her attitude. Why? Well, they know HOW VERY HOT it is, and how the heat is getting to everyone, and they have a theory that 92 degrees is the perfect degree for murder.
More murders are committed at ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature. Over one hundred, it's too hot to move. Under ninety, cool enough to survive. But right at ninety-two degrees lies the apex of irritability, everything is itches and hair and sweat and cooked pork. The brain becomes a rat rushing around a red-hot maze. The least thing, a word, a look, a sound, the drop of a hair--and irritable murder. Irritable murder, there's a pretty and terrifying phrase for you. (422)
Will she listen? Will the thermometer make it that fatal degree?
Martin knew it was autumn again, for Dog ran into the house bringing wind and frost and a smell of apples turned to cider under trees.
My thoughts: Not a favorite, but it gets worse. Martin LOVES his Dog because Dog always brings back visitors to visit Martin. He does have a favorite visitor, Miss Haight. When Miss Haight dies, Martin gets lonely, then, Dog disappears too...will he ever get visitors again... This one is creepy, and would be perfect for the R.I.P challenge, and it does still make sense. It's a creepy story that won't necessarily be for everyone. But I still knew what happened in it.
It was one of those things they keep in a jar in the tent of a sideshow on the outskirts of a little, drowsy town.
My thoughts: Didn't like this one. I'm not sure I hated it, but I didn't care for it. Every one sees something different in this ja
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Lin McLean. Owen Wister. 1898/1998. Forge. 230 pages.
In the old days, the happy days, when Wyoming was a Territory with a future instead of a State with a past, and the unfenced cattle grazed upon her ranges by prosperous thousands, young Lin McLean awaked early one morning in cow camp, and lay staring out of his blankets upon the world.
It helped me tremendously to know that this was Owen Wister's first novel. (I am even tempted to say "novel" just because this book feels more like a short story collection than a cohesive novel.) Unfortunately, I didn't learn that this was his first novel until after I read it and had been disappointed. Last year, I read and LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Owen Wister's novel The Virginian. It was a complete surprise to me because I am allergic to westerns. I wanted to find another Wister novel that compared to The Virginian, and I didn't find it in Lin McLean. (Though the Virginian makes a couple of appearances in the stories within Lin McLean.) But is that fair to expect Lin McLean to be as good, as great as The Virginian? Probably not.
The stories found in Lin McLean are
How Lin McLean Went East
The Winning of the Biscuit-Shooter
Lin McLean's Honey-Moon
A Journey In Search of Christmas
Destiny at Drybone
In the After-Days (a poem, not a story)
If I had to sum up the book, sum up the stories, I would say Lin McLean was about a cowboy who was good at losing his money gambling, a man easily distracted by women and cards and booze, a man who despite his shortcomings found the love of a young boy and a good woman.
My favorite stories were, without a doubt, "Lin McLean's Honey-Moon," "Separ's Vigilante," and "Destiny at Drybone."
Read Lin McLean
If you like westerns
If you're looking to catch early glimpses of the man who would become THE VIRGINIAN
Remembering the days of our youth can bring us joy or tears. Sudden Flash Youth is a compilation of some of the best flash fiction focused exclusively on childhood.
This book features classic gems like The Flowers and What Happened During the Ice Storm, and newer ones like Between Practice and Perfection and The Quinceañera Text. And there are a few edgier pieces focused on teen pregnancy, bullying and violence, that may have been a part of our past we’d prefer to forget.
Bold, brief stories capture the innocence of our childhood, as well as the darker sides of teen behavior. Most readers will relate to at least a few of these well-crafted tales. An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
Both are solid stories with their own virtues and are, much to the jurors' credit, utterly different from each other.
"La Salle de Départ" tells the tale of a sister who has remained at home while her brother was sent to school in America; he returns home for a visit having become relatively successful in the States, engaged to an Egyptian woman who is a liberal Muslim and a scholar, and unable to relate to his own family anymore. It's true, in this story, that you can't go home again. The cultural and economic divides are nicely delineated, and this is a generally well-written story, carefully structured and balanced, a story with clear themes and unresolved tensions and psychological probing and sociological gesturing, a story that, of course, has an unresolved, dying-fall sort of ending. It's what I think of as a safe workshop story — a story that demonstrates plenty of talent and sensitivity and gives everybody around the table something to comment on and admire. It's also the sort of story that flatters its readers: we can feel good about our own sensitivities after reading it, because we have sided with the good character, we have identified the tensions, we have appreciated the dilemmas, we have nodded our head at the seriousness of it all, and we have felt the proper emotions.
And as you can probably tell from my tone, it's not a type of story I have much interest in. It's worth reading, it's even perhaps worth nominating for an award, but I just struggle to muster a lot of enthusiasm for a story that is so determined to be good for me.
"Hunter Emmanuel", on the other hand, is not a story that wants to be good for anybody. It is a deliberately pulpy tale, originally published in Jungle Jim, "a bimonthly, African pulp fiction magazine" or "genre-based writing from all over Africa." The story is certainly pulpy and hardboiled, but not in a nostalgic or posturing way. The genre feels utterly appropriate for the setting and events. Rewriting the story in a different idiom would rob it of all its meaning.
It's a story that begins with a severed leg in a tree. Hunter Emmanuel is not a fairy tale character (which I assumed when I first saw the title), but an out-of-luck former police officer who has become a lumberjack. He finds the leg, and can't help but start an investigation on his own. What he finds surprises him. He's fine at getting to what happened, but he's not very good at understanding other people's motivations and desires.
The world of the story is dark and grimy, but there's a dream-world underneath it all, or at least underneath Hunter Emmanuel's perception of it all. A wonderful lyric passage in the middle of the story begins:
That night Hunter Emmanuel dreamt of corridors and mermaids, of seal women. Trees that stretched on and on, up and up, trunks wider than ten men's arms could reach around. Solid pine. It was no good. He'd spent enough nights similarly to know he couldn't sleep like this.
Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury. HarperCollins. 1997 edition. 288 pages.
One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs, along the icy streets. And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hart air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew open. The windows flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer's ancient green lawns. Rocket summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses. Rocket summer. The warm desert air changing the frost patterns on the windows, erasing the art work. The skis and sleds suddenly useless. The snow, falling from the cold sky upon the town, turned to a hot rain before it touched the ground. Rocket summer. People leaned from their dripping porches and watched the reddening sky. (1)
The 2012 Mass Paperback of The Martian Chronicles
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. This is the second or third time I've read this one. And each time I read it, I end up loving it even more. It's like each time I'm surprised by how much I love it. Like in between readings I forget how engaging and compelling it is. I settle into thinking that it was just me exaggerating things (again). That it couldn't possibly be that good. But no. It is that good.
The edition I read this time had twenty-seven stories; some of these 'stories' are just vignettes, or short preludes, transition pieces of a paragraph or two. But many are full-length stories. There are some great stories in this one.
Lucius Shepard published his first story of the immobilized, mountainous dragon named Griaule in 1984, and each of the four stories since "The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule" has furthered the purpose of showing up the evasive, escapist stupidities at the heart of the phrase once upon a time.
Or maybe that wasn't their purpose, in Shepard's mind. It doesn't matter. Purpose or not, it is their effect, and it is an effect that grows out of the stories' distant relation to fairy tales of dragons and maidens and gallant knights and, as a Shepard character might say, all that horseshit.
Thanks to Subterranean Press, we now have the five Dragon Griaule stories (novellas, mostly) together between two covers instead of scattered through various anthologies and magazines, along with a new novella, "The Skull." For the first time, it's easy to read them one after the other. We can spy on their correlations, theorize their conjunctions, and spelunk through the shadows linking their darkest caverns. On their own, the stories are moments of myth, shards of a fantasy land that, it turns out, is just around the corner from our own. Together with the added narrative iterations of "The Skull," the stories show themselves to be a tapestry of texts, histories, myths, horrors, deceits, contrivances, lies, illusions, and, in the end, hopes.
W.E. Marden (Daniel Quentin Steele) is a Jacksonville author and native Floridian. A former educator, he has been a journalist and public relations professional. He has covered and reported on crime and cops, courts and trials in several Florida cities. He has worked as a speech writer and political and media consultant. He has had one novel published in the U.S. and Great Britain as well as short stories published in the U.S., Canada, Australia and England.
Hi William, Please tell everyone a bit about yourself.
William: I’ve worked in newspapers, P.R. and education, but I’ve always been a writer; whatever paid my bills. In the last two years, I’ve experienced a creative and personal rebirth. I’d spent years getting ready to glide into an uneventful and quiet countdown to death when something funny happened. There’s nothing like thinking you’re going to lose it all, and probably die, to wake you up to the beauty of living every day. I have married, loved, lost, changed jobs, lost people I loved, been unemployed, been defeated again and again, but I’m still here. However, none of those things are why I’m really here. What I write, what I put down on paper or in electronic form, those are why I’m here. I’m a writer. That’s the bottom line.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
William: In the fifth grade. I wrote a short story about some friends of mine and myself in an adventure in a mine. I read it in class. My teacher and the other kids in my class loved it. I was hooked. The genre was adventure. The first genres I wrote seriously in as an adult were science fiction, fantasy and horror.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
William: I wanted to write short stories and later novels that would sell/be published. I’ve always been an avid reader and simply wanted to be published in the magazines I’d read and have other people read and enjoy my work the way I’d read other authors. I’ve never had a ‘message’ per se.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
William: My latest work is a complete departure from anything else I’ve ever written. It’s one novel, broken into four volumes for purposes of length. Each volume until the final breaks on a nail-biter, a cliffhanger. The series or overall novel title is When We Were Married. Volume One is subtitled The Long Fall, and Volume Two is subtitled Second Acts. It is written under the Daniel Quentin Steele pseudonym. This book (s) is mainstream with no fantasy elements. It’s set in Jacksonville Florida in 2005 and 2006 and tells the story of the end of the marriage between an obsessed prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office and his beautiful University of North Florida professor/wife. The novel explores how Assistant State Attorney Bill Maitland and Debbie Maitland-Bascomb react to the end of their marriage, how Maitland prosecutes a variety of murderers and drug dealers while Debbie loses her husband, lover, children and finally her career in education and must make a new life for herself. The novel is a realistic behind the scenes look at the courtroom, cops and crime and features explicit sexual scenes during the end of the marriage and afterwards.
What’s the hook for the book?
William: Four words: “When we were married.” The novel shows how four words said at the wrong time and place can destroy a twenty-year relationship, devastate a family, shake a courthouse and send out ripples that will impact live
But then I thought about a letter I wrote to one of my college teachers back in the '90s, when people still wrote letters.
I had transferred from New York University after putting in three years toward a BFA in Dramatic Writing, and was now an English major at the University of New Hampshire. There were a few reasons for my transfer, mostly have to do with money, with a sense of disillusionment with the world of New York theatre, and with a crisis in confidence in my abilities as a writer of much of anything, dramatic or not. I got involved with the student theatre group at UNH and was cast as the lead in Paul Rudnick's play Jeffrey. I was coming to this after having spent three years trying to write the most obscure, abstract, confrontational, and bizarre theatre I could imagine. I had also spent a lot of time exploring various ideas of sexuality. My favorite teacher had been an avant-garde playwright and actor who often wrote difficult, complex, and sometimes sexually-explicit plays and monologues, generally from a very queer sensibility. I remembered him saying something in class about Jeffrey as a shallow play, or a reactionary play, or something like that. (He was a very kind and gentle fellow, and I think that's why I remembered his comment, or at least the general import of his comment: Jeffrey is not a good play.)
Our production of Jeffrey was, as far as anybody knew, the first gay play to be performed at UNH, and certainly the first play to be performed there with an opening scene in which men are in bed together talking about condoms, sex, etc. We easily sold out all of the performances and I've never, before or since, experienced the same sense of a community needing a particular piece of theatre so much. It was very much the right show at the right time in the right place.
And so that's what I wrote to my teacher. It was a revelation for me — it wasn't, I said, that Jeffrey is necessarily a bad play, but rather that it is a play that needs particular sorts of audiences, and the work it will do is different depending on those audiences. For a downtown New York theatre crowd, it's really not much. For the University of New Hampshire in the fall of 1997, it was just the catalyst necessary for all sorts of conversations that had been festering beneath the surface of the university's culture. (My teacher replied that he thought it was a very good insight, and also highlighted one of the unique virtues of the theatre: people enacting stories for each other in a specific place at a specific time.)
Which brings me back to Kenani's story, and not just because it, too, is about men who have sex with each other. (Basic plot: a local drunk in a Malawian village stumbles upon two young men having sex in a bathroom. The event becomes a national news story, the one man who can be identified is put on trial and sentenced to jail, and a TV news reporter has a long interview with him in which the young man expresses no shame in his gay identity and argues with the interviewer about the Bible, etc. Western countries find out what happened and impose economic sanctions on Malawi, causing much hardship across the country, including for the drunk who now can't afford alcohol and so has the DTs, as well as HIV, which he can't get medicine for because of sanctions.) I can imagine that there are probably audiences for whom this is a very good story — a story that dram
It is a pleasure to announce the ongoing Golden Baobab Prize, a
literary award that annually invites entries of unpublished African-inspired
stories written for an audience of ages 8-11 years or 12-15 years. The
mission of the Golden Baobab Prize is to identify the African literary giants
of the next generation and produce excellent stories that will be appreciated
for years to come.
The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the Philippines' longest-running literary competition, aims to help develop Philippine literature by providing incentives for writers to craft their most outstanding literary works, serving as a treasury of Philippine literary gems, and assisting in the dissemination of Philippine literature to the public.
Writers may now submit their entries for this year's competition, in categories including:
English Division - Short Story for Children
English Division - Poetry for Children
Filipino Division - Maikling Kuwentong Pambata
Filipino Division - Tulang Pambata
English Kabataan Division (writers below 18 years old) - Kabataan Essay: “In the advent of e-books, do I still consider printed books to be an important part of education?”
Filipino Kabataan Division (writers below 18 years old) - Kabataan Sanaysay: “Sa paglaganap ng e-books, maituturing ko pa bang mahalagang bahagi ng edukasyon ang mga nakalimbag na aklat?”
The competition is open to all Filipino citizens and former Filipino citizens. Each writer may submit one entry per category and the deadline for submissions is midnight, April 30. Competition rules and official entry forms are available here.
Winners will be announced on September 1.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are authors who cut their milk teeth on short stories, and there are authors who dedicate themselves to the form with Buddha-like focus. Israeli writer Etgar Keret—nerds of a certain ilk will recognize his name from This American Life and The New Yorker—falls firmly into the latter camp, as his newly translated sixth collection makes clear.
The quirky, thought-provoking, often hilarious pieces in Suddenly, a Knock on the Door lend themselves to being read out loud, on your coffee break, or between subway stops. Keret doesn’t bother with a coat of sugar or even Splenda: His characters question themselves and screw up with such regularity that it’s easy for us to plant ourselves in the middle of their lives.
The tension in these stories comes from the sort of decision anyone might make on any given day, like what to stash in your pockets, where to go to lunch, and if you feel like getting a drink with that guy you fooled around with a year ago who didn’t call afterward. In Keret’s world, he’ll be flawed and you’ll be flawed, and whether or not it works out isn’t really the point. The point is to go along for the ride, however brief, and lose yourself inside other people’s moments.
To celebrate the English-language publication of Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, we’re thrilled to share two excerpts with Omnivoracious readers: an exclusive audio version of the title story, read by none other than Ira Glass (squee!); and, after the jump, the full text of “What Animal Are You?”
(This story originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Harper's Magazine.)
The sentences I’m writing now are for the benefit of German Public Television viewers. A reporter who came to my home today asked me to write something on the computer because it always makes for great visuals: an author writing. It’s a cliché, she realizes that, but clichés are nothing but an unsexy version of the truth, and her role, as a reporter, is to turn that truth into something sexy, to break the cliché with lighting and unusual angles. And the light in my house falls perfectly, without her having to turn on even a single spot, so all that’s left is for me to write.
At first, I just made believe I was writing, but she said it wouldn’t work. People would be able to tell right away that I was just pretending. “Write something for real,” she demanded, and then, to be sure: “A story, not just a bunch of words. Write naturally, the way you always do.” I told her it wasn’t natural for me to be writing while I was having my picture taken for German Public Television, but she insisted. “So use it,” she said. “Write a story about just that—about how unnatural it seems and how the unnaturalness suddenly produces something real, filled with passion. Something that permeates you, from your brain to your loins. Or the other way around. I don’t know how it works with you, what part of your body gets the creative juices flowing. Each person is different.” She told me how she’d once interviewed a Belgian author who, every time he wrote, had an erection. Something about th
Paul Juser lives on the road. His life-long dream is to be the first Nobel Prize winner to pen a “Friday the 13th” film.
Hi Paul, please tell everyone a little about yourself.
Paul: Born in Binghamton, New York, a city proud to serve as inspiration for Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone.” I grew up in the country outside, playing epic Transformers adventures, or the next installment of “Friday the 13th.”
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Paul: I chose to pursue writing in the 4th grade, and have never lost sight of the goal, except for a few errant aspirations to be a marine biologist. My only dream prior was to be a paleontologist. Unfortunately the job isn’t nearly as exciting as either of the first two Jurassic Parks.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Paul: I was always turned on by the way Bret Easton Ellis would bring the same characters back in each novel. Pat Bateman was popping in long before he was a vicious murderer, and who would think drug-addled Victor Ward could become a terrorist? Jack Kerouac did the same thing, but changed all the names between books. I recycle my characters the same way. Each story is one long timeline with a general continuity, but each is a stand-alone story. I’m hoping to finish my next novel, The Alarm Clock at the End of the World to release in 2013, as long as the Mayans were wrong.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
Paul: I usually have the idea mulling in my head for a while. Eventually a scene will be formed enough for a jumping-off point to start writing. That scene usually becomes the start, or near the beginning, even if I envisioned it near the end. Characters start as sketches and become fleshed out as I revise. I give them speech patterns and mannerisms, and build a backstory that makes them active devices in the plot. Settings need to be just as much of a character as anyone moving around and speaking lines. If a writer is drawing a reader’s attention to a detail, that detail should be important.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Paul: Dr. Filth is a superhero with the power to convince himself anything. He’s been an insurance salesman, a card-carrying crime-fighter, and a cryptozoologist. In The Alarm Clock at the End of the World, he uncovers a global conspiracy to hijack religion. Dr. Filth is about fifty pounds overweight and has filthy, stinking dreadlocks.
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Paul: I usually write out the main body of the story from beginning to end, and then comb backward to make sure everything lines up. The initial writing process could take a couple days with a short story, or a month for a script. Then I revise. That’s the dirtiest word in a writer’s vocabulary, and I don’t find many have the stomach for it these days. Alarm Clock first went to paper seven years ago, and some parts are older. Salvation Shark was at least eleven before it started on Laugh at Yourself First.
Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
Paul: I hear the words in my head, and I try to emulate what they sound like. Sometimes it’s serious, but mos
Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, editor Holly Thompson, a YA author (Orchards, a 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book) and a longtime resident of Japan, became especially concerned about teen survivors of the quake and tsunami. She decided to collect YA short fiction from writers and translators connected to Japan either by heritage or experience, offering stories that would allow readers worldwide to “visit” Japan.
The thirty-six stories of Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press, March) cover a wide range of genres (prose, verse, graphic narratives) and feature nine stories translated from the Japanese. With the exception of Graham Salisbury and Alan Gratz, most of the authors, many of whom write for adults, will be new to American teens. The book was published in March to mark the one-year anniversary of the disaster, and proceeds will go to Hope for Tomorrow, which provides educational expenses, mentoring, tutoring, and foreign language support to high school students in the hard-hit area of Tohoku.
I've waxed enthusiastic on here before about Israeli writer and filmmaker Etgar Keret's sharply funny new story collection, Suddenly, a Knock on the Door. Between tour stops in California and Chicago, the very busy Keret kindly paid a visit to our Seattle offices to chat about storytelling, moviemaking, cake baking, serial killers, and trusting your instincts.
He also humored our request to read a piece aloud from the collection—look for the video at the end of this interview, and prepare to be charmed by his accent (warning for delicate ears: a couple of four-letter words are used).
Mia Lipman: You just came from the L.A. Times Book Festival. Were short-story writers well represented there?
Etgar Keret: Yeah, in my panel. It was very much like an AA meeting. “My name is this and this, and I write short stories. I don’t care! They tell me to write a novel, but I like writing short stories!” Then we all hug.
[Laughing] I didn’t mean stuck in a bad way, I meant that you’ve stayed with stories.
If your boyfriend would have said, “I’m stuck with you, but not in a bad way. In a nice kind of way…”
I love short stories, I’m a champion of them around here. Why does the short form work so well for you? What are you drawn to in that length?
When I sit down and I write something, I don’t say, “I want to write a short story” or “I want to write a three-page story”—I want to write something that is on my mind. Many times when I begin writing a story, I say to myself, “This is going to be my first novel.” And I think about the protagonist meeting his grandchildren in the park. And while I do that, a truck comes and runs him over after two pages. So it’s not intentional. For me, it’s very strange when people say, “Why don’t you write longer stuff?” The bottom line: You have something that you want to say or you want to write. And when it ends, it ends.
You’re also a filmmaker. Do you have a different creative approach to making films than you do to writing fiction? Is it a different state of mind?
I beg more when I make films. [Laughs.] Filmmaking is a collaborative project...when you write a screenplay, you should be able to know exactly what you’re doing, to be able to defend it, to be able to explain it to people. Because if a story is a cake, then a screenplay is just a recipe for a cake. If I make a cake and I don’t know exactly what ingredients I put in, but it comes out tasty, it’s OK. But if I have to write it on a page and somebody else has to make this cake, I have to be much more conscious.
So there is something about screenplay writing—it’s more conscious effort, more rational effort. I feel like I need another scene here, I need to establish that. But when I write [fiction], I really just sit down and write. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, and it’s completely an act of letting go and losing control.
Short stories are a famously hard sell for publishers and, I’d say, for the average reader. Do you think that’
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A little of this and a little of that, as I'm ahead in reading and behind in writing!
(short stories, novel, audiobook)
Kibuishi, Kazu. 2012. Explorer: The Mystery Boxes. New York: Amulet.
This book is an unexpected little gem, something of a mystery itself. From the cover, I was expecting a graphic novel mystery, a la The Box Car Children infused with a bit of magic. What I found instead, was a themed, graphic, short story collection. Mystery Boxes contains seven stories by noted graphic artists including Raina Telgemeier (Smile). What ties these disparate illustrators and authors together is that each story features a mysterious box, contents unknown. The stories range from amusing ("Spring Cleaning by Dave Roman and Telgemeier) to profound (Jason Caffoe's, "The Keeper's Treasure") to social commentary on war (Stuart Livingston and Stephanie Ramirez', "The Soldier's Daughter").
Judging from the way my Advance Reader Copy was scooped up by a child in my book club, I'd guess this will be popular if it can find the right audience. I'm also assuming that we can look forward to more collections in the Explorer series. I, for one, would like to see more interest in short stories. They don't seem to be required reading for middle schoolers - a pity. (Another good short story series, though not in graphic novel format, is Jon Scieszka's Guys Read Library)
I chose to read this one because it features a multi-generational Irish family. It's hard not to like Ireland - a beautiful country full of "lovely" people. In fact, you will hear people in Ireland describe nearly anything as "lovely" --friendly people they are in general, but I digress.
This is the first Roddy Doyle book that I've read and I wasn't sure what to expect. I thoroughly enjoyed it once I stopped looking for some artificial contrivance or tricky plot twist and settled in to enjoy a simple yet touching story of 12-year-old Mary O'Hara, and three of her female relatives, one of whom happens to be dead. A Greyhound of a Girl covers a short span of time in a short book (208 small pages) about life and death and family. Being of Ireland, of course it is not without humor.