Sunday, August 31, 2014

Short Story #242: Dry September by William Faulkner

Title:  Dry September

Author:  William Faulkner

Summary

Photo of Sinclair Lewis. Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Lewis-Sinclair-LOC.jpg
As a town creeps into September with nearly two months of heat and no rain, the tension is palpable.  On a Saturday evening, a rumor burns through the town that Miss Minnie Cooper has been in some way attacked by a Negro and so the town's men meet in the local barbershop to contemplate what needs to be done.  They have decided it is Will Mayes, regardless of their proof.  And they debate wha tto do.  One barber continues to insist that it may not have been Will and that they are jumping to conclusions without any proof.  However, the men's fervor is raised enough that they become accusational of the barber and deride him for trusting a black man over a white woman.  Others show up who continue to fuel the discontent with what has supposedly happened.  Eventually, it's clear that regardless of a crime, they are intent on doing harm to a black man just to keep others from thinking they can.  Finally, they gather up and head out to find Will Mayes.  The story then shifts to Minnie.  She was agreeable but not particularly spectacular in her town.  As she grew older, she became less and less interesting and appealing--particularly to the single men.  In her older years, many assume she has committed adultery and other questionable behaviors to entertain herself.  She lived in a home, taking care of her mother.  After this introduction, the story returns to the mob.  The reluctant barber joins the mob with the hopes of talking them out of it.  They manage to capture Will and he seems oblivious to why they have captured him, cuffed him and are threatening him.  They beat him into submission and get him into the car.  The barber insists on getting out but the leader won't stop and tells him to jump, which is what he ultimately does.  He stays to the side of the roads and eventually, sees the cars returning with Will.  The story returns to Minnie who is going into the town with her friends and many are whispering about what happened to her and teo Will.  When she enters the movie theater, she begins to laugh  hysterically.  They eventually bring her home and request the doctor.  But the laughing gives way to screaming.  Her friends finally wonder if anything actually happened.  The story finally moved to the leader of the mob who has returned home.  His wife is waiting him and he throws her aside, scolding her for staying up.  He does on to wash himself  and go to bed.

Reflection

A pretty dark story on many levels.  The racist violence echoes some of the issues we have seen even today, decades later (e.g. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown).  But the blind rage coupled with the racism also reminds me of how people often reacted after 9/11 (and is largely the reason we ended up in Iraq).  But equally damning is the presentation of Millie, whom appears both victim and perpetrator of the events of the story.  

Short Story #242 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Short Story #241: Death-Drag by William Faulkner

Title:  Death-Drag

Author:  William Faulkner

Summary

Photo of Sinclair Lewis. Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Lewis-Sinclair-LOC.jpgUnexpectedly, a plane flies on a barely operational airfield in a small town.  Some of the locals come to check it out and find a tall and a short man who walks with a limp.  They make inquires about the town including if anyone else flies and they learn that a man named Warren does.  The flying men remove their googes and helmets and the short man has a very distinct face--one that hints at tragedy.  A third man arrives who was not previously seen that is broad, heavy and inbetween the other two men's heights.  The men go into town and trying drum up some interest for an air-show that includes a death-drag, wherein a man jumps from a plane into a moving car and then is picked up again by the plain.  The men split up so that one can find a sponsor for the show and another can print up bills to place around town.  When asked about a license, the short man gets angry and says it's on the plane itself and they can go out to the airfield to see it for themselves.  The story then jumps briefly to after the plane has gone where Warren explains who the men were and that they did not have a license any more.  The tall man had lost his license several years prior when he had crashed a plane full of people, all who died.  Though the tall man wasn't actually responsible, he was the fall person for the incident.  The men travel from small town to small town doing this collection of stunts to make money but not so close to any place they might get caught.  Warren also explains that on one occasion, the short man had fallen a bit too far onto the car and broken his leg so he was a bit hesitant to do the stunt unless they received the right amount of money for it.  The story returns to the three men who return to the field and the short one is insistent on knowing how much money they got but the other two keep trying to avoid responding him.  As the stunt is happening, he insists on knowing but the tall man refuses to answer and tells him he needs to jump.  Because of the dynamics of the field and the hesitation of the short man, he ultimately jumps without thinking and lands on the barn in the field.  Afterward, Warren attempts to get them to stay and quit doing what they're doing, but they ignore him and take off.  In the end, they also discover that they had not paid for the car they had rented.

Reflection

The story was mediocre at best.  In likelihood it was probably more exciting when it was first published focusing on the thrill and excitement of early flight.  But the characters are a bit stale (the short character has various stereotypical Jewish traits about him) that seems problematic and the plot just feels a bit convoluted.  

Short Story #241 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Short Story #240: The Daemon Lover by Shirley Jackson

Title:  The Daemon Lover

Author:  Shirley Jackson

Summary

Shirley Jackson: Image source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Jackson#mediaviewer/File:ShirleyJack.jpgA woman awakes after an unrestful night and starts her day.  She does domestic things while she contemplates how she is going to let her sister know that she is eloping with Jamie.  As she contemplates this, she continues to pack and get ready, awaiting for Jamie's return.  She finds herself antsy and continues to change different details within her apartment and her appearance.  Jamie is an hour late in arriving and so she decides to go down to the drugstore for some food, leaving a note on the door.  She rushes back but he is still nowhere to be found.  She takes a taxi to Jamie's neighborhood and looks for the building where Jamie lives.  His name is not found on the tenant listing and the superintendent asks if she needs help.  He explains that the person might have been house-sitting in one of the apartments and sends her to it.  When she knocks on that door, the couple explain they had lent the apartment to him but the husband wasn't entirely fond of such men that the wife met at "those meetings."  They explain that Jamie was there but left this morning with not additional information.  When she leaves, she visits the man at the newsstand across the street to see if they know anything.  After hemming and hawing, he saws that he might have seen a man of that description in the area around ten.  She follows in the direction that he indicates.  She slowly makes her way in his direction, discovering where he went and was going.  She continues in the direction of her home and comes back to the apartment but Jamie is still nowhere.  She goes back and asks additional people that might have spotted him.  Finally, one man points out a house that he believes he saw Jamie go into with a woman.  She finds out where in the building he went and followed, knocking on the door.  She was pretty sure she could hear voices.  But no one opened the door.  She continues to visit the door and knock over the ensuing week, but no one comes. 

Reflection

I love the way Jackson wrings out all hope of a situation.  There seems to be such happiness and hope at the story's start, but that has all dried up by story's end.  The nameless woman has been spurned by the "daemon lover,' who snickers at her from behind a closed door that she can never enter.  I'm less impressed with a certain amount of prudishness (premarital sex resulting in not marriage), but to see her hope higher and higher with each sign of his disappearance is well executed.

Short Story #240 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Short Story #239: The Night the Bed Fell by James Thurber

Title:  The Night the Bed Fell

Author:  James Thurber

Summary

Photo of James Thurber.  Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/James_Thurber_NYWTS.jpg
The narrate relates an incident of his youth when a bed fell on his father.  The father occasionally slept in the attic where he would think and eventually sleep on an old wooden bed.  The house is filled with an eclectic range of family members including a nervous cousin who is afraid of falling asleep and stopping breathing.  He shares a room with the narrator who promises the cousin that he will keep an ear open for breathing.  One of his aunts fears the day when someone will chloroform her bedroom to get her belongs.  By midnight of the particular night, everyone was in bed.  At two in the morning, the narrator's own bed (an army cot) tipped over, which he all but slept through.  The noise awoke his mother who thought that the wobbly headboard on the bed in the attic had fallen on the father.  His cousin awoke during the shouting from the mother believing that he was not breathing and he poured a glass of camphor over his head and begins to chock.  It's at this point, the narrator awoke believing people were trying to awake him to get him out of perilous situation.  The mother rushed to open the attic door but it was stuck.  The battering on the attic door awoke the father who thought the house was on fire.  He yells that he's coming but they all believe it is him dying.  The narrator and the brother finally emerge from the room and the dog alarmed by all the noise leaps at the cousin believing him an intruder.  Finally, the father opens the attic door to ask what's happening at which point they piece together all the things that happened.  

Reflection

The style of this definitely reminds me of Twain.  There's a "big yarn" element to it that always brings me back to The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.  A joke that's told with no real sense. But Thurber does add elements of the absurd that one could easily imagine informing and influencing modern comedy like Mel Brooks.

Short Story #239 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Short Story #238: The Jilting of Granny Weatherall by Katherine Anne Porter

Title:  The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Author:  Katherine Anne Porter

Summary

Photo of Katherine Anne Porter: Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Anne_Porter#mediaviewer/File:Katherine_Anne_Porter.jpg
Granny Weatherall is annoyed wtih Doctor Harry who is checking up on her.  She insists there's nothing wrong with her but the doctor  wants to double check.  Weatherall further chides the doctor and before she can send him along, her eyes close automatically.  The doctor and her daughter, Cornelia discuss her condition while she's in this stay of silence.  She speaks to say she should spank Cornelia but no one understands what she is saying.  She continues to shift back into her mind and into the real world with little control.  In her mind, she reflects on her family and growing up and taking care of her children.  Thinking of her children leads her to think of a past love and a man who stood her up on her wedding day.  As she awakes from this revelry, she tries to speak but no words come out.  Cornelia looks to the doctor and Weatherall says she just saw him but Cornelia explains that was morning and it's evening now.  She fades back into her thoughts and recalls the man (George) and wishes someone would seek him out now, sixty years later to tell him that she has lived a good life.  When she comes to again, the priest has arrived to offer confort and confession.  Slowly as Weatherall fades in and out of reality she realizes that she is dying and taht the people are here to spend her last moments with her.  Finally, Weatherall dies.

Reflection

It's a sad tale about dying, intergenerational stress, and trying to understand what one's time on Earth means. Of course, the mother being eighty years old and named "Weatherall" is a hard symbol to miss.  However, there is a toughness about her character that's not to be understated, even in her passing and how she fights it.  

Short Story #238 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

365 Challenge: 31 Stories for July

And we end the seventh month of this 12 month (for now) journey, I have had another whirlwind of fascinating tales.  However, this was an entirely Ambrose Bierce month.    I'm still working on Bierce's collection of tales and may finish that up by September with interspersed other short stories.  I'm definitely needing a break from Bierce but feel if I leave him now, I may never return.  I also think it's cool to have read the entire short story collection of a particular author.  

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceThere's a lot of other stories I read this month that I'm slowly logging onto short story blog list.  I recently revised my American Literature 2 course and introduced a whole lot more stories (students had the option to pick which stories they read), so with some 200+ new and old pieces to choose from, I found I had a lot of reading to do for this month.  But of course, it was all enjoyable and gave me some new profound appreciation for the authors that I have read.  Some of those have made it into July and more will make it into August and September (maybe even throughout the rest of the project--we'll see).

I realize the biggest challenge for managing time is often not the reading or the writing but the composing on Blogger.  That is, I've made a template so that I can plug things in, but I still have to create a new post, copy & paste the template, add images, links, and such that can gobble up time.  At times, I have set to doing this in batches while doing something else, but it doesn't always work out well that way.  

Back to reading!  I can't believe I've been doing this for over 200 entries.  I thought I might have abandoned long ago but apparently, it's a health challenge for me.  


For those interested in my past monthly reflections on short stories, here they are:

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Short Story #237: Man From the South by Roald Dahl

Title:  Man From the South

Author:  Roald Dahl

Summary

Photo of Roald Dahl: Source http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Roald_Dahl.jpg
A man is with at a Jamaica resort enjoying some relaxing time.  There are American sailors flirting with English girls when an older and curious looking man arrives and asks to sit nearby.  The narrator chats wtih the old man about the loud American sailors, one of whom comes over to join them.  The American offers to light a cigar with his lighter but the old man says it won't work with the wind.  The sailor insists that it always works.  The conversation devolves into a bet between the older man and the sailor.  The bet is that if the sailor lights the lighter ten times in a row on the first try, he will get the man's Cadillac.  If he fails, the old man will get a finger of the sailor's.    There's some hesitation but eventually both agree.  They retire to the man's room where he has a table set up to do just this.  They begin and the sailor continues to light lighter without fail.  After the eigth success, a woman barges into the room and sees what's going on.  She tells them to stop what they are doing and that they need to leave.  She explains that the car is not his to give away and that he has done this plenty of times in the past.  She also explains that the car is her because she one it from him.  The narrator then notices that the woman only has two fingers left on her hand. 

Reflection

It's an entertaining story by Dahl who I had read previously this year.  The betting nature of this game reminds me of other stories like The Most Dangerous Game and the like.  I like that we never quite find out if the sailor would have been successful with all 10 tries.  Given the oddity of these two stories, I think I will need to read more Dahl as his style has an interesting mood about them: dark and curious.

Short Story #237 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/28/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Short Story #236: Sucker by Carson McCullers

Title:  Sucker

Author:  Carson McCullers

Summary

Photo of Carson McCullers.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Carsonmccullers.jpg
Pete has had to share his room with Sucker years, but largely was ok with it because his cousin Sucker always did what he was told, so sharing his room, even his bed didn't really matter.  He explains that Sucker's undying admiration causes him to despise Sucker a lot.  He explains how he has learned this lesson.  He fell pretty hard for Maybelle, acted towards her as Sucker did towards Pete.  But things have changed now and Pete explains how those things are have changed.  Sometime in the fall, Maybelle had started to become more friendly with Pete.  She's be nice to him and ask to copy his homework.  This friendliness spurs on Pete's arousal but during this time, Sucker wants to know that Pete really does care for him.  This also seems to comfort Pete to have his affection answered and for Sucker to be wanting his attention. Eventually, Pete even gives attention and care to Sucker and tries to be nicer to him.  Over some weeks, he is friendly to Sucker and even received a lot of attention from Maybelle.  He eventually took them both out to the movies and felt mighty proud to bring them both to the theater.  However, sometime after this, Maybelle largely quits hanging around with Pete. As Pete increasingly worried about Maybelle, he paid no attention to Sucker.  She finally confronts Pete and tells him she doesn't care about him any more.  Pete spends a few days devastated.  During a raging dream about strangling Maybelle, Sucker wakes Pete to ask if he's ok.  Pete proceeds to curse out Sucker and to insult and deride him for everything kind and gentle about the boy.  Sucker changes quickly after this.  He stops harrassing Pete and begins to hang out with a gang.  He's now bigger and stronger than Pete, having arrived at puberty and is the real owner of the bedroom.  

Reflection

There's much about this story that resonates with my own experience as a youth.  There were definitely times when I sacrificed genuine friendships for romantic connections, often with people I probably had no business (or self-respect) in going after.  That's a central piece of many people's childhoods who are not necessarily on the top of the social hierarchy but not necessarily at the bottom.  I think that's what McCullers shows well here is that strange navigation that we all must go through in our adolescence and how that can for good or bad shape us for the rest of our lives.

Short Story #236 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/28/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Short Story #235 Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor

Title:  Good Country People 

Author:  Flannery O'Connor

Summary

Photo of Flannery O'Connor.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Flannery-O'Connor_1947.jpg
Mrs. Hopewell has a daughter name, Joy, who has an artificial leg due to a hunting accident when she was 10.  She also has lodgers including Mrs. Freeman, her husband, and their two daughters.  Each morning Mrs. Freeman would come for a visit and morning chat while Joy got dressed.  Joy had a doctorates and was thirty two but single--she had also renamed herself at 21 to Hulga.  By contrast, Freeman's daughters were in their teens--one pregnant and the other with ample suitors.  Mrs. Freeman is a nosy person and thus, Mrs. Hopewell has found a way of dealing with her in controlled situations such as breakfast.  In fact, among Joy-Hulga, Mrs. Freedman, and Mrs. Hopewell, there is various tension and jealousies.  Each tries in some way to outrank the other.  One day, a door-to-door Bible salesman shows up. The man, Manley Pointer works his way into the house and starts pitching them on why they need a Bible.  Mrs. Hopewell deals mostly with Pointer but Joy is standing nearby listening.  Pointer explains that he's doing it because he has a heart condition and doesn't know how much longer he will live.  Joy too has been described with a heart condition.  Upon hearing this, Mrs. Hopewell invites him to dinner.  Joy largely ignores him throughout the meal.  When he leaves, Joy happens to be outside and he speaks with her before going.  They chat and he begins flirting with her.  He slowly wins her over with kindness and charm and asks her to a picnic the following day.  She agrees and looks forward to the meeting.  The next day, she waits for him and he arrives.  They begin to walk.  He slowly begins to prob her about her leg while she takes shots at God.  At one point, he pulls her close and kisses her which she had never experienced.  They wander a bit an eventually make their way into a barn and into the upper level after he makes a statement saying that she can't make it up there.  In climbing up, he insists on still bringing his bag of Bibles.  They begin to make out and he sneakily puts her glasses in his pocket.  He insists that she says she loves him.  She begins to condescend to him here and claims that she can see through things.  She finally admits to loving him in a sense but for the sake of honesty, she must also tell him that she's thirty (though actually 32).  He insists that she prove her love by showing the wooden leg.  She is angered by this request and refuses.  He takes this as proof that she is just toying with him and she finally acquiesces.  When she shows him how to take the leg off, he takes it away and he begins to make advances on her.  She feels powerless without it and keeps insisting that he return it.  He then takes out cards, whiskey, and condoms to her further dismay.  They shout back and forth about the hypocrisy in each and the man goes further to explain that he's done this plenty of times and stolen different things from different people.  He runs off with the leg.  Meanwhile back at home Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are discussing the Bible salesman.  Mrs. Hopewell remarks that he was so simple but Mrs. Freeman has trouble believing he was that simple.

Reflection

The more I read of O'Connor, the more I like.  In fact, one of the anthologies that I bought this year was of her collected short stories that I plan to read.  This was a curious story in that there was so much going on between Hopewell and Freeman and then between Pointer and Joy that it takes re-reading to get it all.  The names alone are worth exploring and considering but also the relationships between children and parents.  Finally, the dynamics between Joy and Pointer are fascinating in that her intelligence renders her powerless since he plays upon her weaknesses.  

Short Story #235 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/28/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Short Story #234: What a Thought by Shirley Jackson

Title:  What a Thought

Author:  Shirley Jackson

Summary

Shirley Jackson: Image source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Jackson#mediaviewer/File:ShirleyJack.jpg
After dinner, Margaret sits with her husband and is seized by an urge to bash her husband's head in with an heavy ashtray.  She is disturbed by this thought and doesn't understand where it is coming from.  He husband appears friendly and asks her what she would to do for the evening.  Part of her mind tries to convince her not to do it while the inexplicable urge continues to push her.  She soon ponders different ways of doing it and her husband begins to see something is wrong with her.  He asks if she is ok, but she assures him, she's fine. As they converse about what to do, darker and darker thoughts continue to overpower her until finally, she picks up the ashtray and smashes it down.

Reflection

This has much of the same bite of Jackson's famous short story, The Lottery, but a different execution (pun intended).  Here, we're told right away of the final demise and just like in The Lottery, we are hard pressed to believe it could happen, but slowly but surely, Margaret realizes it is inevitable.  What's curious is the why of it.  Does the violence represent some larger disdain that she has for her husband or some injustice that he has done or is this a rage again men in general or just a rage against the world?

Short Story #334 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/26/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.