Thursday, September 18, 2014

Short Story #260: Reunion by John Cheever

Title:  Reunion 

Author:  John Cheever

Summary

Photo of John Cheever.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Johncheever.jpg
The narrator tells us that the last time he saw his father was in Grand Central Station.  His parents were divorce and living in different places.  He was passing through New York and it was an opportunity to see him.  They meet and the father starts talking plans while the narrator, Charlie tries to take in the moment since there are so few between he and his father.  They go out of the station and find a restaurant.  The father is pushy to the waiter and chides him for not hurrying enough.  His rudeness is enough that the waiter tells him to go elsewhere.  Father and son go off to another restaurant, and the same scene repeats.  They enter a third restaurant and here again, when questions are raised about how the father is conducting himself, they leave and go to a fourth restaurant.  At this point, Charlie says that he has to get his train and the father is a bit defeated.  As they return, the father offers to get him a newspaper for the train ride but no sooner does he talk with the news vendor then he picks another fight over irrelevant details.  Charlie tells him that he needs to leave and his father is too busy arguing, so Charlie lieves and that is the last time he sees his father.  

Reflection

The story is short but it packs well the challenging relationship between fathers and sons.  There is already a clear separation between father and son because of the divorce but the story as it plays out is both a condemnation of his father and a desire to have had just something more with his father.  Charlie is clearly torn and the story captured it well.  

Short Story #260 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  8/1/2014
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.

Short Story #259: Parker Anderson, Philosopher by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  Parker Anderson, Philosopher

Author:  Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceParker Anderson is a Federal spy that has been captured in a Confederate camp.  He is taken to a general and assumes that he will be hung in the morning like all spies.  He readily admits he is a spy and who he is but avoided providing details about the Federal army.  The general writes a letter and gives it to a soldier to bring to someone else.  In the interim, he begins to converse with Anderson.  Anderson claims to not be afraid of his forthcoming execution because while the living fear dead, the dead have yet to say anything about it.  The discussion also goes into the nature of death and determining whether it is a state or a progression.  Anderson has a very removed view of it all, believing he's fully comfortable with death, while the general becomes increasingly distraught and uncomfortable.  The soldier returns and the general explains that he has ordered Anderson to be taken out and shot.  Anderson becomes angry and distraught at this as he believes it's a spy's right to be hung in the morning, not shot at night.  He resists but heads out of the tent.  Before exiting, he grabs hold of an available Bowie knife, kills one of the people in the tent and knocks it down.  When the scuffle is cleared, one soldier is dead, the general is severely injured and Anderson is ok. He is taken to his execution begging for his life.  Afterwards, the general is just about to die and comes to peace with it before dying.  

Reflection

Initially, I was fascinating with the discussion in the way in which the spy was owning his existence and forthcoming nonexistence.  It was an interesting discussion about allowing to be controlled by others.  However, when how he perceives death, his inability to accept death seemed a little bit forced.  I get why Bierce was doing it but the story was initially a more interesting commentary on how we own or don't own our lives.  

Short Story #259 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  9/17/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.  

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, September 17, 2014

My Most Recent Reads - August, 2014

August was a relatively slow month for reading books.  I had a couple long audiobooks to conquer and I had a lot of reading of short stories, which left little time for other reading.  However, I still read 18 books, so I'll take that!  This month had some really awesome books that were quite intriguing.

Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age by Alice Marwick

Status Update by Aliice Marwick. Image Source: http://www.tiara.org/book/index.html
Alice Marwick provides an insightful and fascinating look at understanding social media, culture, and class identity in this book.  Through her text, it's quickly evident that though social media presents itself as this utopian world of access and connection, there are many misrepresentations and much gesturing that more than creates a distorted view of what social media is and how we use it.  These questions of access, presence, and celebritism create different outcomes and rather than diminishing class boundaries, often reinforces them.  It's an essential text for people looking to understand social media either in general or for professional and personal use.  



Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake Harris

Console Wars by Blake Harris.  Source: http://it-books-yubo.squarespace.com/
Blake Harris takes readers on an engaging journey into the history of video games as he explores the history of Sega Genesis from its meteoric rise to its slow unraveling.  Harris provides a detailed account of actions, conversations, and key events.  His narrative focus is centered on Tom Kalinske, the CEO of Sega America who took up the charge against Nintendo, the juggernaut of video game consoles in the 1980s.  For the most part, Harris does a solid job of presenting Kalinske as the protagonist in this drama of RPG proportions but manages to do so without entirely demonizing Nintendo.  He brings up the overall criticisms and specific actions of Nintendo and yet avoids painting individuals as simplistic villains.  For a gamer like myself who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, it was fascinating to hear and learning about the gaming wars that went on from the corporate point of view as opposed to my own experience.  If there was but one flaw in the book, it would only be that Harris' stopped with the Kalinske's exit.  It makes perfect sense for the book, but it would be fascinating to get such an in depth history of the gaming industry up through the present.

Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government by Aneesh Chopra

Innovative State by Aneesh Chopra.  Source: http://www.groveatlantic.com/bigcovers/9780802121332.jpg
Aneesh Chopra is among several books out in the last several years that highlights how technology, when leveled appropriately could overwhelmingly transform our government and make it work smarter while simultaneously making it significantly less expensive.  Throughout his book, he offers ample examples that he has encountered in the writing of this book as well as many that he was involved with personally.  He identifies reasons and strategies for improving government service with a variety of tools that are proving successful on the local, state, and national level.  In the end, the book proves inspiring and insightful about a better and more useful path for citizenry and government that is less dominated by the simplistic politics of political parties and more successful with doing and getting results.  



For other best picks over the last year, check out previous monthly reviews:



AUDIOBOOKS

  • Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government by Aneesh Chopra
  • Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by John Joseph Adams
  • The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua
  • The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
  • Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake Harris
  • The Gospel According to Breaking Bad by Blake Atwood 
  • Bane: A Science Fiction Adventure by Steven Atwood 
  • Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age by Alice Marwick
  • The Community College Career Track: How to Achieve the American Dream Without a Mountain of Debt by Thomas Snyder

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown
  • Amazing X-Men, Volume 1: The Quest for Nightcrawler by Jason Aaron
  • Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey Brian Michael Bendis
  • Harbinger Vol. 4: Perfect Day by Joshua Dysart
  • X-O Manowar Volume 4: Homecoming by Robert Venditti
  • Batman and Robin, Vol. 4: Requiem for Damian by Peter Tomasi
  • Thumbprint by Jason Ciaramella
  • I Love Trouble by Kel Symons
  • The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 6: Goblin Nation by Dan Slott


What have you been reading lately?  Got any good recommendations for books, audiobooks or graphic novels?



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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Short Story #258: She Unnames Them by Ursula K. Le Guin

Title:  She Unnames Them

Author:  Ursula K. Le Guin

Summary

Photo of Ursula K. Le Guin.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Ursula_K_Le_Guin.JPG
A woman has gone about unnaming all the animals and many of them are perfectly fine with that.  However, some animals had some resistance to the idea.  Yet others are happy to return their names.  Some of the more human-friendly pets such as dogs and birds were resistant to giving up their names.  The narrator explains that in unnaming them, she now feels closer to them as their names stood as a barrier to connecting to them.  The names created fear.  Her implied name is Eve (or Lilith) but it is never said for she too returns her name to Adam, thanking him but acknowledging she doesn't need it.  Adam accepts her decision with little second thought until it comes time for dinner.  She explains that she is going with "them" and it's here that she realizes it might be a bit complicated to actually communicate without words and to fully express herself--that she is in new terrain and must tread carefully.

Reflection

Le Guin's point that names both provide us with identity but also cleave us in some definitive ways from one another is a fascinating one.  It is of course something we see significantly when we use labels for groups based around gender, race, religion, etc.  We become bound by those names and though we can connect with others, we often are in some ways hindered by our names and the others' names.  However, it is clear that the lack of names isn't quite the solution either as our nameless protagonist finds herself challenged to explain herself with the loss of a name.  Thus, civilization and language are both damning and useful.  

Short Story #258 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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Short Story #257: Roselily by Alice Walker

Title:  Roselily 

Author:  Alice Walker

Summary

Photo of Alice Walker.  Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/59/Alice_Walker.jpg
The story weaves together opening lines of a wedding ceremony with the story of the two being married.  With each line of the ceremony, the narrator gives the reader a glimpse of the world of the woman's life.  They are getting married on her front porch near a highway.  She is aware and knows her soon-to-be husband is aware that many in attendance are judging them while also interested in the food and gossip that will be generated by the event.  She wishes she didn't have 3 children and is quickly ashamed of the thought.  She thinks about how confining his religion will be and how she will need to cover her head.  She thinks about her forthcoming move to Chicago with her new husband and children.  She thinks about her fourth child who went with the father because the father could and would take care of the child.  She reflects how their relationship didn't work out and that she hopes he is find in New England, where he was from and where he returned.  She feels distant from her soon to be husband but also wonders what lies ahead.  She recalls her dead mother and her father who is in attendance.  She wonders if her husband should marry her younger sisters because she feels too worn out.  She thinks about the way he sees her as new and fresh and beyond her past, but she wonders if that is enough.  She thinks about the new way of living he has promised her and whether she will like the idea of having more children.  She realizes now that she might have rushed into it--to be done with the life she had been dealt.  She might have too quickly accepted the proposal.  She wonders what aspects of him that she loves and if she does actually love him in full.  The wedding ceremony is finished and he kisses her.  She watches as he stands apart and wonders how the journey to their new home will be. 

Reflection

The story has a much more compelling delivery when reading it as each line of the ceremony read preempts a different strand of thought of the protagonist. And the bind of escaping the past but jumping into a questionable future is also strongly experience through Roselily's eyes.  Through this brief short story, you can get a full sense of her life and some strong glimpses of her future. 

Short Story #257 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.

Short Story #256: Boys and Girls by Alice Munro

Title:  Boys and Girls

Author:  Alice Munro

Summary

Sketch of Alice Munro. Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/Alice_Munro.jpg
The narrator, a young girl introduces her father, a fox farmer.  She talks about all the types of foxes and work that he does and even she does with caring for the foxes.  At times, the father employs a man named Henry Bailey who has a harsh cough and can be strange at times.  She explains the working of the farm and then discusses her and her brother, Laird's room  in the house.  In winter, they were often afraid in their room because it was often cold, dark, and unfinished.  However, brother and sister still had many sweet memories in their room growing up.  She would sing  and he would fall asleep peacefully.  After he fell asleep, she would tell herself all sorts of adventure stories where she is the hero.  She returns to discussing the intimate details of the fox farm, illustrating how much she knows about the whole business.  She regularly helps with a variety of tasks around the farm.  She does so much work that one day when a salesman is present, her father introduces her as his new hired hand.  Though she is proud of this, the salesman responds with a quip that "it was only a girl."  It's here that the narrator begins to notice things going one with her mother who generally wants nothing to do with the fox farming and sticks to doing things in the house.  The mother increasingly requires work of her but she finds her mother's work boring.  It's clear the mother wants her to do less work on the farm and learn more about the kitchen and that she wants to father to agree.  The narrator explains that she knows her mother loves her but that she was not to be trusted because she was always plotting.  It becomes clear that her parents had plans for her that were against her wishes. She also realizes that Laird is growing up and isn't as easier to boss around. When the grandmother comes to visit, she increasingly hears instructions about how girls are supposed to ask and being redirected if what she asks or does is not proper for girls.  As spring comes along, she discovers that they will need to kill one of the horses that they had been holding onto (for fox meat).  Her father and Henry don't really answer her but she grabs Laird and they sneak around to another part of the barn to watch it happen.  They watch the shooting.  Neither are particularly phased by the event.  Laird promises not to tell but just as a precaution to nightmares, she takes him to the movies that night.  A few weeks later, she discovers they are going to kill another horse.  She doesn't have any interest in seeing it again.  However, the horse escapes being killed and is running about in the field.  The girl is directed to cut through an area to shut the gate.  She runs as fast as she can to get to the gate but decides not to close it and the horse escapes.  The father and Henry run by trying to get it, but Laird had witnessed her leaving the gate open.  She ponders her decision and thinks about why she was suddenly siding with the female horse over her father.  She returns to her bedroom that she shares with Laird and talks about the changes she has been making to make it more fancy.  The father and Henry return with the horse, shot and chopped up.  At dinner, Laird rats out his sister for letting the horse run away.  When asked why she did it, she provides no answer but starts to cry.  Her father remarks that it doesn't matter because "She's only a girl."  The narrator admits that she didn't protest this and that it was was possibly true.

Reflection

I like how Munro teases out the narrator's experience from wanting to be an adventurer to wanting to make her room fancy and the myriad little ways that direct her down this path.  It's an interesting look at institutional engendering in that the narrator is perfectly capable at the farm but is increasingly pushed to do work and be like the mother and it's because of this, that she most relates to the female horse who is trying to escape and be free.  And yet, this act of defiance is only understood as being something derogatory--"a girl."  

Short Story #256 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.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Short Story #255: Babylon Revisited by F Scott Fitzgerald

Title:  Babylon Revisited

Author:  F Scott Fitzgerald

Summary

Photo of F Scott Fitzgerald. Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5c/F_Scott_Fitzgerald_1921.jpg
Charlie visits the "American" Ritz bar in Paris, partly relieved and partly surprised to find none of his friends there from before.  He briefly recalls those earlier days when lives a lavish life, enjoying the profits of the stock market.  Charlie chats with the bartender and who chats him up about his past.  Charlie's been in Prague doing some business.  They recall a mutual friend of the bar who no longer comes around after running up an exorbitant bill.  Later in the conversation, Charlie explains that he's in Paris to see his little girl for a few days.  He leaves the bar and travels through the city recalling memories and how his life used to be.  He arrives to visit his daughter and she is happy to see him.  She is in the care of his sister-in-law and her husband who are less than happy to see him.  In their discussion, he tells them things are going well.  They tell him that things have been good in Paris with the millionaires gone and that Honoria (the daughter) has been well.  It's also hinted that Charlie has a bit of an alcohol problem as it is mentioned that he only permits himself one drink a day.  After dinner, he continues to wander the city to casinos, shows, and other places he regularly frequented before.  Some, he goes into and others he just passes by.  Some things are closed, others have different crowds, and some just no longer interest him.  In his reflecting, he admits that it was his carefree and expensive living that cost him his wife and loss of parental control of his daughter.  The next day, he meets up with Honoria again.  They playfully chat and discuss what they are going to do that day.  He wants to do anything with her that day and desires to get to know her in full.  Eventually, Honoria asks why she doesn't live with him and wonders if it has to do with mommy dying.  He tries to side-step the issue and then is interrupted by past friends.  He brushes off their invitations since he is with Honoria and they realized that he is sober to their surprise.  He manages avoiding setting a specific time and place for them to get together.  He continues on the adventures with his daughter.    While driving home, he asks his daughter about her mother and asks her about how happy she is.  He drops of his daughter.  Later on, he meets with his sister-in-law, Marion and her husband.  He explains that he wants to settle down and take Honoria to live with him.  They are skeptical and he talks about how he has things under control but just taking one drink a day.  The conversation goes on long and Charlie tries to refrain from acting angry as Marion continues to call out the events of the past that killed his wife while he was in a sanitarium.  The conversation goes back to the larger goal and Charlie confesses that he fears losing Honoria's childhood.  Despite it being emotionally hard for Marion, she finally acquiesces to the request.  He awakes the next day feel happy at first but then fell into sadness, reflecting on the death of his wife.  He realizes he must he must focus on the present and not overwhelm himself too much with emotion.  He calls upon the sister's husband to determine when is the best time to pick up and the husband says any time is fine but the sister would for the time being still retain legal rights.  He confirms details with the husband and goes back to his hotel where he finds a note from one of the people he ran into the other day when he was with Honoria.  It gives him a moment to reflect but he quickly comes to the conclusion of letting the past go and his daughter is the future.  He arrives at his sister-in-law's house and she says that he would have to wait until Saturday before she'll let Honoria go.  He accepts this.  Shortly after this, a door-bell rings. Charlie's friends from before stumble in, insisting on chatting up.  It's clear they are drunk and wild.  They explain they came to invite him to dinner.  Despite Charlie's protests, they make a ruckus that increasing displeases the sister-in-law.  Finally, they leave but not without cursing out Charlie.  The sister-in-law leaves the room, clearly angered and upset.  The husband goes to check on her and comes back and starts to hint that she is not going to give Honoria over to Charlie.  He leaves in anger about the whole thing.  He ends up at the bar at the Ritz where the story began.  He calls the husband later and the husband says that the wife isn't feeling well and that Charlie will have to put it off for six months.  He returns to the bar and pays for his drink and leaves.  His last thought is a belief that his wife would not have wanted him to live alone. 

Reflection

I rather liked this tale.  In many ways, if captures elements of The Great Gatsby but through a different lens.  It is after the party has ended (the economic bust of the late 1920s) and Charlie is recognizing what the years of excess really cost him.  Like Gatsby, he wasted his life on the wrong things and now wishes nothing more than to get them back.  

Short Story #255 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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Short Story #254: That Evening Sun by William Faulkner

Title:  That Evening Sun

Author:  William Faulkner

Summary

Photo of Sinclair Lewis. Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Lewis-Sinclair-LOC.jpgThe story begins by remarking how the town of Jefferson has changed over the years with the wide use of cars.  Over the same roads, fifteen years ago, Mondays were filled with African American laundry women bringing clothes to and from white-owned houses. The narrator explains that one of these women was named Nancy and she used to clean and eventually cooked for his family.  However, the man she lives with, Jubah,  was always looked at with disdain by the family.  He had a razor scar down his face and the children were not to go near Nancy's house.  So they would throw rocks at the house to get Nancy's attention to come cook breakfast.  Nancy is not feeling well and the kids think she is drunk but they soon learn that she is pregnant.  They relate a tale of her being severely beaten by a white man who hasn't paid her (for something that isn't disclosed).  The narrator explains that Jubah used to hang around the house when Nancy worked but the family didn't want him around.  Jubah was angered by this.  Later, when after a meal, the narrator is sent to see if Nancy is done cleaning the dishes.  The narrator checks on her and she says she's finished but she also identifies how utterly hopeless she feels.  When the parents inquire further, it is further divulged that Jubah has left and that Nancy is scared to walk back in the dark.  The father volunteers to walk her back to her house for protection--against the dark and possible Jubah who may have returned.  The mother is not thrilled about this, but the  father and the kids go along with Nancy.  Walking Nancy home becomes a regular activity until the mother grows answer.  A short term solution is to put a cot up in the kitchen.  During the night, she is making noise which the father investigates and Nancy is then relocated to the children's room, fearful that Jubah might be out there.  The cook returns to work soon and she chats with Nancy about Jubah's whereabouts.  Nancy is certain he is near and ready to kill her.  Nancy fears returning to the cabin and tries to get the children to ask the parents to let her stay but the mother won't have it.  Finally, the mother tells Nancy to leaves and exits the room.  With the children, Nancy prods the children to get them to agree that they've had fun and enjoyed the night she stayed.  She explains that they can have just as much fun at her house if they follow her home.  With some coaxing, they go with her and follow her to her house.  They enter and despite her claim to have fun, the children have largely lost interest and are wanting to go home.  She continues to find ways to entertain them but none of them are particularly effective and the children begin to get upset.  They hear a noise outside and Nancy becomes upset and lets out a noise she had previously when she thought Jubah was near.  They soon learn that the approaching noise is the father.  He takes the children and leave.  They continue to ask about what has Nancy riled up and the father tells them there is no one to be feared off.  The children past the ditch--the mark between the white and black parts of town and descending into bickering again. 

Reflection

There's a fascinating range of interactions going on within this story and Faulkner stacks them so well so that it's clear how the adults interact with one another and then interact in front of and through the children.  Their obliviousness contrast with the various concerns of the adults from racial tension, prostitution, violence, etc contrasts how children can be ignorant while simultaneously absorbing the broader messages of class and race within a subculture.  


Short Story #254 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, September 11, 2014

Short Story #253: Brothers by Sherwood Anderson

Title: Brothers 

Author: Sherwood Anderson

Summary

Photo of Sherwood Anderson.  Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/Sherwood_Anderson_cph.3b16123.jpg
A man explains the layout of his country house.  He talks about a walk he went for the previous day when there was heavy fog and how eerie the surrounding countryside was.  He was approached by a man that locals consider to be crazy but he has encountered the man many a time on his walks.  The man often tells tales about how he is related to people in the news.  On one occasion, the man claims to have been brothers with a recent millionaire whose scandalous relationship with a mistress was in the news.  The man then relates a most recent series of stories about a man who stands accused of murdering his wife.  The man began to fall for a woman in his office and he daydreams about her.  He finds fautls in his wife and his family life in general. The woman knows of his romantic interest and plots to use it, regularly flirting with him.  She begins to walk with him upon leaving work.  She enjoyed the attention and the safety.  He continues with the frustration of home life. And then, the narrator reports that the man killed his wife.  Upon returning from the movies one night, they entered the dark hallway of their apartment building and he stabbed her a dozen times.  He later claims that he wouldn't have done it if the corridor had been lit.  He had initially been able to fool people but eventually the police arrive and arrest him.  He confessed but says nothing of the woman he was infatuated with. Everyone is still trying to determine the motive for the crime.  It comes back to the narrator who talks about walking in the fog on another day and encounters the man.  The man claims to be brothers with the murderer.  As the old man goes one, the narrator feels touched by the spirit of the murderer who appears to have inhabited the body of the old man.  The old man walks around clutching a dog close to him and at this point, is clutching so tight as if having a seizure that the narrator pulls the dog free. On another day, the narrator is sitting in his house when the old man pasts but there is no longer any dog with him.  


Reflection

Like some of Anderson's other work tales, this is a bit dark and strange.  The name of the story, "Brothers" seems to suggest some fraternity of men that do things for no clear reason or hold reasons so tight to themselves that it all but kills those around them.   

Short Story #253 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/20/2014
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, September 10, 2014

Short Story #252: The Willow Walk by Sinclair Lewis

Title:  The Willow Walk

Author:  Sinclair Lewis

Summary

Photo of Sinclair Lewis. Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Lewis-Sinclair-LOC.jpg
Jasper Holt is teller at a bank in Vernon.  On a Wednesday, he informs  landlady that he will not be around for dinner.  The landlady assumes he has theater practice but Jasper heads to a near suburb, Rosebank.  Along the way, he buys a box of candy that is in the same of a book and then into a drugstore t buy some books.  He is dismayed when someone recognizes him but keeps moving. He drives to a house in Rosebank.  Two people walking by the house remarks that a religious hermit lives in that house and the brother is rich and lives in a city.  Jasper enters the empty house and switches the book cover of the book that he just bought onto the book-shaped box of candy.  After finishing this, he goes upstairs and comes back down in less elegant clothes wherein it is revealed that he is actually John Holt and Jasper is a mere fiction.  John walks through the town encountering people in a distinctly different and more belligerent manner than his fictional brother.  He attends a meeting of the Soul Hope Fraternity, a religious cult that he is deeply involved with, where in he listens to the different attendees ramble on about the group's greatness. Shortly after the meeting, he makes his way back to Vernon and changes up to be Jasper to the Community Theater were he is lauded for his abilities.  Several days later, he calls in sick to work and says he is disappointed because his brother was supposed to visit that day.  John arrives at the bank and meets with the president.  The president saw some similarities but found them both to be unalike in personality and demeanor.  John warns the president about Jasper's ways but the president waves him off.  When Jasper returns, he explains that his brother, John can be rather square.  He plays sick a little while longer as he sets up plans.  He drives to surrounding areas and at one points, unscrews a spark plug and takes the car to a shop in St. Clair.  He returns to his city.   When he returns to work for a half-day and brings luggage with him, explaining he is leaving right from work.  He sets up the situation in such a way that he loads up his suitcases with money and since he is so charming no one notices.  He leaves and enacts his escape plan which is a mixture of taking a train and being seen in certain areas, all to create the illusion of where he might be going, even though his actual destination is Rosebank.  He eventually makes it back to the house and disposes of the evidence that he ever was Jasper.  John slowly emerges and begins making more appearances in Rosebank and reads the news about Jasper. He visits the president of the bank and asks if he can be of any help.  He insists that the he help the inspector and is quite generous with the searching of his house.  In fact, he becomes so actively involved both the president and inspector want nothing to do with him as he continues onto religious rants.  Time passes and there is less and less to report about the case.  Most have given up and believe that Jasper is dead.  John continues to play the religious zealot and works long hours on his book on Revelations.   However, within all of this, he begins to question his actions and decisions about what he's done.  He begins to realize that though he was not captured, he has to a certain degree, imprisoned himself.  He begins to get antsy and frustrated with his world.  One night at his fraternity's meeting, he explodes at all of them, calling them frauds.  He returns home and doesn't leave for a week, before storming out of the house, wherein he forgets to lock the door.  When he is in various stores, people whisper about him as a hermit.  When he returns home, he finds that his money in the book-boxes has been stolen.  Later, he goes to the president of the bank to explain that he is in fact Jasper, but since it has been so long since he acted as Jasper and he has been by himself for so long, there is nothing that he can do that is believably Jasper.  The president chafes at the idea that he is Jasper.  Finally, John goes to the police who believe he is just a homeless person looking for free shelter.  They tell him to get a job in the sandpits and John asks where they are.

Reflection

This was a rather fun and well-told story.  In some ways, it reminds me of some of the modern "perfect crime" stories like Oceans 11 or The Italian Job.  However, I also like how Lewis goes into the psychology of John and the ways in which he has essentially formed his own prison as a result of his crime.  In that, there are definitely elements of Poe at work. 

Short Story #252 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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