Short Story #150: Passengers by Robert Silverberg

Title:  Passengers 

Author:  Robert Silverberg

Summary

Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great TalesThe protagonist awakes in his room certain that he has been visited by a passenger.  The passengers arrived several years ago and randomly inhabit people's bodies for up to several days.  When the passenger leaves, the person awakes with little to no recollection of what has occurred during the period.  As it happens, the protagonist awakes on a Friday morning, having been possessed on Tuesday.  He decides to skip work and go off for a walk in the city.  As he passes different people, he picks out who are carrying passengers and who isn't.  Eventually, he finds himself on the steps of the library with other people who have had passengers seem to be hanging out today.  Here, he sees a woman that he saw earlier and who seems familiar to him.  He soon is given the insight that she was the woman whom his passenger spent the last few days with.  He decides to talk to her and break norms to talk to her about the passenger (it's clear that she too has been carrying a passenger).  Over the next few days, the two kindle a relationship even though she feels it is pointless, given the presence of the passenger who can just take them away as they please.  He reveals that he remembers her from their time with the passenger and this scares her.  However, he convinces her that there is something between them and a strong connection exists between the two.  Just as she turns the corner of doubt and accepts the idea to be together, the protagonist is taken possession of by a passenger and goes into the nearest bar, finds a man with whom he goes home.  


Reflection

Silverberg quickly creates a believable world that his protagonist moves through.  He never rushes the detail and allow things to come up in the course of the narrative.  There isn't a lot of time spent just informing the reader.  The story of phantom passengers taking control is of course a powerful concern, especially for American culture where we place such high value on the individual will.  Of course, Silverberg brings up these questions of free will and determinism within the story, asking the question of whether or not once taken possession of, are we ever really free.  

Short Story #150 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/26/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981.   The text of this story can be found on this site.  

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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Short Story #149: The Road to Mictlantecutli by Adobe James

Title:   The Road to Mictlantecutli

Author:  Adobe James

Summary

Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great TalesThe story begins with Morgan, captured by a Mexican federal officer named Hernandez.  This isn't the first time that Morgan has been captured and managed to escape and he fully intends to do so again.  At a stop along the long trek back to the US border, Morgan seizes the moment to quickly dispatch the officer.  Once gone, Morgan proceeds to take the car down a road that heads to Linaculan.  He rides for several hours but as it gets dark and the terrain gets fierce, he's questioning his decision about going to this town.  He passes an old priest walking the road in the night.  He considers giving the man a ride but keeps on driving.  However, after passing the man, he gets a haunting sensation that he is headed for trouble.  Just at this moment, his car gives and results in the car rolling.  When he awakes, the priest has taken him from the vehicle and is awaiting patiently.  The priest agrees to walk with the ungrateful Morgan to Linaculan and the two take off on the long journey.  Morgan grows impatient with the man as he walks along not providing directions but just heading in the direction of the town.  Along the way, a beautiful woman arrives on a horse.  The woman says that she will take Morgan to Mictlantecutli if he so chooses.  The old man warns him that she is evil incarnate but he refuses to listen and gets onto her stead with her.  As they ride along, he gets frisky and begins to let his hands rise up.  As they reach her breasts, she stops and recommends they take a break.  As they strip and begin to have sex, the light reveals that she is a corpse.  He is disgusted and runs away.  She returns on her horse, looking normal and orders him back on the horse.  As they ride, they encounter the priest again and Morgan pleads for help.  The priest explains that he made his choice to go to Mictlantecutli which is just another name for the Devil.  The woman takes him off to the Devil while he weeps the entire way.



Reflection

A well-executed story with that pulls the reader in rather quickly.  There is a fantastic contrast between Morgan and Hernandez in that Hernandez is scorned by Morgan for pleading for his life at the last minute and that's all Morgan can do in the tail end of the story.  I also liked the development of the story from physically captured to physical freedom from spiritual freedom (with the priest) to spiritual capture with the woman.  

Short Story #149 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/26/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981. 

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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Tales of Running: The Injury Edition

While such things are bound to happen when one engages in athletic training (or rather just in the course of life), it is still a major disappointment when one ends up with an injury.  Thus rather than regular updates about my runs during May such as the marathon and the half-marathon I had lined up, I'm writing about my injury.  To pour salt on the literal (though not open) wound, I sustained the injury while not running.  For many athletes, that's the pinnacle of disappointments when it comes to running (Ok, I can't really say this with any certainty but it would seem that injuring one's self while doing the thing you love to do is somehow more acceptable.  


No Running sign:  Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3927422138/
Several days after I did my personal best half-marathon, I was running.  I ran about 13 miles that day and was doing things around the apartment.  I had a crick in my neck from the night before and was doing some rigorous work around the apartment when I felt a my whole left shoulder and neck area flair up in pain.  It was pretty nasty but tolerable in the moment.  Over the next few days, the pain didn't really subside and by the weekend, it was clear that I couldn't lift my arm more than a foot from my body.  

So off I went to the interwebs to investigate and it seemed to align with a torn rotator cuff.  I contacted and made an appointment with my primary care person who seemed to think it was something along those lines and sent me to an orthopedic doctor.  His thoughts varied from what else was said.  He believes it's a scapula tear of some sort with leakage that has caused a cyst (of liquid) that is putting pressure on the nerves.  Because it was just speculation, he sent me off to get an MRI and will follow up with an appointment with him next week.  

Whether it is a torn rotator cuff, a torn scapula or something else, I am out of the long-distance running game for a couple months.  Since much of it is likely to require surgery and recovery from that will be 2-3 months depending.  Given that said surgery is at least a month away from today (as in, it hasn't been planned yet), that's going to kill this year's prospects of hitting my running goals.  That, of course, is quite disappointing and while I know it's a minor set-back in the big picture of life (after all, I am hugely grateful that I have healthcare to cover the various procedures and costs as well as a workplace that doesn't demand much physically), it is still frustrating (never mind the continued pain I feel day-to-day).  

Up until this week, I had not run for 3 weeks.  I had waited until I saw the orthopedic doctor to find out if running was going to do more damage to the injury and then, However, the doctor said that running was going to be ok so long as it didn't hurt.  I chose to relax most of the weekend, recognizing that the injury has taken a mental and emotional toll on me.    I finally decided to go for a run on Monday, followed by one on Tuesday and Thursday.  All the runs were hard to some degree.  It was clear my legs were itching to run but I noticed my breathing needed some time to get back into rhythm and also that my arm cadence was a bit off.  My feet too needed to re-toughen up (that is, I have a few blisters from not having worn the Vibrams in 3 weeks).  I think my arm was ok with the swing but that I was just overly sensitive to any and all arm movement because of the shoulder.  Overall, it felt wonderful to be back running.  I know I will only get to do this up until I have surgery and I limit myself to the 3-5 mile range but I'm still relieved to get in what running I can.  

Injuries are tricky things.  They remind us of our limitations and fragility as humans.  They challenge a great many things we take for granted about ourselves and our bodies (e.g. lifting your arm) and can be humbling.  The injury has been a good reminder about challenges and limitations others face regularly as a result of injury, disability, or even age.   Several weeks of constant pain and I'm raw and extremely vulnerable.  I cannot even fathom what it would be like for that number to be months or years but it does help to give me a glimmer of understanding.  

The prospect of being down for several months is a challenge.  As running has become a central part of my life and routine, I find it's temporary loss sad and worry about how recovery will be and how I might get back to where I am know.  I'm sure it will all work out but that doesn't keep the mind from wandering.  So I guess for now this is the last of my running updates for a few months.  


How have you dealt with injury and recovery process?  What advice do can you give?  How do you keep perspective?




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Short Story #148: Black Wind by Bill Pronzini

Title:  Black Wind

Author:  Bill Pronzini

Summary

Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great TalesThe narrator runs a diner in upstate New York and it's about closing time.  He's set to close early as it is a cold November night and he's recalling the black-wind, a might fierce wind that carries the voices of evil spirits--or at least that's what the local legends say.  A couple enters the diner, dashing his hopes of an early escape.  The couple's body language and then actual language tells him these two are quite at odds and angry with one another.  They appear married (both have wedding bands) but the tension is palpable.  They continue to grumble and show disdain for one another.  Eventually, the man goes out to the car to start it up with the woman is paying for the food.  She's fumbling through her purse, hands him cash and leaves without getting change.  The narrator finds the whole thing strange but he's all the happier to be done with them.  However, as he's closing up, he realizes that the woman had taken one of the knives that were at the counter.  He can only wonder about what she will do with it. 

Reflection

Here's a story where all of it is in our imagination and yet that makes it all the better.  No gore, no blood, no violence.  Merely, the narrator introducing an idea (the black wind), the couple at odds, and the potential theft of a knife.  However, each adds up to a very interesting tragedy that we may never know if it even happened.  

Short Story #148 out of 365
Rating: 3  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/26/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981. 

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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Short Story #147: The Jam by Henry Slesar

Title:  The Jam

Author:  Henry Slesar

Summary

Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great TalesStukey takes Mitch out for a ride to go find a dealer in New Jersey.  Mitch is in rough shape, coming down from a high and curled up in the seat.  Aiming to make good time, Stukey drives crazily through the streets of New York.  He nicks and dings cars around him and Mitch goads him on.  He angers other drivers or is enraged by them swearing and cursing away.  They make their way into a tunnel which seems to go on forever and Stukey takes more risks.  As they exit the tunnel, they encounter a traffic jam that is going virtually nowhere.  Stukey and Mitch both become angry and Stukey continues to get out of the car to see what the problem is but it seems like the back up is for miles.  When a cop comes by Stukey all but demands that something be done because he needs to be somewhere.  The cop laughs and goes onto explain that Stukey and Mitch died in the tunnel back there, having caused a collision.  This traffic jam is their afterlife and the afterlife of everyone else who caused accidents in the tunnel.    

Reflection

The classic comeuppance at the of the story reminds of the E.C. horror comics.  I didn't realize that was going to be the end--that the jam was going to be their living hell.  I figured that Mitch and Stukey would die in some capacity of a car crash but Slesar doesn't allow you to see it, which was a nice sleight of hand.  

Short Story #147 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/26/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981.   The story can also be found at this site.

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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Short Story #146: The Roaches by Thomas M. Disch

Title:  The Roaches

Author:  Thomas M. Disch

Summary

Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great TalesMarcia Kenwell has an obsessive fear of cockroaches.  She routinely scours her apartment with roach-kill, disinfectant, and cleaner.  Ever since she moved to the city she has been unable to rid herself of the pesky bugs.  She was warned about them by her aunt and her mother had a phobia to all bugs, but Marcia first encounters them at one of her first jobs and it has been a never-ending battle since then.  She desperately seeks a new place to live especially after the neighbors move in next door.  The two men and one woman (unclear who is related and who is a lover) are loud, foreign, and dirty as Marcia sees it.  Their presence brings in more roaches and this deeply angers Marcia.  One day, she encounters some roaches in her apartment and without thinking, she verbally commands them to leave.  In an instant, all the roaches leave the apartment.  She slowly finds she has the ability to command the roaches.  In a frenzy of anger, she directs them all into her neighbor's apartment.  She hears yelling and screaming and then tells them to disperse.  When the landlady comes the neighbor's room, she sees the mess and demands they leave.  Back in her room, Marcia opens a cupboard and all the roaches flood out onto her.  Instead of repulse, she feels utter love and invites all of New York's cockroaches to visit her.  


Reflection

There is a wonderful ick-factor to this story, especially if you are not a big fan of bugs.  While I've learned to be ok with cockroaches, silverfish freak me the hell out.  However, the imagery and changing nature of Marcia make the story delightfully horrific and exciting to read.  

Short Story #146 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/26/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981.  

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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Literature As Reformation: The Changing Lives Through Literature Program

I just finished my first time running a Changing Lives Through Literature program this past week.  The program is consists of 8 weekly meetings with individuals on parole wherein we talk about assigned short stories or novels read.  Essentially, it's a reading club for people on parole.  It's purpose to help people on parole engage with ideas through reading and have the opportunity to accomplish something as part of their progress to full rehabilitation in society.  Depending on the elements of their parole, participants often volunteer to be in the program and in doing some, some may have time taken off their parole sentence.  


Prison Halls - Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/End_of_the_world_prison.jpg
It is a program that I found out about through a colleague and expressed interest in last year.  However, it was not my first encounter with the program.  In fact, I wrote this blog post for one CLTL group a few years ago on my love for the writings of Kate Chopin.  Earlier this year, I was contacted by an officer interested in starting up a new group in Salem and so I jumped at the chance.  I met with the officer and we planted to run this first group in March through April.  The logistics went according to plan and though, there is much to tweak, it certainly was appreciated by those who consistently attended and those who facilitated it.  

For the first few weeks, I was excited and a bit nervous about running this group.  I certainly brought plenty of experience to the group as a facilitator, having taught literature at colleges for the last six years, but I wasn't sure exactly how to approach facilitating the group.  I was less certain about how the group dynamics would be and less familiar with this informal setting.  Yet as the weeks progressed, I seemed to have found my foothold and determined how best to engage with the participants and guide the conversation.  

So what did we cover in this 8 week journey?  It was composed of short stories and one novel.  Some of the stories I was familiar with and others, I read for the first time.  


Session 1: “Greasy Lake” by T.C. Boyle

A pair of glasses on a book.  Image source: http://pixabay.com/p-83126/?no_redirect
This proved a strong opener.  Boyle's tale about kids returned from college thinking they are tough stuff and making a series of increasingly bad decisions clearly hit home for many of the participants and got them reasonably interested in the program when they might not have been otherwise.  


Session 2:  “To Build a Fire” by Jack London

Akin to "Greasy Lake," I like this story because it's about a series of bad decisions and the protagonist's decision to buck conventional wisdom and focus only on the outcome (potential riches by getting to the camp sooner).  It also had a good dialogue around understanding nature and humans and how we lose touch with the natural order of things.  It also was quite ironic that the night we discussed this story was the coldest day in March.  


Session 3:  “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich's tale about the effects of war on a pair of brothers also spoke well to the participants.  However, we were able to move the discussion deeper to talk about the ways in which the outside world of American culture clearly took its toll on the inside world of the reservation and how that manifested in Lyman's final decision to walk everywhere.  


Session 4:  “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce

If the first three stories were safe to some degree in that while deep, meaning could be easily deduced, these next three weeks, I went in for something a little strong in terms of message and intellectual challenge.  They grappled with this but it was here that we often found some participants really pushing themselves to newer depths.  Bierce's tale of life between the drop a body and the snapping of a neck as the body reaches the full length of the rope, is a challenging one.  Told out of sequence, the story follows Farquahar, a plantation owner who does not serve in the Civil War but attempts to disrupt the Union army by blowing up a bridge.  In doing so, he has placed his family in direct danger and can do nothing about it because he is to be captured and sent to his death.  Our discussion around the perception of the noble act (blowing up the bridge) with the right and more important act (protecting one's family) also hit home for some of the participants.  


Session 5:  “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

Though we had some good discussion around this story, it still felt a bit of a flop in that there was some confusion about what was going on.  I also think that the message of the story is not necessary useful either and need to find a replacement for this one.  


Session 6:  “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Connor

I warned the participants ahead of time that this would be the craziest story we read and many of them found that to be exciting.  However, they did get into the story and most interestingly, many of them expressed knowing exactly what was going to happen in the story within the first few paragraphs.  This was an interesting tell from the group in that it strongly indicated that their propensity for reading into stories had reasonably improved.  


Session 7 & 8:  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

As one of my favorite short novels, I figured this could be a great book to end on.  It's short, it's fairly clear, but there's also lots of subtle elements about it.  We had a good conversation around the book and again, it was great to see them pick up on things that they might have missed entirely previous (e.g. the parallel between Candy's dog and Lennie).  

In the end, it was a valuable experience to me just as much as it was for the participants.  It's quite easy to disregard or devalue people have committed wrongs (and I don't negate that people should be accountable for their wrongdoings) and I see many ways in which we devalue and dehumanize imprisoned populations and create conditions that make it even more challenging for them to reintegrate back into society.  Programs such as this which help them build skills, find self-value, and engage in activities where they are valued as human beings and what they bring to a group is likely to go much farther in their success than the standard shaming and isolating manners that are out there. 



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Short Story #145: A Teacher's Rewards by Robert Phillps

Title:  A Teacher's Rewards

Author:   Robert Phillps

Summary

Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great Tales
An elderly woman and retired teacher, Miss Scofield answers her door to Raybe Simpson.  Raybe was her student many years ago and she has all but forgotten him.  She invites Raybe in who happens to be visiting and the two talk for a while.  During the conversation, Raybe asks questions about how she is doing, has she married, what does she do nowadays.  She answers in kind and continues to try to remember Raybe from her classes.  He identifies different things from his class, things she said to him (such as unfortunate nicknames) and did (rapping his knuckles with the ruler).  He offers other names of his peers to whom she remembers including who was her favorite student.  Raybe begins more probing questions and soon reminds her of how cruel she was to him.  She denies it and eventually asks him to leave, but he refuses to let her go and precedes to exact this revenge with a hammer that he has brought.  

Reflection

A standard revenge fantasy but one that I'll have to admit I wasn't entirely sure who was going to kill who.  The title could be read as how a teacher takes or receives rewards.  The dialogue for this tale was good and felt authentic.  That we never actually know what he does with the hammer has its own horrific appeal.  


Short Story #145 out of 365
Rating: 3  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/23/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981.  

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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Short Story #144: The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze by William Saroyan

Title:  The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Author:  William Saroyan

Summary

William Saroyan - Daring Man on Flying Trapeze
The begins with a stream of thought that traverses various topics from Rome to the Eiffel Tower to Cadillacs in California.  It is clear, these are the extravagant dreams of a destitute man.  He awakes and wanders the city, partly searching for food and in part searching for meaning.  He finds a penny to which he believes will provide him some hope for the day as he wanders.  He ponders his life and its meaning and whether he should continue one with living.  He eventually finds himself in what appears to be an unemployment line where he is interviewed about this abilities.  He explains he is a writer and the woman takes his information before dismissing him.  He visits other unemployment agencies with similar results.  He reflects upon his life and continues with a few other activities throughout the day before retiring to his rented room at the YMCA.  The story ends with him dying.  

Reflection

It's a dark story to end this comprehensive anthology of American literature on.  However, the drive of the story was interesting.  The protagonist as a man between the bars while up on the trapeze, not quite catching the next bar seems to be the driving point.  The potential and excitement of life can still be understood by the protagonist but he is mere witness and no longer participant to them.  

Short Story #144 out of 365
Rating: 3  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/22/2014
Source:  The Bedside Book of Famous American Short Stories edited by Angus Burrell and Bennett A. Cerf.  Random House, 1936.  

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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Short Story #143: Miggles by Brett Harte

Title:  Miggles

Author:  Brett Harte

Summary

Selected Stories of Brett Harte by Brett Harte. Puritan Publishing CompanyIn the midst of a storm, a group of travelers are stuck between two rained out sections of a road and a bridge.  They discover that there is one place they could seek refuge, Miggles.  With most unfamiliar with Miggles, they are brought to what appears an abandoned house.  They repeatedly call out for Miggles in the midst of the storm but no one answers.  They finally enter in without permission into the house.  There, they find a man all but lifeless sitting in a chair.  Just as they thought this was Miggles, a woman enters who says she is Miggles.  She explains that she had been outside for a while and saw them from afar heading towards her house and so raced to meet them.  When they ask about the catatonic man in the house, she explains that it's her friend, Jim whom she has taken to care for.  Over the course of the evening, they discover that Miggles used to work at a saloon (presumably as a prostitute) and Jim regularly spent money on her.  When Jim went catatonic, she took him in and was able to buy the place they were now living in.  They continue to ask her questions to which she provides interesting replies.  They are thrown off by her beauty and ability that contrasts with her willingness to isolate herself away from society with Jim, but to her, it is the right thing to do. In the morning they move on, still in awe of Miggles.  

Reflection

Miggles is definitely a fascinating character and I think Harte does well by giving us all sorts of hints but never the entire answer.  Thus, we are left wondering and curious about Miggles but have no means by which to full know her--which given her character, is exactly how she would want it.  

Short Story #143 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 5/20/2014 
Source:  Selected Stories of Brett Harte by Brett Harte. Puritan Publishing Company.  This entire anthology can be found at this page on the Gutenberg Project.  

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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Short Story #142: A Career by Andre Maurois

Title:  A Career

Author:  Andre Maurois

Summary

Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943Four life-long friends who are successful in different fields convene together to meet the nephew of one of their group who has just written his first book.  As the group welcomes the young man, their dialogue leads down a path to talk about a fifth member whom no longer is part of their group.  They go into the history of the group to explain why he has disappeared from the group.  The group of them became friends in school and swore an oath that they would form network and do their best efforts to help one another succeed in all possible ways until each had reached their level of success in their respective fields.  They all but forget this pledge until some years after graduating, when they are reunited by chance.  Over the next few years, they slowly build their careers.  Central to their success is Chalonnes, the man who had been lost to the group.  His abilities were supremely critical and regularly helped to refine their different works (one was a writer, another a painter, a third was a playwright/director and the last was in politics).  Time and again, his insight and his ability to convince others of the value of his friends works help out his friends.  However, his efforts at success in writing the great novel, a book of profound philosophy and such bear no fruit--mostly because he has never written them.  Eventually, the friends band together to find a way to get Chalonnes to finally sit down and write his great novel through the use of another friend who is great at coxing works from authors.  When Chalonnes finishes his book and shares it with his friends, they are mortified at how bad it is and does as best they can to disuade him from publishing it without telling him outright that it is bad.  Chalonnes gets it published and while his friendlier critics avoid saying bad things about it, they don't particularly love it while other critics don't both reviewing it at all.  The public sincerely dislikes it and Chalonnes becomes miserable as a result, which also leads many to associate with him little as he scorns any and all who don't absolutely love his work.  His friends attempt to help but he finds them at fault for his current situation.

Reflection

Chalonnes demise is sad in that his skillset did so much to help others but was not necessarily meant for traditional artistic output.  That is, as editor and reviewer, he was powerful but as producer of content, not so much.  I found it interesting to think about this element within our lives and ask ourselves about what we do.  Even if it is not traditional artistic output, can it be art?  In some ways, it reminds me of Scott McCloud's discussion of what constitutes art in his book, Understanding Comics.  He argues that anything that doesn't contribute to our survival can be considered art, but then so too can things that contribute to our survival if they are given added flair.  In this way, Chalonnes was a supreme artist in that all he did was help his friends succeed in their arts.  I also found that his lingering view of his own writing as a career or feeling like it was a job--not a calling also indicated that he was actually led astray by his friends who tried to force him down that path.  He had already found his calling.

Short Story #141 out of 365
Rating:  4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/20/2014
Source:  Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943.  You can find this story and others in this anthology at this resource.

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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Short Story #141: September Roses by Robert Dieudonne

Title:  September Rose

Author:  Robert Dieudonne

Summary

Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943Author-turned-playright, Michel becomes quite close with his lead actress, Marise, to the point of breaking his wedding vows to his wife Marthe.  Despite having a family, he is irresistibly drawn to Marise and she to him.  Marise believes she is falling for him despite her friend, Jane knowing this is just part of Marise's demeanor and remains skeptical of the whole situation.  Michel all but admits to this affair with Marise to Marthe by his actions and frustration with her when she raises questions about his spending time with her.  Their love continues enthusiastically until the play runs and though it is not received well, the two still decide to run away together and ditch their current lives.  Michel writes his wife to tell him he has left while Marise goes home.  Jane claims that she will be back in a week.  While waiting at the station, a man encounters Michel to explain that Marise isn't coming and the man is Marise's partner and that she regularly does this kind of thing.  The man hands him a note from her saying as much.  Distraught, Michel returns to the hotel room that he and Marise stayed in regularly.  He knows he cannot go home to his wife and shortly discovers that she committed suicide upon his news.  After the funeral, Marise shows up Michel can only ask why they did it at all.  She responds that she loves him and answers with a haunting, "Yes...love!  What is called love!".

Reflection

It's a rather sad tale of two adults acting like children with those around them.  I am fond of the naming of the story as it hints at love in the older years.  I would need to research more but I would also guess there was more about roses in September beyond the metaphor of love in middle age.


Short Story #141 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/19/2014
Source:  Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943.  You can find this story and others in this anthology at this resource.

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




Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.
Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Short Story #140: The Boy by Maurice Courtois-Suffit

Title:  The Boy

Author:  Maurice Courtois-Suffit

Summary

Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943Claude visits a cabaret and falls for a dancer named Flore.  He decides to introduce himself to her and court her.  When he goes to the backroom, Flore is with her friend, Charly and Claude does what he can to take Flore out alone but she is insistent on bringing Charly.  Claude continues to get mix messages from Flore who rarely gives him the chance for the two to be alone and sways back and forth between affection and toying with him.  At one point, Flore directs Claude to take Charly out, which he does reluctantly. The psuedo romance continues with Flore occasionally jealous when Claude shows interests in other women or even decides to leave.  Yet Flore also demands gifts and tokens of affection from Claude, all the while giving him little assurance of her seriousness for him.  Flore eventually convinces Claude of giving her a sum of money that she needs to pay off debts.  Claude gives her the money.  She soon disappears after that and refuses to see him.  Claude gets the point and accepts his fate.

Reflection

A familiar theme within this collection of love lost or rather disenchanted love.  Courtois-Suffit did well with the plotting here, showing the games being played (ultimately, by both sides--the deceiver and the deceived both commit to this course).  I rather liked the title for this one as it does symbolize often what I see as an immature concept and enactment of love with Claude being petulant boy with how he conducts relationships.


Short Story #140 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/18/2014
Source:  Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943.  You can find this story and others in this anthology at this resource.

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




Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.
Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Short Story #139: The Courageous Hunchback Woman by Honore de Balzac

Title:  The Courageous Hunchback Woman

Author:  Honore de Balzac

Summary

Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943A doctor and a woman friend go up into a hay loft to listen in on a group of lower-class men and women doing work and chatting.  They want to do this as they find it amusing to hear the stories that are told by this group. They marvel at the different people and the exchanges that occur.  One of the people below begin telling a story of the hunchback woman.

While traveling, she resigns herself to asking to stay at a house she doesn't feel comfortable about.  She is offered a room but in the middle of the night she is awoken by two men with knives.  They kill a man within the house.  As they are leaving, they find the woman who is pretending to sleep.  They talk about killing her and feeding her to the pigs, but the woman continues to pretend to sleep, betraying no hint of the truth.  They leave and in the morning, she leaves without saying anything.  In leaving, she moves slowly and as she would regularly would even though she wants to run.  Shortly on her way, she runs into the murderers who ask her questions.  She continues to pretend she knows nothing and acts casually.  When she gets home and starts cooking, the head of the murdered man appears above her frying pan demanding her to avenge him.  This is followed by the ghost of the same man showing up at the door and again, demanding retribution.  Finally, the woman listens and goes to the local judge to inform him of what had occurred.  The story ends explaining that from then onward, they produced the greatest hemp (they were hemp-growers) and that the woman even gave birth to a boy who became a great lord.  

Reflection

I found this to be one of funner stories in the collection.  It had a bit of horror to it and a bit of fantasy.  It did fall part with the outer story of the doctor listening in.  I am often disappointed when the inner story doesn't somehow come back to the outer story.  That the woman was courageous for pretending to be ignorant of what the men did and then needing to be taunted by a ghost in order to do what was right tells us more about de Balzac's view of women (or the culture's view) of women and their expectations.  

Short Story #139 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/17/2014
Source:  Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare.  The World Publishing Company, 1943.  You can find this story and others in this anthology at this resource. 

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



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

365 Challenge: 30 Stories for April

My month of April was a little challenging to complete all the stories given all the different projects and things going on.  However, I kept plugging away.  In fact, I finished three anthologies which I was pretty happy about.  

The grove has been established and I'm racing through stories, sometimes getting upwards of a week ahead in the blog posts.  Where I'm faulting the most with this project was that it's goal was to reduce the amount of anthologies that I have in my apartment.  Unfortunately, I have continued to purchase new ones (especially old ones) as I visit bookstores and such.  I might have to make a new rule about no more book purchases until I read all the books I have (next year's goal mayhaps?).  

Regardless, I'm four months into this (past the 1/3 mark) and still really enjoying it.  I wasn't sure reading a short story a day and writing about it would be sustainable but I'm finding it is.  Much like my running, it's an act of self-care and reflection that seems to propel me forward.  

Some of my highlights from this month include:

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

Anthologies included from this month's reads include:













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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.