Short Story #272: Recitatif by Toni Morrison

Title:  Recitatif 

Author:  Toni Morrison

Summary

Photo of Toni Morrison.  Sourcehttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Toni_Morrison_2008-2.jpg
Twyla and Roberta meet each other in an orphanage, where they both temporarily stay when their mothers are recovering.  Roberta's mother was sick but Twyla's mother was seen as an unfit mother.  Because they were not true orphans, they were paired together in a room by themselves.  They enjoyed having this room and switching about.  However, they were first very pt off by one another because they were of different races. One of the few things that Twyla's mother told her was to beware of other races.  Twyla says this and the caretaker scolds her slightly though Roberta doesn't take as much offense.  The two slowly become friendly and are often referred to as salt and pepper. The two bond well enough in the environment as outsiders among outsiders.  A month later, their mothers both come for a visit.  Roberta's mother is a big woman with a large cross and Bible while Twyla's mother appears in clothing that Twyla is ashamed off.  The mothers show disrespect for one another and the two girls are split during the visitation.  Later on, they find solace in the ways their mothers are challenging for them.  The story jumps to a few years later when Twyla is working at a diner and runs into Roberta again.  Roberta is with two guys and they are headed to a Hendrix concert.  Roberta is mean towards Twyla for no real reason and it angers Twyla.  Years later, after Twyla has married and a child, she runs into Roberta again at a grocery store.  The two appear to hit it off this time, but when Twyla presses her about what happened at the diner, Roberta tries to pass it off and this further angers her.  Some time later, Twyla finds her child stuck in the middle of desegregation and that she has to take her boy to another school.  While checking out that school, she finds Roberta as one of the picketing mothers.  The two talk again and Roberta is more confrontational like the time in the diner.  The women with her begin to rock Twyla's car and before leaving, Roberta calls Twyla a hypocrite because as kids at the orphanage, she picked on a black woman and even beat her.  Twyla knows this to not be true and is enraged by the comment.  Twyla starts to picket with women who are for desegregation with increasingly strange signs that are geared specifically to Roberta.  Roberta eventually quits after Twyla makes a sign about Roberta's mother.  A few years later, Twyla runs into Roberta again at a diner and this time, Roberta apologizes for everything including lying about Twyla' hurting someone.  Twyla listens and leaves without any interested in making up.

Reflection

With the Civil Rights movement and desegregation as the backdrop to this story, there is a lot going on between the two women.  However, layered upon this is an entire religious dynamic with characters being named Mary, Maggie, events occurring near holy days (Easter and Christmas), and of course, much of the story taking place at a religious place (an orphanage run by a church).  And of course, it's Toni Morrison, so that adds eve more.  There's a further layer in that name of the story itself which is a musical reference that hints at the dynamics of dialogue and rhythm within the story.  

Short Story #272 out of 365
Rating: 4 (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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Short Story #271: Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

Title:  Eleven 

Author:  Sandra Cisneros

Summary

Photo of Sandra Cisneros.  Source http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/SandraCisneros.jpg
The narrator, Rachel, explains that turning eleven doesn't seem to change anything.  There's an expectation of becoming eleven but there is no follow through.  There is no difference in being ten or eleven.  She notes the contrast in how one acts at different ages and that one might shift between ages depending upon what is going on with them.  She further explains that if she was older then she would have known how to react when her teacher began asking about a sweater.  Another student says it's Rachel's and Rachel thinks she said this out of spite because the sweater is ugly.  When the teacher further asks, she denies it, but the teacher decides that it is and puts it on her desk.  Rachel is upset by this and frustrated by the action to the point that she is near tears.  She clings to the idea of being eleven and not allowing it to happen.  She distances herself from the sweater and the teacher scolds her for it.  She insists that she puts the sweater on.  It's too much for her to bear and she's bursts into tears.  Just after this, another student finally speaks up and says that it is hers.  The story ends with her wishing she was anything but eleven.

Reflection

Cisneros captures so well the experience of age and what it means to grow up as a child and young adult.  Age is this arbitrary marker of the passage of time and at times, I think youth feel this and are frustrated by it--even if they cannot speak to it as well as the narrator in this story.  

Short Story #271 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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Short Story #270: So Much Water So Close To Home by Raymond Carver

Title:  So Much Water So Close To Home

Author:  Raymond Carver

Summary

Raymond Carver.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cc/Raymond_Carver.jpg
Claire watches her husband eat and he asks what she is staring at.  Before the conversation can go anywhere, the telephone rings and he says not to answer it.  She picks it up and listens and hangs up afterward.  He voices his anger at her answering the call and the call itself.  He mentions that it was a group decision and he don't want people passing judgment.  Claire raises a challenge to this and all he can say is that "she was dead" and he was sorry.  Frustrated, he leaves the table and goes to the newspaper, while she holds back her own frustration but accidentally knocks the dishes to the floor.  He doesn't respond to this.  She goes onto explain that her husband and his friends enjoy doing things together.  The previous weekend they went on a fishing trip up a local river.  They had to park their cars and hike to the river and brought camping equipment with them.  They found a dead girl with no clothes near the river.  In figuring out what to do, they event decides that the girl was dead and they didn't need to return immediately.  They set up camp and realized that the girl might drift away, so they went to the river again and tied her to keep her from drifting.  The next day, they continued to do things around camp and into that night as well.  The next morning, they finished up and headed back.  They soon found a telephone and called the police about it.  When he came home that night, she was already asleep.  However, he makes advances on her and she gives into having sex.  The next morning, the phone begins to ring with calls about the event.  It's at this point that Claire learns about what happens.  She picks up the dishes and suggests they go for a drive.  As they drive, she notices all the places to fish that are close to home and she asks why they had to go so far away to fish.  They get some beer and talk some more.  Claire then talks about brothers who killed a girl when she was growing up.  Her husband tells her not to get her riled up.  The next morning, she lies in bed while he takes their child to school and gets ready fro work.  She pretends to keep sleeping.  She gets up eventually and while reading the newspaper, decides to get her hair done and while at the hair-dressers, announces that she will go to the funeral.  She spends that night on the couch.  The next morning they have breakfast.  She writes a note for her son for when he comes home.  She leaves and along the way finds herself being embarrassed by a guy in a pick-up truck.  Eventually, he passes her and she pulls over to the road.  He comes back to see her and she locks up her car.  She refuses to engage with him.  The story jumps to the funeral.  While there, Claire hears that the murderer has supposed been caught.  Claire's head is also in a haze and she says that there could always be more killers out there.  When she comes home, her husband tells her Dean is outside and begins to make a motion to have sex with her and she acquiesces. 


Reflection

There's such a bleakness to this story.  Not only between Claire and Stuart but just the world that this story inhabits.  There's much that is left unsaid and we are left to wonder about, like what exactly happens to Claire with the man in the pick-up truck and how does that manifest or connect with the final scene when Claire gives in.  Of course, all of that pulls back to the initial event of the men camping and enjoying a weekend of fishing and camping while a young female corpse sits nearby.  It's an uncomfortable story to say the least.  

Short Story #270 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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Short Story #269: Kindling by Raymond Carver

Title:  Kindling 

Author:  Raymond Carver

Summary

Raymond Carver.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cc/Raymond_Carver.jpg
Myers has just gotten out of rehab for drinking.  His wife is done with him and so with nowhere to go, he rents a room from Sol and Bonnie near the ocean.  Sol has a withered hand and Bonnie is a larger woman.  They welcome him to the house and show him the room.  They ask Myers but he keeps his comments brief and simple.  The room is small but has the essentials and a river can be heard from the room.  Myers takes the room and Sol and Bonnie leave him to the room.  He unpacks as the couple go back to watching TV.  He starts to write a letter but finds what he wrote to be bad and tosses it.  Meanwhile Bonnie and Sol chat and Sol believes he's on the run from something but isn't dangerous.  Bonnie thinks he has the saddest eyes she's ever seen.  Bonnie starts to think about how she would write about him since she is an aspiring writer.  The two retire to the bedroom and have sex but Bonnie is thinking about Myers the whole time.  Afterwards, the whole house falls into sleep, dreaming about things they cannot have.  In the morning begins a routine, where Myers stays in his room until the two have left the house for the day.  They regularly invite him to breakfast and other activities like watching TV, but he tends to stay away.  Sol and Bonnie regularly try to find out more about him but his details are few.  However, Myer's focus is on writing a letter to his wife. One afternoon, a truck arrives and drops off a large pile of wood.  Sol explains that it's to be cut up and stacked.  Myers offers to cut it up even though Sol can't pay.  While Sol and Bonnie have dinner, he does overhear that they did have money for him but this also confirmed that Myers didn't have much else to do.  After dinner, Sol shows him how to use the power saw to cut the wood.  Sol also shows him how to split wood with an ax for kindling.  Myers takes very quickly to cutting the wood and this stimulates some writing for him that night.  He spends the night slightly excited to go work.  The next day he sets to work on the woodpile, taking a break for lunch.  He sweats, gets splinters, and blisters but cannot stop.  He is determined to finish the pile by nightfall.  Bonnie and Sol come home and have dinner while Myers continues on.  He comes in just as they are finishing dinner and says that he's finished but will clean up the sawdust in the morning.  He also explains that he'll be leaving in the next day or two to which Bonnie tells him there is no refund on the room.  Myers is fine with this.  He goes to the bathroom to wash up.  He returns to his room and begins writing some of his experience before going to bed.  

Reflection

Carver breathes a lot into this story and the idea of how to kindle a fire.  Myers is nursing a fire to reconnect with his wife and yet by story's end, he has kindled a fire quite different.  He may still write to her but it seems like it will be a profoundly different letter than what he set out to do.  

Short Story #269 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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Short Story #268: The Unknown Soldier by Luc Sante

Title:  The Unknown Soldier

Author:  Luc Sante

Summary

Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Tomb_of_the_Unknown_Soldier_8.jpg
The story begins with a series of statements about the last thing people saw said in the first person.  The next paragraph moves into first person statements that seem to indicate how people died.  Some deaths are simple, others are tragic, and some amusing.  The next paragraph goes into what was done with their bodies after they died.  The final paragraph is instructions from the dead about what to do with their bodies.  

Reflection

This short but intriguing story demands rereading.  Mostly, because it would be curious to try to link sentence per sentences.  That is, does each "I" statement correspond to a statement in each of the following paragraphs.  Regardless, each sentence of this story tells a tale of a different person and in that way, it reminds me of Ernest Hemingway's A Very Short Story, wherein so much is packed into so little.  

Short Story #268 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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Short Story #267: ID by Joyce Carol Oates

Title:  ID 

Author:  Joyce Carol Oates

Summary

Photo of Joyce Carol Oates.  Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8265/8645429237_52dddcb452_z.jpgLisette Mulvey is called from her class to ID a body.  She's slightly drunk and so a bit worried about being taken out of class by an officer.  She thinks about escaping math class where she has so much trouble, unlike her mom who is good with numbers and was a blackjack dealer.  This triggers another thought that her mother had been missing for a few days, which wasn't unusual for her.  She thinks about how she used to well in school but now doesn't and that there was some kind of incident requiring facial surgery.  She also thinks about the boy in class that she likes, J.C. and flirts with him before leaving entirely.  He has a bit of the bad boy about him and she likes this too.  Lisette reflects further on her past and how her parents split and they ended up in Atlantic City.  She recalls how she had last heard from her mom on Friday night and knew she would be away for a while.  Lisette is finally guided out of the room and sent off with two officers to ID a body.  They begin to ask about Yvette, Listette's mom and when she last saw them.  She's not sure how to answer for fear of how they will react.  This train of thought leads Lisette to think about court and the separation of her parents, along with the abuse from her father that caused the facial surgery.  The officers bring her to the hospital, trying to explain what is going on, but Lisette only half-realizes things.  They ask about her father and when she last saw him.  They take her down to the morgue and Lisette waits, still unclear about what is going on.  She begins to realize something is wrong with her mom.  The officers explain that an unidentified woman was found near a hotel and her mom's ID was found nearby.  They explain that they tried to get the father to do the ID but he had gone AWOL from the military a few weeks back, much to Lisette's surprise.  She begins to get anxious when they approach the body but she quickly realizes that it's not her mother.  However, she is sickened after this realization.  They ask her to identify any of the materials found with the body, but Lisette has nothing.  Afterward, she makes full use of the bathroom.  She cries for a bit and insists they take her back to school, where she enters into the cafeteria and assumes a calm demeanor, pretending nothing happened.

Reflection

It's a haunting adolescence story.  Beyond the fading of youth, this is more like the corruption of adulthood.  It's a story that captures wells the direct and echoing effects that adults and parents have on youth both at times knowing and not knowing.  Oates gives us a sad and damning look at the life of teens that's worth remembering for folks who deal with troubled youth (or all youth for that matter).

Short Story #266 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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Short Story #266: Mastiff by Joyce Carol Oates

Title:  Mastiff

Author:  Joyce Carol Oates

Summary

Photo of Joyce Carol Oates.  Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8265/8645429237_52dddcb452_z.jpgMariella and Simon set off on trail together.  At the start, they notice a giant mastiff on a leash with its owner on the trail.  The woman notes how massive the mastiff is.  However, the owner and dog go off on another trail.  The man and woman walk single file up a trail to reach Wildcat Peak.  There are differences in how the two experience the world and the woman notes this while they walk.  The hike was his idea and the woman was a little bit dubious about it .  However, the two were in the early stages of dating.  She notes that they had gone on walks, but a challenging hike felt like something else.  They had made it to the peak and were now making their way down.  Mariella is less prepared for a full hike than Simon, so he regularly is watching over were.  Both increasingly found fault with one another in the time leading up to and throughout the hike.  Their dynamic on the trail frustrates them both with his insistence on certain things, and her desire not to be held down by what she sees as extras.  At one point, he begins taking pictures almost to the point of ignoring her.  As people pass on the trail, she strikes up conversations with them which mystifies him.  They encounter other dogs on the trail.   She can tolerate the smaller dogs but a nasty encounter with a German shepherd when she was a kid still made her apprehensive of the larger ones.  She recognizes that she had yet to tell Simon much of her past.  She viewed her past as a weakness and chose not to reveal it and while they were intimate, she didn't consider them lovers yet.  She further explains that she doesn't want to work through getting into the married state but simply arrive at it.  Finally, she interrupts his shooting to ask when they will return.  Though frustrated, she recalls earlier as they drove here how content she was with him.  Both were lonely in their lives and looking for something more.  However, she realizes that in some ways, going with Simon would be settling.  As they descend the trail, self-absorbed in their own thoughts, they do not notice that sound of a dog nearby.  As two trails converge, the mastiff is discovered, bounding towards them.  As the dog attacks, Simon thrusts himself in-between to protect her.  The owner gets the dog under control and runs to the nearest ranger station to get help.  Mariella holds onto Simon while waiting.  The man's face is torn and bloody but he is awake and insists he can walk to the station.  At the station, he is patched up a bit but then taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  The man with the mastiff had fled but people had gotten information.  Mariella takes the car to the hospital to find Simon.  She finds out that on his way to the hospital he had suffered a seizure and needed more help.  When challenged about her relation to the man, she insists that she's his fiance.  She stays at the hospital for an indefinite time, hoping he doesn't die.  She contemplates Simon's willingness to sacrifice himself for her and what that meant to both of them.  While waiting, she looked through his backpack and discovers that he is sixteen years old than him, much older than previously believed.  She also discovers that he has a heart condition and tells the nurse.  Later, they tell her that they had been able to stabilize him.  However instead of going home now, she goes up to ee the man and watch him.  He is somewhat conscious and so she talks to him until she has to leave.  She reflects on her connection with Simon and what it means to be a man and a woman in a relationship and what each must give and take.  She also revisits the day's events but can't seem to enjoy the view in her head without hearing the sounds of the mastiff.  

Reflection

Though an enjoyable tale with its share of Oates' key reflective and intertwining moments, it didn't have some of the heft of her other tales.  There are at times a superficiality to these two.  They don't always feel free but like they are caricatures.  

Short Story #266 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.



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.

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Short Story #265: Heat by Joyce Carol Oates

Title:  Heat 

Author:  Joyce Carol Oates

Summary

Photo of Joyce Carol Oates.  Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8265/8645429237_52dddcb452_z.jpgRhea and Rhoda Kunkel were eleven-year-old twins who basked in their youth and were a bit of hellions in the town, but now are being buried.  The twins were murdered by Roger Whipple, who was mentally unfit and spent his dying days in a psychiatric hospital.  He would be buried in the same hospital as the twins.  The narrator notices how different the girls are in the casket than in real life.  The narrator notes how Whipple was a good-natured but in special education but also as someone who was someone that was giggled at often.  The narrator was a friend of Rhea and Rhoda and explains just how lively they were.  The narrator shares more anecdotes of the twins and the power they exerted over others, including herself.  She explains that they regularly tested their powers over other people.   Roger insisted that he didn't do anything but also that he couldn't remember anything.   Rhea and Rhoda had gone up to Whipple's Ice, where Roger worked his family business of cutting ice.  He was worked hard at the business but never said a word, despite how hot it was. They had rode their bikes around him in a slightly teasing fashion, trying to see how close they could get to him.  He enjoyed the attention and excitement.  After enjoying ice that he provided, they dump the remainder in the dirt.  He tells them that he has some secret things in his room.  The girls are interested and Rhea first offers to go up to see since Roger says only one can go to see it at a time.  Rhea and Roger are in the room for a while and Rhoda gets impatient.  Finally, Roger comes back out but with no sign of Rhea.  But the narrator tells us nothing more of what happened.  The Whipples called the police after finding the bodies in the back of the icehouse.  Mr. Whipple knows immediately what had happened.  The narrator reflects that since the Whipples' business ended and the parents had died, the house is now occupied by others.  She remembers it because a while back after she married, she had a lusting affair and they would often meet behind the barn.  She would think of Rhea and Rhoda while in this car and this too reminded her of her parents watching over her after the twins' murders.  While in the car with her lover, she would look and think about how the events had played out.  The story ends with the narrator saying she wasn't there but some things, people just know.  

Reflection

Oates weaves past and present so well together.  The chronology all fits together but is not clearly delivered which is making the story more engaging.  More importantly, she takes straightforward story of two girls murdered by someone who may not have even understood what he did and uses it to explore adolescence, friendship, the relationships among adults and children, and of community, all interwoven into some fantastic lines.  Even moreso, we have this narrator who relates the tale with intimate details that make one wonder who and what she did or didn't do.  She seems to faun over the twins and yet, there is a tint of anger and resentment in her tone.  She seems to have intimate details of the events though no one else does. 

Short Story #265 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.



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.

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Short Story #264: The Rumor by John Updike

Title:  The Rumor

Author:  John Updike

Summary

Painting of John Updike.  Source: https://flic.kr/p/6fRSKz
Frank and Sharon are married and largely happy with their family and careers.  One day, Sharon hears a rumor that Frank had left her for a man.  Sharon laughs at the rumor since Frank is present while she hears about it on the phone.  The gossiper says she heard it from two sources.  She insists that it's all over town and that they should do something about it.  Sharon gets off the phone and explains the call to Frank who insists he is faithful and straight.  It's this reaction that raises some question in her mind.  Frank chides Sharon for taking the rumor seriously and Sharon explains that she's not but just curious where it came from.  Frank insists that there's nothing to the rumors and that didn't she recall their sexual past.  Sharon does but it was much more challenging and giving into pressure rather than fully embracing those sexual experiences.  His insistence only makes her question things more.  When she tells him who the rumors came from, he dismisses them because they are gay.  Over the ensuing days, Sharon begins to look for evidence and also begins to second-guess her interactions and whether people were taking pity on her.  Over this time, Frank begins to tease her about the idea.  However, it turns particularly ugly when Frank makes increasing sexual advantages and demands to which she is increasingly not interested in and must push him away.  Frank insists that the rumor doesn't exist and that she's the only one who believes it.  But now, Sharon believes something more is going on and he's hiding something.  He says that he isn't but the final line tells the reader that he is only half-lying.

Reflection

Updike packs a lot into this story in terms of wealth of knowledge we learn about their relationship.  It's curious that the introduction of the rumor actually opens up a range of things Sharon already does not particularly like about her husband or finds disconcerting about their path.  It seems more that her clinging to it is an opportunity for her to exit.  Meanwhile, we get that final line that Frank is half-lying, which leaves us wondering if he is cheating, but with a woman.

Short Story #264 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.



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 #263: Pygmalion by John Updike

Title:  Pygmalion 

Author:  John Updike

Summary

Painting of John Updike.  Source: https://flic.kr/p/6fRSKz
The husband likes the impersonations that his first wife did of other people they encountered.  He even appreciated the impersonation of Gwen, his current mistress by his wife.  He is fond of Gwen because she was quite lively in bed.  His first wife  typically would asked to have her back rubbed and promptly fall asleep.  Soon, the husband divorces the first wife and moves onto Gwen.  Initially, the husband has trouble eliciting responses from Gwen about people they encounter that are anything but pleasant. He tries to encourage a stream of thought that includes criticizing these people but Gwen is more interested in having sex at the end of evening, even though the husband warns that it is light.  However, Gwen begins to impersonate more after they meet the new husband of the ex-wife.  She continues to do this and he enjoys it more and more, until their nightly routine becomes her impersonations followed by him giving her backrubs and falling asleep. 

Reflection

The title hints at the resolution, which is that the husband continues to try to make his women into what he believes he wants, but often loses interest while the women simultaneously lose a bit of themselves as they are physically and mentally molded into what the husband wants.  

Short Story #263 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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Short Story #262: Adams by George Saunders

Title:  Adams 

Author:  George Saunders

Summary

Photo of George Saunders. Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/George_Saunders_by_David_Shankbone.jpg
Roger explains that he's never liked Adams, especially after Adams was found in his kitchen in his underwear facing the Roger's kids' room.  He knocked Adams out and tossed him out.  The event shakes up Roger and his wife.  After thinking about it, he goes over to Adams house.  He goes up to Adams again and knocks him down and tells him never to enter his house.  Adams says they are even because here Roger has entered into his house without permission.  Adams further states that he is what he is, which Roger takes as a confession.  He continues to hit Adams until Adams' wife comes in.  She gets in between and Roger pushes her down, which enrages Adams.  He knocks Adams down and then the wife comes at him and he knocks her down again.  At this point, their children come in and Roger tries to escape but has to assault the kids in order to get out.  When he leaves, he walks the block realizing this is the beginning of a feud between the two and the kids are likely to see him as the bad guy.  He comes up with flyers that explain what Adams did and shares this around the neighborhood.  He gets all sorts of calls and support from his neighbors.  At a later point, he goes out for a smoke and finds Adams staring at Roger's house.  Again, Adams states that he is what he is, Roger goes after him but he runs inside.  The tension between Adams and Roger continues to rise and Roger wonders what happens next.  He realizes that there could be increasing violence so he comes home early one day and enters Adams' house, taking any and all weapons that he finds.  Later that night, when sleeping, he awakes in fear wondering how Adams would react to such an invasion of his home.  He thinks about all the chemicals and poisons that could be used to hurt his family.  He breaks back into Adams house.  He gathers up all the harmful chemicals but as he finishes, the entire family attacks him.  He fights back, which includes hurting the children and then sets the chemicals on fire and flees.  

Reflection

This is a curious story indeed.  Roger's increasingly violence could be construed as a mania and it raises the question of whether Adams ever did what he did to start it all.  Equally curious is that we never get a clear view of sense of what is going on with Adams.  We get very little description about what he is doing and that makes me wonder if he was actually sinister or possibly a sleepwalker.  

Short Story #262 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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Short Story #261: Why I Live at the PO by Eudora Welty

Title:  Why I Live at the PO 

Author:  Eudora Welty

Summary

Portrait of Eudora Welty.  Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudora_Welty#mediaviewer/File:Eudora_Welty_at_National_Portrait_Gallery_IMG_4558.JPGLife with her family is ok for Sissy until her sister Stella-Rondo comes home just prior to the 4th of July with a child that she claims in adopted after leaving her husband, whom Sister had been dating first.  Sister explains that her sister is spoiled and proceeds to show the reader how.  When Sister raises a question about the baby's parentage because she looks so similar to the family, Stella Ronda is angered.  Over the course of the day, she finds ways of turning the family members against sister.  Later, Sister hears Stella-Rondo upstairs yelling and goes to check on her.  Stella-Rondo asks Sister to tell her what she sees outside and Sister says she sees their grandfather and their Uncle Rondo, who happens to be wearing Stella-Rondo's kimono from her husband.  Stella-Rondo speculates on why he is wearing it but at last just declares he's a fool.  In between the feuds, Sister is doing various tasks about the house such as cooking and preparing food.  While making food, her mother comes in criticizing her for what she's making and Sister calls her our for the unfair treatment she receives.  The topic turns to the adopted child, and Sister notes that the child hasn't said a single word since she arrived.  The mother marches up to Stella-Rondo to ask if she can talk, but in doing so, blames Sister for saying the child can't talk.  This results in more blame on Sister and she watches as the entire family is turned against her.  At dinner, Stella-Rondo tells her uncle that Sister was mocking him for wearing the kimono.  She tries to explain but to no avail.  The next morning, Uncle Rondo throws a package of lit firecrackers into her bedroom.  It's at this point that she decides to move off to the P.O. where she is post-mistress for the town.  She slowly reclaims her possessions, including the ones that others are using or borrowing without permission.  As she leaves and asserts her items and ideas, the others start to take notice.  The family continues to waver between taunting her and convincing her to stay.  However, when it's clear that Sister is leaving, they largely swear off using the post office entirely.  She calls out this inconsistency and how it will impact Stella-Rondo's life, which sends her into a fit of anger and tears.  Sister leaves and sets up life in the P.O., happy to be rid of her family.  

Reflection

Welty captures the sometimes chaotic nature of family life quite well in this piece, with its various feuds, eccentricities, and habits.  However, one element of the story that I like and wonder about this piece is its authenticity.  Sister tells the entire story and are we to believe this is how or why things turned out?  Is she entirely truthful?  

Short Story #261 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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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.



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.

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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.  Afterward, 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.



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.

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