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Showing posts from August, 2014

Short Story #242: Dry September by William Faulkner

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Title:  Dry SeptemberAuthor:  William FaulknerSummary
As a town creeps into September with nearly two months of heat and no rain, the tension is palpable.  On a Saturday evening, a rumor burns through the town that Miss Minnie Cooper has been in some way attacked by a Negro and so the town's men meet in the local barbershop to contemplate what needs to be done.  They have decided it is Will Mayes, regardless of their proof.  And they debate wha tto do.  One barber continues to insist that it may not have been Will and that they are jumping to conclusions without any proof.  However, the men's fervor is raised enough that they become accusational of the barber and deride him for trusting a black man over a white woman.  Others show up who continue to fuel the discontent with what has supposedly happened.  Eventually, it's clear that regardless of a crime, they are intent on doing harm to a black man just to keep others from thinking they can.  Finally, they gather up and hea…

Short Story #241: Death-Drag by William Faulkner

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Title:  Death-DragAuthor:  William FaulknerSummary Unexpectedly, a plane flies on a barely operational airfield in a small town.  Some of the locals come to check it out and find a tall and a short man who walks with a limp.  They make inquires about the town including if anyone else flies and they learn that a man named Warren does.  The flying men remove their goggles and helmets and the short man has a very distinct face--one that hints at tragedy.  A third man arrives who was not previously seen that is broad, heavy and inbetween the other two men's heights.  The men go into town and trying drum up some interest for an air-show that includes a death-drag, wherein a man jumps from a plane into a moving car and then is picked up again by the plain.  The men split up so that one can find a sponsor for the show and another can print up bills to place around town.  When asked about a license, the short man gets angry and says it's on the plane itself and they can go out to the a…

Short Story #240: The Daemon Lover by Shirley Jackson

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Title:  The Daemon LoverAuthor:  Shirley JacksonSummary A woman awakes after an unrestful night and starts her day.  She does domestic things while she contemplates how she is going to let her sister know that she is eloping with Jamie.  As she contemplates this, she continues to pack and get ready, awaiting for Jamie's return.  She finds herself antsy and continues to change different details within her apartment and her appearance.  Jamie is an hour late in arriving and so she decides to go down to the drugstore for some food, leaving a note on the door.  She rushes back but he is still nowhere to be found.  She takes a taxi to Jamie's neighborhood and looks for the building where Jamie lives.  His name is not found on the tenant listing and the superintendent asks if she needs help.  He explains that the person might have been house-sitting in one of the apartments and sends her to it.  When she knocks on that door, the couple explain they had lent the apartment to him but t…

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

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Title:  The Night the Bed FellAuthor:  James ThurberSummary The narrate relates an incident of his youth when a bed fell on his father.  The father occasionally slept in the attic where he would think and eventually sleep on an old wooden bed.  The house is filled with an eclectic range of family members including a nervous cousin who is afraid of falling asleep and stopping breathing.  He shares a room with the narrator who promises the cousin that he will keep an ear open for breathing.  One of his aunts fears the day when someone will chloroform her bedroom to get her belongs.  By midnight of the particular night, everyone was in bed.  At two in the morning, the narrator's own bed (an army cot) tipped over, which he all but slept through.  The noise awoke his mother who thought that the wobbly headboard on the bed in the attic had fallen on the father.  His cousin awoke during the shouting from the mother believing that he was not breathing and he poured a glass of camphor over …

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

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Title:  The Jilting of Granny WeatherallAuthor:  Katherine Anne PorterSummary Granny Weatherall is annoyed wtih Doctor Harry who is checking up on her.  She insists there's nothing wrong with her but the doctor  wants to double check.  Weatherall further chides the doctor and before she can send him along, her eyes close automatically.  The doctor and her daughter, Cornelia discuss her condition while she's in this stay of silence.  She speaks to say she should spank Cornelia but no one understands what she is saying.  She continues to shift back into her mind and into the real world with little control.  In her mind, she reflects on her family and growing up and taking care of her children.  Thinking of her children leads her to think of a past love and a man who stood her up on her wedding day.  As she awakes from this revelry, she tries to speak but no words come out.  Cornelia looks to the doctor and Weatherall says she just saw him but Cornelia explains that was morning an…

365 Challenge: 31 Stories for July

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

There's a lot of other stories I read this month that I'm slowly logging onto short story blog list.  I recently revised my American Literature 2 course and introduced a whole lot more stories (students had the option to pick which stories they read), so with some 200+ new and old pieces to choose from, I found I had a lot of reading to do for this month.  But of course, it was all enjoyable and gave me some new profound appreciation for the authors that I have read.  Some of those ha…

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

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Title:  Man From the SouthAuthor:  Roald DahlSummary A man is with at a Jamaica resort enjoying some relaxing time.  There are American sailors flirting with English girls when an older and curious looking man arrives and asks to sit nearby.  The narrator chats with the old man about the loud American sailors, one of whom comes over to join them.  The American offers to light a cigar with his lighter but the old man says it won't work with the wind.  The sailor insists that it always works.  The conversation devolves into a bet between the older man and the sailor.  The bet is that if the sailor lights the lighter ten times in a row on the first try, he will get the man's Cadillac.  If he fails, the old man will get a finger of the sailor's.    There's some hesitation but eventually both agree.  They retire to the man's room where he has a table set up to do just this.  They begin and the sailor continues to light lighter without fail.  After the eigth success, a wo…

Short Story #236: Sucker by Carson McCullers

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Title:  SuckerAuthor:  Carson McCullersSummary
Pete has had to share his room with Sucker years, but largely was ok with it because his cousin Sucker always did what he was told, so sharing his room, even his bed didn't really matter.  He explains that Sucker's undying admiration causes him to despise Sucker a lot.  He explains how he has learned this lesson.  He fell pretty hard for Maybelle, acted towards her as Sucker did towards Pete.  But things have changed now and Pete explains how those things are have changed.  Sometime in the fall, Maybelle had started to become more friendly with Pete.  She's be nice to him and ask to copy his homework.  This friendliness spurs on Pete's arousal but during this time, Sucker wants to know that Pete really does care for him.  This also seems to comfort Pete to have his affection answered and for Sucker to be wanting his attention. Eventually, Pete even gives attention and care to Sucker and tries to be nicer to him.  Over some …

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

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Title:  Good Country People Author:  Flannery O'ConnorSummary Mrs. Hopewell has a daughter name, Joy, who has an artificial leg due to a hunting accident when she was 10.  She also has lodgers including Mrs. Freeman, her husband, and their two daughters.  Each morning Mrs. Freeman would come for a visit and morning chat while Joy got dressed.  Joy had a doctorates and was thirty two but single--she had also renamed herself at 21 to Hulga.  By contrast, Freeman's daughters were in their teens--one pregnant and the other with ample suitors.  Mrs. Freeman is a nosy person and thus, Mrs. Hopewell has found a way of dealing with her in controlled situations such as breakfast.  In fact, among Joy-Hulga, Mrs. Freedman, and Mrs. Hopewell, there is various tension and jealousies.  Each tries in some way to outrank the other.  One day, a door-to-door Bible salesman shows up. The man, Manley Pointer works his way into the house and starts pitching them on why they need a Bible.  Mrs. Hope…

Short Story #234: What a Thought by Shirley Jackson

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

ReflectionThis has much of the same bite of Jackson's famous short story, The Lottery, but a different execution (pun intended).  Here, we're told right away of the final demise and just like in The Lottery, we are hard pressed t…

Short Story #233: One Kind of Officer by Ambrose Bierce

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Title:  One Kind of OfficerAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummary

Captain Ransome is being berated for questioning orders and being told by his superior, General Cameron that he does not need to know anything but just to do what he is told.  He accepts this order and positions his men with their artillery in a particular spot in the field that is strategically positioned to catch an incoming army off guard.  They have been largely abandoned to hold this position at any cost and await the arrival of the enemy.  Later, General Cameron is talking with another general, General Masterson, who informs him that another squadron of soldiers would be looping back and meeting the up with Ransome's soldiers.  Ransome hasn't been told of this and they would be coming from the Confederate army's general direction.  As the generals realize this, they hear the start of firing.  Ransome fires upon what he believes is the enemy ceaselessly, even when a lieutenant attempts to explain who the "e…

Short Story #232: Silt by Richard Wright

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Title: SiltAuthor: Richard WrightSummary  A family returns to their shack after the river has flooded.  They walk through exploring what is and isn't salvageable.  Their fields are done, most of the animals are gone, and there are few belongings left in their shack.  They discuss what they've lost and how to fix the place in order to make it livable again.  They realize they will need to borrow more money from the landowner (or store-owner; it sounds like the family are share-cropping), which will put them further into debt to which they will not be able to pay in their lifetime.  Just then they discover there was somethings salvaged from the flood, some matches and tobacco.  Just as they determine to go see the landowner, he actually appears.  The father asks for some lenience but the landowner scoffs and tells him of a few folk that tried to run away and were caught by the sheriff.  The landowner insists that he come along and renegotiate their deal since the father needs mor…

My Most Recent Reads - July, 2014

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July was definitely a slow month for completing books.  In large part this was because I am teaching an American Literature 2 course wherein I'm using a lot of new material so my time reading time has been eaten up by reading all of that (conveniently this means I am also way ahead on my 365 Short Story project).  So I definitely got in plenty of fun and interesting reading which was nice but not so many books--I'm sure I'll make up for that in due time.  
Despite it being a short month of reading I've still had some delightful books worth mentioning.

Doctor Who: A History by Alan Kistler I did not get into Doctor Who while growing up and even with the series reboot in the early 2000s, I largely avoided it.  However, a friend got me to try Torchwood and I really enjoyed that towards the end.  So I started to flirt with Doctor Who and was slowly making my way through the show.  David Tennant was growing on me but I still wasn't sold on the show--it was something to hav…

Short Story #231: The Duel by O'Henry

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Title: The Duel Author: O'HenrySummary The story begins by talking about the magnificence and power of the city of New York.  The reader is then introduced to William and Jack who came to the city to make their fortunes.  William came for business and Jack for art.  They were typical boys from middle America.  After several years, the two met Jack claims that the city had won its duel against William because he is just like so many other New Yorkers.  William argues that he has adapted and become successful.  Jack position appears no better as he hates the city and finds it utterly lacking.  He longs for the peace of the Mid-West and elsewhere.  Later that night, he receives a message from his hometown and it's his girlfriend who beckons him back "and the answer will be yes."  He replies that he is simply too busy to leave.  The author then asks the reader to decide who is the winner in the duel.


ReflectionThis was a fun story reflecting on the ways people live and rai…

Short Story #230: Ten Indians by Ernest Hemingway

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Title: Ten IndiansAuthor: Ernest HemingwaySummaryNick is driving home with his friend's family on the 4th of July.  Along the way, they past nine drunk Indians.  The family makes disregarding comments about the Indians while Nick doesn't quite say much.  The subject changes to talking about animals and one of the family states that Nick has an Indian girl and that they smell like skunks.  When asked by his friend, Joe, he denies it.  But one of the family insists that he seeing Prudence Mitchell.  Nick denies it again.  They drop him off and he makes his way home.  His father greats him and offers him dinner and dessert.  The father relates his day which included going fishing and running into Prudence who was with another boy.  He tells him they were having a good time and saw them "threshing around."  Nick asks if they were happy and the father says he believes so.  Nick goes to his room and confesses to himself that his heart is broken. 


ReflectionThe story had a l…