Showing posts from September, 2014

Short Story #272: Recitatif by Toni Morrison

Title:  Recitatif Author:  Toni MorrisonSummary 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 …

Short Story #271: Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

Title:  Eleven Author:  Sandra CisnerosSummary 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 in…

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

Title:  So Much Water So Close To HomeAuthor:  Raymond CarverSummary
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 …

Short Story #269: Kindling by Raymond Carver

Title:  Kindling Author:  Raymond CarverSummary 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…

Short Story #268: The Unknown Soldier by Luc Sante

Title:  The Unknown SoldierAuthor:  Luc SanteSummary 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.  

ReflectionThis 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: …

Short Story #267: ID by Joyce Carol Oates

Title:  ID Author:  Joyce Carol OatesSummary Lisette 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 …

Short Story #266: Mastiff by Joyce Carol Oates

Title:  MastiffAuthor:  Joyce Carol OatesSummary Mariella 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 certai…

Short Story #265: Heat by Joyce Carol Oates

Title:  Heat Author:  Joyce Carol OatesSummary Rhea 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, whe…

Short Story #264: The Rumor by John Updike

Title:  The RumorAuthor:  John UpdikeSummary 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 tell…

Short Story #263: Pygmalion by John Updike

Title:  Pygmalion Author:  John UpdikeSummary 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 fall…

Short Story #262: Adams by George Saunders

Title:  Adams Author:  George SaundersSummary 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 be…

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

Title:  Why I Live at the PO Author:  Eudora WeltySummary Life 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 ho…

Short Story #260: Reunion by John Cheever

Title:  Reunion Author:  John CheeverSummary 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 …

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

Title:  Parker Anderson, PhilosopherAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummary Parker 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 become…

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 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 u…