Category Archives: Stories
Ecco, New York, 2010
Borrowed from the library.
I do not often read short stories and am not sure how to review them. Last year I read Ron Rash’s novel, Serena, and loved it. When I saw this collection on the new book shelf at the library I had to pick it up and bring it home.
This collection ranges through time from the Civil War era to the present. Rash writes in pared down language, clear and crisp as a mountain stream. The stories are based in the landscape of Appalachia and filled with the people who are part of that landscape, so much a part that they often can not leave, even if they want to.
Poverty, drugs and violence run through many of these stories, but the characters show a strength that has to do with long history, love of family and love of place. Some are disturbing, some are lyrically beautiful. This is wonderful collection.
Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories by Simon Van Booy
Harper Perennial, New York, 2009
Borrowed from my library.
Often when I read a story collection I will devour two or three at a time, like some snack i can’t stop eating. Simon Van Booy’s stories are like a velvety rich Creme Brule. I could only have one and then savored it over days until I was ready for the next.
These stories are about people finding love in many forms, sometimes when they least expect it. The writing is dreamy and lyrical, the stories strange and sometimes sad, perfect for dark rainy afternoons curled up with a hot cup of tea.
I wasn’t sure what to write about this book because it strikes me as very personal, I’m sure each reader, if they enjoy these stories at all, will be deeply touched at some level. I was.
In September, 2009, Love Begins in Winter won the Frank O’Connor Award, the world’s richest prize for a short story collection.
A different kind of ghost story written by Robert S. Hichens. Hichens, the author of The Garden Of Allah , was born in 1864 and died in 1950. He was Oscar Wilde’s confidant and a friend of the young Somerset Maugham. He is most famous for this strange tale, selected by Dorothy L. Sayers for her anthology of detective, mystery and horror stories.
Two very different men, one a priest, the other a scientist and researcher, become friends.
Dull people often wondered how it came about that Father Murchison and Professor Guildea were intimate friends. The one was all faith, the other all scepticism.
These two discover an instant intimacy that surprises them both. They share dinners and long philosophical discussions about human behavior, faith and rationalism. Then, one cool evening, everything changes for Professor Guildea and Father Murchison is forced to witness an unexplainable decline.
Father Murchison suddenly remembered the first evening he had spent with Guildea, and the latter’s expression of disgust, at the idea of receiving warm affection from anyone. In the light of the long-ago conversation, the present event seemed supremely strange, and almost like a punishment for an offence committed by the Professor against humanity. But, looking up at his friend’s twitching face, the Father resolved not to be caught in the net of his hideous belief.
Is Guildea going mad? Is his house haunted? If so, it is a very unusual kind of ghost. Hichens’s writing is dense and descriptive, the dialogue between these two men is perfect in tone. They hold each other at a distance but admire and like each other. This makes the ending to this story even more disturbing. Sayers spoke of the “delirious nausea” it provoked in her. I agree with that sentiment, the story is chilling. After learning a bit about Hichens’ friendships with Wilde and Maugham, I find the story of this relationship even more intriguing.
How Love Came to Professor Guildea comes from a fabulous anthology called Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature, edited by Alberto Manguel and published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. in 1983. I cribbed the bits about Hichens from Manguel’s short biography of the author.
Dangerous Laughter is a book that I find difficult to describe, but I loved it. The stories are mundane, bizarre and beautifully written. They cover human obsessions and human foibles. The writing is dense and disturbing in a gorgeously creepy kind of way.
Millhauser writes with a certain distance and detachment that I found very chilling. Some of the stories remind me of Calvino or Borges. I sometimes had to put the book down because it was just too weird, but I kept going back… Spooky stuff, like ghosts stories for adults but without the ghosts. I will definitely end up with a copy on my bookshelf.
Kim at Sophistocated Dorkiness.
Lily at Related Reading