Category Archives: Stories

Scare Us…

I just read a wonderful post on Neil Gaiman’s blog about a scary story he has recorded on Audible for All Hallow’s Read.  The story is free but if you download it they will donate $1.00 to charity.

The free download runs through Halloween.  The donations run through Halloween. Go here  if you are in the US, here if you are in the UK.  Download it, listen,  but make sure the lights are on….

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Filed under Audible, Scary, Stories

Burning Bright by Ron Rash

Burning Bright by Ron Rash

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.

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Filed under Review, Stories, StoryCollection

Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle

Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle

Harper Perennial, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

Beautiful, unsettling stories about people  and their daily lives in the disappearing agrarian south.  Peelle is a fine writer and these stories will stay with the me for a long time.  They are about love and loss.  they are dark, but it is a very sweet kind of dark.

And the characters, it is as if they are standing next to you in line at the grocery store, discussing the weather along with their heartache.

From the story Sweethearts of the Rodeo:

The ponies bear witness to dozens of pacts and promises.  We make them in the grave light of late day, with every intention of keeping them.  We cross our hearts and hope to die on the subjects of horses, husbands and each other.  We dare each other to do near-impossible things.  You dare me to jump from the top of the manure pile, and I do, and land on my feet, with manure in my shoes.  I double-dare you to take the brown pony over the triple oxer, which is higher than his ears.  You ride hell bent for it but the pony stops dead, throwing you over his head, and you sail through the air and land in the rails, laughing.  We are covered in scrapes and bruises, splinters buried so deep in our palms that we don’t know they are there.  Our bodies forgive our risks, and the ponies do,too.  We have perfected the art of falling. Page 54.

And from the story This Is Not A Love Story:

When people take about the south being haunted, it’s true.  But it’s not the places that are haunted, it’s the people.  They are trapped by all the stories of the past, wandering a long hallway of locked doors, knocking and knocking, with no one ever answering.  No one ever will.  That’s the thing about the past.  Te closest you can get to it is the stories, and stories don’t even come close.  Page 121.

If you like short stories, read this book.  If you would like an introduction to contemporary short stories, read this book.  Peelle has won two Pushcart Prizes and an O’Henry Award.  She is an author to keep an eye on.

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Filed under 2010 Global Reading Challenge, New Authors 2010, Review, Stories

Love Begins In Winter by Simon Van Booy

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.

Other reviews:

The Bluestocking Society

Caribousmom


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Filed under Fiction, Orbis Terrarum 2009, Stories

How Love Came to Professor Guildea – Robert S. Hichens

rip4shortA 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.

937f297b51727f5593657455141434d414f4541How 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.

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Filed under R.I.P. IV, Stories

Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories By Steven Millhauser

030726756301_sx140_sclzzzzzzz_1Dangerous 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.

Other reviews:

Kim at Sophistocated Dorkiness.

Lily at Related Reading

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Filed under Review, Stories