Category Archives: Short stories

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens, by Virginia Woolf, is a beautifully written story. Someone described it as almost an impressionist painting, but in words. I would agree with that description! It was a self-published work, printed by the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press and illustrated with woodcuts by Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf’s sister.

The story is simple, but the writing quite complex. It begins with an intricate description of one of the oval flower beds at Kew Gardens. It’s almost as if you were lying down on the grass looking at the flower bed from ground level and noticing every minute detail of the flowers, the structures, the colors, the life (including a snail) in this flower bed. And then people start walking past, and as if the snail (and thus you) were listening to everything said, you overhear parts of conversations of the different human beings passing by. It’s really quite fun and interesting to hear those snatches of conversation! We are all listeners of such things.

The beauty of the flowers, the leisurely enjoyment of the garden by the passersby, and the quiet glimpses into the lives of those people make for a fascinating and enjoyable afternoon in Kew Gardens!  I loved it!

 

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Mini-Challenge Fun: Interview with Becky

Poe was a performer who only knew how to play
the low notes of the piano…
–?? 

The instructions for Nymeth’s Try Something New mini-challenge, which is part of Dewey’s Books Challenge, were to pair up with another blogger and then choose to read “something new, something you wouldn’t normally choose.” I paired up with Becky from Becky’s Book Reviews, and we decided to read short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, since this year marks his 200th birthday. Neither of us had spent much time reading Poe before, so it was interesting reading, and it was very nice for me to get to know Becky a little bit more through our exchanges. Here are Becky thoughts on the stories she read. To read my thoughts on the stories I chose, visit Becky’s blog.
A special THANK YOU to Nymeth for organizing and hosting this mini-challenge in memory of Dewey! 

Which ones did you read?
I read “The Tell Tale Heart“, “X-ing A Paragrab“, “The Thousand and Second Tale of Scheherazade” and “Silence–A Fable.”

What did you think of what you read?
This was my second time reading “The Tell Tale Heart.” But all the others were new to me. (My past experience with Edgar Allen Poe was “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven.”) I did appreciate “The Tell-Tale Heart” more the second time around.
I enjoyed most of the stories. Not in the traditional sense of the word “enjoy.” But I definitely appreciated the approach. Poe’s often warped sense or reality or warped sense of humor.

Were the stories you read similar to one another?
Not at all! “The Tell-Tale Heart” was full-out crazy. A brilliant but disturbing portrait of an insane man who was crazy long before the “beating” of the heart told on him.

“Silence–a Fable” was similarly atmospheric. But not in the crazy-man-on-the-loose way. It was haunting. Strange and beautiful and disconcerting all in one. I still feel I don’t “get” this one really. Yet I feel the desire to want to get it.

The other two stories were meant to be comical. I don’t know if either of them are laugh out loud funny. More warped sense of humor. For example, in “X-ing the Paragrab” dueling editors have a war of words so to speak. But when one man steals both the upper and lower case letter “O” then the printer replaces each ‘o’ with an ‘x’ …needless to say who had the last laugh there! In the other story, “The Thousand and Second Story of Scheherazade” Poe reveals the “real” ending to the 1001 Nights: Arabian Nights. This “little-known” conclusion reveals what happens when he becomes tired and weary of his wife’s storytelling prattling.

Were they what you expected them to be?
Yes and no. I thought they’d be weird. And recognizably Poe-ish. And two of them fell into that category. I didn’t expect Poe to have more than one angle, or more than one way of telling a story. I didn’t know to expect humor and satire and seemingly normal life observations. I liked that Poe didn’t have to be all-dark, all-the-time.

 

Sci Fi Sunday

I was going to spend the day reading science fiction short stories for Carl V’s Out of this World mini-challenge, but it turned out to be an unexpectedly busy day. However, I was able to read three short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin from her book A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, and I enjoyed them very much. The first story was a humorous story called “The First Contact with the Gorgonids.” Then I read “Newton’s Sleep,” and finally, “The Ascent of the North Face.”

I particularly enjoyed reading the introduction to this book because Le Guin explains why she likes science fiction:

But what I like about science fiction includes these particular virtues: vitality, largeness, and exactness of imagination; playfulness, variety, and strength of metaphor; freedom from conventional literary expectations and mannerisms; moral seriousness; wit; pizzazz; and beauty.

If I’d have had more time today, I probably would have finished this entire book of short stories because I didn’t want to stop. I’m going to just keep reading it in the next few days and enjoy all her stories.

Sci Fi Saturday

I remember well when I first saw this stunning image of earthrise! I was stunned by the beauty of the earth, seeing it this way for the first time. This one photograph changed our perspective, as the collective WE on earth realized that we were no longer earthbound and no longer the ‘center of the universe’.

This weekend I’m reading science fiction short stories as part of Carl V’s Out of this World mini-challenge. I enjoy science fiction because, simply put, it makes you think and gives you a different perspective on your life.

First story today was “How We Were Tracked by a Tripod,” by John Christopher, who wrote The Tripods Trilogy, a series of books loved by my 6th graders. I found it in an anthology of Science Fiction Stories compiled by Edward Blishen, and it was actually taken from the first book in the trilogy, called The White Mountains. (Somehow I missed the BBC TV series of this trilogy in the 80s, but I’ve heard rumors of a movie version in production.)

A post-apocalyptic, story, of an alien race (the tripods) that has taken over the earth. “Humans are controlled from the age of 14 by cranial implants called “caps”, which suppress curiosity and creativity and leave the recipient placid and docile, incapable of dissent.” In this short story, three boys have escaped before being capped, and the tripods are after them.

Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real

A few weeks ago, Susan (bloggin’ ’bout books) tagged me for a Meme in which I was to grab the nearest book, turn to page 123, find the 5th sentence, and copy out the next 3 sentences. The book sitting within reach was Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real, and the three sentences found for the meme give you a glimpse of the powerful stories in this beautiful collection.

Turning to the woman, Don Alcibiades added, “There’s one bullet left. It’s enough for you,” and he left.
The ambiguous mask on her face was unchanged.

I checked this book out from the library 6 weeks ago to read for Melissa’s Expanding Horizons Challenge, with my focus on books and stories by Latin American authors. What a perfect book for my challenge! The short stories are written by very talented writers from many different Latin American countries.

My favorite story was Knight, Death and the Devil, written by Vlady Kociancich, and translated by Alberto Manguel. It’s a story of a knight returning home from the crusades during the Middle Ages only to find that the plague has also arrived, and everything is chaos and death. The images and ideas in this story show how powerful short stories can be.

Vlady Kociancich is Argentine and was a student of Jorge Luis Borges. She has written three novels and has published at least two collections of short stories. I’m particularly interested in her now and would like to read her novel, The Last Days of William Shakespeare, which is not about William Shakespeare, but about culture versus politics in an unnamed Latin American country.

I fell in love with the painting on the cover of this book by Francesca Rota-Loiseau, an Ecuadorian artist. (Click here to see more of her artwork.) I enjoyed reading all the stories included in this Modern Library volume, which was edited by Celia Correas de Zapata and included an introduction by Isabel Allende. I also appreciated the author and translator biographies in the back of the book. I’ve already renewed the book twice, not because it’s taking me a long time to read it, but because I don’t want to let it go. Guess it’s time to order a copy for my own library!