Sunday, February 17, 2008
Short Story Sunday
Quickie post! I was hoping to sign up as a participant in the Sunday Salon, in the event that I managed to read something other than the Bible study lessons I routinely save and cram into Sunday afternoons. Unfortunately, my head wasn't on the verge of exploding, rendering me completely unable to sign up for anything. I did, however, manage to read a few short stories before I caved and fell supine on the futon in fits of agony. I didn't look as attractive as the cat, but the photo seemed to fit.
The Lottery - title story from The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. My friend John mentioned The Lottery as a favorite short story in his column at Criminal Brief. I read three of the other stories in the book, late last year, and was so disappointed that I returned the book to the shelf. Maybe the timing was bad, again, but I didn't care for this story at all. It was definitely suspenseful, but I actually made a decent guess as to what was going to occur, without predicting the specifics. Creepy and well-written, yes. However, I'm guessing that I've heard mention of the story a few too many times and the build-up simply resulted in a severely diluted thrill.
The Wood-Sprite - from The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. I love Nabokov; and, the preface of this set of short stories, by Dmitri Nabokov, does excellent job of pinpointing the reason his short stories are so satisfying. They're "self-contained", "immediately accessible", and "offer the reader immediate gratification". I agree on all counts. The Wood-Sprite is very short at a mere three pages in length, but packs a tremendous impact.
A man imagines (or, does he?) that a wood sprite he played with as a child in Russia has come to visit him as he sits at a desk. The sprite bemoans the fact that his beloved forest has disappeared and that wherever he traveled, after escaping the ravaging of his home, he found nothing but death and destruction. I'm wild-guessing that this story has to do with Nabokov's feelings about the Bolshevik Revolution because it was apparently a very early work. While definitely not my favorite short work by Nabokov, it was certainly satisfyingly complete. The man knew how to write a short story.
And, my favorite . . .
Disappearing Act - from Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester. War has led to massive destruction, "to defend the American Dream of Beauty and Poetry and the Better Things in Life," in the words of the great general leading the action. In spite of the general's demands that everyone must become an expert in something, none of the experts can figure out the mystery of Ward T of the United States Army Hospital, where shell-shocked soldiers mysteriously disappear and reappear.
You'd probably have to be a fan of true sci-fi to appreciate and enjoy Disappearing Act as much as I did. It has a cute, ironic twist ending that literature purists will probably hate. I loved the ending; it made me smile. But, I do like a bit of sci-fi, now and then.