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.


  1. sounds like you read some short stories that were right up my alley this weekend! I'll have to check these out. And I just realized that I totally did a short story sunday post without even meaning too! Yay for me! I just finished Four Letter Word which is a collection of love letter short stories and posted a review of it on a, I feel accomplished ;)

  2. I love the photo of the cat. :-) Makes me want to reach into the computer and scratch the belly.

    I will have to keep my eye out for Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester. I do like science fiction, but I don't read it often.

  3. Chris,

    Yes, actually, I do think all three would appeal to you -- especially the Alfred Bester. I thought about you and began to read Stardust when I was shifting books around, yesterday. This time it took; I'm on page 88 and loving it.

    I'll have to dash over to read your review of Four Letter Word. I looked it up and it sounded like a fun book. Funny that you didn't even realize you'd done a Short Story Sunday post! :)


    Thanks. That particular cat dislikes a belly scratching and would give you a love nip if you did, but a scratch on the neck is always welcome. :)

    I'm pretty sure I got my copy of Virtual Unrealities at Book Closeouts. You might want to look there, just in case. Same here; I enjoy a bit of sci-fi but it's not something I read on a regular basis. I just insert a little, now and then.

  4. I see you're pimping bookcloseouts again, huh? Shame on you getting other people addicted like you did me! :p

  5. The Lottery? As in the story where the villagers draw lots? I read that a long time ago and I didn't much care for it. I haven't read the others but you sure make them sound enjoyable. I may see if I can find them. And the cat is a cutie. They sure have the knack for chillin', don't they?

    I hope the headache is gone!


  6. I haven't read The Lottery in years, but I remember liking it. I wouldn't think it would be quite as good knowing the ending going in. I just finished a collection of short stories by Salinger and need a break (in addition the break I was already on before Salinger). I love short stories, and I love twists at the end, but there needs to be some type of finality at the end that Salinger didn't give me. :( Love Ms. Kitty's picture. Cats are the best, huh?

  7. Chris,

    I do not "pimp". I "guide". The latter is much more proper than the former. :) And, yes, I'm afraid I've gotten a few people hooked, but there's very good reason, don't you think?


    Yes, that is the correct story. It wasn't so shocking, I suppose, because I knew what to expect of Shirley Jackson. And, I'm sure I've read way too many comments about what a heart-pounding, shocking conclusion, yada yada, it has. Or, it might have just been too icky for my taste. LOL

    Cats most definitely know how to chill. :)

    The headache is gone, at the moment, thank you. I was taking beta blockers as a preventive and went off them cold turkey, so I'd guess that was what led to such a whopper. It's gorgeous outside, so I'm very happy to be migraine-free. Hubby's about to depart for Michigan and looked up the weather. We forget it's still winter, elsewhere. All sorts of things are blooming, here.

  8. Trish,

    I didn't know the ending but I made a decent guess based on what people have said (about it being horrifying) and what I know of the author (I've read one of her novels and the first three short stories at the beginning of the book). I guess that was enough to ruin it for me.

    Oh, darn, too bad about the Salinger stories. I've got 9 by Salinger, somewhere.

    Cats are great. Just now, as I was in the midst of your post, the cat jumped up onto my son's desk, where he'd left a bowl with 4 chicken tenders lying out, one of which had been stabbed with a fork. The cat jumped down with the stabbed chicken tender, fork and all. Crazy furball.

  9. I just signed up for Sunday Salon, but then didn't read at all this Sunday, so it's going to have to wait for next week. But please do sign up, too, and we'll salon together next time!

    I love The Lottery. And sorry about the migraine. I suffer from them, too, and I can barely type the word without shuddering. Hope you're feeling better :)

  10. Oh that is a great imagine of the cat. Mine doesn't go for "people food" except rare pieces of lunch meat (not rare rare). She will lick the milk from my cereal bowl or my coffee if I'm not looking when I'm eating breakfast at my desk.

  11. Gentle Reader,

    Okay. You've convinced me. Better to sign up now than wait till the last minute, anyway, right? :)

    Most everyone seems to have loved The Lottery; that's why I splurged on the book, last year. Ah, well. If nothing else, her stories have me thinking about what makes a short story work or not work, at least for me.

    The migraine is gone, thank goodness. They're worth shuddering over.

  12. One of my teachers read us The Lottery when I was still in middle school. It gave me nightmares!

  13. That cat looks like it's related to our Itty Bitty. She's one crazy cat. Sure hope you're feeling much better. I'm so sorry you suffer from migraines.

  14. Trish,

    Our kitty loves people food. She eats just about any kind of cheese, any people meat (turkey, tuna, salmon, chicken -- we call chicken "the c word" because she knows the word "chicken" and will come running if she hears it), broccoli . . . seriously, she adores broccoli. She'll drink the milk out of a cereal bowl if you're not looking and drag food on the floor if you walk away for a second and leave her with something that makes her nose twitch. She's a nut, but we love her. :)


    In that case, I'm glad I had fair warning. I'm prone to vivid, horrible nightmares. I can see how it would cause a nightmare if you were not expecting the ending!


    I love the name Itty Bitty. How cute! Our cat is pretty crazy, too. See my reply to Trish for a list of a few human foods she'll happily eat (or drink - she's been known to slurp on a full cup of milk left for a moment; obviously we've walked away from the table a few times).

    Thanks. Migraines suck; I wish I didn't have them, but I've been plagued with them since childhood, so I think I'm just stuck with them.

  15. That Nabokov sounds great-I've never read any of his short stories, so now of course I have to search them out. :)

  16. Eva,

    Yes, you must. Nabokov's short stories are awesome!

  17. You know, I've NEVER read a Nabokov short story! I just realized it, and what a tragedy it is. I freakin' love Nabokov, so thanks for the reminder and the inspiration.

  18. Andi,

    That's just a crime, babe. So, I know I've done my good deed for the day. Now, I can rest easy. And, you're welcome. :)

  19. Love your kitty picture! Aren't cats just natural models?


  20. Amy,

    They are, indeed. Thank you. :)


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