Sunday, 31 July 2022

Short Story Review: A Slow Boat to China by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami (signature), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Slow Boat to China by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Murakami's first short story can be found in the collection The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami and if you have access to Jstor at https://www.jstor.org/stable/4384180

The introspective narrator tells the reader the stories of his first encounters with Chinese - the teacher in the Chinese elementary school at the edge of the world", mistakes made on a first date with a Chinese co-worker, an encounter with a encyclopedia salesman.

Written with some beautiful phrasing eg "The years '59 and '60 stand there like gawky twins in matching nerd suits." and "...the new me - five chickens and a smoke away from what I was...."

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Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Book Review: Songbirds by Christy Lefteri

Songbirds

Songbirds by Christy Lefteri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First some facts
(1) In Cyprus, an estimated 605,000 migratory birds were caught in mist nets and killed in the autumn of 2021 to lace the diner plates in fancy restaurants and homes - see https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rsp...

 
(2) The UK issues over 20,000 Overseas Domestic Worker Visas per year to people coming from outside the EU https://gal-dem.com/overseas-domestic... , https://www.thevoiceofdomesticworkers...

(3) It is very common for migrant women to work in domestic servant jobs in middle class Cypriot homes. In 2019 the body of one was found and with it a multiple murder investigation into the disappearance of 5 woman and 2 children https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsero... their hopes for a better life brutally ended.

Lefteri, herself from a Cypriot family, weaves a rich brocade of a story around the fictional disappearance of Nisha, a maid from Sri Lanka, a widow with a young daughter back home whom she has not seen for 10 years. For those 10 years she has served Petra, herself a widow and brough up her daughter. Nishi and Yiannis, the tenant in Petra's upper flat, are lovers. Yiannis confesses to her that following the bank crisis he lost his job and has ended up catching birds. They both live on the edge of complex, far reaching and in Yiannis's case illegal, operations. Their love affair remains hidden as Nishi fears losing her job and being unable to repay her 'arrangement' fee.
The story alternates chapters from Petra and from Yiannis as Nishi's story is released to the reader. As I started to read this I was struck by how involved I felt in the story even although the final outcome of Nishi's death is all to apparent from the start, but my involvement all the more surprising because I disliked both the bird hunts and the attitude of Petra to her maid. We know Yiannis will finally break from his bird hunter role, that he will go and see Nisha's daughter in Sri Lanka, and that Petra will finally see the wealth of love that Nisha brought into her and her daughter's life. We also see the horrid nationalistic racist misogynistic attitude of the police who will not investigate Nisha's disappearance and who did not investigate the initial reports of the disappearances of the women murdered in Cyprus. Interspersed with these two character’s chapters is the story of the hunter, the Red Lake and a dead hare. It is beautifully crafted and well worth a read. The excellent audio version is narrated by Indira Varma, George Georgiou, Art Malik and Lolita Chakrabarti. Totally compelling read, Highly recommended




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Monday, 16 May 2022

Book Review: China Room by Sunjeev Sahota

China Room

China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Beautiful. One thread is the heart wrenching story set in 1929 Punjab of 15 yr old Mehar's misreading of who is her husband - how can this happen? she is one of three young wives to three brothers, all ruled over by the strict, often callous, family matriarch. The girls live together in a small room, and are veiled at all times, in absolute segregation. But Mehar is inquisitive and thinks she has worked it out. Intertwined with this is the modern storyline where a teenage recovering addict from the UK visits family in modern Punjab.

In what I think is one of the most honest author video interviews I have watched Sahota tells how a story from his own family gave rise to Mehar's, how structure is all important to him when writing. That structure, apparent to some extent when I read the novel, is one of the two threads circulating each other,  spiralling closer and closer, with shorter and shorter chapters building reader tension as he explores social and pyschological imprisonment and escape. Personally, I found Mehar's story by far the strongest, but at the same time the reflections of it in the modern line cleverly bring out more than the sum of the parts.

This is his only third novel, he is now an Assistant Prof teaching Creative Writing at Durham Univ in England. I read his second [book:The Year of the Runaways|42200524] which I thought was marvellous - see my review . It is clear that Sahota can write both men and women characters, in stories which totally engage the reader. Now I really must go and read his first [book:Ours Are the Streets|9826870].

Highly recommended

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Book Review: The Anomaly By Hervé Le Tellier

The Anomaly

The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was alerted to this book by a member of my online bookgroup who has similar reading tastes to myself. Not disappointed. 

It might be difficult to review this French book sensation without allowing any future reader to experience the organic reveals Tellier does so well. Victor writes a book entitled The Anomaly. Victor writes a book which bears witness to the anomaly. His editor says it is too complicated and he narrows his suite of characters down to eleven. Victor senses that even eleven is too many. The reader is reading a book called The Anomaly. It takes time to introduce so many characters and Tellier keeps the reader going as she begins to realise they all have one experience in common. How the outcome of this experience is managed, by them and others forms the second half of the book.
I loved the quips at Macron, and the unamed US President who would have stalled Twitter if the same experience happened on Air Force One! If on a Winter's Night....Circularity spirals.

A captivating read. Great ending. My advice is do not read book reviews of this book before you finish it.

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Friday, 22 April 2022

Short Story Review: Half Light by Tayari Jones

Half Light Half Light by Tayari Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short story about twins Amelia and Camelia Hall who have identical faces but look nothing like each other in all other respects. They are on a mission to retrieve a portrait of their mother painted by Jacques Toussaint. While still in ‘till death do us part’ mode dermatologist Amelia had given the portrait, originally given to her by her mother, to her musician husband in return for one of his songs written on paper. He ended up with it after their divorce where Camelia had acted as Amelia’s attorney. This retrieval is of course illegal and we all know that the best plans go wrong in this case when they meet the much younger, cake baker, Melanie in the ex’s kitchen
This is the second short story I have read by Tayari Jones, the trouble is I’m just not normally interested in the domesticity of family lives that she writes about but I have to say this one held me so much more that my previous read, Dispossession. Once again this was a free Audible Original and I’m glad I listened to this one.

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Short Story Review: Dispossession by Tayari Jones


Dispossession by Tayari Jones

My Rating 2*

Mothers and sons, the American dream soured, families split, daily life struggles, low paid work, evictions. All mirroring the narrator’s own past. Not really my sort of
but if you like Tayari Jones then this free Audible Original production of her short story may be for you.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Short Story Review: The Didomenico Fragment by Amor Towles

The Didomenico Fragment The Didomenico Fragment by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 *

Percival Skinner has financial troubles as regards his retirement planning. He is an art assessor and is approached by dealer, Sarkis, looking for a certain painting by the Renaissance master Giuseppe Didomenico. It happens to have been owned by his ancestor who divided up the painting giving a piece to each of his children. Over the generations these children carried on the tradition until the inheritance was reduced to a fragment. Most had been sold, except the one owned by his young nephew Peter, his wife Sharon and their son 10 year old Lucas. Skinner is offered a 10% finders fee if he could arrange for its sale which could secure his future retirement. And so he hatches a plan to get his hands on the fragment, but of course things do not go actually as he planned.
It is classic Towles - great characters, well constructed story which he packs so much.
The Audible recording of this short story is narrated by actor John Lithgow. He does it marvellously. If you want a way to pass a very entertaining hour I can highly recommend this one.


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Monday, 18 April 2022

Book Review: The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

The Lincoln Highway The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third piece by Towles that I have read, they are all different, they are all well written. In Lincoln Highway the storyline itself is quite thin but it is a storyline packed with tales, a story made up of stories. I loved the way Towles used the device of Prof Abernathy’s Compendium to give voice to Billy, to explore the characters, and to scaffold the whole storyline. So how does one end such a necklace of stories, why with a clasp of course. A completion of the circle with all the characters in their correct places. 

Correction, this was actually the 4th piece by Towles I have read, how could I have forgotten his short story The Line.

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Sunday, 6 March 2022

Homage to Homs

syria-heritage-in-ruins-before-and-after-pictures


I wrote this back in the Summer of 2014, heartbroken by the destruction of cites, lives, histories in Syria, sadden by the ultimately futile defense of Homs. 

Who would have realised that Kharkiv, Mariupol, Kherson, Sumy, and many others would now be following suit in their demolition to rubble, without humanitarian corridors and without the closure of skies. 

Homage to Homs 

The city walls will not forget
the long fought, weary, fighters as they left
Who’d stood so Homs would never fall
through bombs and blasting one and all
Till surrounded, starved, deprived of aid
their exit finally was made.

July 2014© Sheila Ash 

References for the forgetfull 

syria-heritage-in-ruins-before-and-afer-pictures  

syrian-woman-trapped-home-two-years-blockade-homs 

syria-conflict-the-silence-in-homs-emphasises-the-citys-fate-theres-barely-a-breath-of-wind




 

Monday, 21 February 2022

Book Review: Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Story of Your Life Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have dipped into Ted Chiang's science fiction stories before and today I read the title story ( more a novella really) from his collection Stories of Your Life and Others. I loved it. It is the story from which the move Arrival is made https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543164/, directed by Denis Villeneuve who has just done the new Dune movie. Both movies impressed me and made me think about reading the originating works. The novella was a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-his...) and a Nebula Award for Best Novella Winner (https://nebulas.sfwa.org/award-year/1...) in 1999, and the collections won Locus Award for Best Collection in 2003 (https://www.sfadb.com/Locus_Awards_2003) .

Story of Your Life is about a linguist working to understand alien visitors, the Heptapods. Her coworker is a physicist and they eventually will have a child. The unravelling of the way the visitors think, their maths, their language is quite abstract in the movie from what I recall from seeing it when it came out, but in the story it is described in great detail, in great linguistic detail.

In the story Chiang creates a fantastic world view where, although remaining earthbound, the differences are explored by way of how language and writing is used to communicate. Whereas we see the world in sequential terms of cause and effect and our spoken and written languages are structured accordingly with variants on Subject Verb Object structure to reflect our sequential method of percieving the world and events. In contrast, the Heptapods parse their perceptions of things differently, working with a simultaneous mode of consciounessness, and their, to us highly complex, semasiographic writing system reflects this. They know the outcome before starting their sentence and language itself is a form of action where "saying equaled doing"

Interspersed with this linear recollection of the unravelling of their langauge, is the personal 'Story of Your Life' , namely the life of their child to which we are given insights. That story is told from, and finishes with, when he proposes that they make a baby, "the most important moment of our lives". Here time is distorted, with some of the child's life being told in the past, some in the future. That is a very clever way to illustrate what working with the Heptapods gives the linguist "ocassionally I have glimpses when Heptapod B truly reigns, and I experience past and future all at once; my consciousness becomes a half-century-long ember burning outside of time" At that moment of his proposal, she knows the destination, and she and we know that there will be ups and downs along the route, but she still says yes. Leaving us heart warmed and heart broken, wondering what we would do if we knew for certain the future?

In places it is not an easy story to read with all the linguists, but if the movie didn't make sense to you, try and persevere with the story, I think it really makes its case well.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Short Story Review: Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell

 

https://openclipart.org/image/800px/291173

Open House on Haunted Hill

Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell

Audio online at LeVar Burton Reads Podcast
Text available at Diabolical Plots 

Read more about the author on his site  

This is a warm hearted short story about an empty house "just a family short of a home" and a young father and daughter in need of "somewhere to start fresh"

A couple of good lines struck me in the writing -
"He looks at the couple of ripples in the green floral wallpaper, with the expression of someone looking at his own armpit" and "The house cannot cry. There is just a little air in its pipes"




Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Short Story Review: The Walker by Izumi Suzuki, transl. by Daniel Joseph

The Walker

The Walker by Izumi Suzuki
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Test available online at https://granta.com/the-walker/

Izumi Suzuki was Japanese writer living between 1949 and 1986. The most informative account of her I found is from 2021 posting on Literary Hub (https://lithub.com/a-writer-from-the-...) from around the time her story collection Terminal Boredom: Stories appeared in English with stories translated by Polly Barton ( whose name I recognised from several other translation of modern Japanese writers), Sam Bett, David Boyd (who has written about translating her work https://hopscotchtranslation.com/2021... ), Aiko Masubuchi, Helen O’Horan and Daniel Joseph who is the translator of this story. That collection is all the has been translated thus far.

According to Granta, Daniel Joseph holds a Master's from Harvard in medieval Japanese Literature and who according to his Amazon's page he specializes in both modern and classical literature, science fiction, pop culture, music, and the avant-garde, and if this story is anything to go by that list may qualify for the addition of the term 'weird' ,

The Walker is a short 4 page story, set in some unknown time and place where a narrator seems to have been walking for ages and seems icompelled to continue to walk, except that she encounters a woman with food cart. ******SPOILER ALERT*** hungry and with no money she exchanges an item of jewellery for food. This seems a fantasy encounter, told quite realistically, but the final twist left so gobsmacked, my only though was 'How strangely weird!'

I've put Terminal Boredom: Stories on my To Be Read List 

 

Postscript: Daniel Joseph has also written about her on Art Review  in 2021 (https://artreview.com/how-izumi-suzuki-broke-science-fiction-boys-club )

Monday, 24 January 2022

Book Review: The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov transl by Andrew Bloomfield


The Dead Lake 

by Hamid Ismailov

transl by Andrew Bloomfield

3* out of 5 

I've recently been introduced to the Peirene Press and their series of translated short, under 200 page novels. This is the first one I have picked up to read although I have had its write, Uzbek journalist Hamid Ismailov on my to be read list for sometime having come across his name via the BBC World Service where he worked following his exile from his homeland of Kyrgyzstan. As with all translations I check out the translator as well. This one is by Andrew Bloomfield who I then noticed had translated several other Russian, Ukranian writers including the sci-fi series by Kazakhstan born Sergei Lukyanenko beginning with Night Watch which I listen to on Audible some years back,a sort of vampire storyline set in modern day Russia, good v evil, light v dark story.

The Dead Lake of the title refers to the environmental impacts of the Soviet block series of nuclear tests carried out at the Semipalatinsk Test Site (The Polygon) in eastern Kazahkstan between 1949 and 1989  and Chagan Lake formed by a blast and often called the world's most dangerous lake.

The book tells the story of a young boy Yerzhan who grows up in a community of 2 families manning an isolated railway stop, who makes his living selling to train passengers, and plays the violin well. But all is not as it first seems, Yerzhan is not the twelve year old he appears to be, because his growth has ceased. He is twenty seven. His life has been shapped by the Steppes and by the explosions, his isolation and the callous disregard of human beings as politicans sanctioned a race to out do America. The fact that the continuing impact of this still impacts Kazaks today makes the story all the more poingant. It is as gruesome as a grizzly fairtale, reads like a folk tale or parable. As Yerzhan's story unfolds to the unamed train passenger narrator we see the simple humanity of the members of those two families as the live, love, survive and die. Beautiful and sad.

(YouTube Interview with Hamid Ismailov about the Dead Lake by Columbo Post in Sri Lank)

( 100 books to read from Eastern Europe and Central Asia )

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Short Story Review: To Jump Is to Fall by Stephen Graham Jones, read by LeVar Burton

extreme, extreme sport, parachute, sports equipment, skydiving, skydive, sports, parachuting, air sports, parachutist, skydiver, atmosphere of earth, windsports, Free Images In PxHere 

To Jump Is to Fall by Stephen Graham Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another story from the marvellous LeVar Burton Reads Podcast. The story text is available online at https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi...

For me this one had a slow start and took a bit of time to engage me. I was aware early on of the precarious position of the sky diving telepath upon his survival with the plan eing to get him to a hospital staffed by his employers people but the reason for the twist at the end I did not see coming as he considers his one jump for a golden payoff v his moral compass!

Monday, 17 January 2022

Book Review: Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan

Luckenbooth Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I've read Jenni Fagan's other two novels, The Panopticon and The Sunlight Pilgrims and I have her fourth Hexon order and I am a growing fan. With Luckenbooth I believe she is finding her narrative voice particularly with the core of the story, namely that of Jessie MacRae, the Devil's daughter, sold into surrogacy. It is when telling the story of Jessie, Elsie and their daughter Hope that a wonderfuly gothic ghost story leaps of the page in such a vivid way it will have to be made into a movie sometime very soon, I hope.

The book is set in, and is in many ways a love story about, Edinburgh but one told with the a mix of the grittty realism of Scotland's post-Trainspotting generation with the classic ghost tales and folklore of a nation and its historical and fictional horrors. For those of you who do not know the city , under its South Bridge lie vaults rediscovered in the mid 1980s which had been used at various points in time as tradesmans workshops, merchants storage, gambling dens, illegal whisky gins, drug havens and homeless hangouts. They are reportedly haunted.

There stands No.10 Luckenbooth Close, a traditonal Edinburgh Tenement with multiple flats/apartments over several floors, around a common stairwell, owned by the childless businessman Mr Udnam. It has been occupied by various families over the years and it is those people and their flat numbers which give the book its important 3 part structure , 3 Parts/ sections by time and within each of these 3 characters's stories told in 3 parts -

Part 1 set 1910 - 1939
Flat1F1 Jessie MacRae (the Devil's daughter) , Flat 2F2Flora ( a chimeric hermaphrodite) , Flat 3F3 Levi ( an African American working with bones in Edinburgh's famous Royal School of Veterinary Studies or as it is more commonly called the 'Dick Vet' ;

Part 2 set 1944 to 1963
Flat 4F4 Ivy Proudfoot (about to embark on being a 'Night Witch' with SOE), Flat 5F5 Agnes Campell (spiritual medium) , Flat 6F6 William Burroughs (the writer);

Part 3 set 1977 - 1999
Flat 7F7 Queen Bee ( gangster, mother, leader of the fictional 'Original Founders'), Flat 8F8 Ivor ( the phengophobic miner unable to do daylight work now the mines have gone), Flat9F9 Dot (daughter of the city).

These characters' stories are a mixture of purely fictional and real people explored in a fictional way within factual and historical detail eg William Burrough did visit Edinburgh, the Baska Murmanska polar bear, Nora Noyce was a famous Edinburgh 'madam', the Pubic Triangle is a real area of the city.

I loved this structure which reflects the building, its layers/levels spatially and temporally. After all it is the building that gives the book its title , this is a tale about the building, but like the building many tales lie within it, all linked to the life of the building and the lives in it linked by the march of the deathwatch beetles and their tap, tap tap as the building is slowly eaten away and the sound of the 'cloven hooves' of approaching death, all hanging round the central thread of the story of Jessie, Elsie Udnam and their daughter Flora and what happened to them from Jessie arrival to the final demise of both building and its final occupant.

Fagan's feminist perspective and Scotland's political history is also played out in the context - powerful corrupt men who fear and silence women get their cumupence. My favorite lines have to be in the final chapter ****SPOILER ALERT **** 'Edinburgh’s daughters – will not stay walled in.'

One reviewer of Luckenbooth, Lauren Beakes in the NYT , signed off her review with 'Stories can be like a house, somewhere you can inhabit for a while. The best kind leave behind a room inside you. For me that truly sums this book up.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Dreechit Decembers by Sheila Ash

nature, water, drop, drizzle, rain, moisture, precipitation, liquid bubble, photography, monochrome photography, dew, black and white, liquid, glass, macro photography, Free Images In PxHere

Dreechit Decembers

Fog, rain, drizzle, drizzle,
Fog, rain, drizzle, drizzle,
Rain, rain, fog,
Rain, fog, rain
Drizzle, fog, rain, fog, drizzle
Fog, fog, rain, fog, fog
Drizzle, fog, rain, fog, drizzle
Fog, rain, drizzle, drizzle,
Fog, rain, drizzle, drizzle.

© 2021 Sheila Ash

(published in Friday Flash Fiction https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/poetry/dreechit-decembers-by-sheila-ash )

Monday, 3 January 2022

Short Story Review: What the forest remembers by Jennifer Egan

What the forest remembers by Jennifer Egan

This story can be found in the New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...

It starts as a fairy tale would "Once upon a time , in a faraway land, there was a forest" but these forest memories are not the memories of trees, but the memories of four young men in the mid 1960's going there to experience their first 'grass' . Yet it is none of these men who are recalling their memories telling others the story or stories of that night. Instead, it is the daughter of one who is the narrator of this story years later, after her father has died. Her own memory of it is a six year olds, and that amounts to him going away and returning from this "Short trip north, some fishing, a little duck hunting, maybe"

So how does she 'tell' the story of that night? ****SPOILER ALERT ****Why via one-foot-square yellow Mandala Consciousness Cube of course! It seems her father took part in a consciousness storage project and his consciousness stored for that academic experiment was later transferred to a Cube where she could view them, and later she had them transferred into the Collective Consciousness, where lucky for her as the narrator of this story she found all four men’s memories.

From these she has constructed the story, or at least a fuller version of the story of that night. Her authorial problem is in many ways the same as any researcher for a historical biography would have " ... my problem is the same one that everyone who gathers information has: What to do with it? How to sort and shape and use it? How to keep from drowning in it? Not every story needs to be told."

I wish more had been made of this authorial dilemma. On one reading this I am left with thinking - Consciousness Storage is an interesting concept but not totally novel so why use it as a device in this story? Well the answer comes not in the story but in the linked New Yorker interview Egan does entitled "The Dangers of Knowing" https://www.newyorker.com/books/this-... .

So if you intend to read her forthcoming book The Candy House this is for you as that is where this is explored further through a common character, one of the men Lou Kline, the father of our story's narrator.


Sunday, 2 January 2022

Short Story Review: The Uncurling of Samsara by Koji A. Dae

This short story is available to read and to listen to in the January 2022 Issue of Clarkesworld Magaine, https://clarkesworldmagazine.com/dae_01_22 

The author, new to me as so many of these CLarkesworld stories are,  has a website where many of her other short stories are listed there https://kojiadae.ink/published-elsewhere 

It is a story about grieving set on an generational ship making its way from to some brave new world.  The ship is called the Samsara,  the  Sanskrit word that means "world", the concept of rebirth and "cyclicality of all life, matter, existence", a fundamental belief of most Indian religions, the cycle of death and rebirth  and rebirth, regeneration and recovery are themes in this story. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%E1%B9%83s%C4%81ra )

Ever thought how food might be produced on such ships? One possibility lingers through this story. Gram and our narrator had been 'printing' food, trying to perfect recipes with the flavours, textures and tastes of old. But Gram has died and the narrator still in training for this role is left bereft and cannot bring herself to eat. We follow the  narrator through the month following Gram's funeral as she struggles to come to terms with her loss. On Day 10 facing the prospect of Potato stew in the canteen she considers that no one on the ship has ever eaten Earth potatoes so why do they have to copy them, to copy all their shortcomings - a bit like what I think about Vegan meat! 

Gram had been working on trying to perfect Cherry Pie, her famously good flaky pastry works but cherries are an altogether different problem, one she had yet to conquor. SPOILER ALERT  Our narrator's inability to eat eventually leads to her collapse and recovery and with it her novel solution to the cherry problem. Thus life goes on and it is all cherry pie! 

At the Creative Writing Group I attend we are always saying "forget the last line" as folk often overwrite it, but here the best  line of the story is undoubtedly its final one "Real cherries may not have had fat, but we're drifting curled un space, playing fugues on memories of Earth" Lovely.


Saturday, 1 January 2022

Shoart Story Review: Different People by Timothy Mudie

Different People by Timothy Mudie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to this on the LeVar Burton Reads Podcast https://open.spotify.com/episode/6Cl7..., and the originalstory is available online on LightSpeed Magazine https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi...

 
This was the first piece I'd read by Timothy Mudie and was pleasantly surpised. It is a well constructed, well written storyline which flows along well. It is about the issues surrounding a relationship between a man and a woman who was his wife in another universe, becomes his wife in this one, and the person who is this wife in his universe. Actually it is a deft way of showing the questions never asked in relationships which might have made the difference to us understanding each other better, of considering how one's life could have been different and what it might be like to meet one's doppelgänger. 

Good story, worth a read/listen.

Short Story Review: Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian

I read this and listened to the author's own narration in The New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...

First, I'm cautious of an author reading their own works as when they are bad they are awful. Not so here, Roupenian 's voice has clarity of articulation and she reads at what for me is a good speed. 

Second, I came across this after seeing an article somewhere about how this story caused such a rumpus and went 'viral' on the internet. "Roupenian’s portrayal of an encounter between a young woman called Margot and an older man called Robert rode the wave of the #MeToo movement, and as a result readers often seem to use the work as a vessel for their own projections. The story provoked widespread anger among some men for its negative depiction of Robert, the man who shows his true colours at the end of the story, and whose wounded reaction to Margot’s rejection resonated with many women" ( The Cat Person debate shows how fiction writers use real life does matter by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, The Guardian 9 Jul 2021 https://www.theguardian.com/books/202...
 
I think we can all relate to the everydayness of the girl meets boy storyline, the stumbling and fumbling of first dates. But SPOILER ALERT as anyone who has read the interent discussion about this story or the story itself will know the innocence of the first part of the story slowly becomes diffused with seeds of revulsion, a meancing undercurrent which then wells up into Margot thinking "This is the worse decision I have ever made". Then Margot has to go through the whole 'breakup text' thing. Her friends do rally round her when he appears in the bar and usher her away. But then his texts take on a new, cruder, abusive, direction. 

This is where Roupenian chooses to end her short story. For me the ending worked, because to continue on would have necessitated the story becoming a different story, one where the abusive had to have a result, an ending, perhaps even the murder joked at in the story. Instead this reader at least is optimistic that Margot can 'escape' Robert by blocking him, having good friends, and by doing what the author did at the end of her story by not continuing the text exchange.

That is me the optimist talking, because as we all know things do not always work out that way. Moreover what this story should be reminding us is that everyone has the right to change their mind, even when they had previous said 'yes' and both men and women, girls and boys need to learn how to handle that situation and how to conduct themselves in a respectful manner.