Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Month in Shorts: The Tally

In my last post, I mentioned that I had wanted to try and read a different short story every day in July, but failed to complete my goal. There were only a few collections that I had really started to draw from, so I'll probably just work my way through the two remaining now that I've finished "Buttered Side Down".

Here, though, is the tally of what I did complete, along with my notes and observations.

* * *

1.) "A Touch of Autumn in the Air" by Sean O'Faolain. 2011-07-04. From: Short Stories, A Study in Pleasure.

Quote: "What had begun to bother him was not as much that the days had merged and melted together in his memory -- after so many years that was only natural -- but that here and there, from a few days of no more evident importance than any other days, a few trivial things stuck up above the tides of forgetfulness. And as he mentioned them I could see that he was fumbling, a little fearfully, towards the notion that there might be some meaning in the pattern of those indestructible bits of the jigsaw of his youth, perhaps even some sort of revelation in their obstinacy after so much else had dropped down the crevices of time."

2.) "The Outstation" by W. Somerset Maugham. 2011-07-05. From: Short Stories, A Study in Pleasure.

Quote: " 'You have not been very long in this country; believe me, there is no better way to maintain the proper pride which you should have in yourself. When a white man surrenders in the slightest degree to the influences that surround him he very soon loses his self-respect, and when he loses his self-respect you may be quite sure that the natives will soon cease to respect him.' "

Quote: "For Mr. Warburton was a snob. ...[It] was marvellous to watch the ingenuity he used to mention his distant relationship to the noble family he belonged to, but never a word did he say of the honest Liverpool manufacturer from whom...he had come by his fortune."

Quote: He had a certain simplicity of character and the unscrupulous found him an ingenuous prey.

Observation: It builds to this tension of inevitability. They both know what is going to happen, either one of them could make a move to prevent it, and yet both do nothing. Small things, petty excuses. The thought of Warburton's "patronizing smile" keeps Cooper from going to Warburton's office and seeking his counsel when he realizes that things have gone too far. Warburton didn't like the gramophone that Cooper played, so he decided to no go to his residence that night as the infernal device played a ragtime recording.

3.) "The Chorus Girl" by Anton Chekhov. 2011-07-05. From: Short Stories, A Study in Pleasure

Observation: Why do Chekhov stories always feel like little parables? Just as slight, just as ambiguous.

4.) "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway. 2011-07-05. From: Short Stories, A Study in Pleasure.

Quote: "Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said.


"He was in despair."

"What about?"


"How do you know it was nothing?"

"He has plenty of money."

5.) "Evensong" by Lester del Rey. 2011-07-06. From Dangerous Visions.

He felt the eyes of the Usurper on him, and he forced himself away from that awareness. And, like fear, he found that he had learned prayer from the Usurpers; he prayed now desperately to a nothingness he knew, and there was no answer.

“Come forth! This earth is a holy place and you cannot remain upon it. Our judgment is done and a place is prepared for you. Come forth and let me take you there!” The voice was soft, but it carried a power that stilled even the rustling of the leaves.

He let the gaze of the Usurper reach him now, and the prayer in him was mute and directed outward—and hopeless, as he knew it must be.

“But—” Words were useless, but the bitterness inside him forced the words to come from him. “But why? I am God!”

For a moment, something akin to sadness and pity was in the eyes of the Usurper. Then it passed as the answer came. “I know. But I am Man. Come!”

He bowed at last, silently, and followed slowly as the yellow sun sank behind the walls of the garden.

And the evening and the morning were the eighth day.

6.) "Flies" by Robert Silverberg. 2011-07-06. From Dangerous Visions.

“Tell me the line from Shakespeare, Mirabel. About the flies. The flies and wanton boys.”

Furrows sprouted in her pale brow. “It’s from Lear,” she said. “Wait. Yes. ‘As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.’”

“That’s the one,” Cassiday said. His big hands knotted quickly about the blanket-like being from Ganymede. It turned a dull gray, and reedy fibers popped from its ruptured surface. Cassiday dropped it to the floor. The surge of horror and pain and loss that welled from Mirabel nearly stunned him, but he accepted it and transmitted it.

“Flies,” he explained. “Wanton boys. My sport, Mirabel. I’m a god now, did you know that?” His voice was calm and cheerful. “Good-by. Thank you.”

7.) "The Day After the Day the Martians Came" by Frederick Pohl. 2011-07-08. From Dangerous Visions.

Mr. Mandala stood up. “Better get some sleep,” he advised, “because they might all be back again tonight. I don’t know what for…. Know what I think, Ernest? Outside of the jokes, I don’t think that six months from now anybody’s going to remember there ever were such things as Martians. I don’t believe their coming here is going to make a nickel’s worth of difference to anybody.”

“Hate to disagree with you, Mr. Mandala,” said Ernest mildly, “but I don’t think so. Going to make a difference to some people. Going to make a damn big difference to me.”

8.) "Riders of the Purple Wage" by Philip José Farmer. 2011-07-16. From Dangerous Visions.

This isn't a short story. It's a novella. A weird, trippy novella that took me too long to get through.

9.) "The Malley System" by Miriam Allen deFord. 2011-07-16. From Dangerous Visions.

10.) "A Toy for Juliette" by Robert Bloch. 2011-07-16. From Dangerous Visions.

11.) "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World" by Harlan Ellison. 2011-07-16. From Dangerous Visions.

12.) "The Night That All Time Broke Out" by Brian Aldiss. 2011-07-17. From Dangerous Visions.

13.) "The Man Who Went to the Moon -- Twice" by Howard Rodman. 2011-07-17. From Dangerous Visions.

I started to cheat a little bit at this point. Every time I seem to find the time to sit down and read this week, I start to fall asleep. Then I remembered that there is a public radio show called "Selected Shorts", and that I have a backlog of podcasts that I have not listened to yet. Now I can listen to stories as I drive or go for walks. Winning! The only downside is that I don't know how much these stories are cut for time or content before they are broadcast. They may be abridgments. Fair warning.

14.) "The H Street Sledding Record" by Ron Carlson. 2011-07-18. From Selected Shorts (PRI). Podcast.

15.) "Christmas Is A Sad Season for the Poor" by John Cheever. 2011-07-18. From Selected Shorts (PRI). Podcast.

16.) "'A Visit From St. Nicholas' as Written by Ernest Hemingway" by James Thurber. 2011-07-20. From Selected Shorts (PRI). Podcast.

17.) "The Palmist" by Andrew Lam. 2011-07-20. From Selected Shorts (PRI). Podcast.

18.) "The Occasional Garden" by Saki (H. H. Munro). 2011-07-22. From Selected Shorts (PRI). Podcast.

19.) "The Balloon" by Donald Bartheleme. 2011-07-22. From Selected Shorts (PRI). Podcast.

20.) "The Frog and the Puddle" by Edna Ferber. 2011-07-24. From Buttered Side Down.

21.) "The Man Who Came Back" by Edna Ferber. 2011-07-26. From Buttered Side Down.

22.) "What She Wore" by Edna Ferber.

Books Read in 2011: "Buttered Side Down" by Edna Ferber


So, I had a plan.

I hatched a scheme for July in which I would try to read at least one different short story, every day, for the entire month. This would be great, I thought, because I wouldn't have to finish a book, just a story. I could hop around from author to author, dip in this collection, try a few in this other one, pull stuff from The New Yorker or other places online. Great, right?

I didn't get very far in my scheme. The last book from June that I was hoping to finish, I hadn't quite finished yet. So that pushed the start back by a few days. And then things like work and life intervened, and left me without a lot of time at the end of the day. I don't mind a reading challenge, but I didn't want to turn it into a chore, either. So stuff just kind of kept sliding away.

Finally, after trying a few odds and ends from a couple of different collections (which I would still like to finish, independent of my "Month in Shorts" concept), I found this collection of Edna Ferber stories on my Kindle, downloaded after I finished another collection, "Gigolo", a few years back. After the first couple of stories, I decided to keep reading all the way through. Once again, I'm pleasantly entertained by her stories, and disappointed that her more famous novels, "Giant" and "Showboat", are not only still under copyright and not readily available from sites like Feedbooks and Gutenberg, but not available as ebooks at all.