Anniversary #7!

It’s the seventh anniversary of Mirror With Clouds and as I have been doing the last few years, here are my top ten favorite short stories of 2018 with quotations from each of them. I have no method of rating them – they are just the ones I liked the best. And as happens with many of my top ten lists, the top two could be interchangeable on any given day depending on my mood – both of them are fantastic stories!

10. Lions, Harts, Leaping Does – J. F. Powers

He suffered the piercing white voice of the Apocalypse to echo in his soul: But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. And St. Bernard, fiery-eyed in a white habit, thundered at him from the twelfth century:”Hell is paved with the bald pates of priests!”

9.  The Little Regiment – Stephen Crane

Ultimately the night deepened to the tone of black velvet. The outlines of the fireless camp were like the faint drawings upon ancient tapestry. The glint of a rifle, the shine of a button, might have been of threads of silver and gold sewn upon the fabric of the night. There was little presented to the vision, but to a sense more subtle there was discernible in the atmosphere something like a pulse; a mystic beating which would have told a stranger of the presence of a giant thing – the slumbering mass of regiments and batteries.

8.  Faith – William Trevor

Afterwards, Bartholomew told himself that what had occurred must surely be no more than a mood of petulance, an eruption from his half-stifled impatience with the embroidery and frills that dressed the simplicity of truth with invasive, sentimental stories that somehow made faith easier, the hymns he hated. For Bartholomew, the mystery that was the source of all spiritual belief, present through catastrophe and plague and evil, was a strength now too, and more than it had ever been. Yet there was disquiet, a stirring in his vocation he had brought upon himself and wished he had not…Bartholomew – not knowing what he should otherwise do – continued to visit the lonely and the sick, to repeat the Te Deum, the Creed, the Litany. He felt he should not and yet he did.

7.  The Virgin’s Gift – William Trevor

He begged that his melancholy might be lifted, that the confusion which had come in the night might be lightened with revelation. These were the days of the year when his spirits were most joyful, when each hour that passed brought closer the celebration of the Saviour’s birth. Why had this honoring of a season been so brutally upset?

6.  Graillis’s Legacy – William Trevor

His safe employment had been taken for granted; in time promotion would mean occupancy of a squat grey landmark in the town, the house above the bank, with railings and a grained hall door. She had married into that; books had never been an interest they shared, had never been, for her, a need.

The woman for whom they were had often been noticed by Graillis about the town, coming out of a shop, getting into her car, not the kind of woman he would ever have known.

5.  Death of a Right Fielder – Stuart Dybek

Finally we saw him; from a distance he resembled the towel we sometimes threw down for second base.

4.  The Reach – Stephen King

“We joined hands, children, and if there were times when we wondered what it was all for, or if there was ary such a thing as love at all, it was only because we had heard the wind and the waters on long winter nights, and we were afraid.

“No, I’ve never felt I needed to leave the island. My life was here. The Reach was wider in those days.”

3.  Resurrection of a Life – William Saroyan

I was this boy and he is dead now, but he will be prowling through the city when my body no longer makes a shadow upon the pavement, and if it is not this boy it will be another, myself again, another boy alive on earth, seeking the essential truth of the scene, seeking the static and precise beneath that which is in motion and which is imprecise.

2.  The School – Donald Barthelme

Of course we expected the tropical fish to die, that was no surprise. Those numbers, you look at them crooked and they’re belly-up on the surface. But the lesson plan called for a tropical-fish input at that point, there was nothing we could do, it happens every year, you just have to hurry past it.

1.  My Son the Murderer – Bernard Malamud

At night I watch the news programs. I watch the war from day to day. It’s a big burning war on a small screen. It rains bombs and the flames go higher. Sometimes I lean over and touch the war with the flat of my hand. I wait for my hand to die.

William Trevor: The Virgin’s Gift (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 52)

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He begged that his melancholy might be lifted, that the confusion which had come in the night might be lightened with revelation. These were the days of the year when his spirits were most joyful, when each hour that passed brought closer the celebration of the Saviour’s birth. Why had this honoring of a season been so brutally upset?

During his 59 years, Michael, in William Trevor’s short story “The Virgin’s Gift”, has been visited by the Virgin Mary three times in dreams. For the first time, he was a young man and she called him away from his parents and their farm to the abbey to become a monk. For the second time, he was called away from his abbey to solitude on an island off the coast of Ireland. It’s a solitude he grows to love:

Such entanglements of truth and falsity – and of good and evil, God and the devil – Michael dwelt upon in the hermitage he had created, while the seasons changed and the days of his life one by one extinguished.

For a third and final time, Michael is called away from a place in which he has grown comfortable. He doesn’t understand but finds some comfort by comparing his own journey of confusion to the Virgin Mary’s in the Christmas story.

His journey only makes sense at the end of it.

trevor

Merry Christmas everyone! I usually include a Christmas story in my Deal Me In list just for the fun of seeing when it shows up. Because I forgot to do that for 2018, I decided that I would choose one for my final Wild Card thinking that it would fall somewhere close to the end of the year. But the Deal Me In fates saved it for the very last week so I’m able to actually post it on Christmas Day! “The Virgin’s Gift” is included in William Trevor: Selected Stories. My Deal Me In list can be seen here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

Deal Me In 2019 is here!

It’s time for Deal Me In 2019 and here is my list of stories I plan on reading for the upcoming year. Deal Me In is hosted each year by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve participated and I have to say that it’s been one of the most enriching reading experiences in which I’ve had the pleasure of participating.

This year, my list will finish two anthologies I started a few years ago: The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike and The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Stories from other sources are included as well.

I’m looking forward to continuing this tradition with other book bloggers, so feel free to join in the fun!

James Stevenson: Notes from a Bottle (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 51)

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March 23rd. 7 a. m.: Looked out the window of my apartment, saw that the water was up to the second story all along Eighty-sixth Street. Yesterday, the movie marquees toward Lexington were still visible at twilight, but this morning they are gone.

As the subtitle to James Stevenson’s “Notes from a Bottle” explains, this story contains the notes found in a bottle “on a mountainside on Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic.”

The notes then reveal the experiences of the writer of the notes with their community in New York City as the city is engulfed in a sort of flood or tidal wave. The eerie part is with each entry the water is at a different floor of the writer’s apartment building. Most of the tenants of the building are making a party of the disaster as they move from floor to higher floor to the roof. To reference a Prince song, they seem to be partying “like its 1999” and of course they will be out of time soon.

As everyone huddles on the roof with the water still rising, someone wants to sing “Nearer My God to Thee” but nobody is in the mood.

The fact that there is no indication of what actually is causing the flooding also lends a scary aspect to the story even though an actual reason probably wouldn’t keep the fright away.

Wonderful Town

I’d put this in the category of dystopian short stories and it’s definitely a short one at about three pages. So I say go ahead and read it, you won’t loose more than a couple minutes and in spite of the morbidity, its kind of fun.

This story is included in Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. I read it when I selected the Three of Hearts for Week 51 of my Deal Me In short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

 

A. B. Guthrie, Jr: The Fourth at Getup (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 50)

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Of such was Kentucky, too. Or of such was the Bluegrass, along with whisky and horses and history. And they made one. Divided we stand, the saved and the damned united and all saved by dedication to custom and origin. Right now my wife and two of the ladies were talking, talking the polite, endless small talk, the on-and-on personality-talk that was part of the custom, the voices of the visitors sounding singularly soft and light and lovely after the flat harshness of the West.

A. B. Guthrie’s story “The Fourth at Getup” contrasts the genteel softness and mannerly demeanor of southern ladies from Kentucky with the wild West as they visit the narrator’s home in Getup, Montana.

The narrator, who could very well be Guthrie himself, is from Kentucky but lives in Montana at least part of the year. This aspect allows for him to gently make fun of both cultures as his Kentucky friends hang out with him and his wife in a Getup saloon with their Montana friends.

No real plot exists. It’s just fun conversation between the two different sets of friends with fun reactions from both sides. And probably the best part of the story is that the reader doesn’t have to be from Kentucky or Montana in order to join in the fun.

home beyond

This story is included in Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I read it when I selected the Seven of Diamonds for Week 50 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

Ron Hansen: Playland (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 49)

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On the surface, the people that frequent Playland in Ron Hansen’s short story of the same name seem happy and having a good time – just the way all the rich people in The Great Gatsby do – on the surface.  Playland is part real and part imaginary and the people who visit tend to be older teens or young adults. People who may not be all that world weary, yet. However, it’s set in the 1940’s after World War II and Gordon has difficulty walking from an injury during the war. So some may not find Playland quite as amusing as Gordon’s girlfriend Bijou.

Then Bijou’s Cousin Frankie shows up to slowly reveal the sinister and the shallow of Playland. Actually, Bijou, herself, can cover the shallow part while Frankie has a handle on the sinister:

Frankie scrooched forward on his bar stool. “You oughta see things with my eyes. You take Bijou, for instance. She’s a dish, a real hot patootie in anybody’s book, but she ain’t all she wrote, Gordo, not by a long shot. You and Bijou, you come to Playland, you dance to the music, swallow all this phonus-balonus, and you think you’ve experienced life to the hilt. Well, I got news for you, GI. You haven’t even licked the spoon. You don’t know what’s out there, what’s available.”

Again, just like Gatsby, the story takes on some noir qualities right up until the end – in which it takes on more Stephen King characteristics with a little bit of horror and gore.

All in all, I found “Playland” to be a fun story I would recommend.

Catholic Short stories

This story is included in The Best American Catholic Short Stories edited by Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp. I read it when I selected the Nine of Diamonds for Week 49 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.