K♥ K♥ K♥ K♥ K♥ K♥ K♥ K♥
He had no complaints, then, he assured himself…It was just that while others of his age still shared a communal wonder at what life might hold, he had long since been solitary in his knowledge of what life was.
Peter Birge, in Hortense Calisher’s 1950 short story “In Greenwhich, There are Many Gravelled Walks”, is a young man just out of the army who has to take care of his alcoholic mother. Birge is the adult in the traditional sense while his mother acts the child. As described in the above quotation, the loneliness Peter feels resonates throughout the story.
Then there is Susan, the daughter of Robert, an older acquaintance of Peter’s who’s family fortune allows him to also act the child while Susan plays the adult.
Ultimately, Peter and Susan meet – to realize they aren’t completely alone. We don’t know exactly what happens with Peter’s and Susan’s relationship but the fact that they have a common bond is enough for me to consider this story to end happily.
“In Greenwich, There are Many Gravelled Walks” is included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. I read it when I selected the King of Hearts for Week 46 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
Q♦ Q♦ Q♦ Q♦ Q♦ Q♦ Q♦ Q♦
“You must be very careful in a strange city,”…
I read Irwin Shaw’s 1939 short story “Sailor Off the Bremen” this week when I selected the Queen of Diamonds for Week 45 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. It’s included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker edited by David Remnick. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
In the story, a Communist from Germany sails to America. On the way over, he is severely beaten by a Nazi sailor. Once in America, the passenger’s wife and friends, also devout Communists, track down the sailor and beat him up in revenge.
I suppose the interesting aspect of the story is that the Communist passenger attempts to talk his friends out of pursuing revenge saying that it won’t solve anything – but he’s outnumbered.
So the story is about the right and the left – OK, I’ll say the extreme right and the extreme left – beating each other up.
5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦
Richard’s suspicion on the street that he was trespassing beyond the public gardens of courtesy turned to certain guilt.
John Updike’s “Snowing in Greenwich Village” is a masterpiece in nuance, subtlety and unspoken tension. I don’t know why I want to keep making fun of it. Perhaps I keep thinking about the moment when Richard offers his guest, Rebecca, some cashews. This small gesture occupies at least a couple of paragraphs. Perhaps it’s because when Richard’s wife, Joan, insists on Richard walking Rebecca home because it’s snowing (hence the title), I want to shake my head and say “Joan, Joan, Joan…poor, naive Joan”.
At the same time, I have to ask myself the question that maybe Joan isn’t as naive as I initially think. Published in 1956, maybe Updike portrays a more “progressive” couple – or a couple with more problems than we initially understand. Given that the reader can notice the sexual tension between Richard and Rebecca without having it mentioned, maybe Joan can too. Maybe Joan doesn’t care if something happens with Richard and Rebecca. Joan’s thoughts in the story are more difficult to get to so I think she makes for the more intriguing character. As Richard walks Rebecca up the stairs to her apartment, the reader doesn’t have to wonder what his thoughts are. But that doesn’t mean that what the reader thinks is going to happen necessarily does.
In spite of the humor that I find in the story that I’m not sure is suppose to be there, I think this story could very easily end up on my top ten list at the end of the year. I read it when I selected the Five of Diamonds for Week 44 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. It’s included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
9♠ 9♠ 9♠ 9♠ 9♠ 9♠ 9♠ 9♠
He didn’t want to die messed up. A couple of times he tried to burn a box or two in the split barrel to keep warm, but it was no use. And then it didn’t matter. Oblivion kept him warm. His laughter was out of place and the rats stayed away.
The curious aspect of Sheldon Lee Compton’s short story “Snapshot ’87” is the title. I think it might come from the fact that the story is a day in the life of George, a coal miner. I assume perhaps that it’s set in 1987 based on the title. Not much of the story’s detail would provide specific evidence of the year.
This snapshot consists mostly of pain killers and George’s young son Russell. The pain killers provide proof of the bleak despair with which George lives while Russell is the glimmer of hope in his life. The writing is some of the best I’ve read in the collection Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia (edited by Charles Dodd White and Page Seay). The reader feels George’s pain as he desperately forces a smile for his son.
I read this story when I selected the Nine of Spades for Week 43 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
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I was mesmerized, sure flames would leap up from the ground at any moment. Everything in my head seemed to run together. I felt like I was walking in darkness, feeling my way forward with one foot before the other. I was afraid of falling down. And in my mind’s eye, I saw Vonda throwing handfuls of pure fire from her magic bag…
Denton Loving’s short story “Casting Out” provides an example of what I’ve found often in the writing of Appalachian authors. While Loving’s tone in the story sympathizes with the modern characters that don’t necessarily believe in the brand of religion practiced by the older mountain dwellers, the plot itself at least pays homage or respect to these outdated ideas.
In many of the contemporary stories (of which this is one) I’ve read in Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia (edited by Charles Dodd White and Page Seay), the old and the new collide but it never seems to be a typical generation gap story. It’s easy for even the younger generation to be suspicious of anything different – which includes anything new.
I read this story when I selected the Six of Spades for Week 42 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
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By the time I worked back to the Arbogast Building, via the Weehawken ferry and the George Washington Bridge to cover my tracks, all the pieces were in place. Or so I thought up to the point she came out of the wardrobe holding me between the sights of her ice-blue automatic.
Of all the stories on my Deal Me In 2017 list, S. J. Perelman’s “Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer” is the one I was most curious about solely based on the unusual title. It turns out to be nothing as I expected. It’s a noir-style private detective story with a comical twist although I find many noir-style private detective stories funny whether they are meant to be or not.
Private Detective Mike Noonan attempts to find out why his client’s husband’s herring is pink – even though herring is usually pink. I found the story enjoyable probably because it’s short at around 6 pages. It also doesn’t try to be more than what it is. There’s great writing and great humor with some nice give and take between Mike and his client:
“I go for girls named Sigrid with opal eyes,” I said.
“Where’d you learn my name?”
“I haven’t been a private snoop twelve years for nothing, sister.”
“It was nine last time.”
“It seemed like twelve till you came along.”
I read this story when I selected the Three of Hearts for Week 41 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. It’s included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker edited by David Remnick. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥ J♥
When I wonder what it is that we are doing – in this brownstone, on this block, with this paper – the truth is probably that we are fighting for our lives.
My lack of New York City knowledge made me look up exactly what a brownstone was after I read Renata Adler’s short story “Brownstone”. I knew it was a type of house but I couldn’t quite get a picture of it. Google images gave me exactly what I needed. And based on the story, it appears brownstones can be divided into apartments.
The female narrator of the story lives in a brownstone with a man named Aldo. They both are writers and numerous other people come in and out of the Brownstone of which, as the reader, we get bits and pieces of information. In fact “bits and pieces of information” might be the best way to describe this story. From more or less stream of consciousness, we understand that mental illness seems to play a part somewhere – whether its the narrator herself or one of her acquaintances is difficult to say. A murdered landlord is just one of the bits and pieces – it happens to be one of the more sensational ones. The story by no means revolves around the murder.
As with most of these stories from my anthology Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker (edited by David Remnick), there does seem to be something specifically “New York” in the way the people live in close proximity to each other and the way they interact. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder would it be that much different if the story was about an apartment complex in, say, Paducah, Kentucky?
I read this story when I selected the Jack of Hearts for Week 40 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.