The Final TBR Triple Dog Dare Update

TBR Final Dare

The final TBR Triple Dog Dare is sponsored by James at James Reads Books and here’s my final update. The Dare requires participants to read only books that they already have during January, February and March.

As I’ve said in previous updates, the number of books I’ve read during the Dare has not been staggering; however, I’ve read some books that have been on my shelf for a long time and thoroughly enjoyed them:

1.) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (on my shelf)

2.) Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser (borrowed from the library prior to the beginning of the Dare)

3.)Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (on my shelf)

4.) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (on my shelf)

I just finished Jane Eyre yesterday so look for a post about Volume the Second in the next couple of days.  In addition, I read the beautiful story “The Turkey Season” for the April edition of The Alice Munro Story of the Month so a post about that will be coming up soon.

Next up is Andy Weir’s The Martian and after that I’ll begin a book I just got in the mail: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings -J. R. R . Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski.

So how did you do with the TBR Triple Dog Dare? And what’s up for you post-Dare?

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Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser – Part 3 (or Finished)

Now I move on to the final four stories in Steven Millhauser’s collection Voices in the Night: Stories:

“Arcadia”

I guess I like dark humor more than I like plain old dark. This one is very dark and very funny. I’m still not sure, though, about what seems to be Millhauser’s infatuation with suicide.

“The Place”

Another story that I don’t completely understand but I’ll give it a go. A town has what could be considered a park known as “The Place”. It has some surreal, fantastical elements that attract some people to it whole-heartedly, some only half-way and others not at all. The narrator tends to lose his relationships to “The Place”. I’m going way out on a limb, here, but “The Place” seems to be where people with great imaginations go.

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“An American Tall Tale” 

Paul Bunyan enters a contest with his ne’er-do-well book-loving brother, James. I would consider this story delightful. Writing in typical tall-tale style, I have come to appreciate Millhauser’s ability to put himself in different voices while continuing to maintain his own.

“The Pleasures and Sufferings of Young Gautama”

From the title, it comes as no surprise that this story has a Buddhist flavor and along with it some beautiful writing and ideas – lots of “knowing and not knowing”.  Prince Siddhartha Gautama goes through a journey of inward-looking and self-discovery much to the dismay of his friends and family. I’m tempted to say this is my favorite of this bunch; however, it’s not as much of a standout as some of my other favorites.

The TBR Triple Dog Dare Update

TBR Final Dare

The final TBR Triple Dog Dare is sponsored by James at James Reads Books so I thought I would post an update. The Dare requires participants to read only books that they already have during January, February and March. While I can’t say the number of books I’ve read so far is anything to post about, I will say that I’ve become very inspired to read the books that are already on my shelf.

I’ve read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and am almost finished with Steven Millhauser’s collection Voices in the Night: Stories. The Millhauser book I am counting even though it’s from the library. I’ve had it since before the beginning of 2016. I planned on reading Jack London’s Martin Eden, also from the library; however, it had to be returned before I got a chance to read it (I couldn’t renew it). So the London novel will have to wait until the spring.

Next up will be the Bronte sisters. I’ve had Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre on my shelf for years. It’s high time I read them.

Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser – Part 2

Continuing with Steven Millhauser’s collection Voices in the Night: Stories, here are my thoughts about four more stories:

“Coming Soon”

Levinson is quite proud of moving to a small town which perhaps could also be considered a suburb of a large town. Millhauser includes tons of small town details about Levinson’s neighbors and streets and shopping mall.  As the story progresses, the small town changes almost before his eyes. And keeps changing. All of these changes get the full Millhauser detail treatment; however, I’m never sure of the point Millhauser is trying to make. Unless of course, all of these constant changes have no point. That’s a possibility.

“Rapunzel”

This is the retelling of the fairy tale so the plot isn’t necessarily new although it might have a couple of different twists. What I thought was intriguing was the detail with which Millhauser describes the doubt and uncertainty the Prince has about Rapunzel. On a humorous note, the Prince actually enjoys climbing up the tower more than he does seeing Rapunzel. Meanwhile, Rapunzel wonders what takes him so long.

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“Elsewhere”

This story took me a while to understand and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I still understand it. This is my take, though. As a kid, so much anticipation went into the start of summer vacation. An anticipation that many times never lived up to the hype by the end of the summer. In the story, this type of anticipation seems to cause a town to produce paranormal activity they can never quite figure out. My evidence for this interpretation comes from this paragraph – which I’m pretty sure will rank up there as one of my favorites this year:

By the middle of August we felt the exhaustion of adventures that had never taken us far enough. At the same time we were inflamed by a kind of sharp, overripe alertness to possibilities untried. In the languor and stillness of perfect afternoons, we could already feel the last days of summer, coming toward us with their burden of regret. What had we done, really? What had we ever done? There was a sense that it all should have led to something, a sense that a necessary culmination had somehow failed to come about. And always the days passed, like riddles we would never solve.

This reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s summer stories – from a different perspective. And of these four stories, this is my favorite.

“Thirteen Wives”

Is this the story of a chauvinistic polygamist or just a man who appreciates feminine complexities? Or put another way: how many wives does this dude really have? Readers, themselves, can be the judge.

 

Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser – Part 1

Several of the Steven Millhauser stories I read last year, in addition to “Home Run”, which I read for week 4 of Deal Me In 2016, are included in Millhauser’s collection Voices in the Night: Stories. Since I already had the book from the library, I thought I would finish reading the rest of the stories. Here are some thoughts about four more of the stories in the collection:

“Sons and Mothers”

Lots and lots of details, which I believe is a Millhauser trademark, provide for an interesting perspective from the narrator. He is visiting his mother for the first time in a while. From the descriptions of his mother’s house, it almost seems haunted and his mother is the resident ghost. While ghosts appear in other Millhauser stories, the mother in this one is fully alive even if she may have some sort of dementia or senility. The narrator is caught between an obligation to his mother that is deep and sincere and an obligation that is simply an obligation. The jarring, and slightly humorous, ending helps the reader understand in which of these “camps” the narrator actually resides.

“Mermaid Fever”

A real, but dead, mermaid washes up on the shore of a New England town. The town makes the body into an exhibit at a local museum and it becomes quite a hit. A frenzy of all things mermaid takes over the town. I’m not sure if this was Millhauser’s intent but the craziness reminds me of the “fever” that took place with the Twilight Saga a few years ago – with mermaids in the place of vampires.

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“The Wife and the Thief”

Of these four stories, this is my favorite. The entire story is in the mind of a wife who can’t sleep and is certain a thief has broken into the house. She doesn’t wake her sleeping husband but continues to debate in her head whether the noises she is hearing are just the house or a burglar. The lengths to which she goes to justify to herself that it is a thief or that it’s not is both great comedy and great suspense.

“A Report on Our Recent Troubles”

A wave of suicides becomes contagious. With each new note, the story becomes more grim and bizarre. This one was just too dark for me.

 

Steven Millhauser: Home Run (Deal Me In 2016 – Week 4)

8♦ 8♦ 8♦ 8♦ 8♦ 8♦ 8♦ 8♦

…man did he ever jack it outta here, a dinger from McSwinger, a whopper from the Big Bopper, going, going, the stands are emptying out, the ball up in the mesosphere, the big guy blistered it, he powdered it, the ground crew picking up bottles and paper cups and peanut shells and hot dog wrappers, power-washing the  seats, you can bet people’ll be talking about this one for a long time to come…

When is a gimmick not a gimmick? I would say “when it works”. Steven Millhauser’s “Home Run”, a story of four pages and one sentence definitely has a gimmick aspect to it. Does this gimmick work? I would say that it almost does.

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The story is from the point of view of a baseball announcer detailing player McCloskey’s home run – which explains the use of one long sentence. Even though I was reading this to myself (as opposed to out loud), I felt out of breath in my head from not stopping at any periods, question marks, or explanation points. There are only commas. If one truly wanted to get picky, one could say that it really isn’t one sentence. It’s simply a bunch of sentences and phrases put together with commas. But still, Millhauser nicely gives the reader the phrasing and cadence of a baseball announcer.

Another nice touch is that while McCloskey and the announcer and the annoucer’s side kick, Jimmy, are all characters in the story, Millhauser makes the plot revolve around the actual baseball – which just keeps going until the story ends. I enjoyed the way Millhauser continues to use space hyperbole such as the stratosphere, mesosphere, “past Jupiter, see ya Saturn, …past the Milky Way” and numerous other galaxies and stars to track the baseball’s path. I say this is hyperbole but having read other Millhauser stories, it’s hard to say whether this is just for literary effect or whether the ball really has launched into outer space. But with Millhauser, it doesn’t really matter.

I read this story when I drew the 8 of Diamonds for Week 4 of my Deal Me In 2016 short story project. In four weeks, this is my third Diamond card. I really did shuffle the deck. “Home Run” is included in Steven Millhauser’s collection Voices in the Night: Stories which I borrowed from the public library.  My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

 

A Fourth Anniversary Top Ten List

Today is the fourth anniversary of Mirror With Clouds. To celebrate, I am posting my top ten favorite short stories that I’ve read in 2015.  They are in order from 10 to 1.

10.) Here We Are by Dorothy Parker- A very funny story with one of my favorite quotations of the year:

“We have been married,” he said, “exactly two hours and twenty-six minutes.”

“My,” she said, “it seems like longer.”

9.) Miami-New York by Martha Gellhorn- One of Ernest Hemingway’s wives seems to have more of a sense of humor than he did.

8.) Death of a Favorite by J. F. Powers – One of my favorite narrators comes in the form of a cat.

7.) The Country Husband by John Cheever – A depressing but brilliantly written story about life in the suburbs with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” as the soundtrack:

Then Donald Goslin, who lived at the corner, began to play the “Moonlight Sonata”. He did this nearly every night. He threw the tempo out the window and played it rubato from beginning to end, like an outpouring of tearful petulance, lonesomeness, and self-pity – of everything it was Beethoven’s greatness not to know. The music rang up and down the street beneath the trees like an appeal for love, for tenderness, aimed at some lonely housemaid – some fresh-faced, homesick girl from Galway, looking at old snapshots in her third-floor room.

6.) The Half-Skinned Steer by Annie Proulx – I liked this story so much I read more of Proulx’s Wyoming stories from her collection Close Range.

5.) Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates – This is the story that has pushed me beyond simply an appreciation for Oates’ work. It’s by far the scariest story I read this year.

4.) In the Gloaming by Alice Elliot Dark – Tear jerker? Yes. Sentimental? No. Saddest story I read this year.

3.) God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen by Ernest Hemingway – A disturbing story with one of my favorite first lines:

In those days the distances were all very different, the dirt blew off the hills that now have been cut down, and Kansas City was very like Constantinople.

2.) A Silver Dish by Saul Bellow – The title by no means gives away how funny and irreverent this story is.

1.) A Voice in the Night by Steven Millhauser- My fascination with Steven Millhauser’s work only increased with this story and it contained one of my favorite final lines:

A calling. Not Samuel’s call but another. Not that way but this way. Samuel ministering unto the Lord, his teacher-father ministering unto the generations. And the son? What about him? Far, far to the west of everywhere, ministering unto the Muse. Thanks, Old Sea-Parter, for leaving me be.