Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day Ninety-One: "The Canvasser's Tale" by Mark Twain


A man buys "echoes" from a canvasser who weaves a tale about his uncle who collected echoes after all of his other efforts at collecting failed him. Overall, this story was well told but I don't really care for the story. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning I am missing or maybe, it's just that the story really is about how believing people can be or rather how willing we are to suspend belief for the sake of a great story.

In any event, this still serves as vintage Mark Twain and for that, it's worth taking a look.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day Ninety: "You Mother was a Fish" by A.M. Homes

Identity. Confusion.

A woman is transformed into a mermaid but then cuts a seam down the middle of her tail to create legs, the area between her legs deemed therefore magical and mysterious. She becomes part of a carnival of sorts and spawns strange children with their own physical "traits" that differ from other children. One daughter is born with an elongated pointer finger with an eye at the tip through which thread could be run, as if her finger were a needle. This story was strange from the start and it only got stranger as it went.

I can't say I really enjoyed this story or that I understood it but I can say it is one I'll not soon forget. I have to give the author credit for that.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day Eighty-Nine: "The White Water-Lily" by Stephane Mallarme


A man rows his boat along a waterway, traveling to pay his last respects to the family of a deceased friend. He envisions a woman standing on the bank as he approaches his destination and he imagines what their conversations would be lack, a connection with some other being that he seems to clearly long for, longs for to the point of hallucinating.

The story ends with no resolution other than that the reader is left to be content with this man's madness. We are content with it because we understand it, the solitude that drives one to see things that aren't there.

Even in its translation from the original French, this story is beautiful and a delight to read.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day Eighty-Eight: "Two Words" by Isabel Allende


A woman sells her words to individuals, selling speeches, farewells, introductions, anything she is asked to do but, if the person pays a certain amount of money, she gives the person a bonus. She gives the person a word, one word, a word that she will only give to that one person and that will be unique to the individual. The word, her unique word, is said to be in its way, magical. As the story progresses, the reader sees the woman manipulating her world with these words, ultimately luring and capturing the man she wants.

It is an interesting story that is full of rich allegory. For the most part, I really enjoyed it and appreciated what it was the author was doing with the story even if I wanted a little more from it by the conclusion. Even so, I still keep thinking about it.

Can words have that kind of power, a power over love, over life, over longing? I'd like to believe so.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day Eighty-Seven: "In the Fifties" by Leonard Michaels


This story was all about rhythm, the line by line movement of a decade of a man's life. With strong and uniquely personal imagery, this story keeps the reader engaged and it also forces the reader to re-read passages just to feel it, to get caught up in it.

Passages like the following are good examples of how this story "flows" and why the flow of it works to keep the reader hooked:

"Eventually I had friends in New York, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Berkeley, & Los Angeles"

"I knew one who, before picking up his dates, ironed his dollar bills and powdered his testicles"

"I had a friend who was dragged down a courthouse stairway, in San Francisco, by her hair"

Any of these lines, if read aloud, not only read well, but the cadence of the line literally pulls the reader along, through the sentence and onto the next one. There's an urgency to this rhythm that I find refreshing and mesmerizing. It says, take me with you. Take me with you. As the reader, there is no hesitation.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day Eighty-Six: "Water Liars" by Barry Hannah



A man heads off to a fishing camp with a buddy to get away from his newfound jealousy over his wife's history with former lovers. He doesn't understand himself, why he's so hurt, but he heads off anyway. On the pier, he and his friend meet up with some other fisherman and they sit around and drink, telling stories from their past, a true scene of "bullshitting" among southern men, business men who want to feel country for just a while, country...again.

Then, as the story concludes, one man tells a story that is shocking to the rest of the bunch and that he told the story at all is what is most shocking. There's no shame in it. There's only hurt, a humiliation he still can't shake after more than 20 years. The truth of his story though turns the fishing trip into a trip of reflection, into a bonding of kindred spirits, all of them searching for answers to something but only the remaining three men willing to tackle the possibility of the truth.

GREAT GREAT story...wonderful voice. I'd read more of this author for sure!

(a link to the story online is here: )

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day Eighty-Five: "Lofty" by Ann Beattie


A woman thinks back on a memory from her marriage that ended 10 years earlier and finds herself climbing a tree in the yard of her old home. She's at the wedding of her daughter, and that celebration juxtaposed with the obvious failure of her own marriage makes this story sad and honest and oddly hopeful. Her ex-husband arrives, tries to woo her down from the tree, and there's a moment when she is vulnerable again and the reader sees that perhaps that is what she'd lost that maybe destroyed their marriage.

Still, there is hope even if the woman doesn't see it. The story concludes with an embrace. It's nice to think that the ruins of a marriage can end that way.

Week Thirteen Short Story Selections

Day Eighty-Five: "Lofty" by Ann Beattie
Day Eighty-Six: "Water Liars" by Barry Hannah
Day Eighty-Seven: "In the Fifties" by Leonard Michaels
Day Eighty-Eight: "Two Words" by Isabel Allende
Day Eighty-Nine" "The White Water-Lily" by Stephane Mallarme
Day Ninety: "Your Mother was a Fish" by A.M. Homes
Day Ninety-One: "The Canvasser's Tale" by Mark Twain

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day Eighty-Four: "The Kangaroo" by Eva Sallis


A group of young Arab-Australians encounter a strange animal on their journey into the country outside of Victoria, Australia after not being in the country for very long. The reader quickly learns that it is a kangaroo and there is something ominous about the collision between the animal and the vehicle that for me was reminiscent of the mighty albatross from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

This was an interesting story from a perspective I hadn't read yet. The Lebanese diaspora. Australia and its open arms. Yet still, some things are still foreign and this story highlights what happens when such differing worlds literally collide.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day Eighty-Three: "Three Hearts" by Deborah Joy Corey


A mother awakens on a snowy morning sickened by her lost son, the one who hasn't come home after a night out drinking. She neglects her two younger children, a boy and a girl and when she takes sleeping pills and decides to take a nap and sleep off her frustration and depression over the oldest son's disappointing choices, she sends her young kids off into the morning snow to play. Their dad is at work, working a snow plow and little do they know that the day is about to go wrong.

The children get lost in the snow as the day continues and the sky lets loose dropping thick flakes into the sky and onto the ground, burying them even moreso as their father passes by without seeing them and dumps enough snow onto them to cover the brother. He's lost. The sister goes for help. Luckily, the mom makes it in time. Luckily.

Even so, this story is the perfect example of how sometimes you get a second chance even if undeserved. But it is also a can only get so lucky so many times. Mistakes are always teetering on the edge of devastation, waiting to end it all.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day Eighty-Two: "Flies" by Robley Wilson


A man battles swarming flies and a bitter lover in a Canadian farmhouse. This story was creepy, touching, unpredictable, and memorable in the way the language moves the reader from scene to scene as the insects and the lover, both relentless and inconsiderate, literally take over and force the hand of the narrator.

He's a man trying to make the best of a bad situation and when the story concludes, you get the sense that things will only continue to get worse before they get better. I've never read an ending that made my skin crawl like this one did. I'll never look at a housefly in the same way.


New Words! Just keeping track here, glad to feel the rush of fiction, the creation of it. I'm reading a ton but I can't let go of this.

Daily. Daily. Daily.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day Eighty-One: "Cattle Haul" by Jesmyn Ward


I haven't read a story in a long time where the voice was this good! WOW!

A young man hauls cattle cross country in order to make enough money to repair his well at his house. The story follows him in the present as he makes stop after stop on his journey but it also shows us glimpses into his past so the reader can understand why it is that this journey is perhaps different, a trip to end all road trips.

In a voice that is easily readable, authentic, and vivid, Jesmyn Ward keeps the reader locked into the story from the start. In the end, it's about the night, the drive, and the trip back home. Who is there waiting for the trucker to return? The reader is dying to know.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day Eighty: "The Field of Blue Children" by Tennessee Williams


A young college student can't commit to a relationship and instead dates frat boy after frat boy until she meets Homer, a young poet at her college. He writes poetry that only she understands or either she is the only person he feels comfortable with his poetry. Either way, he takes her to a field of blue flowers...the "blue children" as referenced in the title. She comes alive there, finds herself with him but quickly, soon after, she leaves Homer, tells him she is marrying someone else.

However, as the story concludes, the reader finds her driving out into the night in search of this field of blue flowers. She left a note for her husband and even she doesn't know why she is doing it.

This was a great story and was Williams' first short story. I'm glad I found it for inclusion in my blog! Memorable for sure!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day Seventy-Nine: "Woman on a Plane" by Andre Dubus



A woman, a lonely poet, travels on a plane to visit her dying brother. He's two years older and he doesn't fear death the way she fears the flight to see him. But she knows it's time to tell him that she is scared, finally. He has given up on his fears as she embraces hers.

Her brother tells her "Fear is a ghost; Embrace your fears and all you'll see in your arms is yourself." This is so great and as the story continues and she is on her flight home after a visit, she is hunched in her seat, belt fastened around her waist and she is hugging herself tight until the plane lands. I'm not sure exactly what to say about this other than it was brilliant and will be a story I remember for a very long time. It's easily one of my favorites I've read this year.

I read every word of it aloud. Fantastic Stuff!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Week Twelve Short Story Selections

Day Seventy-Eight: "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde
Day Seventy-Nine: "Woman on a Plane" by Andre Dubus
Day Eighty: "The Field of Blue Children" by Tennessee Williams
Day Eighty-One: "Cattle Haul" by Jesmyn Ward
Day Eighty-Two: "Flies" by Robley Wilson
Day Eighty-Three: "Three Hearts" by Deborah Joy Corey
Day Eighty-Four: "The Kangaroo" by Eva Sallis

Day Seventy-Eight: "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde


Told in parable/fable form, this story is about a giant whose garden dies and doesn't blossom even in the Spring and Summer after he has put up a wall and banned all the children. Ultimately of course, he comes to realize what has happened, how his selfishness and his unwillingness to be vulnerable has left him alone and cold. He knocks down the wall, invites the children back in, and the flowers and trees bloom once more.

I liked this but the ending was a bit strange to me, particularly because it was truly a children's story until that point. However, when a child returns as an adult with stigmata on its hands and feet, I was thrown off as it came out of nowhere. I guess it could be interpreted as Wilde's attempt at touching on the vulnerability that comes with giving one's self to a religious belief but in light of the rest of the story, I'm not sure. It left me puzzled but even so, this was an enjoyable read and quite unexpected. I approve!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day Seventy-Seven: "A Skyline Turkey" by Richard Stratton


An inmate nicknamed "Big Bird" climbs the water tower in the center of a penal compound and refuses to come down until his demands are met. His fellow inmates recount the man's loneliness, the mystery of this loner who has decided, and in face of the punishment that is bound to come, to wait it out, to challenge authority all for the sake of, as it turns out, a Big Mac sandwich.

This story for me was actually really beautiful and sad and the humor of the piece, which was ample, was needed in my opinion to offset the true hopelessness felt by these men that is seen in the way they plod through their daily routines and gossip like country club women might do about things as mundane as sweeping and changing of jail cells and rec yard politics.

Overall, I liked this enough to read more by Richard Stratton. That says a lot.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day Seventy-Six: "I Don't Love You Anymore" by Joseph Heller


A young couple deals with the aftermath of a soldier's return home after the war. A man tells his bride who had spent months alone while he was away that he doesn't love her anymore and the reader quickly sees that he is lying. He is lying to himself and to her and it's what he wants to do. It's easier that way. The concluding scene of this story is wonderful and sweet and gives the reader hope that things as simple as a pitcher of beer can sometimes make things alright. However, the undertone of the story is the fear that "alright" is only temporary.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day Seventy-Five: "The Stockholm Syndrome" by Maxine Chernoff


This story in my view is near perfect. There were few spared words as the narrator, a woman in her late 60's, tells of a friend who has left the comforts of their town and their book club, to live across the country in San Francisco with a mystery man. From an encounter with the woman's son and his male lover to an exploration into what made her friend leave in the first place, the narrator shows us that some things are not what they seem and that there is always someone out there who knows more about any given situation than you may think you know.

Falling in love with one's captor was an interesting thread throughout the story and Chernoff handles it by saying...there are all kinds of love...I suppose. It's that "I suppose" that makes the story work, lets the reader into the mind of the narrator and into the minds of her book club women. They were reading about Patty Hearst and now one of them has in effect become her. I wonder what book they'll choose next!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day Seventy-Four: "Escapes" by Ann Hood


A woman deals with her fourteen year old niece when her sister-in-law abandons her. The girl is a cutter and a thief and she doesn't know that her father had committed suicide while in prison when she was just four years old. The story is about revealing secrets, coming to terms with the truth no matter the consequences, and about "sticking it out" as the narrator points out.

The concluding scene where the aunt and niece are touring Alcatraz and imagining what life in solitary confinement would be like is a perfect image for the situation the two characters find themselves in.

How to escape...where to go if you do!

I really liked this one...I'll read more Ann Hood for sure.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


New Words! I'm striving for at least 250-500 words a day this week and so far, I'm on track which feels great. Here's a little bit of tonight's writing:

I had nodded to say “I understand,” a nod in affirmation of the resolve he’d begun to love me for and need me for. But what he didn’t see in that nod was the fear, the scary certainty I had that my nod would make sure that his plans could come to fruition and that the drugs he’d come to rely on for his writing were merely a phone call away. My nod on that day told him I’d take care of everything. Suddenly I wonder if my nod will work on him anymore.

Day Seventy-Three: "The Rose and the Skull" by Alan Cheuse


Georgia O'Keeffe contemplates her life's work, her commitment to the daily grind of writing, her failing eyesight, her aging and the way it has both destroyed her and enlivened her to do her best work. It was beautifully told and has several memorable metaphors to show the reader not only what she feels but how she puts her feelings into the images she paints. Below is a quote that I felt was pretty great and serves as an example of this point:

"No matter how steady you are, no matter how fierce in your devotion to work, a certain sorrow creeps in, a tinge of sadness, in many ways natural, like the coating of pollen on your hand when you brush against a flower in certain seasons."

I finished this story and felt the need to get back to my fiction writing full speed. Time is time and it's passing even as I sit here typing this post. My hands, coated in fingers typing to get clean.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day Seventy-Two: "Georgie Porgie" by Rudyard Kipling


A Burmese woman marries Georgie Porgie with visions of grandeur, of what her life will be with him when ultimately, she only wants to be free of her life in Burma. She contemplates the loose love life of Georgie and accepts it as her fate in a way. She is good enough. She can handle it. Embracing those things gives her power and takes it away from him. He doesn't know it and that is the beauty of this story.

What a nice job by a heavyweight!

You can read this story here:

Looking Ahead

So...Monday April 9, 2012 will be Day 100 in my short story a day for 2012 reading. I'm debating on what to choose for that day and it's really the only short story so far that I'm putting this much forethought into. To be where I am in the year, I'm proud that I've continued in my efforts and delighted that I haven't grown bored with the project. On the contrary, I'm loving it and am excited week by week when I make my story selections to experience something new, someone new, to get a little taste of what Sartre referred to as "loaded pistols" when I read the words on the page that could have just as easily been written for me alone as for the reading population as a whole.

I'll keep thinking on this as the coming weeks tick away but I'm always open to suggestions. I just know that I have to do the 100th day justice. I may even surprise myself!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day Seventy-One: "Propriety" by Bret Lott


A man wakes up months after his wife's death and realizes that it's the first day of a new kind of mourning. He doesn't sense her in their house anymore. She's suddenly yet gradually been reduced to objects like her hairspray, her vitamins, her clothes still hanging in her closet. Does he go to work anyway, after waking to this realization? Does he try and move on, take another step in the direction of having a new life? Can he even say what it is that is happening to him on that morning? What if he does? Will she disappear from him forever?

This was a beautiful story about how one deals with grief after a tragic loss. Set in Charleston in the summer, the narrator is drenched in heat and humidity and yet there is an iciness to his demeanor and his approach to it all until the very end where we find him sitting in a chair on his porch whispering his wife's name into the morning air.

I absolutely loved this story. Beautiful and sad but not melodramatic. A must read in my opinion!

Week Eleven Short Story Selections

Day Seventy-One: "Propriety" by Bret Lott
Day Seventy-Two: "Georgie Porgie" by Rudyard Kipling
Day Seventy-Three: "The Rose and the Skull" by Alan Cheuse
Day Seventy-Four: "Escapes" by Ann Hood
Day Seventy-Five: "The Stockholm Syndrome" by Maxine Chernoff
Day Seventy-Six: "I Don't Love You Anymore" by Joseph Heller
Day Seventy-Seven: "A Skyline Turkey" by Richard Stratton

This week, mixing in some classics with some lesser known contemporary short story writers. Should be interesting!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day Seventy: "When the Light Gets Green" by Robert Penn Warren


A boy remembers his grandfather in all of his "glory" and shame, harvesting tobacco, bullying his negro workers, not truly loving anyone until he's on the verge of death after having a stroke. The story is vivid and you can see the grandfather perfectly with his nicotine-tinged moustache as well as his tendency to expound on the working of field of tobacco or corn.

Touching and nostalgic, this short story was a nice story to conclude my week. The writing was really wonderfully simple but complete.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day Sixty-Nine: "Recollection" by Guy de Maupassant


A man sees a young woman and is taken back in time, remembers a dark night marching through the snow with his troop and having to carry a woman to her safety on a stretcher. I'm not sure how I felt about this story. It was well written but it seemed somehow unfinished. There was snow. There was marching. There was the shooting of 12 uhlans (the word for a soldier carrying a lance that is part of a cavalry) and even that was without much explanation or even suggestion.

This was a snapshot of one's past that I can't connect to the narrator's present. There's just not enough here in my opinion. I'm sorry that this story fell flat for me particularly when I had hopes it would be so much more.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day Sixty-Eight: "A Marriage of Persuasion" by Susan Petigru King


A young woman challenges convention in the late 1800's and refuses to marry the man her family has chosen for her. Well, she refuses at first. This story tracks poor Anna as she fights the "good fight" and argues with her mother over marrying for love versus marrying for money.

Ultimately, Anna loses and as the story ends, her mother is more than simply pleased. She is almost overjoyed that not only does her daughter have wealth and prestige, but that she herself has won, as if her beliefs have been vindicated by her daughter's decision to give in to her mother's choice.

This story read to me as many other stories of the time did on this topic...with the exception of the closing paragraph that is, a paragraph about poor Anna's capacity any longer for love. It reads as follows:

"Is this grand automaton really dead, or does a heart, young and still untouched, lurk--strong, free and dangerous--in that quiet unmoved and stately figure?"

This is a story that I'd venture may not be published today but for its place in history, I commend it and its author. She took a risk but this story shows it paid off.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day Sixty-Seven: "Tchaikovsky's Bust" by Josip Novakovich


A writer takes his family (wife, son and 3 year old daughter) to a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, and he finds himself entranced by a young Siberian woman next to him. She speaks good English having been an exchange student in Texas during high school yet he has a series of somewhat secretive conversations with her in German.

He exchanges email addresses with the budding female college student. He imagines an erotic encounter with her but ultimately, that is where his imaginings stop. His wife though, as the story opens, makes it clear that he is a philanderer and the reader, I believe, is left to believe that rather than showing his strength in not pursuing this young girl, we are to see the writer as vulnerable, a man who clearly has faults but even with those faults, he is someone who can be overcome with feeling and longing when the choice to be faithful is only partially in his hands.

I really liked the writing of this author and would read more. The story flew by and it is one I'll remember for the metaphor of Tchaikovsky's bust mounted on a cemetery wall. It is part of one of those scenes, that pivotal climax of a story, that stays with you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Day Sixty-Six: "Hi! Howya Doin!" by Joyce Carol Oates


A jogger encounters other joggers on a morning run near a university and mentally sizes up several people, their desires, their disappointments, their annoyances, and all of it centered around the intrusion of someone speaking a greeting as silly as "Hi! Howya Doin!"

This story was told in stream of consciousness style and there were no periods to separate thoughts which made the story fly by and made the ending, where the jogger shoots an oncoming jogger in the face, both abrupt and fitting.

What an interesting read!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day Sixty-Five: "The Rudolf Family Does Good Works" by Jakob Arjouni


The story opens with a lie. A man tells a nosy neighbor in his apartment building that a certain man who is coming and going from his unit is an "uncle" who also happens to be a German of Russian origin. That lie turns into another one when the man's wife is questioned as to whether this immigrant she is housing pays rent. With one cover up after another, this story was an entertaining look at the life of a German couple trying to keep to themselves and that because of what was a seemingly harmful untruth, they wind up spiralling into chaos and deceit.

For me this read as a fresh and unique way of showing how no lies are little nor white!! The writing was top notch!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day Sixty-Four: "Talk to the Music" by Arna Bontemps


There is power in music. The narrator in this story, a young man who has searched out and found a renowned blues singer in Louisiana, ponders what this singer means, what has inspired her to sing the way she does, with the pain that she does. It's a touching scene at the end when the young man finally gets the chance to listen to Mayme perform. He is struck by the emotion in her, by the emotion her voice evokes in him.

"Fallen angels could never have wailed like this, no matter how they grieved over parardise."

It's a rather perfect description of the effect of listening to music, particularly blues music. Bontemps is obviously a fan. Now I am one of his writing and I'm glad I stumbled onto him.

Week Ten Short Story Selections

Day Sixty-Four: "Talk to the Music" by Arna Bontemps
Day Sixty-Five: "The Rudolf Family Does Good Works" by Jakob Arjouni
Day Sixty-Six: "Hi! Howya Doin!" by Joyce Carol Oates
Day Sixty-Seven: "Tchaikovsky's Bust" by Josip Novakovich
Day Sixty-Eight: "A Marriage of Persuasion" by Susan Petigru King
Day Sixty-Nine: "Recollection" by Guy de Maupassant
Day Seventy: "When the Light Gets Green" by Robert Penn Warren

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day Sixty-Three: "A Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker


A woman questions God about why a lover hasn't called her at the time he said he'd call. The pleading and negotiating she does which is clearly inner dialogue is painfully realistic and honest and it exposes the vulnerable side of every woman when she is in the first phase of a relationship.

Will he call?
Should I call him?
What will he think if I call him?
Will he hate me if I call?
How long should I wait for his call?
What happens if he doesn't call?
Why didn't he call?

WOW, Dorothy Parker really blew me away with this story. It was made more potent with its brevity and with an ending that leaves the reader counting down the seconds until the woman makes a decision and answers her own questions.

My guess about the ultimate resolution?

She calls.
He doesn't answer.

Here is a link:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day Sixty-Two: "A Horseman in the Sky" by Ambrose Bierce


A soldier in the Civil War contemplates an apparition of a horsemen in the sky and the reader wonders whether it is in fact a ghost or the delirium of this soldier that is creating this wild horse and its rider. Shots are fired by one soldier, one soldier hides in the bushes at the base of a cliff and with each scenario, I was struck more than anything by the language used.

Somehow, Bierce managed to use the words "accoutrement" and "bivouac" and for that I applaud him. Overall though, this story didn't do it for me. Even so, I'd give him another chance.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day Sixty-One: "One of These Days" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


A dentist pulls the abcessed wisdom tooth of a crooked town mayor without using anesthesia. There was pleasure gained by the dentist in the pain he was both delivering and relieving by removing the tooth this way and the reader understands exactly how this can happen.

Retribution is its own relief. For this short story that comes in under 1,000 words, there is much to be examined and considered. Nice!

Here is a link to the story: