Filed under: book reviews, short stories | Tags: arsenic soup for lovers, book reviews, books, elizabeth berg, georgia z. post, short stories
Georgia Z. Post’s short story collection Arsenic Soup For Lovers is a self-published collection from iUniverse. It’s a thin book at only 62 pages with 25 stories. With a bit of an Elizabeth Berg feel to them, the rather bare bone stories look at affairs, marriage, and middle age.
These stories are Reader’s Digest-esque and rely on “zinger” endings. I grinned a couple times but overall the collection is very formulaic. Some of the ideas are interesting, but the collection would have greatly benefited from some further workshopping.
I think I’ve learned my lesson to stay away (far away) from iUniverse.
(Available at Bookmooch.)
Filed under: book reviews, short stories | Tags: best american short stories 2008, bible, bradford tice, fiction, heidi pitlor, mark wisniewski, missionaries, Mormonism, salman rushdie, short stories, straightaway, the Antioch review, the atlantic, tobias wolff
Best: ? American: x Short: 14.5 Story: x
From The Atlantic, Bradford Tice’s “Missionaries” is about two boys within the Mormon Church who are field operatives in converting new members. Like military recruiters with statistical goals, the older of the boys confronts possible converts with a terrible ferocity while the younger boy develops a crush on this more mature figure.
In Bradford’s comments, he mentions that Mormonism is not meant to be the center piece of his story, but how can it not be? The story is interesting and exemplifies the hypocrisy that can surface from religious practitioners, and it’s even given me pause to consider it a few days after finishing the story. But I have to wonder how it’s a “best” story if it doesn’t fulfill the author’s objective?
Best: ? American: x Short: 13 Story: x
From The Antioch Review, Mark Wisniewski’s “Straightaway” is told through an African American male voice and describes a life of brushing against achievement and success, but ultimately falling short. Three friends, with their high school basketball glory days behind them, are hired to remove a barrel from a woman’s property and are paid a large sum of money in doing so as long as they ask no questions. The three end up at the race track considering their position.
The hovering anticipation of the story is will they be caught? They were seen abandoning the barrel and the paranoia of the occasion is apparent throughout the story. It was a so-so story and I didn’t really care for it.
Best: ? American: x Short: 11 Story: x
From The Atlantic, Tobias Wolff’s “Bible” is the culture class between a white and female teacher instructing at a Catholic school and the Arabic and immigrant father of one of her pupils. Both characters come equipped with a good deal of baggage, and the father recklessly confronts the teacher with the suggestion of violence in regards to his sons academic problems.
Tobias Wolff is a name I hear and see frequently and his short story “Bible” was my first experience with him, and between this and “Missionaries'” by Tice, I don’t think I’ll be picking up The Atlantic. I don’t like my short stories to be obvious and I found myself scanning this tale because of it.
Filed under: book reviews, short stories | Tags: best american short stories 2008, christine sneed, fiction, george saunders, heidi pitlor, karen russell, new england review, puppy, quality of life, reviews, salman rushdie, short stories, the new yorker, vampires in the lemon grove, zoetrope: all-story
Best: ? American: x Short: 14 Story: x
From Zoetrope: All-Story, Karen Russell’s “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” is about two vampires subsisting off of lemons within a church’s grove that is also a tourist attraction.
Have I mentioned before I’m not really that big into the whole vampire thing? I know I mostly enjoyed what I read of the Twilight series and Dracula gave me tingles, but as a reader I feel when a writer utilizes a pop icon such as vampires that a whole lot is demanded to make it a worthwhile read. Russell’s story was cute, but not compelling.
Best: x American: x Short: 7 Story: x
From The New Yorker, George Saunders’ “Puppy” is an interesting class clash between two families: one middle-class family seeking a puppy and one lower-class family desperately trying to give away their puppy. Saunders provides interesting internal snippets into the mothers’ minds. Saunders cites his spark of influence as he once drove through a neighborhood and his family caught a glimpse of a boy in a backyard with a leash on.
While other stories deal with class in this collection, Saunders specifically created a woman who has crossed classes and how she deals with this. Perhaps it just reminds me of my own class conscious mother?
Best: ? American: x Short: 12 Story: x
From New England Review, Christine Sneed’s “Quality of Life” is the story of Lindsay and how she finds herself swept up into an affair with an older and relatively unknown man. Lindsay’s story is a life of relinquishing control of one’s own life to others (such as this man and her family). By the end of the story, it seems that Lindsay is completely under the influence of this man.
I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed where it headed, but why (as a rhetorical question to the story as a whole)? Short stories often examine an occasion or sequence of events, but it’s curious which ones are chosen. Often they’re points of considerable stress or change. The reader is introduced to Lindsay after she has already started losing control of her life to her own family, and we just continue to see a more thorough process with this mystery man. However, I didn’t feel there was enough reasoning to why Lindsay could not stop or get herself out of the situation.
Filed under: book reviews, nonfiction | Tags: biography, haruki murakami, memoir, nonfiction, philosophy, quotes, raymond carver, running, short stories, what i talk about when i talk about running, what we talk about when we talk about love, writing
If you’re interested in running, or interested in writing, or interested in Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running* is “a kind of memoir centered on the act of running” that’s both an enjoyable and thoughtful read. Through this collection of essays and comprehensive journal entries, Murakami reflects on his start at running and novel writing, and how running has affected his life as a novelist.
I wouldn’t say What I Talk About… is one of Murakami’s most enlightening or brilliant works and it doesn’t have a mass appeal, but it does offer a curious insight into his life as an author. With the odd philosophical asides, this was a book I enjoyed and that inspired me to run (despite the cold!) and has re-interested me in reading more of Murakami’s works.
*A play on a Raymond Carver’s short story collection entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.