Adventures in Reading


Short Stories: More Best American Short Stories 2008

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.

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Short Story: Kelly Link’s The Specialist’s Hat

The current short story discussion at A Curious Singularity is on Kelly Link’s “The Specialist’s Hat,” and as I’m the one who suggested the title, I thought I ought to get around to posting on it!

I discovered Kelly Link by accident. I was looking for something good, fun, and fantasy-esque to read and I stumbled across Magic For Beginners. I then found myself a little in love with Link.

“The Specialist’s Hat” has a great deal going on through theme, build-up, and playing on some of the creepier aspects of childhood. Twins Samantha and Claire are “half-orphaned” after their mother passes away and now find themselves with their academic father, whose researching a “bad” and little-known faux poet Rash, living in the haunted house and museum Eight Chimneys. The story is interspersed with the poetry of Rash and narrative describing the house.

What could have been an obvious story is told with a certain children’s quality, a simplistic view, and a child’s observation. The story unfolds matter of factly, but flows into the unresolved ending that Link so often uses.

As a reader, it’s curious to investigate what’s real and what’s not real within “The Specialist’s Hat,” and Link provides well-balanced detail that never resolves this issue: Who is the woman in the woods? Is the baby sitter the dead daughter of Rash? What is the specialist’s hat? Is that the Specialist or really the father? What the hell is the Specialist? Is this a story about the over active imagination of two bored, little girls staying up late and ultimately recovering from the recent death of their mother or is Eight Chimneys truly a haunted house with a “gonna getcha” ending?



Nonfiction: Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, 2008

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.