A Storied Week – Week Seven

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I finally did it! I fulfilled my weekly story quota again. February hasn’t been the best of reading months for me, so I’m happy to have at least this one week where I read the “required” five stories.

If you look at the authors I read, there’s a strange variety. A Twain, Poe, Hemingway, Vonnegut, and (unknown to me, until now, modern author) Holzer. These range from a ghost story, a semi-fable, war/love story, and a mixed tape. But each in it’s own way is a great work of fiction (let’s not count the Vonnegut too highly, I’m still not sure about that one).

Not only am I glad I was able to read at least five stories, and got a variety, I also think it’s great that I was able to revisit some of my top short stories authors. As mentioned below, back in high school, I carried around either a Hemingway or Poe complete story collection regularly. I’ll be reading more from these authors this year so I can encourage more people to check them out. And I think that Twain will get some of the spotlight as well. I’ve been meaning to see what his story work’s like, having only read the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn books so far.

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Where I Live, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

I wasn’t really keen on this story. It starts out as a story about an encyclopedia salesman trying to sell a library a new set of books. But soon it turns into a portrait of a small town, and Cape Cod as a whole…trying to be disguised as his search for the libraries trustees.

If the salesman wasn’t a character and this was just presented as “this is the history and layout of a Cape Cod community” then I might have liked the story a little more. I just didn’t see, overall, the enjoyment of the history lesson.

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The Five Boons of Life, by Mark Twain

Text | Audio

This story is fairly short. It deals with a fairy offering a man Love, Pleasure, Fame, Wealth, or Death. He chooses one after another, after finding out the downfall of each. It’s a story with a moral lesson behind it. It’s humorous, yet quite dark in its humour. Not much else can be said without just rewriting the story myself.

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The Oval Portrait, by Edgar Allan Poe

Text | Audio

Back in high school, I carried around my heavy copy of Poe’s complete work almost every day, for quite a while. (It was either this or my complete stories of Hemingway.) For some strange reason, I never read this story from the book and it happens to be a fairly short one to have skipped over.

This story reminded me a little bit of Dorian Gray with the use of a painting, painter, and an exceptionally beautiful subject for the painting. I won’t tell more of the similarity, but it’s almost as if Wilde was strongly influenced by this story and in turn used it for his novel. I’ve yet to look up whether or not my assumption is correct, but I have a feeling there’s some relation between the two.

I’m hoping that in revisiting more Poe this year, that I’ll find some more forgotten gems.

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Love and Other Catastrophes: A Mixed Tape, by Amanda Holzer

Stories like this are always hard to really “not like.” This story is written entirely with song titles (accompanied by the artists’ names, that I disregarded when reading), unaltered and written as one large paragraph of a story.

I first encountered stories like this in my fiction workshop in college. It was one of the many unique ways to write a “found poem” type of story that we were taught, back then. Even though I’d written a poem through a similar “found” way years before (see “Game of Love” from From Where I Stand for another, more recent poem), for a story this always fascinates me more.

At first it’s always strange to “get” what the song titles are saying, but once it all clicks, it’s brilliant, in my opinion. It’s great to see what might look like a random “mix tape” of songs turn into a meaningful, yet simplified, story.

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A Very Short Story, by Ernest Hemingway

As the title suggests, this is a very short story. But like most of Hemingway’s work, I enjoyed it. It’s my second time reading it, as I’ve read all of his stories…years ago. The first time was in the complete collection I have. And since it was a shorter story, I don’t think it really stuck with me as much. This time, I read it from my “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” collection, and having picked it almost at random, I think I was able to treat it like an “equal” to the rest of this work, compared to the last reading where it got drown out by the other stories.

The story is another taking place in Italy during WWI, like much of Hemingway’s work. It’s not a very happy story, even though it seems positive most of the way through. Things take a turn for the worse eventually. I feel that it’s a more realistic ending to the story’s love affair.

I’m definitely happy to have opened Hemingway up once again. I’ve missed that guy.

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Have you read any short stories this week? Do you know of any short stories to suggest to me or my readers? Feel free to share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments on this post or more privately through the contact page, if you want you’d like to type something longer up.

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