It’s the second week of the A Storied Week series, and it seems like I’m still enjoying this. I may be holding off reading stories until the later half of the week, but as long as I keep reading at least 5 stories, the challenge is still alive and well.
This week, while reading, I came up with some ideas for future weeks in this challenge. Instead of just picking random stories to read each week, I think I’ll be doing some weeks that focus on a genre or topic. For example, for week three, I want to focus on fantasy short stories. The shorter they are the better.
Why short fantasy? I want to explore various authors’ ability to create a great fantasy story in a small amount of space. Normally fantasy novels are fairly thick, and even the shorter ones are somewhat dense in order to create the world and build up a great story. Some authors attempt this in short stories. I’ve read a few, some are good, and some are lacking. Week three will be my time to see how well fantasy works in the short story. Week four might be another genre or a subject, but we’ll just have to see what happens.
This week, I read a variety of stories with no one thing in mind. Here are my reflections on what I read…
Middle Woman, by Orson Scott Card
I’ve read about half of Card’s most notable book, Ender’s Game, but this was my first fantasy story by the author. I picked it from the other stories compiled in Monkey Sonatas because it was only a few pages long. This time, it wasn’t due to laziness. I’m curious to see what authors can do with fantasy in limited word counts. I’ve been disappointed by some stories in the past, but this one didn’t leave me feeling that it was lacking.
The subtitle on the cover of the book is “Fables and Fantasies.” This story falls under fable, more than it does fantasy, though it does have strong fantasy elements. It’s a classic story of a person being granted three wishes. This time it’s by a dragon, not a genie. As usual, there’s a catch to each wish, but I found Ah -Cheu’s (the main character) way to get one over on the dragon great. The lesson taught by this fable is illustrated in the actions of Ah-Cheu and how even when facing tragedy, she refused to use her last wish, to instead overcome the obstacle on her own. Her life was a great one and she proved the dragon wrong by not giving in at any time.
So in conclusion, Card was able to bring a great message and story to his readers in a few pages. I’m hoping to explore these shorter fantasy stories more next week, as part of the challenge, and make it more genre oriented.
Homicide John, by C.E. Paul
(review originally posted here)
I didn’t know much about this story going into it. Upon starting to read, it turns out that the blurb is the first paragraph of the story. Being that that’s out there, I don’t feel it’s much of a spoiler to say that this is a zombie story.
It was interesting enough, for the most part. I liked following along with a newly resurrected zombie, and seeing how he coped with his new “life.” There’s a good, if predictable, ending as well. What I’m still left wondering, though, is how he’s a zombie in a world that seems normal. He just wakes up and enters into civilization. I can’t figure out what caused him to become a zombie, out of nowhere. There’s a clue to how he died, but it’s still not the answer to why he’s “alive” again.
Still, it was an interesting story to spend a few minutes with. And I do like the author’s style. He moved the story along and kept me reading.
Down at the Dinghy, by J.D. Salinger
I haven’t read Salinger before. I know, shocking. But that’s changed now, at least with one short story, so far. I enjoyed it, even though I’m not sure why exactly.
I found the little boy, Lionel, and interesting character. There’s an obvious issue there because he’s always running away from home. And he’s only four years old, but he seems older than that judging from his behavior and attitude in the scene with his mother, Boo Boo. I think there’s something here that I may have missed, especially after reading the analysis Wikipedia gives. Their reasoning only loosely explains this one episode, in my opinion, but not the entire issue with Lionel.
Having just watched the documentary Salinger, I know the Glass family is a big part of the author’s works. This story makes me want to read more about them, due to how complex this story was, alone. I can see it getting very in depth as I explore more of the Glass’ stories.
The father, by Raymond Carver
Again, I’ve found a story that’s exceptionally short, but packs a punch. In print, it barely goes over one and a third pages.
I read this story two ways. Both of my interpretations lead me to question identity. I’d like to be brief, though, and not spoil this story. I found it to be great and wish for those who want to read it to look at it without prior influence. I could probably say a lot about the story, though. It seems to be the case with the few Carver stories I’ve read in the past, as well. I’m beginning to feel I’m a Carver fan.
Black Death, by Zora Neal Hurston
I think the oddest thing about the story was the dialogue. the story takes place early in the 20th century, in Florida, and the character’s dialogue is written in the “broken” way of the region/time period (for lack of a real term for it. I’m not a linguist and I’m drawing a blank right now for a real word for it). the story also has strong racial themes, as well as a bit of gender commentary with a “don’t mess with a woman or her reputation” message.
While I said the dialogue was “odd” for me, it’s only because I’m not used to reading it. I found that it did aid the atmosphere of the story. It really helped set the scene. I also liked the magical elements of the hoodoo doctor and his “accomplishments.” It was interesting to read a story that had an emphasis on this magic being real and how white people wouldn’t understand even with evidence in front of them.
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.