Now that the haiKU street poetry project is complete, the teaching qualification is ratified, and behind the fridge could not be cleaner I can no longer defer this blog project – as is my techno-retarded wont. I enjoy computers as much as I do overcooked liver so this may be a little scrappy for a while but I’m hoping to work it out, day by day.
threesixfivestory – A year devoted to short story writing, and reading, and some thinking if not absolute understanding.
The mission: to find one new story a day, read it and blog something about it.
A story may be 6 words or 60 pages – there are no limits beyond the vagaries which define short story writing itself.
Let’s see what kind of narrative web spins over the next four seasons, where the journey will lead us and what connections may entwine themselves along the imagined road.
It would be very pleasing to have some company along the way.
Some have expressed a small disappointment, even surprise, that 365 does not have a day 366.
A final send off, summing up - it being a leap year and all. How well you’ve come to know me.
I did upload it last night as an entire new page rather than as a new post. Now here it is now as a post so that you can have it dropped conveniently into your inboxes.
I’ve covered some pages, posed a lot of questions and offered less answers. It’s been a lot of fun.
If I were to pick out a few favourites, in no particular order:
ZZ Packer, Cees Nooteboom, Junot Diaz, Kurt Vonnegut, Lorrie Moore, Yiyun Li, Richard Yates, Simon Van Booy
It’s been a pleasure to look back over all the blogs and to remember, in many instances, where I was and what was happening on each day. A satisfying feeling looking back and equally thrilling to look forward to the next project.
365 different stories from 243 different authors.
Here’s a look at them:
|CEZARIJA ABARTIS||The Writer|
|CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE||The Arrangers of Marriage|
|WOODY ALLEN||The Rejection|
|MARTIN AMIS||Denton’s Death|
|MARGARET ATWOOD||Underbrush Man|
|CHARLES AVERY||The Fancy of the Hunter|
|JESSE BALL||The Wedding|
|J.G.BALLARD||Passport to Eternity|
|The Garden of Time|
|JOHN BANVILLE||Summer Voices|
|JULIAN BARNES||A Short History of Hairdressing|
|KEVIN BARRY||See The Tree, How Big It’s Grown|
|DONALD BARTHELME||The Indian Uprising|
|JON BAUER||Reward Offered|
|CAROL BAXENDALE||The Flag|
|ALAN BEARD||Staff Development|
|LOUIS DE BERNIERES||Rabbit|
|ALISON BOOTH||The Clouds|
|F.M.J. BOTHAM||The Pits|
|ELIZABETH BOWEN||Summer Night|
|PAUL BOWLES||How Many Midnights|
|T.C.BOYLE||The Miracle at Ballinspittle|
|SCOTT BRADFIELD||Men and Women In Love|
|Sweet Ladies, Good Night, Good Night|
|MAEVE BRENNAN||An Attack of Hunger|
|HAROLD BRODKEY||The State of Grace|
|WILL BUCKINGHAM||The Lady Empress|
|JOHN BURNSIDE||Slut’s Hair|
|SAM BYERS||Some Other Katherine|
|CLARE BYLAN||Villa Marta|
|ARNO CAMENISCH||Sez Ner|
|TRUMAN CAPOTE||Mr. Jones|
|Music For Chameleons|
|JOHN CARROLL||Some Come Running Through|
|RAYMOND CARVER||Are These Actual Miles?|
|I Could See The Smallest Things|
|Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit|
|One More Thing|
|LUCY CALDWELL||Carry Me Home|
|JOHN CHEEVER||The Enormous Radio|
|ANTON CHEKHOV||About Love|
|ROBERT COOVER||The Romance of The Thin Man and The Fat Lady|
|TAMSIN COTTIS||What Goes Around|
|DAVID DEPHY||Before The End|
|ANNE DEVLIN||Naming the Names|
|How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie|
|DES DILLON||The Blue Hen|
|EILIS NI DHUIBHNE||Midwife to the Fairies|
|EMMA DONOGHUE||The Hunt|
|RODDY DOYLE||The Pram|
|DAPHNE DU MAURIER||And Now to God The Father|
|A Difference of Temperament|
|HELEN DUNMORE||At The Hare and Hounds|
|TRICIA DURDEY||Queen of Puddings|
|GEOFF DYER||Art Deco Despair|
|ELEANOR EDMOND||The Names of Horses|
|ROBERT EDRIC||Moving Day|
|JENNIFER EGAN||Emerald City|
|AHMED ERRACHIDI||A Handful of Walnuts|
|SARAH ROSE ETTER||Stolen Fat Baby|
|BRIAN EVENSON||A Conversation with Brenner|
|Calling The Hour|
|Hebe Kills Jarry|
|The Munich Window|
|SHANTA EVERINGTON||Hang Up|
|MICHEL FABER||A Hole With Two Ends|
|ASHLEY FARMER||Where Everyone is a Star|
|SEBASTIAN FAULKS||A Family Evening|
|LORNA FESTER||Deja Vous|
|MICHAEL OWEN FISHER||The Doughnut|
|F.SCOTT FITZGERALD||Pat Hobby’s Secret|
|MYRIAM FREY||Divine Intervention|
|GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ||Death Constant Beyond Love|
|I Sell My Dreams|
|Light is Like Water|
|SALENA GODDEN||Juicy Fruit|
|MARK GODFREY||The Magpie|
|NIVEN GOVINDEN||Slaughterhouse Hospitality|
|REBECCA GOWERS||A Small Room|
|GUNTER GRASS||Witnesses of An Era|
|GRAHAM GREENE||The Innocent|
|MOSHIN HAMID||Terminator: Attack of The Drone|
|LANDER HAWES||Differences in Lifts|
|RUSSELL HELMS||The Miracle of Mrs Evelyn Howard|
|ERNEST HEMINGWAY||A Simple Enquiry|
|Cat in The Rain|
|Fathers and Sons|
|I Guess Everything Reminds You of Something|
|One Reader Writes|
|The Doctor and The Doctor’s Wife|
|The Good Lion|
|AMY HEMPEL||Breathing Jesus|
|Celia is back|
|Church Cancels Cow|
|In A Tub|
|The Lady Will Have The Slug Louie|
|Why I’m Here|
|ANN HILLESLAND||About My Mother|
|LAREN HITCHCOCK||Blackbirds Singing|
|NICHOLAS HOGG||How The Tiger Got Its Stripes|
|HELEN HUDSON||Taxi Ride|
|JOEL THOMAS HYNES||Little Creatures|
|KRISTEN ISKANDRIAN||Remarks my immigrant mother has made about babies|
|RAYDA JACOBS||The Guilt|
|TANIA JAMES||Lion and Panther in London|
|GAYL JONES||White Rat|
|The Boarding House|
|MIRANDA JULY||How To Tell Stories to Children|
|I Kiss A Door|
|Making Love in 2003|
|Ten True Things|
|CLARE KEEGAN||Men and Women|
|JAMAICA KINCAID||The Circling Hand|
|MARIJA KNEZEVIC||Without Fear of Change|
|NICOLE KRAUSS||Stones and Artichokes|
|GERDUR KRISTNY||The Ice People|
|HANIF KURESHI||Weddings and Beheadings|
|PHILIP LANGESKOV||Notes on a Love Story|
|D.H.LAWRENCE||England, My England|
|HEATHER LEACH||So Much Time in Life|
|JOHN LE CARRE||The King Who Never Spoke|
|J.ROBERT LENNON||Big Idea|
|Get Over It|
|Live Rock Nightly|
|The Dream Explained|
|DEBORAH LEVY||The Weeping Machines|
|YIYUN LI||A Man Like Him|
|Gold Boy, Emerald Girl|
|KIRSTY LOGAN||The Rental Heart|
|AMY MACKELDEN AND LAURA TANSLEY||Chemistry|
|MICHAEL J. MACLEOD||Horn Hunter|
|CLAUDIO MAGRIS||To Have Been|
|PAUL MAGRS||Patient Iris|
|VANESSA MANKO||The Interrogation|
|MELISSA MANN||Gottle O’Geer|
|KATHERINE MANSFIELD||Marriage A La Mode|
|ADAM MAREK||Dinner of The Dead Alumni|
|AMBER MARKS||Pulp Faction|
|CLARE MASSEY||Feather Girls|
|GUY DE MAUPASSANT||A Woman’s Confession|
|EUGENE McCABE||Music at Annahullion|
|COLUM McCANN||Everything in This Country Must|
|MICHAEL McCLAVERTY||The Road to The Shore|
|IAN McEWAN||Reflections of A Kept Ape|
|BERNIE McGILL||No Angel|
|LINDA McVEIGH||All Over the Place|
|JUNE MELBY||A Whale Goes to Heaven|
|BEN MERRIMAN||A Hard Place to Love|
|ALISON MOORE||When the Door Closed, It Was Dark|
|You’re Ugly, Too|
|THOMAS MORRIS||Lost Cause|
|EWAN MORRISON||Taking Care of Number One|
|ES’KIA MPHAHLELE||Down The Quiet Street|
|VAL MULKERNS||Memory and Desire|
|ALICE MUNRO||Walker Brothers Cowboy|
|HARUKI MURAKAMI||Landscape with Flatiron|
|VLADIMIR NABOKOV||First Love|
|NJABULO S. NDEBELE||Death of A Son|
|GEOFF NICHOLSON||Closed Palms|
|AUDREY NIFFENEGGER||Moths Of The New World|
|CEES NOOTEBOOM||Late September|
|The Furthermost Point|
|JOYCE CAROL OATES||Banshee|
|KENZABURO OE||Abandoned Children of This Planet|
|K.J.ORR||The Human Circadian Pacemaker|
|PHILIP O’CEALLAIGH||Walking Away|
|FLANNERY O’CONNOR||A Good Man is Hard To Find|
|The Life You Save May Be Your Own|
|FRANK O’CONNOR||The Mad Lomasneys|
|JOSEPH O’CONNOR||Mothers Were All the Same|
|SEAN O’FAOLAIN||The Trout|
|PADDY O’REILLY||How To Write A Short Story|
|PAUL O’SULLIVAN||Due North|
|Drinking Coffee Elsewhere|
|GRACE PALEY||An Irrevocable Diameter|
|A Man Told Me The Story of His Life|
|The Burdened Man|
|PHILIPPE PARRENO||The Underground Man|
|ROBERT PENN WARREN||Blackberry Winter|
|REBECCA PERL||Keep Your Belief Strong|
|JAYNE ANNE PHILLIPS||Lechery|
|SYLVIA PLATH||A Comparison|
|The Wishing Box|
|ANNIE PROULX||The Half-Skinned Steer|
|STEPHANIE REID||127 Permutations|
|NOELLE REVAZ||The Children|
|KEITH RIDGWAY||How to Drown|
|Sick as a Dog, Sad as an Angel|
|The First Five Pages|
|MICHELE ROBERTS||Tristan and Isolde|
|MARY ROBISON||Pretty Ice|
|CHRIS ROSE||The Shoemaker General of Naples|
|PAMELA ROSENKRANZ||As One|
|LEONE ROSS||Love Silk Food|
|EVA SALZMAN||The Ice Cream Lady|
|POLLY SAMSON||The Man Who Fell|
|GEORGE SAUNDERS||The Wavemaker Falters|
|MARGARITA SHCHEGLOVA||The Parsee’s Guest|
|HELEN SIMPSON||The Squirrel|
|Up At A Villa|
|BEN SLOTKY||Real, Not Fake.|
|ALI SMITH||Jenny Robertson, Your Friend is Not Coming|
|Text For The Day|
|The Third Person|
|The World With Love|
|SUSAN SONTAG||The Letter Scene|
|CATHY SWEENEY||The Long Lost Father|
|YOKO TAWADA||The Island of Eternal Life|
|PETER TAYLOR||Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time|
|CHRISTIAN TE BORDO||I Can Only Hope That He Still Believes In Redemption|
|Wake Up Body!|
|PAUL THEROUX||Warm Dogs|
|WELLS TOWER||Door in Your Eye|
|The Brown Coast|
|ROSE TREMAIN||The Closing Door|
|BARBARA TRAPIDO||Frankie and Stankie|
|WILLIAM TREVOR||Miss Smith|
|VALERIE TRUEBLOOD||The Llamas|
|SIMON VAN BOOY||Love Begins in Winter|
|The Coming and Going of Strangers|
|The Missing Statues|
|MARIO VARGAS LLOSA||The Celt|
|JACQUELINE VOGTMAN||Letter from a Suicide to a Troll|
|SANNEKE VON HASSEL||Pearl|
|Look at the Birdie|
|H.G. WELLS||The Diamond Maker|
|EUDORA WELTY||No Place for You, My Love|
|TESSA WEST||Hours of Darkness|
|CLARE WIGFALL||When The Wasps Drowned|
|D.W.WILSON||The Dead Roads|
|BESS WINTER||The Garnet Cave|
|JEANETTE WINTERSON||Dog Days|
|CHRISTA WOLF||Associations in Blue|
|TOBIAS WOLFF||Next Door|
|Our Story Begins|
|GAO XINGJIAN||The Temple|
|RICHARD YATES||A Convalescent Ego|
|Bells in The Morning|
|No Pain Whatsoever|
|The Best of Everything|
|BARRY YOURGRAU||Dream from a Fisherman’s Boat|
|MABEL YU||A Matter of Course|
Thanks for all your comments, support and recommendations; and for sharing the journey.
love begins in winter, simon van booy pp68
love begins in winter
london: beautiful books 2009
‘Actually, years mean nothing. It’s what inside them.’
Well, here we are in the midst of the two hottest days of the year, counting down 3 days to the start of the Olympics, meanwhile at the final season of this project. In the height of summer we dance an insignificant winter.
‘Outside, the afternoon – heavy with heat – listed like an old ship and people lolled from one side of the city to the other.’
For the 365th blog of the year I decided a while back that it would be on something from someone I love, a favourite among favourites - and what makes it particularly special is that one year ago I had never heard of this guy. And if he were the only thing that I had discovered over the past twelve months then it would have been worthwhile.
So, I have saved my best for last. For my pure reading pleasure. The title, and opening, story from Simon Van Booy’s Love Begins in Winter. In my opinion, the best story in an exquisite collection. It also happens to be the longest short story I have blogged during the year, at 68 pages – and every one holds something to be admired or adored.
Van Booy has written a lyric love poem, and sustained within it a clear driving narrative. And he has achieved this in prose. A remarkable and wondrous feat. A heart-gripping thing of beauty.
A story made up of 11 parts. We start with Bruno. This opening section is also the longest as we settle and get to know the man.
Parts II & III see a point of view switch, this is subtle – what Van Booy does cleverly and discreetly is to take the point of view camera up, to zoom out so that it might be Bruno’s it might not be. The point of view becomes larger, more detached – first in space, and then also in time. Like that of a small bird, our eye’s view starts perching with Bruno, then alights to fly above looking down with an omniscient air. Before it swoops to land again in part IV – this time landing on Hannah.
A great skill, very well executed. Brings to mind James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain, in which Baldwin also masters these discreetly switching and seamlessly segued points of view.
From that point on, we flit between him and her, dovetailing
Van Booy has a rare gift for the profound and poetic, and where he enters the arena of the big issues such as love, grief and memory he does so without confrontation but instead with a warm and enveloping reassurance.
Abstract emotions are tied into the small, palpable physical things of our lives. Just as they must be if we are to grasp any handle on them.
‘When it rains, even the most insignificant puddle is a map of the universe.’
‘[When the performance ends...] the applause is deafening. I drip with sweat under the lights. Each drop holds it own tiny clapping audience.’
He seems to explain the previously unexplained, not to teach us new things but instead to lay bare before us what it is we already know. Which seems to me more important. What’s the point of gaining experience of life if we cannot recognise or apply it to realise that new things are just old things, anew.
‘Perhaps all my opinions of other people are all opinions of another self.’
When Bruno reflects with Hannah on memory, he offers ‘Perhaps we hold on to our childhoods because we can’t hold on to each other.’
which seems to be beautiful and tragic, as so much is.
It also may, or may not, be true – or at least you might agree. I wonder if perhaps we hold on to our pasts because we can never hold on to our present.
Bruno also declares ‘Los Angeles is a place where dreams balance forever on the edge of coming true.’
Yeah. Los Angeles or tomorrow.
Bruno is a cellist, and performs as Van Booy’s witness to life’s lessons through his experience and his emotions bound in music.
‘I think music is what language once aspired to be. Music allows us to face god on our own terms because it reaches beyond life.’
‘Music is only a mystery to people who want it explained. Music and love are the same.’
Music is to Bruno as a poem or a short story is to me.
Remarkable. Thought-provoking. Tender. Honest. Immensely enjoyable. Endlessly re-readable.
‘Love is like life but starts before and continues after – we arrive and depart in the middle.’
Yeah. Love and short stories.
litter, iris moulton
american short fiction
‘Asleep maybe, with one foot out the window like it was the ’60s again.’
Short, succinct, slightly macabre and having enough to make you want to go round again. To see what you might pick up a second time.
‘And sometimes animals with the red inside squeezed out like cinnamon toothpaste.’
Isn’t it amazing what gets left behind every day. And how we fail to notice it, until one day we are looking for something.
‘people would feel bad running over a bag of cats if they knew what was in it.’
‘The men in orange jumpsuits had all done something wrong.’
To stop, or to keep on driving?
For more: www.irismoulton.com
one more thing, raymond carver pp5
what we talk about when we talk about love
london: vintage 2009
(first published in US by Alfred Knopf,1981 and in UK by The Harvill Press, 1996)
‘ ” I’m going, that’s all I can say.” ‘
Quintessential Carver. Domestically confined dirty realism. And as so often features in Carver’s stories we have drinking, smoking and arguing. And more than one thing is broken. It all happens in three short scenes. Kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms. Pounding hearts of a household.
A four line paragraph sets the scene and tells us what will, or actually what has, happened – for this is told retrospectively. But this is no way takes the dramatic tension out of the event as it is revisited in the telling. And this also pure Carver, the crux of the story is not the dramatic event but the reflective (often tragic) minor note that plays as it fades to black.
Dialogue pushes the pace here, with two pages covering everything you need to know about the characters, their relationship, their tensions – past and present – and also the verbal battle that builds to a urgent crescendo.
And then, dialogue stops. We move scenes from the hot, frenetic clashes of the kitchen to the quiet space of the bedroom and the bathroom, privacy and solitude. With all the shouting finished, the silence is so much louder. Bravado and baiting from a drink-fueled man deflates to a forlorn and aimless boy.
‘ ” I’m going,” L.D. said. ” All right, I’m going right now.” ‘
The final scene witnesses the re-emergence of a man, now proud, power-stripped and pathetic. Stalling for time, silently hopeful of a reprieve.
‘ “This is it,” L.D. said. “This is good-bye.”
And we reassess how this happened all so quickly. The clues that suggest how this was a long time in coming. And really, who, might have been the trigger behind this parting shot?
‘She said no one could make her go.’
And Carver digs out the real life troubles of American mainstream domesticity that go on behind every other door, every other day, drags ‘em kicking and screaming into the front yard, for all to see and hear. Before letting it burn out and quieten. And here’s us. Watching. Wondering. With nothing left to say.
As this story may represent American working class life, so the story may stand as one more thing among all of Carver’s stories:
‘Maxine said it was another tragedy in a long line of low-rent tragedies.
about my mother, ann hillesland
prick of the spindle
‘Everybody always asks about my mother. So talented!’
Well, what a delight. Like a double yolker on a Sunday morning, a walnut whip placed unexpectedly in your locker and a rainbow breaking through just in time for the photos.
‘Whenever she ripped a shirt or glove, she’d put it in the mending bag,though she never mended anything.’
Brief and beautiful. Feels honest and exact in each detail, magically poetic in its delivery.
‘to me her poetry always seems yellow-green, bisected by a stern red line.’
It is a rare gift to be able to make somebody laugh and yet render them almost tearful with such touching tenderness. Hooray for Ann Hillesland, and her mother, or the narrator’s mother, somebody’s mother, all our mothers.
Have you ever burnt a book?
‘The soft black ash was inches deep, the feathers of a midnight bird,’
A shining gem.
‘She was like a lion, roaring out of the ocean.’
the celt, mario vargas llosa pp22
london: granta 2012
(translated by edith grossman)
‘He spoke English with an Irish accent, the cause of jokes among his cousins.’
So much to say, so little time – particularly given that my laptop’s adaptor gave up the electrical ghost this morning and it seems nobody has one in stock available today. Therefore, I haev no choice than to leg it to the library this afternoon before I go to work, as nothing will be open later and I can’t blog from home. Ho hum. These teeny trilas are sent to humour us and the show goes on.
That aside, here we have a fascinating story that’s real time setting is Pentonville prison, 1916 – during the first world war and not long after the Easter Uprising in Ireland.
Our protagonist, Roger Casement, finds himself in a tight spot, but not as tight as it will be in a couple of days unless his appeal petition for clemency is granted – then it will be as tight as a knotted rope and his body will be dancing at the end of it.
The story shifts in time ffrom scene to scene, taking us on a tour of his travels and travails inclduing his work throughout Africa and in particular in the Congo in 1903.
‘whether he believed’
Politics of the time are centre-stage and Roger’s allegiance to his birthplace of Ireland and his long-dead mother’s clandestine adherence to Catholicism has landed him in a spot of bother. This may, or may not, be unjust. However having lived life to a diligent principle and then to life potentially have thrown it away in blatant negligence, well, at least the the irony does not escape.
Engrossing. Textured, with an embracing sense of history, politics, personal and social conscience – not one of which are irrelevant to us today. In fact his notion of ‘Society’ as they aggressively exploit and dupe African tribal people in the name of the Empire seems to unnervingly relate to the hollow pledges of our current prime minister.
‘Commerce brought religion, morality, law, the values of a modern, educated , free and democratic Europe, progress that would ventually transform tribal unfortunates.’
‘As the metro hurtled into a tunnel, her disintegration began.’
A wonderful short piece, as packed with drama and atmosphere as a rush hour Tube train.
What punches immediately is the emotionless, derisory contempt with which the narrator condemns a sobbing woman’s public meltdown. We side with our narrator – appalling lack of self-control.
‘Didn’t she have the decency to crumple onto her living room couch like most people, or build a fort in a ladies room and wear out a roll of toilet paper?’
How awkward to bear witness to a private emotional collapse in such a confined public space.
‘There was nowhere else to move.’
Of course, the conflict arises in our narrator’s urgent wish to run far from this scene and the impossibility of doing so, until he arrives at his stop.
Where a new conflict reveals itself.
Great moments. Tightly ratcheted emotional drama. Sharply caught observations that beautifully marry exterior physical signs with interior psychological turmoil.
‘She paused to bite her knuckles, trying to pull more words out of her mouth.’
The story snakes around blind corners, one way and then another, as it slows to its final destination the emotional truth is there to meet us on the platform.
I wonder if we read blindly (without first knowing the author) how we would read the intuitively read a narrator’s gender. I thought she is a woman, but I wonder is that a pre-conceived notion solely based on the female author.
Reading again, I see no firm evidence either way. I read phrases that push and pull me both ways.
‘It must be a female thing, this sonar for sorrow.’
‘I didn’t want even our coats to touch.’
Does it matter? Of course not, but it’s fun to contemplate.
What do you think?
Classic short story ambiguity at in the finish. Leaves the mind turning, wondering, hoping and praying that he or she does this and not that. Why would they? How could they? Would I? It’s not that simple. And there we have it, one of life and love’s conundrums laid bare.