One of the book groups to which I belong (Mostly Books) suggested we all try to read some short stories this month. I enjoy short stories very much, but rarely take the time to read them…so this was an excellent opportunity for me to do some “little” reads. Perusing my bookshelf, I found an old Glimmer Train Magazine from 2004 (Issue #51). Thumbing through the pages, I realized I had only read four of the 17 stories in this collection. Perfect! So I challenged myself to read at least five more stories which are summarized below. Not a bad one in the bunch.
1. Hot House, by Jeni Lapidus
Finished on February 4, 2007
An intensely disturbing short that gives us a glimpse into the world of depression. Not a terribly hopeful story, but beautifully written. A favorite passage: ‘What can any of us do for the breaking-up and breaking-down but witness them and wait it out – even when the broken ones are us?’
2. The Words Honey and Moon, by Jennifer Tseng
Finished on February 4, 2007
Interesting little story about an older Chinese man marrying a younger American woman. My problem with this story was there were too many unanswered questions about the characters. They both seem deeply flawed, but the reader is never given insight into why.
3. Multiple Listings, by Lucy Honig
Finished on Febuary 4, 2007
I really enjoyed this short about a group of potential home buyers being shown a listing in Boston. The story has a surprising ending. Tenderly written with exceptional character development.
4. Say to the Waves, by Paul Michel
Finished on February 6, 2007
At three o’clock in the afternoon of February 26, Gerta Olsen’s husband, Shorty dove headfirst off the twelfth-floor balcony of the Norview Senior Center.
Thus begins this engrossing short. The story is about the collision of two strangers connected by death and the simple beauty of a black orca bench. Michel has a firm grasp on setting, and uses the imagery of the sea to pull the reader into this well wrought tale. Despite the grim subject matter, the story leaves the reader with a sense of hope that life does, indeed, go on…even after tragedy.
5. Among the Living Amidst the Trees, by Bruce Machart
James Byrd Jr. was dragged to his death by bigots on a rural road in Texas. This is true. The story that Machart weaves around this real life event is complete fiction, but due to the authors skill at character development, one gets the feeling that his characters actually exist. Machart creates vivid imagery (‘With the windows down, the forest smells akin to what you might get if you boiled Pine-Sol on the stovetop while raosting a sack of rain-soaked soil in the oven.‘) and true to life characters who blow apart the stereotype of the “redneck” (‘Six months back, after Tricky’s first couple chemo sessions, all the boys of the pipefitters’ local shaved their heads. It was a hard man’s brand of brotherhood, and the night they did it Tricky walked into the bar, and when he saw them his eyes filled with a liquid look of something like love. These are rough-hewn and heavy men, men with calluses thick as rawhide, men who aren’t afraid to keep something tender beneath their ribcages, and to expose it to the elements when occasion calls for it, no matter how it hurts.‘). Machart uncovers the people beneath a headline, and leaves the reader aching for more.