Yes we all know what happens at the end of "The Lottery" by now, and no, it's really not that shocking. Nevertheless, Ms. Jackson was a pretty perversYes we all know what happens at the end of "The Lottery" by now, and no, it's really not that shocking. Nevertheless, Ms. Jackson was a pretty perverse lady for her time and this play always makes for a fraught high school production (in ours, the head cheerleader got stoned by the stoner burnout she'd been hitting on all semester to no avail...heartrending).
All of this aside, my clearest memory of reading Shirley Jackson remains: Sitting in the passenger seat of my mom's minivan somewhere between Yuma and California (otherwise known as the worst stretch of highway ever) with my feet on the dash and reading out loud. I don't remember what the story was, but about the time these two little kids started choking their dog, my mother asked me to kindly stop narrating and we spent the rest of the drive listening to the Top Gun soundtrack. ...more
My first Zweig, but certainly not my last. I obviously have nothing to compare to, but these two stories (or one short story and one novella) seem toMy first Zweig, but certainly not my last. I obviously have nothing to compare to, but these two stories (or one short story and one novella) seem to be a great introduction to the author's work, both thematically and in terms of the writing style.
The writing is lovely—descriptive without getting too bogged down in flowery descriptions, evocative without being showy. Zweig's descriptions of characters are also wonderful. These people—the blind woodcut collector who lives in the German countryside and Jacob (Buch)Mendel, the obsessively single-minded book pedlar—are definitely 'characters' in that you don't really imagine them as people that exist outside of a book, but they also feel very well-fleshed out, very true to their own stories. Likewise, both of these stories feel entirely complete—their outcomes totally inevitable. (Note: I don't mean predictable, so much as fated—part of a greater, historical storyline that simply couldn't turn out any other way.) The first story, "The Invisible Collection," especially so—almost reading like a fable that you've read many times before.
Set as they both are in the years following WWI, or per the "The Invisible Collection"'s subtitle, "during the inflation period in Germany," there is also certainly a political aspect to both of these stories, although it reads now as simply being on the right side of history. Zweig, I recently found out, having fled Austria after Hitler's rise to power, committed suicide with his wife in Brazil in the early 40s out of despair over the state of Europe and the rise of fascism. And there is certainly a mournful regret that hangs over these stories, even when not mentioned outright (as it is on occasion). But overall, there's a touching humanistic appreciation within this work which balances out what are ultimately pretty tragic tales. ...more
Michael Chabon on his experience writing his first novel: "My loneliness and homesickness were of intense interest to me at the time, as were young woMichael Chabon on his experience writing his first novel: "My loneliness and homesickness were of intense interest to me at the time, as were young women in short pants, and novels, and my eternal-yet-forever-lost friendships, and when I read a page of Remembrance of Things Past (as it was then known), the book that was my project for the year, I felt all those interests mesh with the teeth of Grammar and Style, and I would imagine myself, spasmodically, a writer. I hope you can infer from the above description that I was not yet twenty-two years old."...more
Doris Buchanan Smith’s A Taste of Blackberries starts with an idyllic childhood moment: two young friends rambling through a blackberry patch, checkinDoris Buchanan Smith’s A Taste of Blackberries starts with an idyllic childhood moment: two young friends rambling through a blackberry patch, checking to see if the fruit is ripe. The lazy summer day continues with races and some mischievous apple thieving, and Jaime, the (unnamed) narrator’s friend, always vying for attention. Jaime is fun, but he’s also melodramatic and a bit of a show off, and his antics are sometimes too much for the narrator to take.
Everything changes when Jaime stirs up a bees nest that afternoon. Many of the neighborhood children get stung, including Jaime, who makes a big show of thrashing around on the ground and yelling. Or at least, everyone thinks it's a big show, until they find out that Jaime was allergic to bee stings. And the one or two stings he received were actually enough to kill him.
Conveying the senselessness of a child's death to young readers is difficult enough, but what makes A Taste of Blackberries even more tragic is the guilt that the narrator feels for ignoring his friend's cries of pain. Smith handles both aspects of this troubling situation with grace and empathy, allowing the narrator to explore a whole range of emotions and mourn in his own way (he feels like he can't eat until after Jaime's funeral).
Equally important, Smith illustrates that caring adults are present everywhere in the narrator's life. Not only his parents, but his neighbors, and even Jaime's mother are there for him as he navigates this difficult time, ready to listen or even just sit quietly with him as he begins to heal. This is an important point for children to take away from such a story--that the adults in their lives are ready and able to be there for them during difficult and painful times. ...more
This book was really instructive for me writing wise, but I didn't really enjoy reading it. He moves between flashbacks and the present with a unparalThis book was really instructive for me writing wise, but I didn't really enjoy reading it. He moves between flashbacks and the present with a unparalleled fluidity and uses words so subtly--it almost makes up for the overwhelming plot. Also--worst title and book cover ever. Fire this jacket designer....more