A moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few nA moral thread through Jackson's tales: She who sees evil in everyone around her should look in a mirror. Especially if she lives in a village.
A few notes on this edition: Although Joyce Carol Oates is the editor, she only selected the included novels and short stories. Sadly, there is no preface or comment from her. Also, the book is printed on exceedingly thin paper, which you can clearly see the type through from the other side. It makes it quite hard to read. I probably won't be reading a similar edition again.
The Lottery: 5/5 An excellent collection of short fiction with recurring motifs and a mysterious and somewhat menacing outlying character, James Harris. Like multi-colored threads through the tales, Jackson unobtrusively challenges the reader to find those connections, and draw comparisons. David Mitchell used this technique in Cloud Atlas, but Jackson is a master weaver. Some stories are outright horrific, but most would be classified as mid-century gothic - full of subtle, eerie charm. The recurring objects, words, names, and motifs were drawn from an old Scottish Ballad "The Daemon Lover," a stanza of which is included as an epigraph.
In an essay included in this collection, "Biography of a Story," Jackson tells about how "The Lottery" (the eponymous story, first published in The New Yorker in 1948) created more hate mail and buzz than the magazine had ever seen. She insists that there is no hidden meaning and allegory in the story. "It's just a story." She republished snippets from these troll-ish letters, and they look so tame and twee compared to today's internet trolls. She was shocked how many people wrote to her insisting on knowing what village, in what State these events took place. With her usual dry humor, she says "...if I thought this was a valid cross-section of the reading public, I would give up writing."
The Haunting of Hill House: 3/5 A fun little haunted house story. A bit divulgative, though. It lacked the subtlety of The Lottery, but quite entertaining nonetheless. It was fun to see a few objects mentioned in The Lottery make reappearances in The Haunting of Hill House. This would be a perfect quick, spooky read around Halloween. You'll spend most of your time trying to figure out "Whodunnit?" and "Who's the red shirt?" Finally, for the last bit of fun, there are lesbian undertones throughout the story, which hints to Jackson's own close relationship to a French student in college. (I'll freely admit, I'm interpolating from the chronological sketch, but it's hard to dismiss.)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle: 5/5 Well, holy crap. Creepy, crazy, wild story. After reading about Jackson's life story, I can understand Jackson's general vitriol towards village residents. In her real life in Vermont, her family was harassed, bullied and house defaced because they were "outsiders." Jackson herself became housebound after social interactions became too difficult to bear.
This story had one of the more interesting male characters - Old, crazy uncle Julian. It's curious how most of Jackson's stories have female protagonists who are either deceptive or going against the grain. Jackson's mother continually referred to younger brother was the "obedient" child and Jackson as the "willful" child. In turn, most male characters are sketches or
Other stories and essays: 3/5 Like most short story anthologies, it's quite a mixed bag here, presented in chronological order. It was fun to watch Jackson's writing evolve and mature - she became sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and a master of twists. The best of the bunch were: "A Visit," dedicated to Dylan Thomas, an admirer of Jackson's; "Louisa Please Come Home"; and The Bus. There are also a few of Jackson's sketches from her own family stories.
After overdosing on Shirley Jackson, if you are only going to read one book of her's, read The Lottery....more
My interest in this book was doubly piqued; it's on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list and (more intriguingly to me) was featured in the seasoMy interest in this book was doubly piqued; it's on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list and (more intriguingly to me) was featured in the season 5 finale of Lost. Why was Jacob so obviously engrossed in this book of mid-20th century short stories?
Each story in the collection is a deceptively simple observation of everyday events, objects and people either set in or relating to the American South. There is a series of events that greatly impacts the characters in the stories - frequently with a twist. Broadly O'Connor comments on the changing face of racism, poverty, and family relations with brilliant and darkly funny observations. It can be very difficult to read about these situations as it's clear they stem from deep within O'Connor's roots.
The trouble I had was with the one-sided personae of the main characters. Usually I enjoy complex, deep and conflicted characters. O'Connor certainly presented plenty of conflict, but most characters were so stuck in their ways they usually couldn't rise above their short-sightedness. It's a bleak view of humanity with almost no chance at redemption. I don't mind bleak, dark, unresolved stories, but aren't people more complicated than that? Don't most characters have some identifiable spark of a softer side of humanity?
Here's what I've been wondering (pardon all these navel-gazing questions): Can I really enjoy a story if the protagonist and antagonist are relatively one-sided characterizations? For me the answer is sometimes but rarely. I really enjoyed the twists in "The Lame Shall Enter First", and the characters in "The Comforts of Home." The rest were just really tough to get through.
Back to Lost - why would Jacob be reading "Everything That Rises Must Converge"? Most likely we won't be able to fully understand that question until the final season when we (hopefully!) learn more about Jacob - that mysterious, mythical leader on The Island. In "The Incident, Parts 1 & 2" Jacob and his nemesis are discussing past events and people on the island. Just like in O'Connors anthology, they describe the everyday comings & goings that often reveal the dark and true nature of the unfortunate stranded souls. Certainly the title is prophetic for Lost - the individual character's story lines all converge on an unbelievable coincidental future and at the end of the 5th season the past was potentially being re-written. No doubt in season 6 the changed past will still end up to a common convergent future for the leads....more
Whatever you do, read Hound of the Baskervilles. Holy cow, that's now one of my favorite books. The short stories are fun, but some are better than otWhatever you do, read Hound of the Baskervilles. Holy cow, that's now one of my favorite books. The short stories are fun, but some are better than others.
It feels like Holmes and Watson are really fleshed out as dynamic characters in Baskervilles. Is it the longer length? Is it because it was written so much later than the short stories?...more
Got this from my Penguin niece. Yes, she's a penguin. ___________
Tons of fun, very clever, but does get a little same-y if you read too many at once. IGot this from my Penguin niece. Yes, she's a penguin. ___________
Tons of fun, very clever, but does get a little same-y if you read too many at once. It must have been riotously fun following the re-telling of great literature live on Twitter. All compiled into one dead-tree book, the wit loses its edge. However, I do really look forward to re-reading individual abridgments after reading the classic they are parodying....more
There was a farmer who wasn't happy with the money he was making from his crops. He heard there were fortunes to be made huntingThe Farmer and The Pig
There was a farmer who wasn't happy with the money he was making from his crops. He heard there were fortunes to be made hunting fungi in the forests. He sold his oxen for one very expensive pig that he was told would hunt out the fungi. Once they were in the forest, he said, "Pig, time to earn your keep!" To which the pig replied, "I'm afraid you have been fooled. I eat slop and lie around all day in my own filth. I'm not worth the price you paid."
Gothic horror, how I love thee, and Ms. du Maurier is your ultimate practitioner!
1 novella broken into two (MonteA creepy Halloween read for October.
Gothic horror, how I love thee, and Ms. du Maurier is your ultimate practitioner!
1 novella broken into two (Monte Verita & Victor), and 5 short stories: The Birds (yes, the one turned into the Hitchcock movie), The Apple Tree, The Little Photographer, Kiss Me Again Stranger, and The Old Man.
The first 3 (novella, The Birds and The Apple Tree) were 5-star reads, the others were 3 or 4 stars, but still fun.
I love the subtle creepiness that slowly builds....more
I like horror stories. They offer you a glimpse into a terrifying world that you will hopefully never experience. After the story is done, I can contiI like horror stories. They offer you a glimpse into a terrifying world that you will hopefully never experience. After the story is done, I can continue on in my comfortable world without needing intense therapy. For a moment I get to experience life to the creepy extreme.
As there are so few female authors writing good horror fiction, Allyson Bird gives a different, female point-of-view to the genre. Almost all of the short stories in Bull Running for Girls has a strong, young female protagonist. The stories also have a common theme of strong family relationships and ties. What's amazing is that the plots of the stories themselves run the gamut: ghosts, vampires, witches, other occult happenings, and just pure psychological thrillers. If you have a favorite horror sub-genre, you'll definitely find it here. Some stories are in different time periods, and different countries; it's quite a voyage by the end!
A couple of the stories really stood out to me as being interesting and especially well written. "The Caul Bearer" which starts off the anthology, has Lovecraftian overtones. A woman in a mythical British seaside has to deal with the premature death of her fiance. She tries and fails to continue her daily communal fishing-village life, while learning the horrifying realities of the powers of the sea and village. I felt the terror to my bones.
"In the Hall of the Mountain King" is more of a psychological horror tale, with little creepy occurrences slowly dropped into the story until they all come together. A young girl lives with her family in a house where the back garden abuts the back of an Asylum. I probably don't have to say much more than that!
I did find a few of the stories in the middle to be a bit weak or perhaps not as thoroughly thought out. I find this to be pretty typical of such a diverse set of short stories; I didn't expect every one to be to my tastes.
I also really liked the bio-punk and scientific take on horror in "In a Pig's Ear," as well as the creativity of a horror story set in modern-day Pompeii.
What's excellent about an anthology of short, diverse horror stories like in Bull Running for Girls is that I can experience a terrifying fictional reality for 20 pages with the story wrapped up at the end. It's no less freaky or scary, but I don't have to take the dark world with me when I pause in the story to carry on my real life....more
I'm feeling really guilty giving this 2.5 stars, but the book is just not for me; I need to move on to all the other books I want to read.
Each story iI'm feeling really guilty giving this 2.5 stars, but the book is just not for me; I need to move on to all the other books I want to read.
Each story is centered around a Big Idea -- and the ideas are huge, mind bending, and thought-provoking. You'll think about them after you put the book down.
For me, the ideas were so huge, everything else went out the window. It took me a while to figure out why after reading this for a bit, I was feeling so flat, even slightly depressed. I think (but I'm not certain) it's because there is virtually no description of setting or characters.
Chiang doesn't create a fully stimulating world - it's a book with intellectually stimulating stories only. Which on the face of it I should love, but in this case his writing just doesn't resonate with me.
I also want to mention that I've re-classified this book as speculative fiction, rather than sci-fi. Some of the stories do have sci-fi elements, a couple have fantasy and mythological components, and yet none of those genre elements are overly heavy. ...more
99-cent buy from Goodwill. Keeping track of the stories I've read:
1 - John Kessel "The Juniper Tree" 2/5 Generations of feminist social & technolog99-cent buy from Goodwill. Keeping track of the stories I've read:
1 - John Kessel "The Juniper Tree" 2/5 Generations of feminist social & technological engineering on the moon with a horrifying murderous guilt twist. Fell flat for me.
*27 - Charles Stross "Antibodies" 4/5 I find Stross's blog very amusing and well-written but had never read any of his fiction, despite him being a very prolific author. This story is one that starts out as a maybe-two-star and quickly turns into a 4 or 5 star rating as the earth begins to fall out from under the feet of our protagonists. The beginning will remind you that this was written in 2000, but the end is mind blowing and amusing. Too much talking, though.
42 - Ursula K LeGuin "The Birthday of the World" 3/5 An alternative mythology story that's quite confusing to get into, mostly because the writing is obtuse. I like that God is a man and a woman joined, so you have God Himself and God Herself who are considered one, but have separate religious and ceremonial jobs.
*64 - Nancy Kress "Savior" 5/5 Novella-length first contact story. An alien egg object lands in northern Minnesota. Humanity's interactions with the egg and humanity's own foibles spans many generations. A story of destruction and construction. Love the sociology SF of Kress.
549 - M. Shayne Bell "The Thing About Benny" 4/5 Entertaining riff in near future world where many plants are extinct and a young savant who hunts down lost specimens in old office buildings. Oh, and it's a clever Abba tribute.
*555 - Robert Charles Wilson "The Long Goodbye" 5/5 A brisk 2.5 pages gives you two differentiated human species 350 years in the future, a grandfather and grandson, space exploration and a huge twist. Awesome! I love RCW. ...more
Some undiscovered Daphne du Maurier stories, along with other obscure ones. Story of their discovery in The Guardian: Lost Daphne du Maurier stories dSome undiscovered Daphne du Maurier stories, along with other obscure ones. Story of their discovery in The Guardian: Lost Daphne du Maurier stories discovered, including this bit: "Most startling among them is "The Doll", published in 1928 when Du Maurier was barely into her 20s – a macabre short story about a man who discovers that the girl he's smitten with is besotted with a mechanical sex doll."...more
Wow. Usually short story anthologies get a middling rating from me because one or two standouts function as the tent poles. That's not the case here aWow. Usually short story anthologies get a middling rating from me because one or two standouts function as the tent poles. That's not the case here at all- each story is excellent in its own right. I loved learning more about people, places, and cultures in the Hainish Universe. But my favorite story was the multi-generational interstellar starship voyage. Fantastic collection, and a must-read if you've read The Dispossessed or Left Hand of Darkness....more
I'm afraid to admit that I'm abandoning this anthology. I seem to be in the wrong demographic. All the stories appear to be fantasy, and very squarelyI'm afraid to admit that I'm abandoning this anthology. I seem to be in the wrong demographic. All the stories appear to be fantasy, and very squarely in YA territory. A couple were sort-of interesting, but most just fizzled. The recall notice from the library sealed its fate. Too bad....more