A collection of brutal stories mostly focused around the Partition of India and Pakistan. From the author's note:
As with a majority of conflicts, wome
A collection of brutal stories mostly focused around the Partition of India and Pakistan. From the author's note:
As with a majority of conflicts, women and children during the Partition of India and Pakistan were often the most vulnerable. The specific brutalities inflicted on women were legion, kidnappings among them. Officially, it is estimated that 50,000 Muslim women in India and 33,000 Hindu and Sikh women in Pakistan were abducted. Added to this, many who were abducted were forcibly returned to families, who in some instances, no longer wanted them, considering them impure. In 1949, India legislated the return of these women with the Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Act. Though the commonly used term for these women is recovered women, I have chosen to refer to them as restored. The distinction may seem trivial, but it is necessary, for I believe that while the recovery of a person is possible, the restoration of a human being to her original state is not.
This is an apt introduction to Rao's project. She is interested in depicting the brokenness, and what happens (or doesn't happen) afterward; violence and fear shape states and the bodies of the vulnerable are pawns and territories for others. Unsurprisingly, the stories are bleak. Rape and other forms of violence, or the oppressive weight of the systems supporting rape and violence, are on nearly every page. It's a tough read, content-wise, because Rao captures those acts with the precision of a camera, and it's a lot of almost unrelenting misery, no matter who she chooses for her narrators.
There's an interesting structure here I hadn't seen in a short story collection before: the stories are coupled, so that the pairs--mostly connected by a character who appears in both (did I miss the connecting character in "Blindfold"/"The Lost Ribbon", or was the connection just thematic?)--form the backbone of the book as a whole. And, in a book interested in Partition and in recognizing that a full restoration is impossible, it's an effective and appropriately thematic structural choice, too: the stories each stand alone but the gaps allow for echoes and contemplation. No single story is a single story. One of the collection's greatest strengths is its range of narrators and perspectives; it still adds up to a lot of rape and violence because that's endemic enough, but so many characters are left circling helplessly around what they're in the process of losing and what, if anything, can be recovered, and Rao makes that symphonic.
There were a couple five-star stories here, but I often found the stories too writerly, too purposefully mannered and too constructed in their "feel this, think this" moments, like being carted around on a ride. In a few of the stories, it was the heavy-handed yanks back and forth between the present and the past in a story that particularly made me feel this way. ...more
I want to wake Chrissie and tell her about this as if it's a warning: Don't push too hard; your last chance to see a person the way you wanted them t
I want to wake Chrissie and tell her about this as if it's a warning: Don't push too hard; your last chance to see a person the way you wanted them to be may come at any moment. One minute you have a parent, or a friend, or a lover, something solid, and physics tells you their resistance will always be there to meet you as you press yourself into relief against them. Then all of a sudden your mother is a fading outline in a thunderstorm, wet and weak and so far out of reach; or your lover who may also be your best and only friend is pulled so quickly into someone else's life that you don't even realize he's left yours until you're getting a save-the-date card; or your father is somewhere at the other end of the world and even if you had a number for him, you'd feel wrong calling to tell him to quit collecting stuff when it's painfully clear that you have nothing to offer to replace it. But I don't wake Chrissie because she's sleeping like a baby, and anyway, she isn't a baby and she doesn't need me to tell her what it is to watch somebody let you down by being human in the saddest and neediest ways, what it is to push at something that has long given way. It hit me like my mother's slap that just watching me these days is teaching her this lesson.
The level of unpretentious scrutiny of emotional steps/missteps going on in Evans's work is impressive. By the end of the collection, I started to love beyond reason the points where she chose to end her stories: that balance she achieved between what's resolved and what's unresolved, what the narrator has learned about themselves and what they're still concealing or walled off or denying, is some kind of alchemical magic. And I want a short film of that final story, "Robert E. Lee Is Dead."...more
I love Daphne du Maurier's writing so much. Rich interiority, lush descriptions, murder and ignorance and humans being complicated & selfish &I love Daphne du Maurier's writing so much. Rich interiority, lush descriptions, murder and ignorance and humans being complicated & selfish & awful.
"The Birds" might be the most frightening story I've ever read. The film adaptation is different from the short story, but both have their definite strengths. DdM is so good with exquisitely tense & claustrophobic pacing, and "The Birds" is just a creep fest of her typically sinister descriptions of the natural world and the more horrifying (and distressingly relatable) faces of human nature. The latter was what had me shivering the most; Nat having to repress all his frustrations with the denial and the ignorance of everyone around him, then witnessing the consequences of their actions, AHHHH. Felt that one in my lungs, as if I had been holding in screams. It's an apocalyptic story, which is not something I'm normally drawn to, but in this short form and with this densely excellent writing, I loved it.
I also loved "The Apple Tree." DdM writes as if landscapes are, if not sentient, are at least attentive to the story they're in, and the tree in this story combined with the fascinatingly rotten narrator were amazing.
"The Old Man" made my jaw drop. Literally. We have another DdM-y narrator telling the story of the titular old man and his isolated family, and his murder of his misfit son. It's very short, and it's the perfect ending to this collection....more
Chiang is the sort of writer where, when there's a story of his I don't "get" or like, I still look forward to reading what other readers/reviewers goChiang is the sort of writer where, when there's a story of his I don't "get" or like, I still look forward to reading what other readers/reviewers got out of said story. So thanks, Goodreads reviewers, for all the interesting commentary on "Understand," which I had found dull, despite my affection for the term "gestalt."
Most of Chiang's stories I like, though, and a lot of them I love. They're elegant and provoking and deeply developed. They reward rereading, which was great, because I wanted to read this collection in order to reread "Story of Your Life" before (and, as it turns out, again after) seeing Arrival. (The film was beautiful and affirming and did the original story credit while still being its own lovely separate experience.) In addition to the wise and graceful "Story of Your Life," the story "Hell Is the Absence of God" is another longtime SFF favorite of mine, and it was good to revisit almost a decade after I first read it, when the world seems even more Old Testament than ever.
The idea of certainty, and how that affects human behavior, is one of the things that interests me most in Chiang's work: predestination and free will, what-if-God-were-an-objective-truth, what self-delusions are necessary in order for us to function as we have before, how we weird humans unravel when a switch is flipped from uncertainty to certainty. He explores this in a lot of these stories, and I really enjoyed how they illuminated each other that way. (Throw "What's Expected of Us" into the mix, too, though it's a later story.)
ANYWAY. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single-author short story collection that operates on this high of a level both on knowledge & interest in science/speculation and on knowledge & interest in the human condition in all its complexities, and that is this easy and accessible to read. The two aforementioned favorite stories were, I thought, the strongest in the book, but there was brilliance in each story.
This is one of those "I mean, it's good, but I didn't LIKE it" two-star ratings. This is Link's debut collection of stories, and while she's always haThis is one of those "I mean, it's good, but I didn't LIKE it" two-star ratings. This is Link's debut collection of stories, and while she's always had amazing ideas, her execution skills have grown a lot, given how smooth and sharp--and a lot more varied--Get in Trouble is. Anyway, "The Specialist's Hat" is wonderful and a couple of the other stories were also good, but there was a pervading sameness to most of these stories....more
I love Aimee Bender's work. Love. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt was my first favorite adult book, I believe; I discovered it as a high school sophomI love Aimee Bender's work. Love. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt was my first favorite adult book, I believe; I discovered it as a high school sophomore and reread it obsessively (I have "The Rememberer" very close to memorized, still), and her work has majorly influenced my literay tastes for a long time now. Her stories and her imagery and her depiction of all our weird & sad & sweet human desires (and the strange places those desires take us) and the fierce momentum & scattered humor of her sentences, that's all part of my reading-and-writing bloodstream.
So I was an ideal reader for this collection, and I don't quite know how to explain her style, its limitations and its acrobatic expertise, in a detached way. Anyway, the stories in The Color Master are real world fairy tales, where both the literal and the metaphorical are murky but hit hard. She does whimsy like I like whimsy: disconcerting and enchanting in equal measure. She writes family relationships and romantic/sexual relationships with equal care, and there's a whole-ness to her work that gives even the smallest little interactions an evocative depth.
My very favorite story in this collection was the final one, "The Devourings," about a human woman, her ogre husband, and the time that he unintentionally eats all six of their children after being tricked into it by a plucky human girl. It's a turned-inside-out fairy tale, because we don't care, not even a little a bit, about the clever girl who tricked the monster and saved herself: we follow the grief and the survival of the woman and her ogre husband, and we see their fantasy world with both the logic of the fantastic or the stark realness of what it means to survive after the unimaginable. It's a beautiful, brutal jewel of a story....more
Engaging, painful, funny, and thoughtful. It took a while to finish this collection because, for the most part, I could only handle one story at a timEngaging, painful, funny, and thoughtful. It took a while to finish this collection because, for the most part, I could only handle one story at a time, and they did tend to demand my heart and head for a while afterward. Some of these stories were so well-crafted that I didn't fully appreciate what good techniques Klay was using until after I had time to reflect on what, exactly, he was very deliberately doing. Like, the experience of reading "Frago" was pretty intense: the military jargon and acronyms were near impenetrable to me as a reader, but Klay was deft in depicting how what I didn't understand was still the air the characters breathed, knew how to breathe, and when those scenes eased into the immensely mundane and readable (for this civilian) final scene involving cobbler in a cafeteria in which the characters are overwhelmed...that tonal flip, the positional shift, was really engaging, kind of just hit me over the head with how it was done, how I could feel the gaps and the whiplash.
The hazards of trying to give a star-rating to a short story collection is that, while the final five stories in this book were all five+ stars for me (I loved everything from "Prayer in the Furnace" to the end), a handful of the beginning stories didn't work for me--sometimes because of the style, sometimes because of the blandness of the narrating character, and sometimes because of the misogyny depicted.
From "Boys and Girls": "I no longer felt safe. It seemed that in the minds of the people around me there was a steady undercurrent of thought, not toFrom "Boys and Girls": "I no longer felt safe. It seemed that in the minds of the people around me there was a steady undercurrent of thought, not to be deflected, on this one subject. The word girl had formerly seemed to me innocent and unburdened, like the word child; now it appeared that it was no such thing. A girl was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to become. It was a definition, always touched with emphasis, with reproach and disappointment. Also it was a joke on me."...more
I loved how so many of these stories echo Dawn, which makes me even more eager to read more of Butler's long fiction. I thought there were four very gI loved how so many of these stories echo Dawn, which makes me even more eager to read more of Butler's long fiction. I thought there were four very good stories, one frustrating but still thought-provoking story ("Book of Martha"--THAT is what you suggest to God? I am unconvinced), and two meh stories in this collection. One of the very good stories, "Bloodchild," is available online....more
An atrocious cover but an excellent collection. My favorite was "Rodney Has a Relapse," about a golfer who was thought to have recovered from his poetAn atrocious cover but an excellent collection. My favorite was "Rodney Has a Relapse," about a golfer who was thought to have recovered from his poetic tendencies but who is backsliding terribly. Timothy Bobbin omg, that is possibly one of Wodehouse's funniest bits ever. Also, Wodehouse's relationship with A. A. Milne was not something I knew much about before now, until I went searching to see if it was an affectionate send-up or what....more
Finally got my hands on this one. It's a good collection of earlier (no later than 1930) Jeeves and Wooster stories, each with the standard plot hijinFinally got my hands on this one. It's a good collection of earlier (no later than 1930) Jeeves and Wooster stories, each with the standard plot hijinks and an insane amount of literary references in Bertie's delightful narrative (the amount of allusions in the fairly short "Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit" alone is a bit humbling). I think I'm nearing a (probably temporary) saturation point for Wodehouse, however, which limited the upper bounds of my enthusiasm for this collection.
If one doesn't want to start with one of the full-length novels--starting with Right Ho, Jeeves or The Code of the Woosters would be my first recommendation--this collection might be a good starting point if you want to dive into a short story or two and get a feel for the prose and the characters....more
A vivid, well-titled collection of stories about the lives of Filipino-Americans and Filipinos. I was quite engrossed in the way bodies and embodimentA vivid, well-titled collection of stories about the lives of Filipino-Americans and Filipinos. I was quite engrossed in the way bodies and embodiment functioned in these stories, and the ways relationships, family, and outsiderness are transmitted and depicted through and with our bodies. Is being at home in our bodies even harder than being at home among our family, or at home in America? There's a lot of tenderness among the selfishness and cowardliness that Tenorio unflinchingly depicts in his stories, and as a result, the collection made for a satisfying read.
The lack of overenthusiastic love on my part is probably my own preference for longer stories; most of the time, I want to know "but what happens after that? there are obviously interesting consequences to come!" when I get to the end of the story. And I think I was a bit uninterested by the predictable pattern most of the stories took, even if I'm cool with "cowardly sorta-betrayal" being the turning point of a story....more
Project Gutenberg curated this solid collection of early Wodehouse stories. I'd read the two Jeeves and Wooster stories before, but the others were neProject Gutenberg curated this solid collection of early Wodehouse stories. I'd read the two Jeeves and Wooster stories before, but the others were new to me, and I found them consistently bright and enjoyable, if not very meaty. But who reads Wodehouse for something to chew on? And I think I've gained an appreciation for Reggie Pepper now instead of spending the length of his stories wishing he were Bertie instead....more
The Jeeves and Wooster stories in this collection were delightful and amusing as per usual. The other half of the collection, the Reggie Pepper storieThe Jeeves and Wooster stories in this collection were delightful and amusing as per usual. The other half of the collection, the Reggie Pepper stories, didn't strike the right kind of chord for me, however; the voice and tone weren't as affably charming as the Wooster stories, even if the plots were quite similar....more
I don't gravitate toward short stories; if I'm going to care about characters, I want to invest my interest in more than just a few thousand words. II don't gravitate toward short stories; if I'm going to care about characters, I want to invest my interest in more than just a few thousand words. I did, however, want to read this collection because it contains the first Bertie Wooster story, and if anyone can cut to the quick with characters, it's Wodehouse. There's no wishy-washiness here; call Wodehouse's characters two-dimensional if you want, but he knows how to work and use characters who are crystal clear and crystal sharp. While there were a few stories I had to plod through, I still found much to enjoy in this collection, especially "The Romance of an Ugly Policeman" (I'd happily read a novel about these two characters!) and "At Geisenheimer's."...more
This set of eight short stories focuses on the absence of a partner who is away at war. The absence itself is both a lack and a constant presence in tThis set of eight short stories focuses on the absence of a partner who is away at war. The absence itself is both a lack and a constant presence in the lives of their loved ones, and families cope (or don't) in different ways. Set mainly in the community of Fort Hood among the loved ones left behind, these stories shine light on an aspect of American life that is both very contemporary and very eternal.
I really enjoyed this book. I sat down with it and found myself completely absorbed, to the point I forgot that I was reading. The prose is clean and without frills, but the sentences are each so evocative. There's nothing extraneous, each detail purposeful in fleshing out characters and the world of Fort Hood. The emotional lives of these characters were so easy to follow, and though I've never experienced life on an army base or had a partner in the military, I could understand the characters' emotions because Fallon depicted their lives, especially their feelings, so three-dimensionally and authentically. Plus, Fallon has a real talent for creating distinct characters in a very short amount of space; I wouldn't have confused any of the point of view characters for one another.
I prefer novels to short stories, and at the end of most of Fallon's stories I was left thinking, "But I want more! There's more of a story here left to tell!" However, the stories did each come to a particular emotional conclusion, even if they didn't resolve everything, and they're very lightly interconnected, which gave me the sense of experiencing an even larger story.
I was concerned about political content or soapboxing, but I was pleased to find that these stories were written apolitically, without any overt political agenda, about the war or otherwise.
Note: I received a review copy of this book for free from the publisher via the First Reads program here at Goodreads....more