“Report to the Men’s Club” is a collection of short stories by Carol Emshwiller that spans her career from 1977 to 2002. I was curious about Emshwille...more“Report to the Men’s Club” is a collection of short stories by Carol Emshwiller that spans her career from 1977 to 2002. I was curious about Emshwiller, having come across her name in numerous places; none of the summaries of her novels especially interested me so I decided to discover her via this collection.
There is no theme that connects the stories in this collection but there is discernible similarity in the writing style. The 19 stories, seven of which had not been previously published, cover several different genres - mythic fiction, science fiction, fairy tales/folklore.
“Acceptance Speech,” about a woman who is kidnapped by aliens to write poetry, is perhaps the story that falls most clearly into the science fiction genre. “Grandma,” a sort of tall tale variant of mythic fiction, is the recounting of a woman’s years as a superhero as recalled by her granddaughter. In the folklorish “Creature” a man adopts a monster that isn’t quite what it seems to be.
The ideas are imaginative and clever but for whatever reason the stories did not resonate with me. I was never captivated by a story. I never felt the bewitching enchantment of the author’s storytelling skill. I never felt the lingering echo of the stories still resounding in my heart days later in the way a truly masterful story tends to do.
“Report to the Men’s Club” is a good collection of short stories - solid, respectable, and well written - but for me they were unremarkable and forgettable. (less)
This collection of short stories is simply sublime. There is something about the author’s voice that brought to mind the way one would approach a frig...moreThis collection of short stories is simply sublime. There is something about the author’s voice that brought to mind the way one would approach a frightened animal - softly, slowly, and cautiously. Yet at the same time the message of most of the stories was thought-provoking in a “smack you upside the head” sort of way. That dichotomy worked, and it worked very well. The overall tone is melancholy, there are strong messages about society and spirituality, and there is a hint of the supernatural that wafts like smoke from an extinguished candle. And the quality of writing is just perfection.
My favorite stories in the collection:
The Lives of the Philosophers. A man receives an epiphany about his thesis on Thomas Aquinas and Friedrich Nietzsche when his girlfriend experiences a tragedy. This story just shattered me. It left me breathless and weepy. I had to go for a walk. I almost took the book to my sister-in-law and demand that she read the story that very second (because I knew she would understand what I felt).
A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets. A man purchases a coat at a thrift shop and discovers the pockets of the coat mysteriously fill with scraps of paper on which prayers have been written. This was such a unique concept and there was a such a quiet desperation in the story. Poignant and profound.
Father John Melby and the Ghost of Amy Elizabeth. A priest endures a crisis of faith when he is visited by a ghost. This story is dark and gothic, and so compelling that I couldn’t look away for an instant.
The View from the Seventh Layer. A woman reflects on how her life has been impacted by a childhood visitation from an angel. I loved this story for how it was structured, in a sort of a circular, stream-of-consciousness manner. Beautiful and brilliant.
I also appreciated (but didn’t love) The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story. This one is just very very clever.
There were two clunkers in the book - a StarTrek fan fic piece and one about a television show similar to America’s Funniest Home Videos. These were awful in a “Can I tear these pages out of the book?” way. But ultimately they didn’t detract from my rating of the book because the stories I loved, I loved A LOT. (less)
Under a Glass by Anaïs Nin is a superb collection of short stories that showcases Nin's enormous talent. This was a solid 5 Star read for me. Though s...moreUnder a Glass by Anaïs Nin is a superb collection of short stories that showcases Nin's enormous talent. This was a solid 5 Star read for me. Though some of the stories resonated with me more than others, I enjoyed them all enormously. The writing is just so exquisite and delicious! (Favorite story: The Labyrinth)(less)
“Life can be changed in just one fateful moment.” These are the words printed on the cover of “I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere” and they...more“Life can be changed in just one fateful moment.” These are the words printed on the cover of “I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere” and they perfectly encapsulate the overarching theme that connects these stories.
The stories in this collection are, for the most part, startling in a very understated way. For example, “Lead Story,” my favorite in this collection, is about a man who makes a decision to do something that doesn’t seem particularly out-of-the-ordinary, but leads to a devastating consequence.
Anna Gavalda is gifted at creating characters. In just a few pages, she presented characters so well developed and complex that they seemed like real people. But what I admired most about the stories is how they lingered in my brain. The imagery was fresh in my mind for days after reading them, and I continued to puzzle over the subtle life questions that Gavalda poised.
There were a few stories that I didn’t like much at all, but I think that was more a matter of a culture barrier than the quality of the writing. (Gavalda is a French author.) Overall, “I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere” is quite good and I enjoyed it. (3.5 Stars) (less)
What I find most remarkable about the stories in “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” is how memorable they are. That, for me, is the hallmark of a very well-...moreWhat I find most remarkable about the stories in “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” is how memorable they are. That, for me, is the hallmark of a very well-written short story. With each story, Bergman creates scenes and characters that are so vivid you feel that you’ve been immersed in a novel of several hundred pages. The themes running through the stories are nature and femininity, and the author explores complex moral issues in a way that is both quiet and thought-provoking. I was surprised and delighted by how much I adored this collection of stories; Bergman is definitely an author to watch. (less)
I was not overly impressed with any of the stories in "Artificial Things." The stories are not particularly creative or ingenious, and the writing sty...moreI was not overly impressed with any of the stories in "Artificial Things." The stories are not particularly creative or ingenious, and the writing style is only mediocre. It's not really a bad collection, it's just unremarkable.(less)