Frankie's Reviews > Incredible Tales: Saki Short Stories

Incredible Tales by Saki
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Nov 14, 2010

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bookshelves: british
Read in December, 2010

Saki has been recommended to me many times by friends. His stories could be considered short short fiction, as most of them range from 3 to 5 pages. His brevity yet thoroughness is impressive, as he manages to include all necessary plot details in an unimposing way. Many contemporary short fiction writers try to excuse plot gaps and lack of detail by waving the wand of stream-of-consciousness in the reader's face (or by labeling it prose poetry).

My only hesitations lie in the campy simplicity of his characters. Realizing that they are very brief one-act plays, in which the author had often to trick the reader into clever situations of thought and assumption, I should be ashamed to denounce, for instance, Clovis' lack of conscience. But after reading Salinger's or–as a better parallel–Chekhov's stories, repeat characters like Clovis deserve at least a little inner development. Also, I can't help recalling similar stories written anonymously in Reader's Digest over the years. My impression of them then as well as now is one of sensationalism and very fleeting entertainment. This sort of humor has a very short range in a reader's memory.

However temporary and periodical-worthy, his subject matter is entertaining and witty. He affects twists as well as O. Henry, wit and satire like Wilde and Swift, and horror as Poe. His treatment of adolescent characters reminds me of James' Turn of the Screw, with even more natural portrayals of childish candor and prankishness. These child vs. adult subjects are very faerie-tale-like but still injected with a mature point of view. Whether Saki uses supernatural elements or just practical jokes, the adults as children theme always shines through. My favorite stories are The Open Window and The Seventh Pullet, both about deception vs. trust.

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Reading Progress

12/03/2010 page 77

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