Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Short Story Month: Post 2 (3 More Stories)

I got a little backed up on mentioning short stories for Short Story Month, so let me dump three on you:

(1) I just reread Stephen King's "The Woman in the Room" from his first collection Night Shift. It's a heartbreaking story, only scary in the sense of the reality of decisions we have to make with family sometimes. Nothing supernatural, yet terrifying.

(2) "The Smile on Happy Chang's Face" by Tom Perotta is probably the BEST OVERALL story I've ever read--I finished it for maybe the dozenth time. I does it all and flawlessly: dynamic plot, strong characterization, gut-wrenching theme, atmosphere that sets the tone . . . Centered around parents and kids at Little League baseball, you need know nothing about baseball--you just have to have been a child and/or a parent trying to find your way to appreciate this tale.

(3) "Pin" by Robert McCammon, from Blue World. Read it and be ready to be on edge. This is a defining story about insanity, like "The Yellow Wallpaper," or maybe it's just a story about a man trying to push a pin into his eyeball, hahaha. Either way, it's unforgettable.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Short Story Month: Post 1--"A Rose for Emily"

For the second year in a row (last year on my private Facebook page), I'm going to celebrate (National? It doesn't seem to be) Short Story Month, as probably proclaimed by a lowly short story writer like myself. Every few days, I'll briefly discuss a memorable short story here and on my Facebook author page. Today, because I found a bunch of Faulkner books at Half Price Books, it's "A Rose for Emily." I assume many of you have read it, so will not summarize and explain. Read it, if you haven't--or, hell, there's Cliff's Notes or whatever.

The narrator makes this story work. It's technically a first-person plural narrator ("we"), but it's an outside observer narrator, which I refer to as a gossip or voyeur in my classes: there's one narrator speaking for a whole town . . . and in this case, that person observes from a distance Emily and Homer's lives. The narrator is full of speculation and is therefore able to build sympathy for Emily during the course of the story, in five parts. She's the one we're concerned for. And that makes Faulkner's ending that much more powerful when we intuit the murder, necrophilia, and receive all that good stuff like the "profound and fleshless grin," the indentation on the pillow, and the "strand of iron-gray hair." This is a horrific story, a sad one, told by a master who recognized the importance of point of view when storytelling.