Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 875, mostly contemporary, short stories.

22 February, 2017

Lydia Davis, "The Seals"

"...fat blueberry pancakes..."
When the story was first published in The New York Times, it was titled "Everyone Was Invited." It's a first-person account of the death of an older sister and a father just three weeks apart. The father was old and his time had come but the sister had been stricken with a brain tumor. The story is all in "telling" mode and is told during a train ride. There are several themes. "You get older and see things more clearly..." Another theme, for me, is the stages of mourning that people experience. And, another concept, "Maybe you miss someone even more when you can't figure out what your relationship was." There's a lot to think about with that line. That's the beauty of Davis's writing. She examines everything minutely and intensely until something of immense meaning is cajoled out of that examination and the reader finds it applies to her. Another theme or idea that is picked at, like a hangnail, is the idea that family dynamics are fluid and shifting and ever confusing. Another truth that I don't believe most people acknowledge out loud but yet experience, "Once she was gone, every memory was suddenly precious, even the bad ones, even the times I was irritated with her, or she was irritated with me." While Davis explores these emotional concepts, she never forgets the visual and tactile, "Those treetops on a hill in the far distance were even with us for awhile, but when I looked again, they were behind us, though not far behind." The reader feels she is riding alongside, looking out the window, with the narrator. 

"The Seals" is included in Lydia Davis's collection, can't and won't (stories). I can't recommend this book enough. I love her writing and love hearing her read her work aloud.

21 February, 2017

Clarice Lispector, "The Body"

Lispector takes three people, one man, two women, who live together and partake in a ménage à trois. The man, Xavier, cheats on the two women, Carmen and Beatrice, with a prostitute. The two women take knives and kill Xavier. The author invokes The Last Tango in Paris, Ravel's Bolero, and Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers to build a theme of dependence that turns into control, abuse, and revenge. Even after the body is shown to the police one of them said, "'Look,' said one of the policemen, right in front of the astonished secretary, 'it's best to pretend that nothing at all happened, otherwise there will be lots of noise, lots of paper work, lots of gossip.'" The women thank him.

20 February, 2017

Clarice Lispector, "Miss Algrave"

Miss Ruth Algrave, beautiful and chaste, writes letters of complaint to newspapers concerning all that she deems unholy. "She felt offended by humanity." She bathed once a week and removed herself from all sexuality until one particular night. "It was then that it happened." Something entered her bedroom window, wind which stated he was from Saturn. "What matters is that you can feel me." She becomes sexually alive. "She had never felt what she now felt." Her life changed; she began to eat meat, drink wine. "She had asked him [Ixtlan] why he had chosen her. He had said it was because she was a redhead and a virgin." Her unhappiness ended. However, she decides "She was going to take to the streets and bring men up to her room." And, "...she would take a bath, purifying herself of all those men, in order to be ready to feast with Ixtlan."

The story blends Biblical, Old Testament, references, Ruth, archeological, Ixtlan, and fairy tale, happy ever after, elements into a sexual awakening and acceptance of all people story.

Clarice Lispector, 1920-1977, was born in Ukraine and raised in Brazil. She married a diplomat and lived in Europe as well as the United States.