Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Banks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Banks. Show all posts

06 March, 2016

Russell Banks, "Big Dog"

This story deals with self-doubt, loathing, and jealousy. Erik wins a MacArthur Award and while the six people at the dinner are drinking and celebrating, they each start showing, especially Raphael, their emotions becoming somewhat accusatory. The fun part of the story is the description of the type of art installations the "genius prize" winner makes, "elaborate installations the size of suburban living rooms out of American Standard plumbing  supplies." An important theme of the story is how money often creates meaning. "All of a sudden, tonight here in this room, as we have just witnessed, and in a few days all over the world, your enormous bathroom and kitchen appliance installations have acquired great meaning. You have acquired great meaning." So what does that mean for the non-winners? I think we see their feelings in this story.  Salmagundi, a journal published at Skidmore College is the school where the main character, Erik, teaches.

"Big Dog" was first published in Salmagundi and then included in Banks's collection, A Permanent Member of the Family. Link to New York Times review of the collection.

08 December, 2015

Russell Banks, "A Permanent Member of the Family"

This first person POV story is about a man who gets divorced in the late 1970s with the three daughters--he has a fourth from a prior marriage--shared in "joint custody." The man (ex-husband, father) tells the story thirty-five years after the fact because he wants to "set the record straight." There is also a cat and a dog involved. The story is not even about the divorce or children or wife or pets, it's more about the urge to tell one's own version of a story. It's like one of those times when we know we've been misunderstood and no one allows us to correct the story, it keeps getting told and retold and at some point to even try to correct it makes it worse.
"But it has more or less become a family legend and consequently has been much revised and, if I may say, since I'm not merely a witness to the crime but its presumed perpetrator, much distorted as well."

"A Permanent Member of the Family" was first published in Conjunctions and then included in the O'Henry Prize Stories, 2015.

review of his collection of the same name, LA Times
review of collection, "A Permanent Member of the Family, New York Times