Short Stories All the Time

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

21 December, 2013

John Cheever, "The Five-Forty-Eight"

"The Five-Forty-Eight" was first published in 1954 in The New Yorker.

Blake, a selfish cad, "felt too contented and warm and sleepy to worry much about her tears." And a delusional narcissist, "Someone, noticing the look on his face or her peculiar posture, would stop and interfere, and it would all be over. All he had to do was to wait until someone noticed his predicament."

He's a married man who chooses women "for their lack of self-esteem." Miss Dent not only lacks confidence but also suffered from mental illness and had been in a hospital for eight months just prior to his hiring her as a typist. After he throws her over and has her fired, he cannot even remember her name but some six months later she begins to stalk him and he becomes fearful. "He could run--although he was afraid that if he did run, it might precipitate the violence he now felt sure she had planned." He tries to outsmart her on his trip home; however she follows him onto the train ultimately threatening him with her pistol.

We see more of Blake's character through his relationships with two of his neighbors who are also riding the train home. His marriage, as well, is examined through the neighbors.

At the end of the story, we do not know if Blake has learned anything or if he'll change his behavior but we do know that Miss Dent has claimed some of her power. She says, "Oh, I'm better than you." He weeps.

27 September, 2009

John Cheever, "The Swimmer," Kurt Schwitters, Merz Fairy Tale

Started off my reading day by re-reading John Cheever's fantastic short story, "The Swimmer." Neddy, at a pool party, decides that he is going to swim home. While sitting poolside with a gin, he realizes that pools create a "stream" from the Westerhazy's pool to his house. He decides to name this new discovery after his wife, Lucinda. Off he goes, swimming one pool after another, while the reader witnesses his mental decline. We are never completely sure just how delusional he is or perhaps, more likely that he has mentally blocked the many recent setbacks in his finances and family.

I've made a few more minor changes to "His Parents, My Parents, and Needle-Nosed Pliers." I'm going to leave it alone now and see what the critique group says on Tuesday.

Just read the introduction by Jack Zipes, "Kurt Schwitters, Politics, and the Merz Fairy Tale" from the new book, Kurt Schwitters Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales. The introduction gives an overview of Schwitters and the Weimar Republic and the ascendancy of Hitler as well as a biography of Schwitters. Zipes also gives several explanations of Merz and examples. This book is the first time Schwitters' fairy tales have been collected and translated into English. I highly recommend it, so far, just for the introduction, and am anxious to read the fairy tales.