Short Stories All the Time

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

13 April, 2015

Lauren Groff, "At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners"

The story begins with Jude's birth in Florida to a herpetologist and a Yankee Presbyterian mother who hated reptiles and follows him to old age. It's told in third-person POV.

War intervened and father was gone for several years. The mother left and moved, without Jude, to Boston after the father returned. Father died and Jude went to Boston to find his mother, attended college and eventually married and had a child.

Five Points, 2013
The story circles back around to Jude putting "his head in the crook of her [his wife's] neck," from early in the story when his mother pulled "him to her side and put her face between his shoulder and neck." The story is about a family in which the father does not know how to show love and maybe he only loves his snakes. He attempts to force his family to his will and it does not work and while there may be love, a person's spirit can be killed. "They found the old man in his tent, bloated, his tongue protruding from a face turned black; and Jude understood then how even the things you loved most could kill you."

Jude had, from childhood, a propensity for mathematics and geometry but his father thought he should be able to hunt and catch snakes. The mother encouraged Jude's love of math, poetry and reading. "As messy as the world was, the numbers, predictable and polite, brought order."

"At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners" was first published in Five Points and then included in the 2014 issue of Best American Short Stories.


"He would never know her; knowledge of another person was ungraspable, a cloud. He would never begin to hold another in his mind like an equation, pure and entire."

"At night, he'd come out into the dark kitchen, longing for curried chicken, raw onion, preserved peaches, tastes sharp and simple to remind himself that he was still there."

05 February, 2011

Lauren Groff, "Delicate Edible Birds"

For the most part I enjoyed "Delicate Edible Birds" and its tension. The myriad of characters were fleshed out fairly well but seemed almost too flawed in expected ways. The story set in France during WWII was written in a shifting 3rd person POV. Small bits of back story for each of the journalists was included with the largest amount dedicated to Bern (B. Orton; Bern Ortolan; Bernice). The title refers to Bern's back story; she was sixteen and had an affair with a mayor 3 times her age. He took her to a fancy dinner at which they were served l'ortolan. The eating of these little birds was some of the most interesting writing in the entire story.

Some things that lingered with me in a negative way. Why were the journalists so easily taken prisoner in Nicolas's barn? Why did they not try to break out and/or overtake the two sons? At times, I had the sense that the journalists were cold but it was summer? Even if it did get rather cold at night and warm during the day, this was not clear. The old woman, Nicolas's mother, surreptitiously gave them a plate of crepes didn't seem plausible. Even if crepes were an everyday item to eat, for an English reading audience I think crepes sends the wrong impression. The evening before the food had been much more rustic. I didn't believe that Nicolas would follow through with his promise of gas and food. Okay, so he did but then it seemed like he was sending them off in style with lots of food and wine. Too much. I also was confused by the holes shot in Lucci's pants. No wound, six holes? If wounded, we never heard about it again.

I thought the paragraph of Parnell explaining how his wife Elizabeth would treat Bern was excellent and a great characterization of his wife.

Even though the author wrote that the barn smelled bad, I didn't catch a sense of its stench and the dank darkness. Also, I would have liked to see how they rationed the water from the donkey's bowl or how they drank it. That one line started to give me a real sense of what it was like in that barn and I wanted it to be expanded. I feel the same with Frank trying to eat a potato.

This is one of my favorite sentiments in the story. "...a woman so removed from the women of his youth as to be a whole new gender."

I also liked. "Parnell felt sorry for those small broken plants, he did. But when he was about to mention this to Bern, he felt a little foolish for it, and said nothing after all."

I read the story twice and especially liked the historic aspects of it. "Delicate Edible Birds" was first published in Glimmer Train and subsequently in The Best American Short Stories, 2010.

Lauren Groff's web page for her story collection
Wikipedia page for Groff