Short Stories All the Time

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

11 October, 2015

Edward P. Jones, "The Girl Who Raised Pigeons"

"The Girl Who Raised Pigeons" is the first story in Jones's collection, Lost in the City. Betsy Ann was born as her mother died. The first time Betsy Ann visited the barber's pigeons, they had frightened her and it was three more years before she wanted to see them again. And, then she wanted to raise some herself. Her father, wanting to save his daughter from experiencing death, would check on the pigeons early in the mornings before Betsy Ann was awake in case there were some dead ones that he could dispose of before she found them.

One of my favorite lines in the story describing Clara, Betsy Ann's mother. "Her once pretty face slowly began to collapse in on itself like fruit too long in the sun, eaten away by the rot that despoiled from the inside out." Then we see this young man learn how to take care of his newborn daughter. Even as he tries to protect her, there are some life and death realities even he cannot control. "Two little monsters had changed the predictable world he was trying to create for his child and he was suddenly afraid for her."

By 1961, the neighborhood is disintegrating. "Robert dreaded coming home each evening and seeing the signs of still another abandoned house free to be picked clean by rogues coming in from other neighborhoods..." Betsy Ann ventures out into the city. "She roamed the city at will, and Robert said nothing." And, "Her favorite place became the library park at Mount Vernon Square, the same park where Miss Jenny had first seen Robert and Clara together, across the street from the Peoples where Betsy Ann had been caught stealing."

28 November, 2010

Edward P. Jones, "Old Boys, Old Girls"

"Old Boys, Old Girls" explores the life of Caesar Matthews, two time murderer. He's only held accountable for the second murder and spends seven years in prison where we meet his cell mates.  The story ends with an interesting manner in which Caesar shows a dead woman respect and makes it so that she exits the world with dignity. I'm not sure what the theme of the story is except that we see a person's life that has gone wrong and some of his efforts to set things right, although only partially.

The opening line is my favorite, "They caught him after he had killed the second man." That seems to be a whole story right there. "Old Boys, Old Girls" is written in a shifting third person POV that is sometimes omniscient, almost. It was first published in The New Yorker in 2004 and is included in the collection, All Aunt Hagar's Children. And was included in The O'Henry Prize Stories, 2006.

story in The New Yorker, full text
essay about Jones in BookPage

22 November, 2010

Edward P. Jones, "Bad Neighbors"

Follows the two kinds of people, bad neighbors and good neighbors, on one Washington DC street. Sharon Palmer and Terrence Stagg deemed good go on to have  prosperous lives while Derek Bennington, labeled bad, is actually a good man.

It's an interesting story that reveals how people can become divided and vindictive as they scratch their way to some mythological, albeit materially rich, top.

Again, this story is about, among other things, how a man measures his self-worth. Have really enjoyed reading these stories by Jones.

18 November, 2010

Edward P. Jones, "All Aunt Hagar's Children"

This story was first published in The New Yorker and is the title story of his collection published in 2006. The main character has just returned from the Korean War (Conflict) and is enlisted to solve the murder of his mother and aunt's best friend, Miss Agatha's son, Ike. This story is divided into 13 scenes and wonderfully written. The characters come to life on the page. I think the theme, for me, is about family and what sometimes has to be done to protect those you love or those in danger.

I notice some people say Jones writes in an omniscient viewpoint but to me--this story anyway--it seems more of third-person limited shifting. I've loved reading these last two stories and am glad I've finally made the time to read some of his short fiction. I've owned Lost in the City for some time and still haven't read it. Just not enough hours in the day. Last weekend purchased All Aunt Hagar's Children.

Edward P. Jones, "In the Blink of God's Eye"

Edward P. Jones' short story, "In the Blink of God's Eye" is the first selection in All Aunt Hagar's Children. Edward P. JonesIt's thirty pages long and written in third-person shifting POV. The story follows the slave descendants Aubrey and his new teenage wife for about one year at the turn of the 20th century in Washington, DC and Virginia. The sentences are beautifully rendered and lend to the sense of the era.

The story is divided into 13 sections or scenes, each rich enough for an entire novel chapter. As I was reading, I felt like I was reading a novel. In the end, Aubrey acknowledged that his marriage with Ruth was over but it did not seem as though it was really an ending and does not seem as though Aubrey will never see Ruth again. I think the theme, for me, is about how a man measures his self-worth and in turn, because of that so-called measurement, how he relates to those around him. 

Edward P. Jones has won many awards: Pulitzer, National Book Critics Circle, IMPAC Dublin Literary, Lannan, PEN/Faulkner, and MacArthur.

Wikipedia biography
review in The Quarterly Conversation by John Harrison
Edward P. Jones reads part of "In the Blink of God's Eye" on NPR