Short Stories All the Time

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

05 May, 2017

Katherine Mansfield, "Miss Brill"

This 1920 story by Katherine Mansfield shows an elderly woman going to the public gardens somewhere in France every Sunday. She eavesdrops and decides that all the people, including herself, are actors in a play. It's like they are on stage and everyone watches everyone else. Actually, she watches the others. It's her life. She's lonely and her fur necklet is a type of protection as well as an inanimate friend. The previous Sunday Miss Brill was annoyed that a woman complained so about needing eyeglasses. That an entire paragraph is given to this I think it alludes to Miss Brill not seeing herself as she really is. Her life consists of reading to an old man who is practically dead in his chair and teaching English to students to whom she doesn't want to tell that she goes to the park every Sunday. All is fine and well until a young couple in love are harsh and cruel about Miss Brill. "Because of that stupid old thing at the end there?" She goes home without stopping for her treat of honey cake. She puts her fur necklet away and imagines that she hears it crying. 

The story is only five pages long and was first published in 1920 in Athenaeum. The POV is a very close third-person or some call it third-person limited omniscient. The entire story is from Miss Brill's viewpoint but so close that we know what she is thinking. 

I pulled this story from my shelf because of a quote Charles E. May put on his blog about this story. Katherine Mansfield said, “It’s a queer thing how craft comes into writing.  For example in ‘Miss Brill’ I choose not only the length of every sentence but even the sound of every sentence.  I choose the rise and fall of every paragraph to fit her, and to fit her on that day at that very moment.  After I’d written it I read it aloud—numbers of times—just as one would play over a musical composition—trying to get it nearer and nearer to the expression of Miss Brill—until it fitted her.”

It is a short story masterpiece! 

20 March, 2015

Katherine Mansfield, "The Man Without a Temperament"

First published in 1920 is this story about Mr. Robert Salesby and his ill wife, Jinnie. They are staying in France for two years until she gets well. Robert is not a happy man and feels very put out with his wife's illness. There is an eccentric American Woman with her pet, a dog, I assume. Two Topknots who are always eating biscuits and knitting. It is a great study in a relationship where one person is dependent on the other who is feeling resentment and the ill person is taking advantage and behaving somewhat passive aggressively. "'Oh!' She gave a little groan of dismay. 'How silly I am, I've left it upstairs on the bed. Never mind. Please don't go for it. I shan't want it, I know I shan't.'"
Several times during the day and evening, Robert daydreams of a time when his wife is not ill.

Katherine Mansfield was born in New Zealand in 1888 and only lived until 1923. This story is somewhat autobiographical except that Mansfield's husband did not go away with her for two years to convalesce but this is the story based on how she thought he might have felt had he done so. --Jeffrey Meyers, Introduction to Stories by Katherine Mansfield.

06 September, 2013

Katherine Mansfield, "The Garden-Party"

This 1922 story tells of a wealthy young woman, Laura, whose family is hosting a garden party and
when a workman from down the hill, "the very bottom of the steep rise," is killed, young Laura thinks they should cancel the party, "And just think of what the band would sound like to that poor woman." Her mother and siblings chide her and she gives in and decides "I'll remember it again after the party's over." After the garden party, Laura's mother tells her to take the leftover food to the dead workman's wife. Laura thinks, "To take scraps from their party. Would the poor woman really like that?" Topping it off, Laura's mother said, "take the arum lilies too. People of that class are so impressed by arum lilies."

The story questions wealth, poverty, class structure, societal norms as well as fleetingness of life and inevitability of death. The story is about 15 pages long and told in a limited-shifting POV.

FAVORITE LINES:
"The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans' chimneys."


15 June, 2013

Katherine Mansfield, "The Fly"

Written in 1922 this story shows the cruelty a man exerts over an insect, a fly. He's in pain from the death of his son and when a fly is stuck in the man's ink well, he at first rescues it and then kills

it slowly, watching the fly's efforts to rid itself of the ink coating its wings and legs.

"The Fly" is only about 5 1/2 pages long. I've never read any Mansfield before and am interested in reading more. Last night I purchased the paperback copy of Vintage Classics, Stories by Katherine Mansfield.

A couple of themes are that some people believe their pain is more intense than other people's. "Time, he had declared then, he had told everybody, could make no difference. Other men perhaps might recover, might live their loss down, but not he." Also, that all people have a capacity for cruelty and evil especially if in pain.


LINKS:
web site devoted to Mansfield
another web site devoted to Mansfield
Katherine Mansfield Society
Wikipedia page about Mansfield
another web site devoted to Mansfield