Short Stories All the Time

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

01 May, 2015

Mary Miller, "Aunt Jemima's Old-Fashioned Pancakes"

First published in the journal, Barrelhouse. The first-person POV story is that of an anorexic high school female. She has a new best friend, Kitty, a cheerleader, also anorexic. Leann, the narrator, starts to dress better and breaks up with her boyfriend because Kitty told her she should. Leann "want[s] to let her hug me because I don't have a mother and I need whatever love mothers are willing to part with..."

Another great story from Mary Miller's collection, Big World.

22 April, 2015

Mary Miller, "Fast Trains"

A young woman goes on a vacation to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg with her new boyfriend. The boyfriend's sister had given them a coupon for a free hotel room and ticket to some show which they do not attend. The only person worthy of a name in the story is an ex-girlfriend. Otherwise, only pronouns are used. The young woman isn't even sure why she is with this guy and she knows he's not going to stop smoking pot and shooting his air gun and generally acting immature. It's a sad story with not a lot happening but it speaks to and illustrates lost young people with no purpose or ambition and young women who allow themselves to be used and taken advantage of.

It's written in first-person POV and past tense. The title, "Fast Trains," is from a song the guy makes up in the hotel room and strums on his guitar. The story is included in Miller's collection Big World.

Some of my favorite lines:
"He said he only wanted my love but he'd say this after I'd failed, once again, to be what he wanted."

"'Okay,' he said, and I was relieved, knowing his willingness was all that I required of him."

"I had successfully hidden myself from everyone I'd ever known."

"There was the question if my worth--a complex equation involving my weight and breast size and hair length along with my willingness to engage in oral sex and my domestic abilities, of which I had none."

Full text of story from Sundress Publications

07 April, 2015

Mary Miller, "Cedars of Lebanon"

This is the story of a young woman, probably in her mid-twenties or close to thirty who has no self-esteem or boundaries. Her boyfriend reaps all the rewards, sex and maid service, while he does nothing for her. She was married before and during a miscarriage her husband could not bring himself to take her to the hospital because he was watching football.

There are some fabulous sentences in this story and although the main character--we never learn her name--doesn't seem to change she does acknowledge that she knows how she'll behave, "...and she had left him, same as she'd left her ex-boyfriend, same as she'd leave this one."

Miller handles the shifting 3rd person point of view well. William Trevor and Alice Munro are the consummate examples of authors who do this very well also.

"If she didn't, she was jealous that the small, mousy girl had a personality that couldn't be scratched out and written over."

"Why did she have to love him more than he loved her?"

"While she peed, she tried to think of things she was interested in, wondering if she could make him like some of the things she liked?"

"Then she looked at her belly button, an innie so deep she couldn't see the bottom of it"

"She wondered what he did all day, how he occupied his time well enough so he didn't have to shoot himself in the head."

"'Can you hear me swallow?' her sister asked, taking a sip of Diet Coke. 'I don't like it when people can hear me swallow."

"She thought they might have been a better fit then, when he was who he said he was."

"Cedars of Lebanon" was first published in the journal Collagist and then included in Miller's collection, Big World. I found this treasure of a book at the Lemuria bookstore in Jackson, MS. I keep thinking of it as a treasure not only because it is small in scale but I just love her writing style and insights.

17 June, 2012

Arthur Miller, "The Misfits"

The point of view in "The Misfits" is omniscient or a shifting 3rd person. The point of view never really moves out very far except a couple of times, that I noticed, when the viewpoint is from the horses. "The three men approached the mare. She had never seen a man and her eyes were wide with fear." And, "The colt with dumb eyes shifted about on its silly bent legs trying to keep ..." I suppose I wouldn't call it omniscient since we never learn about Roslyn from her viewpoint, for example.

Gay, Perce and Guido use a rickety small airplane and an old truck to shoo horses out of the Nevada mountains so that they can lasso them and sell them. The horses are not high quality from inbreeding and age and will probably become dog food. Roslyn is mentioned and Gay worries that Perce has already had an affair with her.

The men tie heavy tires on the ends of ropes that drag the horses to a halt. Perce, the youngest, is a rodeo cowboy. Gay no longer lives with his wife and Guido's wife died in childbirth.

The story, written in 1957, was included in the anthology, American Short Story Masterpieces, published in 1987 and edited by Tom Jenks and Raymond Carver. The story was made into a movie in 1961 with a screenplay also written by Arthur Miller. I'd heard of this movie before but hadn't realized it was based on a short story. Naturally the screenplay was expanded as Roslyn (played by Marilyn Monroe) doesn't appear in the short story. She is only spoken of in the backstory.

According to some websites, Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay specifically for Marilyn Monroe and that she hated the role, which was her last.

I like the story. Men trying to survive and not being real smart about it. Somewhat nostalgic for earlier times and not too keen on examining why they are having difficult times. "Perce spoke out of the silence. 'If I don't win Saturday, I'm gonna have to do something for money.'" The story ends with the horses caught and stuck just as the men are caught in their circumstances with not much skill or knowledge to conduct their lives as anything more than victims or willing participants of circumstance.

Just a side note. It is interesting that at least 2 stories in this anthology have Marilyn Monroe references. Shiloh's Norma Jean and in this story Roslyn is based on Marilyn Monroe according to some references I've read.

Wikipedia entry about the film, The Misfits
review of the movie from San Francisco newspaper
blog for The Library of America
AMC film site
movie trailer, You Tube
NEH web site about Arthur Miller
Wikipedia page about Miller
PBS site, American Masters

29 November, 2010

Mary Miller, "Always Happy Hour, Always Summer" and "Derelict"

photo courtesy author from Luna Park site
Richie, a young father, unemployed, lives with his mother, has joint custody of his young son, and dates Chelsea. Most of the time, they just hang out and swim and drink and smoke. Richie doesn't really seem to know Chelsea and she realizes it. However, she lets her schoolwork slide and knows that hanging out with Richie is going to get her nowhere but she's obsessed and in love with him.The four-year old son is only referred to as "the boy."

And, in "Derelict," Richie is again dating Chelsea, although I don't think she's ever mentioned by name. This very short story, only about three pages, is written in second person POV and works nicely being placed immediately after "Always Happy Hour, Always Summer" because now that Chelsea and Richie are dating again and nothing has changed and she knows the relationship is a lost cause, the second person POV feels accusatory and seems Chelsea is talking to herself, trying to convince herself of the reality that there is no future with Richie. Alice LaPlante in her book, The Making of a Story, calls this type of second person POV, an inverted first person, where the narrator is referring to herself.

Both of these stories by Miller are in the Fall 2010 issue of American Short Fiction.

Book Woman site
blog entry about Mary Miller's Big World and a video of Tom Jones singing
interview with Miller, Luna Park
A Perfect Unicorn, a second-person POV short story podcast read by Ann Rushton
American Short Fiction

12 September, 2010

Jim Miller, "When to Lie"

This short story appears in the current, 2010, issue of Alligator Juniper. It is about a adolescent boy who has been dared by a friend to drink all of the communion wine when offered the "blood of our savior." At stake is a bicycle left behind in Shane's attic by his previous best friend, Nick. An antic by the two fathers to ilk the insurance company led to an argument between Shane's parents and subsequently led to the dare by Tommy; drink all of the communion wine or give up your bike. Shane's father gave him the bike after Nick's family moved out of their house late at night because of financial problems. Shane was torn about reminding his friend that it was still hidden in their attic and anxiously waiting for them to leave. Shane sees for the first time the "secret smiles" that he now understands mean there are secrets amongst the various people, his mother included, at church. Shane did not imagine at the outset--he was only worried about his salvation--what he would unravel by his antic.

This story has a nice movement of scenes between church and Shane's home which pairs nicely with the contradictions and conflicts between Shane's parents as well as the hypocrisy of Deacon Steve.

Alligator Juniper magazine

20 July, 2009

L. E. Miller, "Kind"

Read L.E. Miller's short story, "Kind." It is in the 2009 PEN/O'Henry Prize Stories. The story takes place in a chance meeting on a plane--a major coincidence--but I went with it. Then it moves into the backstory which I found to be interesting. Kindness and the idea of voluntary poverty are wielded to control, ever so subtly. The so-called relationship between Ann and Edith seemed forced and I found it a little hard to believe, at least as explained at first, that Edith would befriend Ann as a peer. Ann is much closer in age to Edith's daughter. Even so, I will probably read the story a second time because there was much I liked and I probably missed a lot.

Read through my story "Woodie Hart" and decided that the beginning is really the end.