Short Stories All the Time

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

12 June, 2017

V. S. Pritchett, "A Family Man"

The story is told in third-person POV. Berenice makes jewelry and also works at a university. She's having an affair with William who is married. She fancies herself a modern woman and claims that she feels the affair is a game for her. However, strong she deludes herself into thinking she is, she's actually fragile and when William tells her his wife, Florence, is very beautiful, this makes Berenice feel beautiful. Then, vice versa when Berenice meets Florence face to face and Florence is not beautiful, Berenice feels ugly. This also brings William into focus for Berenice in that he's no longer handsome either. Berenice finds out that William is also having an affair with Rosie at the university. And Rosie is "not young." LOL. Berenice is a mess and she doesn't even know it. Although she does have some, not much, guilt about lying and acting a lie.

Victor Sawdon Pritchett, British, b. 1900-d.1997.

21 June, 2015

V. S. Pritchett, "The Wheelbarrow"

Laura Freshwater has inherited a house from her aunt. She travels to clean out the house and ready it for sale. She gets Robert Evans to help. He's also a preacher and takes a keen interest in the new green wheelbarrow, to gather souls, in the shed. The crux of the story is that Miss Freshwater does not feel any history with the house until Robert uncovers a Chinese hat with a pigtail attached. She grabs the hat from him and finds the accompanying photographs. Then, "The house, so anonymous, so absurd, so meaningless and ghosts, had suddenly got her." Robert seems to understand Miss Freshwater, "'When I saw you looking at your photographs,' he said, 'I thought: She is down the mine.'" He had shared the story with her when he had had a near death experience and had decided to devote himself to God, "I promised God in front of all my family that I would cleanse my soul if I got out."

20 June, 2015

V. S. Pritchett, "Citizen"

Effie Alldraxen is having another meltdown and is in the hospital. "'I think, she said, stubbornly putting up her chin, 'I must have been trying not to get married.'" Her father had immediately gone from London to Rome to rescue her, "Can you come immediately, not to bother, please if possible." Her father, a doctor, states "Children tear at one's bowels." Effie is a mess is an understatement. "One of the difficulties of Effie's life has been her love of other women's husbands." This time a statue, "walks with me everywhere I go." And, her poor father, had "made it an absolute rule to believe everything she says." Mr. Wilkins, a single man with a speech impediment, wants to marry Effie. Enter the biggest problem, "'It is really marriage I am in love with, not men,' she said then." She imagines what her life with him would be and does not want to marry Mr. Wilkins.

Favorite Lines:
"She is brisk and domestic--a drawer-tidier, a sock-darner, a saucepan-buyer (one would say)--and she is pretty."

"I would have known him from Effie's account of him; she is a cruel mimic."

"In his one-sided way, he had an air, but pinned to his back there seemed to hang a notice that Effie must have read at once: 'Frantically desires some woman to pull him together.'"

"If there was an unmarriageable man in love with someone else, Effie's hospital instinct would find him at once. If an unmarried man fell in love with her, as Wilkins did, she bit his head off."

"Everyone who has heard Effie say the word 'think' agrees it has a musical sound that takes all suggestion of the process called 'thought' out of it."

"Citizen" in its funny yet revealing way shows the foibles of a not so young woman who wants one aspect but not the whole of it. Most of us suffer this wishful, albeit impossible, parsing. She hasn't until now, maybe not even now, "even Effie must (my italics) have seen that she had gone too far," learned that doing the same thing over and over will only yield the same results.

Yesterday I toured the Eudora Welty house in Jackson, Mississippi and am so happy I carried along my Collected Stories by Pritchett. He was a great friend with Miss Welty.

10 October, 2011

V. S. Pritchett, "The Image Trade"

Pearson, a writer, is going to have his portrait made by Zut, a photographer. The story is just nine pages long and takes place on a London bus and is told in a silent first-person POV like an interior monologue except that Pearson imagines that he is putting the question to his fellow bus passengers.

Pearson having just left an art exhibition where he saw his portrait and "but by a mysterious accident of art had portrayed his soul instead of mine." This story is a great discussion, albeit one sided and silent, about photography as an art form and expectations and suppositions made by Pearson.

"The Image Trade" in the lead story in a collection titled, Caught in the Act, edited by Barry Munger. It's quite a nice anthology; published in 1996. The other stories are by Rick DeMarinis, Hob Broun, Annie Proulx, Cynthia Ozick, Alberto Moravia, Paul Theroux, Dorris Dörrie, Julio Cortázar, and Italo Calvino. Each short story is accompanied by a black-and-white photograph by well-known photographers.

N.Y. Times essay about Pritchett's writing
essay about Pritchett, Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. 2008

11 January, 2011

V. S. Pritchett, "Did You Invite Me?"

In "Did You Invite Me," Rachel meets Gilbert whose wife, a famous actress, has died. Gilbert is a bore and socially inept. However, Rachel befriends him and they are both "haunted" by ex-spouses. Eventually Sonia, Gilbert's dead wife, suggests that he send Rachel some flowers. These two work through their old relationships.

My favorite part of the story is the way Pritchett writes dialogue in which the dialogue is completed in narration. I don't know enough about literature to say for sure if this is what is contributing to the close feel. But it seems as though when reading and the remainder of what usually would have been completed in dialogue is changed into narration does that lend the reader to feeling he/she is standing beside the speaker and the reader has previously been privy so we feel that closeness.

"'The old girl,' his mother, sent him home to schools and holiday schools. He spent his boyhood in camps and dormitories, his army life in Nissen huts. He was twenty when he really "met" his parents. At the sight of him they separated for good."


"'The old girl knew her,' he said; she was his mother's friend."

I liked this story more the second time I read it. It is amazing how skillfully it is crafted.

08 January, 2011

V. S. Pritchett, " The Marvellous Girl"

This short story was first published in The New Yorker in 1973 and subsequently included in Pritchett's collection, The Camberwell Beauty and Other Stories.

Francis, a young divorced artist, chases and finds the "marvellous girl" during a blackout in a crowded auditorium at which his wife is one of the presenters on the stage. The two find each other and manage to find a place to be together. The lights return and they rush to find darkness again.

The story is a bit absurd and funny yet poignant. It's sometimes hard to follow when the main character is talking to himself or another person in the darkness. While there is no great event or plot, the characterizations of the people are clearly wrought and Pritchett creates a place for the reader to be extremely close-in to the story, there is no distance between the reader and the characters. In other words, the narrator and/or author is virtually undetected. I think that's why I had to re-read it. But, when I placed myself in the story, like a fly on the wall, it was easier to read.

Wikipedia entry for Pritchett
Guardian blog entry by Chris Power about V.S. Pritchett
Robert Fulford's (Globe and Mail, Canada) essay about Pritchett