Short Stories All the Time

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

09 July, 2017

Karen Russell, "The Prospectors"

The story is told in first person POV and takes place during the Great Depression in the United States.   Two girls, one from a wealthy family, and one from a poor family whose father killed himself, run away from Clara's family who own a resort hotel in Florida. The girls make it to Oregon and to support themselves they steal from wealthy people at extravagant parties.

Eventually, they believe they are going to the opening of a grand resort Evergreen Lodge at which they read the president might be in attendance
. However, they take the wrong ski lift and arrive at a different place and decide that the 26 young men who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps are actually dead having been buried alive in an avalanche.

The writing style remains realistic even as the story becomes fantastic, but never really seems to be a dream or nightmare. However, perhaps since the girls often go hungry for days, it's hallucinatory.

"The Prospectors" was first published in The New Yorker  and then included in the 2016 edition of The Best American Short Stories.  The story is about two dozen pages.

"This period of American history held a special appeal for Clara's father, Mr. Finisterre, a bony-faced Portuguese immigrant to southwestern Florida who had wrung his modest fortune out of the sea-damp wallets of tourists. My own father had killed himself outside the dog track in the spring of 1931, and I'd been fortunate to find a job as a maid at the Hotel Finisterre."

30 October, 2013

Karen Russell, "Madame Bovary's Greyhound"

Russell has taken Flaubert's novel, Madame Bovary, and re-told the story from the dog Djali's POV with some shifting. In many ways, the story is Emma's but experienced by Djali. Djali had tried to be happy and at times was until she escaped. There are many wonderful sentences and Djali's point of view is compelling.

In the second section, Emma and Djali become depressed and "to the baffled Dr. Bovary, seemed bewitched by sadness."

In the third section, Djali daydreams how she might have been able to have a different owner and different life which parallels Emma's desires. The Bovary's plan to move and Djali runs free.

In the fourth and fifth sections, Djali's new life in the wild is in vast contrast with her earlier life with Emma. Djali is exposed to things she's never experienced. However, "…had the winds changed at that particular moment and carried a certain woman's lilac-scented sweat to her, this story might have had a very different ending." I like that a mere breeze could have altered Djali's fate.

Djali mirrors Emma's pain for another, "…unable to cure her need for a human…"

The POV shifts to Emma and her lover Rodolphe. In section VI, Djali falls into a ravine and breaks her leg. Rodolphe ends his affair with Emma via a note. And, Djali is rescued by a game warden and renames her Hubert. Five years pass. Emma Bovary happens to attend a mourning at Hubert's mother's grave. Emma sees a greyhound, Djali, but has no idea or even remembers her old dog. However, Djali recognizes Emma. "Something bubbled and broke inside the creature's heart." Emma almost remembers. I like to think that Djali obeys her own sit command choosing Hubert her master. However, it could be read either way.

"Lumped in the coverlet, Charles's blocky legs tangled around her in an apprehensive pretzel, a doomed attempt to hold her in their marriage bed."

"Fleas held wild circuses on Djali's ass as she lay motionless before the fire for the duration of two enormous logs, unable to summon the energy to spin a hind leg in protest."

"Undeliberate, absolved of rue and intent, the dog continued to forget Madame Bovary."

"…a spill of jeweled rot like boiling cranberries."

"And then the dog remembered, too, calloused hands brushing dead leaves from her fur, clearing the seams of blackflies from her eyelids and nostrils, lifting her from the trench."

Karen Russell was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. "Madame Bovary's Greyhound" was published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Summer 2013, Volume 17, Number 2.


Karen Russell, Wikipedia
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
New Yorker, conversation with Karen Russell