Short Stories All the Time

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

13 July, 2015

Graham Swift, "Saving Grace"

In this story, Swift tackles, well if tackling is a soft side-swipe that burns for a long time, racism and nationalism. Who is of a certain nationality? And, what determines it? Racists who don't want a doctor with "brown fingers meddling them" are told on time and time again to Dr. Shah's patients during their last visits. He regales them with the tales of his recently deceased father who thought himself very lucky to have ended up in England during WWII with leg injuries.

Favorite Lines:

"'So one day he found himself on the troopship bound for Italy, which was where most of the Indian soldiers who came to Europe went. The fact is I might have been Italian, I might be telling you this in Naples or Rome. Think of that.'"

"I don't believe it can have been all fun for a bunch of Indian soldiers in Dorset in 1944. Just think about it. But I'm only telling you what my father told me. He called it luck."

"'I'm as British as you are,' he might begin. 'I was born in Battersea.'"

12 July, 2015

Graham Swift, "Half a Loaf"

Eric's wife died three years ago and he'd wanted to die himself. In fact, he had contemplated suicide. He is an osteopath and when he fixes the most beautiful woman's back pain, he asks her to dinner. She accepts and now for two months they've been seeing each other. The great thing about this story and Eric as a person is that this new woman, Tanya, is like a conduit to Eric's dead wife, Anthea. Eric's outlook on life has always been sort of a glass half full as his mother was always reminding him that "all good things come to an end" and he knows and fears that Tanya will stop seeing him and he'll lose the conduit to his wife and he'd rather have "half a loaf" than nothing, access to his wife.

Graham Swift has a very wise man's access to emotions and fears and his facile display of them is evident here again in "Half a Loaf" which uses the idea of a ghost or a seance. "And so I don't tell her this very strangest thing, that's been true now for nearly two months (and how would it help me to tell it?): that when she's present, so too is my wife."

Favorite Line:
"A pale young body slipping through the dimness of my bedroom, like some creature glimpsed in a forest."

10 July, 2015

Graham Swift, "The Best Days"

Sean and Andy have just attended the funeral of their old headmaster from several years prior. Over to the side stood the girl, Karen Shields, that both Sean and Andy had tried or had hoped to try to seduce. One day, an opportunity presented itself to Sean and it flipped from anything he could have possibly imagined. Karen's mother seduced him and his outlook on life had changed forever. "He realized later that she'd effectively vetoed his going any further with Karen. She'd simultaneously equipped and unequipped him. He looked at Karen now with something like pity."

Favorite Lines:
"Everyone was freshly aware of being alive in the world and not dead in it and that they'd been involved in something dutiful but oddly animating."

"Some present had few fond memories of Holmgate and had even once wished old Daffy dead, but the passage of time and the needs of the occasion had instilled an infectious makeshift nostalgia."

09 July, 2015

Graham Swift, "Remember This"

Nick and Lisa have just gotten married and decide the proper thing to do is to have their wills drawn. They are happily surprised that the solicitor, Mr. Reeves, is so nice to them. They leave feeling positive about the entire experience. Later that night, however, Nick decides that he must write a love letter to Lisa. He gets it started and then he starts questioning the essence of a love letter and the stages of life and a marriage. Finally, he decides to just hide the letter and many years later and after two children, Nick and Lisa get divorced. He then reads the letter to himself, for himself.

In the beginning the story's 3rd person POV is a joint POV, "they'd thought," "they were glad," "they both knew," and later the POV moves to a limited 3rd from just Nick. "Remember This" is another story in Swift's collection, England and Other Stories. 

Favorite Lines:
"Nick found himself considering that this might only be a stage--a stage that would fade or even cease one day."

"Having your will done seemed, generally, like remembering to bring an umbrella."

"But it was not the real testament of his life, its stuff, its story. It was not a testament at all to how he was feeling now."

08 July, 2015

Graham Swift, "Haematology"

This short story is in the form of a letter from William Harvey, physician to King Charles I and discoverer of the way blood moves in the body, to his cousin, Colonel Edward Francis, seven days after the beheading of King Charles I. The story covers the English Civil War, 1642-1651. The doctor beseeches for understanding and attempts to explain that he was the physician of the king but not doctor to the political body. He also notes that the victor is now his ruler. He mentions, or something to the effect, that it is connections that make a successful career. He also acknowledges that he and his cousin laughed at school masters and now they are probably laughed at by younger men. Power corrupts or at least those who battle the sacrosanct become sanctimonious. And, for a doctor at that time he was advanced in that he said all, criminal or king, were anatomically equal.

Another great story in Swift's new collection, England and Other Stories.

Graham Swift, "People are Life"

"People are Life" is the third story in Swift's new collection, England and Other Stories. None of the stories in this collection have been published before. In an interview Swift said that they all came very fast and he was not compelled to submit them to magazines. 

This story takes place in a barbershop during one man's haircut. It is only six pages long but covers several aspects of a man's need for comfort and companionship and touch and understanding. In the end Swift shows us how we are all still children with those same needs of caring. "He's just glad of the touch of my fingers, through his hair, on his scalp, the flick of my comb. The smell of shampoo and talc, like the smell of being a baby again." We also see how people are greedy, seek and demand sympathy from others, especially those who we pay for services, such as barbers.

Link to the Guardian essay about Graham Swift.

06 July, 2015

Graham Swift, "Wonders Will Never Cease"

This first-person story takes a pun as its basis, wonders will never cease turned into "Wandas will never cease," stated by Patti. The narrator and his college running and jogging buddy, Aaron have gone their separate ways until Aaron calls the narrator and asks that he and his wife Patti be witnesses for Aaron and Wanda's wedding. Of course, they agree and make the trip to Birmingham from London, I assume.

Aaron, when younger, was chased by women and his friend often got his rejects, as he did Patti, now his wife. Aaron's wife turns out to be a runner and they seem to think their best is yet to come while the narrator has learned already that everyone has a peak and timing is crucial. "We reach our peaks and we pass them. There's nothing to be done about it, but it's a sad thing if you never even knew the peak you had it in you to reach." I am really enjoying these stories. Swift takes such a simple and realistic story, not even very long, just a few pages, and so efficiently gets into the heads of the characters' thoughts and feelings that several themes fill each story. This one touches on aging, marriage, children, peaks of athleticism, opportunities and acceptance of one another even if one had been a "reject."

"Wonders Will Never Cease" is the second story in Swift's new collection, England and Other Stories, and both the first and second story feature running and jogging.

05 July, 2015

Graham Swift, "Going Up In the World"

Charlie Yates, a one-time boxer then high-rise construction worker keeps fit by jogging. It's in the feet, "the most important item is the feet." He is not afraid of heights. The story takes place in the few minutes that he spends sitting on the bench after his jog and he admires the towers that he helped build. They are gleaming but his business partner's son, Seb, says that something going on inside the towers is going to bring down the whole world. Charlie is going to find out more from his friend and business partner in the next few hours when they play golf. The story is about appearances. It begins with descriptions of his name and his nickname as well as his physical fitness and the size of his feet, hands and wrist, which despite his small stature, are large. He is worried about Don's weight and growing girth, appearance as well as health, but this worry is supplanted by the one about what is going on inside the towers. The seemingly surface story that takes place in 2008 can be mined for significant contemporary issues, financial jobs, health, self-perceptions, surface appearances, business acumen, risks, family and social strata.

"Going Up In the World" is the first story in Swift's latest collection, England and Other Stories. I cannot find whether or not this story was first published in a journal or magazine.

Favorite Lines:
"A head for heights is what they say, but Charlie would say it was all in the feet. Where you are standing is just where you are standing."

"He's just as happy sitting here. It's all the same place, it's sitting in your own body."