Short Stories All the Time

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

17 April, 2016

Constance Fenimore Woolson, "In Sloane Street"

This story takes on the theme of art for art's sake as well as the balances that have to be made by artists who have families and people dependent on them. We see Philip, a misogynist, acquiesce to his wife's wishes about where they live and vacation and even to the ship they take from America to Europe. While he sees his wife as trivial and stupid, he gives in to her wishes.

"With her great love for art, she prefers a book, or, rather, certain books, about pictures, to the pictures themselves."

"Women can't write. And they ought not to try."

"You spinsters are too queer. You are either so prudish that one can't look at you, or else you're so emancipated that Heaven alone knows what you'll say next! It all comes from your ignorance, I suppose."

"To me it seems that a man can have no higher aim than to do splendidly for his own family--for the people that belong to him and depend on him."

"...the fame of to-day belongs always to the books that are popular."

"In Sloane Street" was first published in Harper's Bazaar in 1892 and then included in the newly published, 2016, Miss Grief and Other Stories.

15 April, 2016

Constance Fenimore Woolson, "Solomon"

"Solomon" was first published in Atlantic Monthly in 1873. Painting Sol drew portraits of his wife and had tried to make a living as an artist. That didn't work out and he had to work in the coal mines of Ohio. Cousins Dora and Erminia go to a small community to take of the sulphur waters. They meet Dorcas, the wife, and Solomon, the artist. The story is about the desire to create something beautiful and how that is often an almost impossibility for poor, working people. While that part is sad, Solomon does create the ultimate portrait of his wife after receiving some instruction from Erminia. In a way, he died a happy man.

Favorite lines:
"The members of the Community were no ascetic anchorites; each tiled roof covered a home with a thrifty mother and train of grave little children, the girls in short-waisted gowns, kerchiefs, and frilled caps, and the boys in tailed coats, long-flapped vests, and trousers, as soon as they were able to toddle."

"Depend upon it, he had his dreams, his ideal; and this country girl with her great eyes and wealth of hair represented the beautiful to his hungry soul. He gave his whole life and hope into her  hands, and woke to find his goddess a common wooden image."

"It brought to my mind a design I had once seen, where Fame with her laurels came at last to the door of the poor artist and gently knocked; but he had died the night before!"

14 April, 2016

Constance Fenimore Woolson, "Miss Grief"

"Miss Grief" tells of a female writer, Aaronna Moncrief, and her attempt to have
her work published. She approaches, after many efforts, a successful male writer for his assistance. The story is told from his point of view in first person. He is astonished by her work except for a particular character in one of the stories. Through the story of this creative woman's works, the author, Woolson, explores many issues of writing, critique, publishing, misogyny, ageism, and pandering to the marketplace.

"I did not put down my book. My visitor should have a hearing, but not much more: she had sacrificed her womanly claims by her persistent attacks upon my door."

"An authoress! This is worse than old lace."

"It is the opinion of an editor or publisher that you want."

"...I being a writer myself, and therefore critical; for writers are as apt to make much of the 'how,' rather than the 'what,' as painters, who, it is well known, prefer an exquisitely rendered representation of a commonplace theme to an imperfectly executed picture of even the most striking subject. But in this case, on the contrary, the scattered rays of splendor in Miss Grief's drama had made me forget the dark spots, which were numerous and disfiguring; or, rather, the splendor had made me anxious to have the spots removed."

"...a woman so much older than I was, a woman who possessed the divine spark of genius, which I was by no means sure (in spite of my success) had been granted to me--that I felt as if I ought to go down on my knees before her, and entreat her to take her proper place of supremacy at once. But there! one does not go down on one's knees...before a woman over fifty, plain in feature, thin, dejected, and ill-dressed."

"She simply could not see the faults of her own work."

The narrator wanted her to drastically change the work and she refused. His response, "Oh, if you do not care--I had labored under the impression that you were anxious these things should find a purchaser." Miss Crief responded, "In my mind he belongs to the story so closely that he cannot be separated from it."

I found Miss Grief and Other Stories at the bookstore yesterday. Published in 2016 with a foreword by Colm Tóibín, whose lecture I just attended the other day. I'd never heard of Constance Fenimore Woolson before and that is a shame. Everyone interested in American authors should know about her.

She was in her early twenties during the American Civil War. She was from Cleveland, lived in England, Italy, and Florida. She had a serious hearing problem and died from a fall from a window. From the introduction by Anne Boyd Rioux states, "Her literary aesthetic can best be described as empathetic realism, a mode that she adapted from George Eliot, the favorite author of her early adulthood..."