Monday, May 11, 2009

Short story Monday - May 11

It's Monday and that means short stories! Today's post, unfortunately, will follow a good news/bad news format. After two weeks of short story Tuesdays, the good news is that I'm writing this post on Monday. More good news - I bought The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. It was purely an impulse purchase, but now I have a fresh, new supply of stories. And finally, I sat down and read two stories as soon as I got home.

Now for the bad news...I didn't like either story. The first story is The Other Woman by Sherwood Anderson. It appeared in The Little Review in 1920 and opens:

"I am in love with my wife," he said - a superfluous remark, as I had not questioned his attachment to the women he had married. We walked for ten minutes and then he said it again. I turned to look at him. He began to talk and told me the tale I am now about to set down.

What follows is the brief account of an encounter that takes place shortly before the man's wedding and how it has affected him. He had never before spoken to the 'other woman' (who is ten years older), yet she captured his imagination. I'm not sure why I read this story, since I didn't really like Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio either...perhaps it was the title.

Next I read E.B. White's The Second Tree From the Corner. This story appeared in The New Yorker in 1948. It opens:

"Ever had any bizarre thoughts?" asked the doctor.
Mr. Trexler failed to catch the word. "What kind?" he said.
"Bizarre," repeated the doctor, his voice steady. He watched his patient for any slight change of expression, any wince. It seemed to Trexler that the doctor was not only watching him closely but was creeping slowly toward him, like a lizard toward a bug.

There are several more sessions. Trexler tends to identify with the doctor, virtually transferring himself to the doctor's seat. The story ends with Trexler's thoughts when the question "What do you want?" is posed. I've never read anything else E.B. White has written for adults, but I doubt I'll be searching for more.

Visit The Book Mine Set to see who else is sharing thought on short stories today.

6 comments:

  1. An expanded edition? It must be humongous. The one I checked out from the library could have doubled as a door stop. I also did not care for The Other Woman but I did like the White story. I thought it was so sad for him to have that one hopeful moment only to return back to his exhausting, neurotic world. Sorry your first readings have been disappointing...I hope it gets better. On the whole I found that it to be hit and miss. I tended to like the older stories.

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  2. BookPsmith,
    At well over 800 pages, the expanded edition is definitely a doorstop! I thought the Other Woman sounded familiar...I do remember your review not too long ago. Maybe that's what drew me to that story. I've decided to reread White's story. There were a lot of distractions the first time around.

    I still have high hopes for the collection. There are quie a few in there I'd like to read.

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  3. Looking at the authors listed, are there any surprises?

    After reading Stuart Little, I no longer consider myself a White fan, so I'm not disheartened that this story didn't work either.

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  4. John,
    This is the first week I've totally struck out with short stories. I thought of your Stuart Little review when I read White's story, but was still curious about his 'adult' writing.

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  5. the only white i've read is what most of the breathing population has read: charlotte's web.

    though you didn't enjoy either book, i love to see others reading short stories--they are such fun to read.

    hope your next picks are better for you!

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  6. booklineandsinker,
    Short stories are fun to read, I agree. I'm sure the stories I read this week will be better...I'll be sure to choose more carefully. Thanks for visiting!

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