M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

de classics, modern fiction,
We



Monday, February 28, 2011

February 2011 Reading Life Review-Sunday Salon

Please Join Us 3/14 to 3/20
February 2011 Reading Life Review


Before I review February, I want to invite everyone to consider joining in for Irish Short Stories Week.    It will be from March 14 to March 20, March 17th is St. Patrick's Day.    The idea is simple, just post on a short story by an author from Ireland that week and leave me a comment so I can create a list of everything.    I will be posting on at least one Irish short story a day that week.     Leave me a comment if you might be interested in participating please.

February was a decent reading month for me.   I did not read as many books as I have in the past but I did read  some  good short stories and three ancient Greek tragedies as well as one of the most famous sequences of love poems in English, Sonnets of the Portuguese.       The biggest Reading Life discovery for me in February  was Elizabeth Bowen.   


Books Read

  1. Elizabeth Bowen by Victoria Glendinning-a wonderful biography
  2. Oliver Twist  by Charles Dickens-not his best work but some great characters
  3. Theresa Raquin by Emile Zola-my 3rd Zola novel-for sure I will read more
  4. The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford-great prose-read his big two books first
  5. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen-very good novel about London in WWII
  6. The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen-read number 5 first
  7. Three plays by Euripides -The Bacchae, Electra and The Theban Women
  8. Sonnets From the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning-no post 
Short Stories I did not post on

  1. "Tea" by Saki-his stories are all similar so I did not post on these
  2. "Quail Eggs" by Saki
  3. "The Guest" by Saki-I am getting to like Saki more and more
  4. Ma'ame Pelagie"  by Kate Chopin-I am 50/50 on her-
  5. "The Oval Portrait" by Edgar Alan Poe-a fun story-liked it a lot
  6. "The Mass of Shadows" by Anatole France-twist ending story-will try him again soon
  7. "Chance" by Alice Munro-great story-will be reading more for sure
  8. "The Robe of Peace" by O Henry-wait for the twist ending as always
  9. "The Kiss" by Kate Chopin-worth reading for the prose style-good at creating atmosphere
  10. "A Day in the Country" by Anton Chekhov-the true master of the short story
  11. "The Last Lesson" by Alphonse Daudet -set in the Franco-Prussian War
  12. "Price's Always Open"  by  John O'Hara-a New Yorker story from the 1930s
  13. "A Byzantine Omelet" by Saki-my 12 read Saki story this year
Collected Short Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

So far I have read 68 of her stories.    I am posting on them in groups based on when they were written.    Unfortunately few of these stories are online ("The Demon Lover" can sometimes be found online).    I have 18 more stories to go.   I will post soon on 14 of her stories from the WWII era (her best work) and will post on her last four stories during Irish Short Stories week.  In fact there might be a party at Bowen Court, her 40 room manor house, for participants and authors from the event!     I have not been able in my posts to convey either how much or for sure why I like her work so much.    Maybe she is  not  as great a writer as her friend Virginia Woolf or the  artist her acquaintance Katherine Mansfield was but taken as a whole, her short stories are one of the great literary treasures of the 20th century.      


Posted on Short Stories
I posted on 18 short stories in February (not counting the Elizabeth Bowen stories).    All of the stories I posted on I enjoyed.   Here are the top eight in random order

  1. "How Much Land Does a Man Need" by Leo Tolstoy-
  2. "Rentafoil" by Emile Zola-a good way to get started with Zola
  3. "Bella Fleace Gives a Party" by Evelyn Waugh-great prose stylist-wonderful wicked satire
  4. "The Servant Girl" by Estella Alfon-might be best  story by an author from the  Philippines
  5. "The Old Order" by Katherine Porter-really interesting short story set post civil war USA
  6. "In The Flower of Age" by Colette-I will be reading more of Colette soon
  7. "A Society" by Virginia Woolf-beautifully written satire-
  8. "Young Archimedes" by Aldous Huxley-more to Huxley than Brave New World
Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts or questions on Irish Short Stories week-I hope you will consider joining us.    

Mel u




Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Dracula's Guest" by Bram Stoker-Irish Short Story Week Notes-Sunday Salon

"Dracula's Guest" by Bram Stoker (1914, 13 pages)


 More Information on Irish Short Story Week-3/14 to 3/20

I have started doing a bit of research to get ready for Irish Short Story Week (3/14 to 3/20 to coincide with St. Patrick's Day on 3/17) which I hope will become an annual Reading Life Event.    I am excited by the interest shown in the idea.      My research so far tells me you could easily hold an Irish Short Story year and still have a lot to read and learn at the end of the year.    And if you love a good story you for sure are in the right place.   How wrong can you go when one of your  short story writers is James Joyce or  when your writer of Gothic stories, Bram Stoker, created the vampire genre with his Dracula?        I am doing this for fun, to learn and maybe to get a few other people to overcome their dislike of short stories (I used to never read them as somehow I felt I "needed more").    I hope you will consider joining in.     There are no big rules, no being rigid on who is Irish and who is not (no politics).   If you wish to post, for example, on first generation Irish writers in Australia or the USA that would be great.   (In my Australian Bush Stories Project, I found many of the early Australian short story writers were the children of Irish immigrants.)       I will try to come up with some reading ideas later but if you need suggestions or ideas  just Google "Irish Short Stories" or "Irish Literature" you will find many ideas.   You do not have to go to the library or buy a book to join in.    There are lots and lots of stories on line, and not just old ones either.   I plan to post on one or two works from 2011 that you can read online.   For example, I think all of the stories of Joyce and Wilde can be read online for free.   I am hoping a lot of female short story writers will be spotlighted as historically  it is a largely male set of writers.   There are lots of ghost stories and plenty of stories for the lovers of Victorian era literature (I count myself as one) and lots of romance and history as well.

To be a participant all I ask is that you post on a story during the week and send me a comment with a link to your story and I will link it up in a master post and include it in my summery post at the end.   

I am working on prizes from publishers and authors  of books that go with the week but nothing firm yet.
   I admit I did not know Bram Stoker (1847-1912-Dublin)   wrote a lot of short stories, most all Gothic tales, before he wrote Dracula in 1897.     Happily, most of them are available online at BramStoker.

"Dracula's Guest" was published in 1914, by his widow.    It is a stand alone short story that was originally to be published as part of Dracula but was left out as the publisher felt the book was too long.   As the story begins I admit I could not help but think of the  countless movies where a stranger to the village is taken in a carriage through the night by a terrified driver in fear of an unknown but very felt evil.     The story seemed like a standard plot line then I realized Stoker created this scene and made it part of our culture.   The stranger is here on an investigation of something he has heard that sophisticated "scientific" big city people scoff at but he knows might be true.  

As our hero goes further into the night, the story is set out side of Munich, his driver gets more and more afraid.   This is not just any night, it is "Walpurgis Nacht" (night).   This the night when the dead come back to life and all evil things of the world walk the night.    Of course in a scene right out of the plot of True Blood our hero somehow enters into a tomb through its open door to see the body of a long dead woman.   The woman is still very beautiful with rosy red cheeks and bright red lips.    Before he makes it back to town he suffers a terrible attack.    His throat was almost ripped out.   He tries to tell himself it was a dog attack but the country people know better.

I really liked Stoker's style.   I did not find it to have an antiquated feel at all.   He did a great job of keeping me interested and building up a suspenseful fear filled atmosphere.   From reading this story, I now can safely say I will like Dracula.     

One easy way to participate in Irish Short Story Week would just be to read and post on one of Stoker's stories.   None of them are real long.    

I will be posting more on Irish Short Story Week soon.    Please let me know if you might join in or have any suggestions, comments or ideas

Mel u

Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome to all Book Blog Hoppers-Feb 25 to 27

Welcome to all Book Blog Hoppers


Please Consider participating in Irish Short Stories Week-3/14 to 3/20



I have decided in honor of St Patrick's Day and Irish Literature to host what I hope will become an annual event on The Reading Life, Irish Short Story Week.    Ireland might not be a huge country but it has produced some of the  best writers of all time.    In the Twentieth Century, many would say the best novelist is James Joyce and the best Poet W. B. Yeats.   Oscar Wilde has tremendous iconic standing and helped to define a new sensibility.    Samuel Beckett taught us about nothing and won the Nobel Prize doing it.    Elizabeth Bowen's (Anglo-Irish are included) stories about WWII in London are part of the canon and her The Heat of the Day is considered one of the best novels set in London during the Blitz.   

During the week of  March 14 to March 20 (St Patrick's Day is March 17) I will post on a short story by an Irish Author every day.    Five will be authors that are new to me.   One of them was lucky enough to have a romance with Elizabeth Bowen and another with Ayn Rand.   Four of the stories I will post on can be read online.    Wikipedia has a good introductory article on Irish Literature.



If anybody wants to join in that would be great and I will link to your posts.






Every Friday Jennifer of Crazy For Books hosts The Book Blogger Hop-The Book Blogger Hop is a great way to meet new to you bloggers, find some new blogs to follow and gain some great readers for your own blog.   Every week about 275 or so bloggers from all over the world participate.    I have found some excellent new blogs this way and gained some wonderful readers.   

If you decide to follow my blog I will return the follow-please leave a comment if you would like me to follow your blog or return a visit to you-

This week Jenifer asks us to say if we had ever wished we wanted to change the name of our blog?   No I have not-I am happy with "The Reading Life".   

   My blog for the last year has been one third Asian literature, one third classics and one third short stories but I do read contemporary fiction also and even some YA once in a great while.    Lately I have been very into short stories.       

Mel u

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Young Archimedes" by Aldous Huxley

"Young Archimedes" by Aldous Huxley (1924, 25 pages)


Please consider participating in  Irish Short Story Week-3/14 to 3/20


Aldous Huxley's by far most famous and still very widely read novel is Brave New World (1931).    Huxley (1894 to 1963-UK) was from a famous literary family.    He was a member for a time of the Bloomsbury Group and a social associate of Elizabeth Bowen though not a close friend.     His work was also influential in the counter culture of the 1960s through works like The Doors of Perception and through his interest in the teachings of Swami Prabhavananda which lead to a revival of interest in the teachings of Indian gurus.   

I read Brave New World many years ago.     I still recall parts of it quite well.    After reading the short story, "Young Archimedes",  one of Huxley's most famous short stories (he published five collections of short stories and regarded the form very highly) I did a book blog Google  search on Huxley, lots of posts on Brave New World but nothing on anything else.      

I recently received a gift from my cousin Bonnie, a 64 year old 850 page anthology of short stories selected by Bernadine Kielty.     Kielty was an editor for the Book of the Month Club.    "Young Archimedes" is one of the selections.    As far as I can see, Huxley's work is not yet in the public domain so I was glad to see this story was included though I feel bad that interested readers cannot read it online.   

The story centers around a group of English travelers on an extended stay in Italy (very much like "The Story of a Panic" by E. M. Forster and also can be said to  show Italians in a  not very  favorable light).    As the story opens Huxley gives us a very wonderful account of the beauty of the Italian countryside.  As the plot action opens a couple is seeking a six months lease on a house in Tuscany  from a very tough older Italian woman and her mild mannered husband.    The couple has one child age three, Robin.    

There are some amusing parts of the story where the couple have to deal with their landlords over the lack of water in their bathroom.     The landlords have a some agricultural land which they rent out to peasant families on a share crop basis.    The husband tries to be decent with the tenants but his wife is in charge and she is very harsh and totally self serving.   One of the farmers has a son  about five.    The couple invites him over as a playmate for their son.    They discover the boy is a musical genius able to already make astute comments about the works of Bach, for example.   Soon he is able to read musical notation and begins to play the piano at the level of master.    Clearly he is a musical genius.    The couple give him a book on Euclidean geometry and they discover his real talent and even great genius is for geometry and mathematics.  The English couple want to adopt him so he can get the education he needs to truly develop his genius.     In the meantime the Italian woman has heard of his musical talents and begins to try to force his parents to let her adopt him so she can make money from his musical talents.    His parents do not want to give the boy up as they truly love him though they understand they cannot give him what he needs.    I will leave the rest of the plot untold.

Along the way Huxley talks about the nature of genius and the role of culture in determining the development of genius.    He also gives us a  "great men" look at world culture which suggests only the great geniuses are fully human.    (All of which are men.)

The story has a tragic ending.   I liked this story a lot.    There are "droll" jokes about women in it that seem very dated and the view of human history he advocates  (the movement of history is dominated by great men and guru figures)  is a  very much a product of the times.     It is a straight forward story well told.   It is not a  "must read" short story but I am glad I read it and found it worth my time.  

Mel u

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Elizabeth Bowen-23 Stories from the 1930s (More on Irish Short Stories Week)

Collected Short Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (1980, 784 pages, with an introduction by Angus Wilson)



Please consider joining Elizabeth Bowen for Irish Short Story Week March 14 to March 20, St Patrick's Day is March 17


There are 88 short stories in Collected Stories by Elizabeth Bowen.    The stories are divided into five sections, First Stories (on which I have already posted), The Twenties , The Thirties (the section this post spotlights)  , The War Years, and Post-War Stories.  

Bowen (1899 to 1973-Dublin)  was born in a 300 year old 30 room Irish manor house that Cromwell gave her lordly ancestors for meritorious service.    Her family had lived in Ireland for 300 years by the time she was born but they were still not considered Irish.   They were Anglo-Irish.   Bowen was born into financial comfort and security but not truly great wealth.   Her father was confined to a mental hospital when she was seven and her mother died when she was 13.    The upbringing of Bowen was turned over to what she would later call a "committee of Aunts".   Bowen ending up being sent against her wishes to an exclusive girl's residential school.   I mention these matters as I think the early death of her parents had a big effect on her writings. 

The personality of Elizabeth Bowen is not reflected well in the few photographs of her that are on the Internet.   She seems like your very prim and proper head mistress of a very expensive girl's school who perhaps smiles once a week, laughs once a decade, never has tried whiskey or cigarettes and would die of mortification at the thought she might have any romantic contact with a man to whom she was not married.    Nothing could be further from the truth.   She loved a good party, was hilarious herself, chain smoked (not so look down on in her day), loved her Irish whiskey and had as many romances as Katherine Mansfield, Jean Rhys or Colette but unlike them Bowen's  romances were with distinguished  men who treated her very well.   Bowen visited the United Nations when one of her romantic partners was the Canadian Representative to the General Assembly.    When people at the UN met Bowen they felt they were in the presence of Irish Nobility before they even knew anything about her.   Bowen also had a long lasting marriage which, though it was a strange one, was loving and harmonious.    Another was a famous author who will be featured during Irish Short Story Week.   She also had a same sex relationship with the author May Sarton.   According to Victoria Glendinning, Sarton had an extreme crush on Bowen and pressured her into a one night encounter which was Bowen's only same sex experiment.   Glendinning basically says Bowen was open to try it but concluded in the morning that she will stick with men.   Bowen is also said to have been very beautiful in her youth and to have an incredible body.   I go into these details as I do not want people to see her as boring, from her pictures.   

You can see the stories improve as she passes from her 20s into her 30s.   One of these stories, "The Disinherited" is considered by one of her very best works.    I will just spotlight a couple of the stories.   

"The Good Girl" (1934, 8 pages) is a strange read between the lines tale of a perverted "uncle".    It is in spite  perhaps of the subject matter a really entertaining story.    As I read on in the stories of Bowen, I  she enjoyed writing about  sexual encounters and within the limits of her cultural world writes pretty openly about them. 

"The Cat Jumps" (1934, 9 pages)-This story is about a murder and its after effects.   It is also a satire of academic intellectuals.    I found it quite funny.

"The Little Girl's Room" (1939, 8 pages) relies on a Saki like twist ending for full power (very few of her stories make use of surprise endings).    Angus Wilson in his very interesting introduction says in Bowen as in Saki you can sometimes see the malicious very bright child playing a joke on the adult world.    This joke is kind of an evil one!     I hope people will read her stories so I will not spoil it but my guess you will have to read the ending two or three times to be sure you got it right.   The story also makes gentle fun of the fascination of the English with European royalty of any rank.   

I will next post on the World War II era stories of Bowen.   Both Glendinning and Angus Wilson think the best of Bowen's work (she wrote about 20 books all of which are still in print) is her short stories set in London during WWII.     In fact I already read the first story in this section "Unwelcome Ideas" and it is just a wonderful work.   It makes you in just a few pages feel you are living in London in 1941 dealing with the Blitz and the fear of imminent German invasion.   When these stories were written it was by no means sure who would win the war.

If you would like to participate in Irish Short Stories Week all you have to do is post on a short story by an Irish author during this week.   The author can be Anglo-Irish like Bowen or if you like first or second generation immigrants like the great Australian short story writer Barbara Baynton .   You can post on living authors famous or promote a new writer you like.   There are really a lot of options from James Joyce and Oscar Wilde and before them Oliver Goldsmith down to William Trevor today.   Just Google "Irish Literature" if you need any ideas.   I will do a link to all the posts for the week (assuming there are some besides mine!) and comment on each one.    I have done similar events on Indonesian and on Malaysian short stories but Irish Short stories is something anyone can join in.   Any way if you are interested please leave a comment.   If this works out at all I hope to make it an annual event on my blog-

Mel u


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The Story of a Panic" by E. M. Forster

"The Story of a Panic" by E. M. Forster (1903, 15 pages)

E. M. Forster (1879 to 1970-UK) is best known for two of his novels, Howard's End and A Passage to India.   (By coincidence,  I just saw the movie version of A Passage to India last week on cable TV).   Forster inherited at an early age enough funds from his father to free him from the necessity to work and was enabled by this to become a writer.    He attended Cambridge and was  active in the Bloomsbury social circle.    He lived in India for a period of time.    He is a GLBT author.   He attended the funeral of Katherine Mansfield in Paris and was a friend of Elizabeth Bowen.  

Forster's work is not yet in the public domain so I have not been able to find any of his short stories online.   I was very happy when I saw his "The Story of a Panic" was included in a 1947 collection of short stories a family member recently gave me.    Short stories are, among other things, a good way to "try out" a writer to see if you might enjoy one of their longer works.   Based on my first reading of "The Story of a Panic" I would say I would for sure enjoy one of his novels.    The story is not at all in a modern mode in the way in which a story by Katherine Mansfield or Virginia Woolf might be considered.    "The Story of a Panic" is Forster's first  published short story.  

"The Story of a Panic" by E. M. Forster is set among a group of British travelers on holiday in Italy.    (Italians may not like how they are characterized in this story.)    The travelers see the Italian country side as exotic and it brings back to them a sense of the old Roman Gods and mythological figures.    Everything is going smoothly until a "wild boy" bursts  on the scene and causes a panic among the travelers.   Is he a daemonic force or is simply a rude ill mannered country lad?     "The Story of a Panic" inspired by an trip Forster made to the Italian country.    Even without knowing anything about Forster's background as a GLBT author it is hard not to sense in this story that part of the panic created by the wild boy who some of the travelers say is Pan  is really a fear that one is sexually attracted to someone  who conventional society says one should not be.   This appears to be very much a story about awaking sexual self awareness.

"The Story of a Panic" by E. M. Forster is a traditionally told story.   I enjoyed everything about it.      I would happily read more of his stories and hope to read  A Passage to India soon.  


Mel u

Monday, February 21, 2011

Elizabeth Bowen-22 short stories from the 1920s

Collected Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (1980, 784 pages, with an introduction by Angus Wilson)-Stories from the 1920s

The Reading Life Elizabeth Bowen Project 


There are 88 short stories in Collected Stories by Elizabeth Bowen.    The stories are divided into five sections, First Stories (on which I have already posted), The Twenties (the section this post spotlights), The Thirties, The War Years, and Post-War Stories.  

Bowen (1899 to 1973-Dublin)  was born in a 300 year old 30 room Irish manor house that Cromwell gave her lordly ancestors for meritorious service.    Her family had lived in Ireland for 300 years by the time she was born but they were still not considered Irish.   They were Anglo-Irish.   Bowen was born into financial comfort and security but not truly great wealth.   Her father was confined to a mental hospital when she was seven and her mother died when she was 13.    The upbringing of Bowen was turned over to what she would later call a "committee of Aunts".   Bowen ending up being sent against her wishes to an exclusive girls residential school.   I mention these matters as I think the early death of her parents had a big effect on her writings. 


There are 22 stories in the collection from the 1920s and from the 20s of Bowen.   I can see a strong artistic development from the stories in the early years from her late teens.   Most of the stories are nine to twelve pages long (some times page length in short stories was sort of dictated by the requirements of magazine publishers) in this section.    The stories mostly focus on the world that Bowen knew best,  Anglo-Irish gentry.    Her stories are taken up with family visits, private schools for girls,  tea parties,  endless discussion of  the personality of neighbors, and issues with household management.    Everyone in her stories seem to have servants.    There is a very preoccupation with the interiors of houses, incredibly subtle characterizations, and enough detail to make this world  come alive for us.     Her stories are not told in an experimental mode and do not require a guide to follow them.     There is deep wisdom in the stories of Bowen but they are also just fun to read.   Once and a while she uses a Saki like ending but that is OK as long as the surprise ending is not the whole point of the story.


I feel bad in that these stories cannot be read online.   That is  part of the reason that I am not posting on each one individually as I did with Katherine Mansfield.   


I will just comment briefly on three of the 22 stories that stood out for me.


"Ann Lee's" (1924, 9 pages) is set in exclusive dress shop in London.   The patrons are all society ladies who bring a maid along to carry their purchases.    One of the reason the women patronize the store is they know they will not encounter anyone of the "lower classes" other than shop girls and servants.    However, today something seems very wrong in the shop.   A sinister young man is there apparently the boyfriend of one of the shop girls.    The patrons of the shop are offended and made uneasy by his threatening presence.    To make matters worse there is no deference or sense of knowing his proper place in his bearing.    As one a pair of patrons leave the shop they ask for directions to a London location.    The young man volunteers them directions but they turn out to be wrong and as the story closes we see the young man is behind them on the street.   To me "Ann Lee's" is a brilliant evocation of class differences.   It shows how these differences shape and limit those who do not see them.   It is also a scary story to boot.   


"The Parrot" (1925, 11 pages) is set in the house of a very old lady living with her servants and her beloved parrot.   (Stories about servants may be hard for most readers to relate to.   Here in the Philippines nearly everyone who has a book blog probably also has one to three servants which makes us able to directly relate to stories about ":servant problems".)    The most important thing in world to the elderly lady is her pet Parrot that she has had for so many years.  One of the main duties of one of the helpers is to feed the parrot and clean his cage.    Horror of horrors one day while the old lady is taking a nap the parrot gets out of his cage and flies out the window into a tree in the yard next door.    The other servants tell her she will be fired if she does not get the parrot back and jobs are hard to find.    The servant ends up on the roof of the house next door and recaptures the bird.   The old lady never knows what happened to the parrot.   


"The Visitor" (1925, 10 pages) reads like something out of David Copperfield.    In "The Visitor" a young boy, a distant cousin, is being entertained while is mother is dying in own home.    The boy finds about it second hand.   We get to see his reaction as he hears his relatives debate what go do with him.    It is a very sad, poignant story.


I will shortly do a similar post on Bowen's short stories from the 1930s, followed by one on her WWII era stories where everyone says her best work lies.  


Bowen is for those who like a well written and told story by a very wise person, secure enough not to be intimidated by anyone and alive enough to enjoy fully a very diverse range of people and pleasures. To me Bowen is a class act and will have a permanent place in my header collage along with Woolf and Mansfield.    





Please consider participating in Irish Short Story Week-March 14 to March 20


Mel u





Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Bella Fleace Gave a Party" by Evelyn Waugh

"Bella Fleace Gave a Party" by Evelyn Waugh (1936, seven pages)


Evelyn Waugh (1903 to 1966-London) is best known for two of his novels, The Decline and Fall (1928) and Brideshead Revisted (1945).    I had heard of him, of course, but I did not really have a great wish to read him until I discovered in Elizabeth Bowen by Victoria Glendinnings that in addition to being a close friend  of hers,  she tremendously admired the quality of his prose.    His work will not be in the public domain until 2036 under current UK law and I could not find any online.   I was thus very happy to see one of his short stories was included in an anthology of short stories from 1947 that my cousin Bonnie had recently given me.   Waugh had a very interesting life with lots of twists and turns.    He is for sure a GLBT author.    Waugh saw  combat  as a Captain in the British Army during WWII.    

I really like "Bella Fleace Gave a Party".   The prose style is truly wonderful.    It is set in Ballingar in Ireland in the 1920s or so.   It is after a time of troubles in Ireland but you do not have to know any history to appreciate it.   (It has the feel in some ways of one of Kate Chopin's stories about the days after the civil war in the American South but is better written).   Bella Fleace is all alone in her great manors house.    Her family is either all dead or think about her only when they wonder when she will finally die so they can inherit from her (she is 80).    Her servants have an easy life as she does not really observe what a state of disrepair her house has fallen into as she rarely leaves her room.

Somehow Bella gets the idea she should throw a huge grand society party.   This idea completely  energizes her and clears 30 years of cobwebs from her mind.    Soon the old mansion is full of activity.    Seven extra staff are hired to get the house back in shape and prepare for the party.   She begins to put a lot of thought into who to invite and at least as important, who to fail to invite because they simply are not high enough in society.   The day of  the party finally comes.   Beautiful invitations have been prepared for delivery.   (Beyond this point I will relay the conclusion of the story.    It is a surprise ending type of story but I see few people as really being able to read this story.)

The night of the big party comes,  Bella is dressed so perfectly, the house is wonderful and awesome food and drinks for 100 people are at the ready.    Two hours  past the start time and Bella is in despair as no one has come then she is so happy when the first guests arrive.   But wait, the guests are undesirable types who may have money but lack breeding.   Bella has no choice (in fact she loves it) but to tell her butler that she is not receiving guests.    Sadly no one else ever shows up for the party.   Two days latter Bella has a stroke and dies.    Beside her in a box on the floor are found the invitations to her party which she forgot to have delivered.

The ending maybe a bit predictable but editors at that time wanted twist endings on short stories.    I bet all of his short stories and for sure his major works are as well written and are as brilliantly satirical as this brief story.    One of the great uses of short stories is it lets you "try out" a writer.    I look forward to reading the major works of Waugh.

If anyone has any suggestions as to short stories I might like, please leave a comment.   If you know where Waugh can be read online-please leave a comment.

Mel u

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Welcome to all Book Blog Hoppers Feb 19 to Feb 21


Welcome to all Book Blog Hoppers



Every Friday Jennifer of Crazy For Books hosts The Book Blogger Hop-The Book Blogger Hop is a great way to meet new to you bloggers, find some new blogs to follow and gain some great readers for your own blog.   Every week about 275 or so bloggers from all over the world participate.    I have found some excellent new blogs this way and gained some wonderful readers.   

If you decide to follow my blog I will return the follow-please leave a comment if you would like me to follow your blog or return a visit to you-

   

   My blog for the last year has been one third Asian literature, one third classics and one third short stories but I do read contemporary fiction also and even some YA once in a great while.    Lately I have been very into short stories.    I have various reading projects I am working on also.   My latest one that I invite everyone to join is Irish Short Stories Week, March 14 to March 20, in honor of St Patrick's day.    

This week we are asked to say what book we would like to see made into a movie-a tough question with so many possibilities.      Of newer books I would say The Book Thief by Michael Zusack or a BBC type drama based on The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen.

Thanks for stopping by -please leave any comments or short story reading suggestions you might have-thanks