|"I hope I can stay awake while I pretend to read this post"-Charles|
Hector Munro (1870 to 1916) writing under the pen name of Saki is considered a master of the very short story (under 5 pages)and is often mentioned as an English O Henry. Saki was born in Burma (I prefer the old name) in 1870 where his father was serving as inspector general for the Burmese police. Burma was part of the British Empire at that time. At age two Saki is sent back to England to be raised by his grandmother when his mother died as a result of an incident with a cow. His father later retired to England and he and Saki appeared to have had an amiable relationship as perhaps indicated by Saki also joining the office of the Burmese police inspector at age 23. Saki caught malaria at age 25 and returned to England where he would become journalist. He worked for a couple of years as foreign correspondent in Russia where he witnessed the infamous bloody Sunday episode. He also gave that up and for about the last ten years of his life he was not formally employed on a regular basis and was supported by family wealth. It is during this period that he wrote most of his work.
Saki is famous for his satires of the upper classes in Edwardian England. The two stories (I also read "The Philanthropist and the Cat" and may post on that also) of his I read did remind me of P G Wodehouse's "The Man With Two Left Feet" in that both have the same subject matters and are writers of what can be see as light works of short fiction written in a very refined gentle mannered style about the foibles of humanity in a way that allows us to see the flaws in the characters of the subjects of the stories without invoking contempt for them. Saki, based on the two stories I read, also seems to rely on the use of a twist at the end to conclude his stories. There is a wicked edge to Saki that may not be in Wodehouse and his writing does have a more educated tone than O Henry. Some see him as a GLBT author.
I have already posted on three short stories by Saki this year and even though I enjoyed all three stories I did not plan to read a fourth one in 2010. However, once East of the Web picked his "The Lull" as the classic short story of the day I decided I might as well invest the few minutes it would take to read it. Saki is a surprise ending short story writer and the ending of "The Lull" was a great fun surprise. Our central character is a very stressed out young man running for political office. He has stopped for the night at the house of an aunt who sees he needs to badly forget politics for at least one night. All the rest of the plot is part of the surprise so I will not spoil it.
I know surprise ending short stories are looked down upon by many highly literate readers. To me a well done one can be a lot of fun and that is how I see the stories of Saki.
Almost all of Saki's short stories can now be read online as they are in the public domain.