Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Literary Book Blog Hop March 31 to April 2

"Welcome to the Reading Life"-Charles
To me the Literary Book Blog Hop is a great international community building  event.    This week's question is a very interesting one.

Do you find yourself disposed to like (or dislike)  books that are generally considered great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon?   Discuss the effect a book's status has on your opinion of it.

When I read a canon status book and I find I do not like it I look within myself first to figure out why I do not like it.   Clifton Fadiman in his preface to his original  Life Time Reading Plan  said if you do not like  a classic, put it down and try again in ten years.      In someways reading canon status literature is like looking in a mirror.    Of course the notion of a canon is a tool  of academia.

I am happy to follow all who follow me.   If you stop by leave a comment so I can return the visit.

The Infinities by John Banville

The Infinities by John Banville (2009, 300 pages)

After finishing Irish Short Story Week I wanted to read a few contemporary Irish novels by still new to me writers.    I went to my local book store to buy The Sea by John Banville (1945-Ireland), winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize.    They did not have that but they did have his The Infinities.    We have all seen posts of novels that say the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, well in this case the whole is less than the sum of the parts.  Parts of  The Infinities are very well done, some of the prose was both beautiful and brilliant.   It is about 24 hours in the life of a brilliant mathematician who is suffering a fatal illness.    Running parallel to this we have the Greek Gods making comments on events.  Clever and first but became trite.   Banville is no Salman Rushdie.

Parts of the novel are very good, Banville can write wonderful prose but The Infinities  did not work for me.   I am sorry I bought this book and would say to other readers try to get a library copy of the book if you want to try it.    After reading the book, I checked to see of I was way out of line with other readers opinion of the book.   About 40% of raters said things like, boring and pretentious.   20 percent said it was OK, and 20 percent liked and endorsed it.    The characters were uninteresting.

Almost never do I give a book a negative review but I would say whatever else you do refrain from buying it at near $20.00-899PHP-   If I had read the reviews on Goodreads before buying I think I would have not bought this book.   Where I live there are no libraries so to read a new book  I normally must buy.

Has anyone read The Sea?   

Mel u

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two by Saki-"Herman the Irascible" and "The Purple of the Balkan Kings"

"Herman the Irascible   (5 pages, 1904) and "The Purple of the Balkan Kings"  (1902, 4 pages)  both by Saki

This my 12th post on Saki (Hector Munro 1870 to 1916-UK).   Almost every day I check the great web page East of the Web: Short Stories  to see what their short stories of the day are.   Normally they have one classic and one modern story.    It was on this web page that I first discovered Katherine Mansfield.   The webmasters at East of the Web clearly like Saki a lot as he often the author of the story of the day.    Saki wrote nearly 300 short stories so they have a lot to pick from!

Saki is a "surprise ending" short story writer.    The whole point of his stories is setting  us up for the often hilarious ending.    I know Saki is not on any list of best short story writers.    I probably would not read one of his stories   a second time.    His prose style is sort of a parody on High British Historians.   I think after reading a few of his stories you would be able to recognize his work.   I can accept that some might be put of by what may be an overly mannered prose style.    Anyway a lot of people, including me, do enjoy reading his good natured stories once and a while.

Of these two stories, "Herman the Irascible" is the best.    Women might be offended by it but it all mean  in fun.     There is a great plague among the Royalty in England and the 23rd in line for the thrown, Herman the Irascible, a very minor German prince becomes King of England.    There is a big movement in the country to give women the vote.   Herman does not really like the idea but he does not feel he is in a position to reject the idea.     He gives women the right to vote but they are required by the law to vote in all elections from dog  catcher on up.   Men can vote if they want to but they are not required.     Now comes the twist.

"The Purple of the Balkan Kings"  is a story seemingly about a great player in Balkan politics, exiled for now, waiting to return to his throne.   Saki likes to write about government officials and royalty.    The ending is pretty good.

Do you have favorite Saki story?

"Saki, I like you even if you are not  Irish"
Mel u

Monday, March 28, 2011

"In a Grove" By Ryunosuke Akutagawa- The Most Famous Japanese Short Story

"In a Grove" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (10 pages, 1922, translated from Japanese by Takashi Kojima)

The Reading Life Japanese Literature Project-link to 90 reviews

" In a Grove" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892 to 1927-Tokyo) is the most famous Short Story by a Japanese author.   I have previously posted on another of his stories,  "The Mandrians".    In that post I give some information on the general sensibility of Akutagawa.    Five movies have been made using this story as a base.

"In a Grove" tells us the story of the bird of a samurai, from seven different view points, including that of the victim.   We hear from an old wood cutter who found the body and a Buddhist Priest who passed the victim on the road.   From the wood cutter we get a look back at very old traditions, from the Priest we learn a bit about the iconography of Japanese Buddhism.    We then meet an ex-criminal now working as a bounty hunter for the police who claims to have captured the killer (though his evidence is week).   Next we hear from the mother- in- law of the victim, her daughter is missing and she begs the police to find her.   Soon we hear from the wife.   Now as the wife speaks we begin to think we know what happened to the samurai.   Of course we do not!  

I will not tell any more of  the plot of the story.   It is very modern in its use of multiple view points and very traditional in the value system that motivates the central characters.   It takes a deep look at the role of honor and face in the samurai code, especially as it affects the wives of samurai.

I endorse this story totally.   You can read it HERE.  

   Mel u

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"The Jay" by Yasunari Kawabata

"The Jay"  by Yasunari Kawabata (5 pages, 1947, translated from Japanese by Lane Dunlop

The Reading Life Japanese Literature Project

Yesterday I read a great short story by Yukio Mishima.    This morning I read another short story by one of the greats of 20th century Japanese Literature, Yasunari Kawabata (1899 to 1972-Nobel Prize 1968).     In September of 2009 I read and posted on one of his most famous novels, The Old Capital.    As I began to read The Old Capital  I was struck by how many images from nature were in the book.   I began to count them and in the 187 page work I found over 750 references to flowers, trees, plants and gardens.     The novel  deals directly with the conflict in post WWII Japanese culture between those who wanted to cling to old forms and their great beauty and tradition and those who rushed to adopt western consumerism.  

After too long a  hiatus, I am glad to be again reading a few Japanese works.

As "The Jay" opens an elderly nearly blind Japanese grandmother hears  a baby bird outside their window crying.    He has fallen from the nest.    The bird's mother is seeking her.    We quickly learn that the central character in the story, a young soon to be married woman,  is living with her father and second wife, her step mother.   Her mother left the family in pursuit of a faster more exciting life style than her husband could or would provide.    Yoshiko begins to ponder why the mother bird cares more for her off spring than her own mother does for her.  Yoshiko finds out her younger brother has done something very shocking.   He has sought out and found their birth mother.    Yoshiko feels only evil will come of this.   Her step mother says she always knew and feared that one day the children would seek out their real mother.   The son wants to get to know his mother.   The normally calm father once flew into a wild rage when Yoshiko just showed him a picture of their mother.

The plot is very well resolved and narrated.   I will not tell anymore of it.   Readers of other works by Kawabata will find the story to be what they would expect, a nature centered story of great beauty and depth and new readers can "try him out".  

You can read it online HERE

Mel u

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Yukio Mishima-"The Fountains in the Rain" --A Short Story

"The Fountains in the Rain" by Yukio Mishima (6 pages, translated from the Japanese, 1989, by John Bester)

Japanese literature in translation is one of my reading passions and part of the announced focus of my blog.   I have strayed away in the last few months but I want to post on three stories by world class canon status Japanese authors in the next few days.    For  me the post WWII Japanese novel has opened up an incredibly rich new area of reading.  I will also, I think, post on a very good short story by a second generation Japanese/American writer.

Yukio Mishima (1925 to 1970-Tokyo) is on all lists of top five Japanese novelists of all times.    Some put him at the top of the list,  a list which includes two Nobel Prize laureates.   Mishima is on my "read everything that has been translated list".     I have done four prior posts on him.    His The Sailor that Fell from Grace with The Sea is a brilliant account of the clash of Japanese culture with western values, one of the dominant themes of Mishima.    I also posted on a collection of five of his No plays.    His work in drama is almost a recasting of Samuel Becket as a formalized Japanese theatrical work.    I also posted on the first two novels in his great tetrology, The Sea of Fertility.    Mishima also wrote  a lot of short stories.

"The Fountains in the Rain" was first published in English in a 1989 in a collection of seven of his short stories, Acts of Worship.  (I do not know the date of its original publication -I guess around 1950).   One often sees in the work of Mishima the depiction of acts of cruelty done for no reason than the the pleasure it may bring.   The acts are most of done, it seems, by young men who have begun for the first time to discover the world is not perfect and feel this is all the justification they  need for what I will call "recreational cruelty".     There are only two people in "Fountains in the Rain", a young man and his very much in love with him girl friend.   It is a first relationship for both of them.    The man had one purpose only in mind in entering into the relationship and  doing all he can to make the woman fall in love with him so he could enjoy the sensation of seeing what her reaction would be when for no reason whatsoever he coldly and suddenly tells her he wishes to end the relationship.     Mishima's handling of the emotions of both partners is perfect.    The ending is stunning and beautifully undercuts what we thought was our understanding of the story.   

"The Fountain in the Rain" can be READ HERE.

I highly recommend this story for its own merits and as a way of "trying out" Mishima.

I am always looking for suggestions for short stories so please leave a comment.  

Mel u

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Henry James at 16
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898,  112 pages)

Since I began my blog I have posted on two works by Henry James,   The Aspern Papers and The Portrait of a Lady.    Just before I began my blog I read two of his novels,  The Bostonians and The Europeans, both of which I think are good starter James books.  James is a very high canon status writer.

James (1843 to 1916-New York City) was a tremendously influential writer.    His novels are on almost all lists of 100 best novels ever.    He is not a "fast read".

I have had The Turn of the Screw on my TBR list long before I had the slightest idea what a TBR list was.   I finally got around to it a few days ago.    There are many blog posts on The Turn of the Screw.   Wikipedia has a good basic article on  the plot and themes of the work and there are lots of very well done blog posts on it.   My post is just going to be sort of a "reading note".

The Turn of the Screw is subject to multiple interpretations.   It might be a ghost story.  It might be about a mental illness and the fear children can sometimes induce in adults.   I liked the feel of unknown evil lurking in the background.   I liked the descriptions of the children and the wonderful prose.   To be a bit eccentric, I prefer The Aspern Papers (also a novella)  but I am glad I have at last read The Turn of the Screw.   I read a Barnes and Nobel edition but you can easily find it online.  

Mel u

Friday, March 25, 2011

Henry Green-Three Novels-Loving, Living, and Party Going

Loving (1945, 187 pages), Living (1929, 177 pages) and Party Going (1939, 145 pages) all by Henry Green

Henry Green is not much in fashion now.  I just did a Google Blog Search and could find no posts dedicated to his work.    According to a bit of research I did, 50 years ago he  was very widely read.   I admit I had never even heard of him until Victoria Glendinning mentioned that Green and Elizabeth Bowen were friends.   Bowen said Green was one the very few English novelists who could reproduce the actual sensations of living.    

Henry Green (the pen name for Henry Yorke-1905 to 1973, UK) was born into real wealth.   His father was a wealthy industrialist, land owner and was an intensely cultured man.    John Updike in his brilliant introduction to these three works  (Penguin Press has very generously printed all three of these novels in one book)  tells us that Green's father was an amateur connoisseur of country dialect.    I could see this spilling over in the novels in Green's wonderful handling of the speech of Birmingham factory workers.   I have said before that I do not like the use of country dialects in novels.   Green is so good at  this I loved it when he did it.   Green was descended from barons on both parental sides.     He grew up in and would always live in a great manors house.      He was educated at Eaton and Oxford.   Upon leaving Oxford (he never completed a degree) he of his own volition went to work on the floor of one of his father's factories.    He would later become a manager but always worked for the family company.     During WWII he was a volunteer fireman.   He married a second cousin and had an odd but enduring marriage.   

He wrote nine novels.   The three I read are considered his best work.   Party Going is considered his master work.   All three of his novels do have an "Upstairs, Downstairs" feel to them.   All of them are about the contrast of the lives of people from the "working classes" and the leisure or moneyed class.    His rich are not the owners of factories they are their  born never to have to worry children.  

Loving is set in an Irish Castle.   It deals with separate and not equal worlds,  with the servants and the masters.    To me Green does a brilliant job depicting the relationships between all the various elements in the novel.    I admit at the end I cringed when I saw the extreme contempt in which the  English mistress of the house held the Irish servants in her employ.

Living seems the most autobiographical of  the three novels.   It is set largely on the floor of a Birmingham, England factory but it also deals with the factory owners.     I loved, and this is a big admission for me, the use of "country dialect" in the novel.    Green has an amazing mastery over language.

Party Going is set in a railroad station.    The station is closed due to extreme fog.    This story mostly deals with the rich people in the VIP cars and how they cope but it also is concerned with how ordinary people deal with it also.    Again, the rich in the story are the pampered adult children of wealth.   I

I love Green's prose.   It is just so amazing.   I wish I could describe it but I cannot.  Here are a few lines from Living I was amazed by:   "Then children went into houses from streets along with these men and girls.   Women gave them to eat.   Were only sparrows now in the streets.    But on the roads, ceaselessly cars came in from country, or they went out into it, in, out".    There are just so many wonderful passages.   His work is also a very acute character study.   Green is not easy on his own class.  

Green took eight years to write Party Going.   He pretty much also lived up to the title and descended more and more into terrible drinking and serial infidelity.   In the last twenty years of his life he developed an extreme interest in the Ottoman Empire.

I think a lot of people who read my blog would love these novels. I for sure did.   They are a little 'odd" and the plot action does not unfold in a straightforward way but once you get 30 pages into his work you might be so in love with his prose you will not care if you can even follow the plot at all.    I found him to be near mesmerizing.

If you have read Green please leave a comment


Mel u


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Irish Short Story Week One-A Salute to the Particpants

My first and last words on Irish Short Story Week I will be an expression of thanks to all those who participated.    A total of 57  Irish Short Stories were posted on during the nine day week.    My list of participants is in random order.    If I left somehow out it is an oversight and please let me know.

  1. Amateur  Reader of Wuthering Expectations posted on six stories including works by George Moore, James Stephens,  and Flan O'Brien.    As  always, his post was very edifying.
  2. JoAnn of Lake Side Musings  did a very insightfull post on "Eveline", one of the stories from James Joyce's Dubliners.    JoAnn has added a lot to my TBR lists with her posts  over the last 1.5 years and she always has a beautiful lake side picture in her header.
  3. Helen of She Reads Novels read "Laura Silver Bell"  by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, author of Carmilla. Helen really liked the atmosphere of the story and goes deeply into the supernatural roots of the work. Helen loves to read 19th century fiction and also posts on a lot of classic short stories.    Le Fanu was one of my "discoveries" for the week.  
  4. Jillian of Jillian is Reading  read James Joyce's "Ivy Day in the Committee Room".  I think it might have been her first time to read Joyce.     She felt it was beautifully written and packed with the history of Ireland.    Jillian has recently begun to  move away from reading mass market books into the classics.   Her posts are very insightful and I love her passion for reading.
  5. Em of C'est la vie posted on a story by Edna O'Brien,  "Irish Revel".   The story is a harsh look at a society driven by drink and close mindedness.   Em  lives in Ireland and her blog is about books but also about a lot of other topics that interest her.   I am an avid follower of her blog.
  6. Risa of Bread Crumb Reads read Bram Stoker's "Dracula's Guest".    She loved it for its scary feel and the wonderful writing.    Risa is from India, is a teacher, and reads a wide variety of works.    I agree with her when she says the story is a good way to try out Stoker before you decide if you want to try Dracula.
  7. Winston's Dad of Winstonsdad posted on a collection of short stories by William Trevor, Cheating at Canasta.   Trevor  is for sure the "dean" of the current Irish Short Story writers and is considered by many the best living writer of short stories.   Winston's Dad says the collection can be said to be about cheating.    Most of the characters are people on the margins.    Winston's Dad reads a wide diversity of works and I am always happy to read one of his posts.
  8. Stephanie of The Conscientious Reader did a great post on seven stories.   I was so happy when I realized she had the brilliance to realize that Jonathan Swift"s "A Modest Proposal" was really a short story about a man giving his ideas how to solve a problem, not just one of the best satires ever written.   In addition to Swift she also posted on Joyce, Enright,  Stoker, O'Connor and two new to me writers. Her blog is not just about books.    She recently posted a delicious looking recipe.   Additionally she created beautiful badge for the event.
  9. Suko of Suko's List was one of three people, including me, who posted on a story by Edna O'Brien.   Suko posted on "A Journey", an account of the feelings of a woman as she begins a trip with a man she is have a clandestine affair with.     Suko was taken by O'Brien's uncanny ability to capture the interior life of the woman.   Suko's  blog was one of the first  I began to follow when I first discovered  the world of book blogs, about two years ago.    Her blog is a work of art, a great blending of content and design.
  10. Darlyn of Your Move Dickens read her first work by Oscar Wilde, "The Nightingale and the Rose" and liked it so much hopes to read Portrait of Dorian Gray soon.   I  am happy another blogger based in the Philippines as I am joined in the event.
  11. The Listener at Free Listens  posted on two classic stories,   "My Oedipus Complex" by Frank O'Conner and "The Dead" by James Joyce.     He listened to both of them on podcasts.   I found I new world opening up to me through looking at all of the short stories and longer works one can here or down load.   Often the readers are trained professionals and do a beautiful job.    There are lots of great listening options on his blog.    Podcasts are kind of a new world for me but I am getting into it and will be following his blog for great tips.
  12. Ashley of Short Story Slore read her first Oscar Wilde, "The Centerville Ghost".     I listened to this as a podcast.   Like Ashley I thought it was funny in some place and dragged on a bit in others.   At first I enjoyed the mocking of Americans then it just seem to be a cliche.   Ashley has a real passion for the short story and I expect to learn a lot from her as I follow her blog.
  13. Ds  of   Third Story Window    posted on a collection of short stories by Claire Keegan,  Walk the Blue Fields.   I want to quote from her post as what she says is very powerful:  "It has been difficult to think about leprechauns and pots of gold, shamrocks, and fairy circles this week; hard to find something engrossing enough to take one away from thoughts of global disaster. But I did. It is a small volume that I brought back from Ireland last fall--books being my favorite souvenirs--a collection of short stories by a young woman who has won nearly every major Irish literary prize, and whose first book was a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year.     Her name is Claire Keegan and I had never heard of her.   Now, I will not forget it her."      I always am very glad to see she has posted something new on her blog.                             
  14. Dragonflyy419 of Dragonflyy419 Attempts to Combat Boredom  was a great participant.  They posted on five classic stories by Wilde, Le Fanu,   Maria Edgeworth ,   Frank O'Connor, and Brendan Behan.     I think we both shared a great fondness for Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's powerful story "The Child Who Was Stolen by Fairies".    All of their posts were very well done and showed a lot of insight.    I could not have asked for a better participant in Irish Short Story week than Dragonflyy419.
  15. Life Time Reader of Life Time Reading Plan and I  have both been strongly influenced in our reading by Clifton Fadiman.     I greatly admire her plan to read through the classics in historical order.  I am glad she took time out to read "Oh Madam" by Elizabeth Bowen for week.    I love this story about a woman and her maid walking through a house nearly wrecked in the Blitz in London in WWII and so did Life Time Reader.    Her post is very insightful and beautifully written and increased my understanding of this story.
"Mel says I am now a permanent part
of the Reading Life"-Carmilla

Thanks again to all the participants-Providence willing, Irish Short Story Week II will start March 11, 2o12.   I will hopefully be better organized and better informed about the Irish Short Story by then!     I will keep this post in a permanent page for future references.   

"See you next March!"-Rory O'Hallrahan
Mel u  

"Hands" From Wineburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-The Classics Circuit

"Hands" from Wineburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (6 pages, 1919)

Sherwood Anderson (1876 to 1941)

I am happy to be once again participating in The Classics Circuit.  As always, I give my great thanks to Rebecca for this great event and for encouraging the reading of classics.    The topic for March is America's Lost Generation.   The time frame is the post WWI years up until around 1930 or so.   The super star American authors of the period are F. Scott Fitzgerald,  Ernest Hemingway, E. E. Cummings, T.  S. Elliot,  Gertrude Stein,  and John Dos Passos.     In short stories, one of my primary focuses lately,   Sherwood Anderson's  Wineburg,   Ohio was and still is very influential.     The book is a collection of short stories about the ordinary people of an imaginary small town in Ohio.   Frank O'Conner  has said that the short story at its best most often focuses on people at the margins of society, people who do not quite fit in.    This is the exact focus of the wonderful stories in Winesburg, Ohio.   In his magisterial survey  The March of Literature,  Ford Madox Ford lists Wineburg, Ohio as a must read book.  

Anderson felt his best work of all time was his story "Hands", in Wineburg, Ohio.   I read all the stories and I found this the most moving one.

"Hands" is a near shocking story for its subject matter and the depth of psychological penetration.   It is one of the very few works that I am aware of that deal with a male teacher considered to be a molester of the young boys in his class in a sympathetic fashion.     Anderson does a masterful job of letting us see how a man's appearance could lead those around him to come to the conclusion he may well be a child molester (and there is nothing in the story to say the lead character is not in fact one).   It is a perfect account of the effects of profiling in a day when the word "profiling" was not even known.    The plot is simple.   A male teacher likes to show his affection for his male pupils by touching and patting them (on the back as far as we are shown).   The man does not meet the standards for a "manly man" in small town Ohio in 1919 and ends up losing his teaching job and narrowly escapes a lynch mob.    It is what this does to the protagonist that makes this story so interesting.   I do not wish to spoil the story (you can read it in just a few minutes).   The style is simple and straightforward.    This is good old fashioned story telling.    

"Hands" can be read online HERE

I am always looking for ideas for new short stories to read-please leave any suggestions you might have

Mel u

Mel u

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Irish Short Story Week -My Reading and Experience

My Reading and Experience

"Thanks for stopping by"-
Ruphrect, Rory, and Carmilla

The idea for having on an "Irish Short Story Week" on my blog came to be as an impulse as I saw blogs posts about   St. Patrick's Day     I did not really give it a lot of advance planning but I decided it would might be fun, interesting and informative.   (In a day or two I will do a master post on the posts of other participants in the event and will include links to all posts.    My greatest thanks go out to those who joined in with me.   I will keep the event open for participants for a two more days)

The Short Story maybe a new literary form but its roots are very ancient in the parable, the fable, the folk tale, and the teller of tales.    Ireland has nearly adopted the Short Story as its national literary form.   There are lots of books and such written on how and why this happened.    As I began to research the Irish short story I became more and more amazed by the extreme quality and quantity of the field.   Maybe it began in the late 18th century but it is going strong now in the pages of The New Yorker other places.   Dublin was recently named by UNESCO a city of literature in tribute to the huge number of writers born and from there.    

Day One-The View from Mount Parnassus

Mount Parnassus was where, in ancient Greek mythology, the great  writers and artists of all time can be found.     I posted on stories by James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and William Butler Yeats,  three of the very most important writers of the 20th century.   Joyce's collection of short stories, The Dubliner's,   is the far the most influential Irish (and maybe anywhere) collection of short stories ever published.

Day Two-The 18th Century

Two simple but interesting stories, one by Oliver Goldsmith and an odd story about a young girl by Maria Edgeworth

Day Three-Irish Gothic

I discovered today a new to me writer that I really liked and will read a lot more from,  Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu,  creator of the first lesbian Vampire in literature in Carmilla.   I really like his prose style and the atmosphere he creates.   I also posted on story by Bram Stoker,  author of Dracula.  

Day Four-Wild Irish Lad Day

Frank O'Conner,  Sean O'Faolain, and Liam O'Flaherty appeared on Day Four.    All three fought in the Irish War of Independence,  all are very Irish.   Once you step down from Joyce, these are your most important Irish short story writers.   O'Conner and O'Faolain both wrote still much read books on the nature of the short story.    I really liked all these stories (I read two from each one) and can see myself reading their collected stories later in the year.    I found real wisdom, a love of language and deep culture in their stories.  Before the week began I never read any of  their works.

Day Five-The Future of the Irish Short Story-

No need to worry if the glory days of the Irish Short Story are over.     Writers like Ann Enright,  Edna O'Brien,  and Claire Keegan will make sure of that.   All of these authors were new to me until this week and I will be reading a lot more by them.   In fact I hope to read Ann Enright's Booker Prize Winner, The Gathering, very soon.

Day Six-The New Yorker Day

The New Yorker magazine is by far the most influential publication in the history of the short story and very much so for the Irish Short Story.   Today I posted on short stories that were first published in magazine by William Trevor,   Roddy Doyle, and Maeve Brennan  (who worked for the magazine).  

Day Seven-Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen-I love her short stories.    To me she is just a wonderful person and her picture will be in the side bar of my blog permanently.   I still have four of her short stories to post on and will talk more on her then

Day Eight-Mass Market Best Seller Day

I decided on day seven to extend the week.   I bought in a local mall a collection of short stories by Irish women of short stories written in 2004.   The writer ups on the book, Irish Girls are Back in Town, in and Amazon all say the stories in the book are by "Chick lit" writers.   I do not care for this term but I noticed two of the lead writers in the collection are super best selling authors so I decided to call day eight "best seller day".  

Day Nine-Irish Ghost Stories

There are lots and lots of Irish stories about ghosts.    In a county with as tragic a history of mass deaths as Ireland has this is hardly surprising.   I found  some very well done ghost stories by women writers.

Providence willing,  Irish Short Story Week II will begin on March 11 2012.   I will try to be better informed and better organized next year.   Carmilla,  Rory and Ruphrect will be back!

I have some ideas and theories on why the Irish Short story is such a rich field but I will save them for now.
You could easily do an Irish Short Story year and just  be getting started.   I will be reading and posting on more Irish short stories on a regular basis.

I will do a master post (and  keep it in a page at the top of my  blog) on the posts of participants very soon.

Once again, I thank so much those who joined in.

Mel  u

Demon Lover"-a famous ghost story by Elizabeth Bowen

"The Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen (1945, 5 pages)

Irish Short Story Week
Day Nine
Ghost Stories
Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen (1899 to 1973-Dublin) was a well known writer of short stories and novels.   Her best known work is the novel, The Heat of the Day (1949) which is considered one of the best literary treatments of London during the WWII years.    She moved to London at age eight.    She attended art school in London but decided that her primary talent was  writing.       Bowen was a strong believer in ghosts.

"The Demon Lover" is the best known  of  Bowen's short stories. (Not by far her best story but still a very well done work.)   The central character of the novel, a 45 year old woman, comes in from the countryside in England during the WWII years to check on her long time residence.   Like a lot of people she left London during the worst of the Blitz and lived in the countryside but would come back to check on her property.    She is totally shocked when she sees a letter has been left for her on the dining table as there is no one who would bring a letter addressed to her inside her house.     She is even more shocked when she reads the letter:

Dear Kathleen: You will not have forgotten that today is our anniversary, and the
day we said. The years have gone by at once slowly and fast. In view of the fact
that nothing has changed, I shall rely upon you to keep your promise. I was sorry
to see you leave London, but was satisfied that you would be back in time. You
may expect me, therefore, at the hour arranged.
The lead character is now a totally respectable married woman of the utmost probity.    During WWI, some thirty years earlier when she was in her teens, she had a passionate affair with a soldier.   He  was a brutish kind of a man and her family did not at all approve of him.    He was declared missing during the war and presumed dead.   It has been so long the woman cannot even recall his face with any clearness.  This new letter is from him, it seems.   The story is short and beautifully told.   I      I do not wish to give away the exciting  ending (I am still trying to figure out exactly what happened).  

"The Demon Lover" can be read online HERE.    For sure it is worth the less than ten minutes it will take you to read it.

(This is a slightly rewritten version of a post I did a few months ago)
Mel u

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"The Haunted Organist of Hurley Burly" by Rosa Mulholland Irish Short Story Week

"The Haunted Organist of Hurly Burly" by Rosa Mulholland (1891, 8 pages)

Day Nine
Ghost Stories
Rosa Mulholland

Ghost stories have been a part of the Irish Short Story from the very start.    A country with as tragic a history as Ireland is bound to have a lot of ghosts.    

"Hey, when will there be a Leprechaun  short
story day??-it is bad luck to ignore us!"-Rory
Rosa Mullholland (Belfast, Ireland-1841 to 1921)  was born into an affluent family of physicians.    She met Charles Dickens who was impressed with some short stories she had written which he had published.   He encouraged her to write.    She married Sir John Gilbert, a noted Irish historian and she helped him with his research into Irish folk ways and Celtic history.    She wrote numerous novels, all dealing with the lives of members of the Catholic Irish gentry.     Amazon has several of her books for sale.     I think it is her stories of the supernatural that are most read today.    After reading, "The Haunted Organist of Hurley Burley"   I can see  why Dickens liked her work so much.

As the story opens we meet a married couple in their forties.   They seem happy enough and are settled in a routine.    They are bonded in sadness by the death of their son, their only child, many years ago and the age of twenty.    A really lot of suspense is built up in this short story.     The son was a wild young man (something that is half or more admired in the stories I have read) much given to drinking,  crazy pranks with friends, and time spent in the company of any willing women he could find.   But all in all he was a good son and the love of both his parents lives.     One day he begins to play an old organ the parents have in their manor house.    He becomes obsessed with playing the organ and he plays more and more his health begins to fail.   He is found dead at the organ, a near skeleton.

Twenty years go by.   The couple never had anymore children and never really get over what happens to him.   Then one day a young woman of about twenty, Lisa, shows up at their door claiming last month their son proposed marriage to her and told her to come to his parents house.    They met in Rome, Lisa's home.   At first the couple is convinced the girl is either a schemer or has been deceived by someone using their son's identity for some unknown reason.    They have a lot of family portraits of young men in their house, cousins and nephews.     They show her a dozen pictures and ask her to identify there son.    She does it easily, describing how he dressed and acted perfectly.    They decide she must be suffering from a horrible delusion and they take her to see the woman who was to marry her son, before he died.    Now things get really strange and actually pretty exciting.   I will not tell any more of the plot as you can read it in just a few minutes.

You can read it online at Horror Masters.

I hope to post on one or two Irish Ghost stories (I like ghost stories!) today.    Tomorrow will, unless I change my mind again, be the last day of my posting in individual works for Irish Short Story Day-I do not know for sure yet what I will post on tomorrow-Maybe on Irish Fairy tales or leprechaun stories.   Stephen Vincent Benet (American) wrote a wonderful one,  "O'Hallorhan and the Luck of the Irish"  in which Rory was born.      I am very open to ideas and suggestions.    As you can see, I am in not rush to close down Irish Short Story Week.

Everyone is invited to participate-just post on one short story by an Irish Author and send me the link in a comment, anywhere in the blog.   I will in a few days after I close out the week, do a master posts with links to all the posts by participants.  

Mel u

"The Last of the Squire of Ennismore" by Charlotte Riddell-Irish Short Story Week

"The Last of the Squire of Ennismore"  by Charlotte Riddell (1888, five pages)

Day Nine
Ghost Stories
Charlotte Riddell

Charlotte Riddell (born Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland-1832 to 1906) was the daughter of a high sheriff.    She wrote seven novels and a large number of short stories.    I think only a few of her ghost or supernatural short stories are still much read.    There is a long tradition of ghost stories in Ireland,  either fiction, folklore or believed true stories.   Any country with as tragic a history as Ireland is bound to have a lot of ghosts.     Ghosts are generally thought to be the spirit of a deceased person or animal that can make it self visible and felt by the living.   (The best ghost story I have read since I began my blog 20 months ago is "Aghwee the Sky Monster by Kenzaburo Oe).

"The Last of the Squire Ennismore" is a very well done, very atmospheric story.     Squire Ennismore has just returned to his estate on the coast  of Ireland, after a stay of years in London.   He is seventy years old but is in perfect health and can ride in the hunt just like a man of thirty.    He has an evil reputation as a man given to every kind of vice imaginable.   It is rumored that he had to leave London as he had committed an act so vile even his totally corrupt circle of acquaintances can no longer accept him.    There is a mentally ill woman living on his property.   There is an old house thought to be haunted that once used to be very splendid.   He pays the woman a good fee to live in the house.    She begins to experience all kind of strange things and hear all sort of sounds.    She leaves the squires land in terror.

One day a good size merchant ship hits a rock off the coast of the squire's land.    As the bodies begin to float it (and we have to take this as a bit xenophobic, at least) they are observed to be dark and they have strange looking crosses around their necks.    After some conversations, the priests declares they must be Christians and he gives them burial.  

Then a very strange man is seen walking the coast at night.    Everyone fears him but the squire.   He and the squire becomes friends.    They are heard talking in a language no can understand or even recognize.

I want other to have the change to discover this story for themselves so I will not tell more of the plot.

"The Last of the Squire of Ennismore" is another memorable Irish Short Story.

I will keep the week open for participants for two or three days but I think this will be the last day I will post for the already extended week.   It has been great fun for me and very much a learning experience.   My greatest thanks to all those who participated.

Mel u

Monday, March 21, 2011

"How Emily Got Promoted" by Sarah Web Irish Short Story Week

"How Emily Got Promoted" by Sarah Webb (2004, 25 pages-from Irish Girls are Back in Town)

Day Eight
Mass Market Best Seller Day
Sarah Webb

Sarah Webb (Dublin) writes mostly about women in their late teens up to their early thirties.    She has written several books in her Amy Bloom:  Teen Agony Queen series with titles like Bridesmaid's Blitz,   Boy Trouble, and When the Boys Are Away.   Amy is 13, lives with her mother who used to write for a soap opera and her mother's boyfriend who is a nurse.   Her dad is trader and lives with his much younger girl friend.   Her boyfriend is 14.   She has two younger siblings.    Amy likes her pink ipod, her BFF, and assorted other cultural artifacts that give her identity and status.     The action of the books are all tied up with lots of drama, texting, gossip, and drama of the highest sort.   Lots of moral outrage at such offenses as walking sexy in front of someone's boyfriend combined with endless discussion of the character flaws of everyone she knows along with an extreme case of glandular overload make up the world of Amy Green.    Webb's books have all been on the Irish and American best seller lists.

"How Emily Got Promoted" centers on seemingly mid-twenty something Emily.   I guess she is Amy's big sister.      Like Amy, her world centers on her relationships to other women in the same age bracket.   It is a world where you are judged by the expense of the gadgets you carry, the car your drive and your daddy's job.   Emily is not yet married or settled into a permanent relationship with a man.   Her parents and friends are starting to ask her why not and of course she finds this annoying.   Emily is a free lance writer selling articles mostly to very trending high end type fashion magazines.   The action of  the plot is all about how Emily gets her self promoted from  free lance writer to a very coveted by many in her peer group position as a staff writer(envy is a big thing in this world).

   A lot of the fun of the story is seeing how some of the girls she knew in school have developed into "real grownups" and others have not.   The writing style is straightforward and very easy to follow.   "How Emily Got Promoted" is a good story, I enjoyed it.  

Sarah Webb has a very attractive web page, the dominant color is pink, that gives a lot of information about her books.

"Sarah, we are so lucky, somehow your
room is right next to mine"-Carmilla

Mel  u

"The Calling" by Cecelia Ahern-Irish Short Story Week-Mass Market Day

"The Calling" by Cecelia Ahern (2004, 17 pages-from Irish Girls are Back in Town)

 Day Eight 
 Mass Market Best Selling Authors
Cecelia Ahern
Two days ago I was in a local mall book store and I found a collection of short stories by Irish women,  Irish Girls are Back in Town (2004, 368 pages).     There are twenty stories in the collection, all written for the book.   I looked at the brief biographies of the authors and many of them are authors of best selling novels.
After I got the book home, I checked the comments on it on    The quotes from published reviews and Amazon reviewers said the stories were all from the genre of fiction called in the common usage "chick lit".    I decided this was an area of Irish short stories I wanted to look at.     I had no intention of calling this day "Chick lit" day as I not really care for the term.

I was looking for some way to characterize "Chick lit", to explain what that term means.   I found at Book Chick City a very concise account that allowed me to understand area.

That said, chick lit is a genre comprised of books that are mainly written by women for women. The books range from having main characters in their early 20’s to their late 60’s. There is usually a personal, light, and humorous tone to the books. Sometimes they are written in first-person narrative; other time they are written from multiple viewpoints. The plots usually consist of women experiencing usual life issues, such as love, marriage, dating, relationships, friendships, roommates, corporate environments, weight issues, addiction, and much more.
So how does that differ from regular woman’s fiction, you might be wondering? Well, it’s all in the tone. Chick lit is told in a more confiding, personal tone. It’s like having a best friend tell you about her life. Or watching various characters go through things that you have gone through yourself, or witnessed others going through. 
There is a Wikipedia article on "Chick lit" that says essentially the same thing.

The reviews in say the stories by the Irish women are "darker" than typical stories in for the area, somehow this is not real surprising.

Cecelia Aherns (Dublin) is a true international super star best selling author.   Her first novel (of seven) PS I Love You was a best seller in Ireland, the UK, the USA and Europe.   It was on the best seller list for 52 weeks in Germany.   (In fact her books are in the book stores in Manila in high sale positions).   It was made into a major Hollywood movie starring Holly Swank.    All of her subsequent books have been best sellers.   My guess is she has out sold all the books by most of the living Irish women authors I have posted on put together.

"The Calling" is about a young woman in her late teens.   She lives in a rural Irish community with her parents and four brothers. As we first meet her she is 76 years old living in a home and the story is told in a conversation she has with another woman in the home   Her mother, who rules the family, wants to be sure she finds a suitable husband.   By this she means a man from the area who does not seem like a  potential abuser.   The only jobs in the area are as laborers.    All the men come home from work dirty.    The daughter wants no part of such a man.   At first her parents think she may have "The Calling" to become a nun.   Then they begin to fear she may end up like one of  those "funny" women who cut their hair short and wear construction worker shoes.  One night after she finishes her schooling she moves to Dublin, moves in with a girl she knows and gets  a job as a hotel maid.

One day she stops into as night club near her apartment.   She is awe struck by the handsome man singing so wonderfully on stage.    She meets and falls in love with him.   She takes him home to meet her parents.   Her mother ends up slapping her in the face and calling her a  "whore" for bringing a man "above her station in life" into the house.

They marry and have pretty much a great life with great kids.   There is a "twist" at the end that gives the story a "darker side".

"The Calling" is a very good story.   I enjoyed it a lot.

Aherns's web page gives details on all her books and has lots of good information on her work and background.  

"Here is somebody Rory and I both like-PS I will see
you at Bowen's Court"-Carmilla
Mel u

Not to late to participate.   Just post on an  Irish short story and leave the link in  a comment anywhere in my blog.   I will once the event ends do a master post including your link.

My thanks to all those that have joined in so far.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Elizabeth Bowen Day-"The Jungle"-Irish Short Story Week-3 Day Extension

"The Jungle" by Elizabeth Bowen  (11 pages, 33 minutes as Podcast, 1929)

Resources For the Week

I have decided to keep Irish Short Story Week open for 3 more days, to close out on March 23.  I will be adding two more "theme days".     Day Eight will be dedicated to popular stories by authors best selling books of what can be called "Irish Chick Lit".   (I find the term "Chick Lit" a bit offensive but it is used all over the book blog world so I guess it is an OK term.)    The consensus is that Irish Chick Lit tends to be a bit "darker" than American or British.   Ghost Stories are very big in Ireland and day nine will be dedicated to them.   For sure day ten will be a closeout post of my experiences during the week and there will be a party at Bowen Court!

"Please Join me at Bowen Court March 23, for the
party-always plenty of room for guests-stay a
month if you like"-Elizabeth Bowen

Two or three days later I will do a master post linking up all the posts by the participants.    I give my greatest thanks to those whose who have joined in so far.    I will keep the week open for participants until March 24.
Providence willing, Irish Short Story week will be an annual event.

Irish Short Story Week
Day Seven
Elizabeth Bowen Day

Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin Ireland in 1899.   Her ancestors had lived there since about 1651.   Her ancestors moved to Ireland because one of them was a high ranking officer in  the army that Oliver Cromwell sent to reconquer Ireland.   This was a bloody and horrible war for the Irish; death tolls from the war and famines are estimated at between 20 and 50 percent of the people.   Bowen's ancestor was given an Irish manor home and about 5000 acres (and the people on them basically) by Cromwell as a reward for his services.    This makes Bowen the descendant of  people totally hated by  many to this day, the Anglo Irish.   Bowen faced discrimination from the Irish literary community.   Maeve Brennan would not even read her work, for example.

"The Jungle" is considered one of Bowen's essential short stories by Victoria Glendinning.   It is a brilliant story about teenage girls at an exclusive girl's boarding school.   (Bowen went to such schools.)    Bowen just does a wonderful job capturing the mind of Rachael, one of the girls living there.   We see her develop and shed "best friends forever".   Bowen's account of Rachael's comments on her friends is just perfect.   The undercurrent of sexual attraction between the girls is masterfully done and pretty daring for 1929.

You can listen to a podcast of  this story HERE.   The story is perfectly read by Tessa Hadley, a well known short story writer.   I laughed out loud when she said she thought Bowen a better writer than Woolf.  I do not agree with this but it was so much fun to hear it.

I still have, post Irish Short Story Week, one more post to do on Bowen's short stories.    At that time I may give my thoughts on how and who should read Bowen.  

It is not to late to participate in Irish Short Story Week-there are plenty of stories online and you can even listen to Pod casts if you like-all you have to do is by March 23 post on one Irish Short Story and leave me a comment with the link.   

Mel u