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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Word Counts in The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield- with comparisons to contemporaries

An Article I Contributed to  The Journal of The Katherine Mansfield Society, republished here with their permission, April 2013, Issue 14. - with new introduction by myself

Having recently read Gerri Kimber's wonderful new book, Katherine Mansfield The Early Years I was motivated to look at a word count spreadsheet on the short stories of Mansfield i dida few years ago.  Kimber let me see a young woman never really at home where she was born, Wellington New Zealsnd.  Her mother was a bit emotionally remote and her father did not accept her idea of being a professional writer, both were agast at her open bisexuality.  Neither really could truly relate to her.  From 1903 to 1906 she attended college in London.  She returned to Wellington in 1906 but London called her back.  In 1908 she moved back to London, never to return in London.  In London, and in her Continental travels, she was basically rootless, moving often, changing lovers, marrying
dubiously and never having a permanent home.  In London she began in her fiction to write stories inspired by her childhood, drawing on the beauty of New Zealand.  To me Kimber showed me a woman who had no real sense of home.  In her longed for new home in London she struggled to survive, provided with a begrudged small allowance by her father, entered in a one day marriage before eventually marrying John Middleton Murry.  She sought out "guru like men" and increasingly was frought with health issues.  She seemingly had few close women friends, besides a strange relationship with Ida Baker who was totally in love with KM.  KM exploited her and used her as a servant.

To me this craving for a home is strongly brought out in my word counts.  The results were more striking that I expected.

My Post on Katherine Mansfield The Early Years by Gerri Kimber- contains links to important Mansfield related webpages

Introductory Note in Orginal Article

KM chose her words very carefully, once insisting that she check the proofs of ‘The Man Without a Temperament’ for before its publication in Art & Letters: ‘Every word matters. This is not conceit—but it must be so. ... I cant afford mistakes. Another word wont do. I chose every single word’ (To JMM February 2nd 1920, Letters: III, 204). Words certainly matter in KM’s writing, as is amply suggested by the preliminary research undertaken by Mel u (editor of the blog detailed below. Mel has begun to examine the frequency with which certain words recur across a selection of short story collections, including KM’s collected stories, and we’re sure you’ll agree that it has raised some fascinating questions! - introductory note by The Editor of The Journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society, Gerri Kimber

I am the editor and founder of The Reading Life, a literary book blog I began four years ago. About three years ago I read my first Katherine Mansfield short story when it was selected as a story of the day on a webpage I follow. It was ‘Miss Brill’. At that time I had never heard of Katherine Mansfield. I went on to post all of the short stories by Mansfield I could find online. I began to get hits on my blog from all over the world reading my posts. I went on to post on Kathleen Jones’ biography of Mansfield and Linda Lappin’s novel based on her last years.

For those interested my blog gets about 100,000 hits a month. I will begin tracking where readers of my Mansfield posts live. I often see a sudden jump in readerships in a cer- tain area and I know a university there is teaching her work. Because I watch my blog stats very closely, I know that Mansfield is read in a much wider venue than most people might think, far beyond the traditional English language high-end literary world. I am going to try to track her readership. My assumption is almost anyone seriously interested in a Mansfield short story, certainly most students, will google the story and they will often be lead to my blog.

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