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, June 13, 2024

"The Journal" - A Short Story by Carol Shields- 4 Pages - Included in The Short Stories of Carol Shields- 2004

"people sometimes take on a different persona when they travel" from "The Journal" 

"The Journal" - A Short Story by Carol Shields- 4 Pages - Included in The Short Stories of Carol Shields- 2004

 This year, Buried in Print, a marvelous blog I have followed for over ten years,is doing a read through of the short stories of Carol Shields. I hope to participate fully in this event.

The more I read in the stories of Carol Shields the more grateful I am to Buried in Print for turning me on to her work. There are sixty some stories in the collection,it is my hope to read and post on them all in 2024.

"The Journal" is the 20th story by Carol Shields upon which I have posted. Her stories are often centered on people on a trip.  The idea this may allow people to escape briefly from the routines of their existence.  In "The Journal" a 40 year old married couple are in France.

"WHEN HAROLD AND SALLY TRAVEL, Sally keeps a journal, and in this journal Harold becomes H. She will write down such things as “H. exclaimed how the cathedral (Reims) is melting away on the outside and eroding into abstract lumps—while the interior is all fluidity and smoothness and grace, a seemingly endless series of rising and arching.” Has Harold actually exclaimed any such thing? The phrase seemingly endless sounds out of character, a little spongy, in fact, but then people sometimes take on a different persona when they travel. The bundled luggage, the weight of the camera around the neck, the sheer cost of air fare make travelers eager to mill expansive commentary from minor observation. Sally, in her journal, employs a steady, marching syntax, but allows herself occasional forays into fancy."

Harold has his own reaction to France:

"A quotidian quaff is the tickling phrase that pops into Harold’s head, and it seems to him there is not one person in all of Reims, in all of France for that matter, who is not now happily seated in some warm public corner and raising pleasing liquids to his lips. He experiences a nudge of grief because he does not happen to live in a country where people gather publicly at this hour to sip drinks and share anecdotes and debate ideas. He and Sally live on the fringe of Oshawa, Ontario, where, at the end of the working day, people simply return to their homes and begin to prepare their evening meal as though lacking the imagination to think of more joyous activities. But here, at a little table in France, the two of them have already gone native—“H. and I have gone native . . .”—and sit sipping cups of tea and eating little pancakes sprinkled with sugar. Harold feels inexpressibly at peace—which makes him all the more resentful that he can’t live the rest of his life in this manner, but he decides against mentioning his ambivalent feelings to Sally for fear she’ll write them down in her journal.   "

The Carol Shields Literary Trust has a very good biography 

1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

This is another instance in which we recorded the same passage from one of her stories. Funnily enough, I never put these characters together with the title of this story, even though the journal is at the heart of the tale. There are just so many word-ish and writer-ish and poet-ish people in her work, I guess, that I can't believe this title doesn't belong to another one of those characters, perhaps a more solitary natured one of them, somehow.