The Empty Family

Of course, I read an amazing, wonderful book…and I have to follow it up with a terrible one. It never fails, does it?

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I’ve had The Empty Family on my shelf for awhile–it was one I picked up from the $1 shelf at Half-Price. I had liked Brooklyn, so I thought I’d pick something else up from Toibin. I didn’t realize until I got it home that it was a collection of short stories.

Which, ok, short stories do not always doom a book. But, I just have such a hard time with them. There’s never enough time to get into anything. Some authors are great at this. Most just don’t cut it for me.

If you’ve been around for awhile, you know how much I HATE JAMES JOYCE. Nothing EVER happens in his stories. These were a lot like modern day Joyce. There is a main person, usually a gay male, has a very vague problem to solve. There’s some tragic backstory that we get very little of, but it really is super important to the whole underlying issue. It’s all very dark and sad and it’s supposed to be beautifully depressing, but mostly it just comes off limp.

Next please!

The Metamorphosis

Every once in a while I will read something that leaves me blinking. “What the fuck did I just read?!”

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Metamorphosis is one of those stories. I wasn’t prepared for it, either. Kafka’s “masterpiece” was smack dab in the middle of the short story collection I’m working through, and I got to it right before vacation.

If you haven’t read Kafka’s Metamorphosis yet–be prepared for wacky. I’m not sure if he was dreaming, or just stoned out of his ever loving mind. The main character is a guy that wakes up as a dung beetle.

Yes. You read that correctly.

A dung beetle.

His family basically closets him away, takes on boarders to cover the salary he made, and goes on feeding and caring for him. Um, hello? You have a giant cockroach living in your house, and you just go on assuming it is your brother. Okkkkkkkk……

 

As you can guess, I wasn’t a fan of this one. Yuck.

72HR Read-A-Thon | TBR List & Reading Goals

The Lovely Sara over at Trees of Reverie is hosting a readathon this weekend, just in time for the 24 hour Readathon Day tomorrow. I’ve got a lot to do this weekend to get ready for our vacation, along with 3 hours of yoga (!!!!), but there’s going to be plenty of reading in there too.

I haven’t set a page goal, because I have so much going on, but I’d like to get through at least 2 books, maybe three, along with the normal shorts that I read on Fridays. Here’s what’s on the list:

My normal reading from James Joyce Dubliners and Short Story Fiction that I have planned today.

Books on the upcoming list:

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

 

I’ll also be doing the Daily Bookish Challenges that Sara posts, and I’ll probably be reading in some of the sprints that Becki posts too. You can always follow along on Twitter and Tumblr, you know I’m always active on those two sites during these events! Tomorrow is going to be a big reading day for the whole Booklr community, I can’t wait!

64 Deaths

Normally, I save short stories to read one at a time, rather than all at once. And had I known 64 Deaths was an anthology of short stories, that’s probably what I would have done. So, I am REALLY glad I did not realize it was a book of short stories until I was a few “chapters” in.

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Christina Escamilla’s anthology is WONDROUS. I’m not going to say it’s necessarily happy. Because with a title like 64 Deaths, you can probably figure out that this is not a joy-filled grouping. And it’s not. I didn’t count the deaths in the story, to see if there were exactly 64–that’s not the number of stories, so I’m not sure what that number is meant to represent. There is a story in the collection that is called 64 Deaths,” so that may be all it is.

The stories are extremely varied:  some are horror, some are suspense. Some are hopeful, some are devastating. There are different kinds of deaths too, some are suicide, some are murder. There are metaphorical deaths, there are supernatural deaths. There are even one or two non-human deaths.

All of the stories are extremely well written, and definitely have a beauty of their own. I will tell you to proceed with caution, as there are a few here that could trigger some people, but, there is a moral at the end that I think everyone should read.

I think fans of Stephen King, Joe Hill, and especially Neil Gaiman are really going to like this anthology. Just make sure that you have a happy book picked out to read next on your list.

 

This fulfills PopSugar #12:  A book of short stories.

Short Story

I just read the most interesting short story, and one that took me completely by surprise.

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John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” starts off with a suburban man who, instead of driving or walking home, decides to swim home. Ok, not that abnormal…until you realize he’s going to frog hop through his neighbors’ pools!

Now, in modern day society, this would be absolutely crazy, right? We hardly know our next-door neighbors’ names anymore, let alone feel comfortable enough with them to just show up uninvited to swim. But, in the country club society that Neddy Merrill lived in, no one seemed to think this odd. They offered him drink after drink at their afternoon garden parties, hugged him, toasted to him, even acted offended as he hopped off to the next pool!

At least at first.

The farther across the county Neddy got, and the closer he got to home, the stranger things became. As long as he was distanced from his home, things were just dandy, joyous, fun. But life really started to circle the drain, so to speak, as he closed in on his own back yard.

This is one of those rare short stories that really reached out and grabbed me. It doesn’t happen often, but I wanted more. I want to know where his family is, I want to know what happened at the party the night before. So many questions!

If you get a chance, go read this story. I found it in Short Fiction:  Classic and Contemporary Sixth Edition by Charles Bohner and Lyman Grant.

 

For a real treat, you can even listen to Cheever’s read the work himself here. Thanks Catherine, for sharing this with me!

Short but Sweet

I’ve been reading a short story every afternoon. Most…I could do without. I’m not a huge fan of short stories, they are just too, well, short, to have enough of a plot to intrigue me.

But, every once in awhile I will hit a gem that is really beautiful, or important, or meaningful.

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The most recent of these is “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. He writes from the perspective of a husband whose wife invites an old friend of hers to come and stay with them–a blind man that she used to read to. The husband is NOT pleased about this. How is he supposed to interact with this person? Ugh. But, that interaction, as you would expect, turns out to be completely lovely, if a little awkward at first.

I’m finding these stories in a big textbook collection–Short Fiction:  Classic and Contemporary Sixth Edition by Charles Bohner and Lyman Grant