July 2017 favorites

July 2017

The July stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Death And The Compass’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  2. ‘Why I Live At The P.O.’ by Eudora Welty
  3. ‘Cathedral’ by Raymond Carver
  4. ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ by Ray Bradbury
  5. ‘Water Liars’ by Barry Hannah
  6. ‘A Case Of Identity’ by Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. ‘The Mystery Of The Spanish Chest’ by Agatha Christie
  8. ‘Coming Close To Donna’ by Barry Hannah
  9. ‘The Blind Man’ by D.H. Lawrence
  10. ‘Midnight And I’m Not Famous Yet’ by Barry Hannah
  11. ‘The Oracle Of The Dog’ by G.K. Chesterton
  12. ‘Even Greenland’ by Barry Hannah
  13. ‘Republica Y Grau’ by Daniel Alarcón
  14. ‘Good Boys Deserve Favors’ by Neil Gaiman
  15. ‘North Coast’ by Thomas McGuane
  16. ‘Trek’ by Barry Hannah
  17. ‘Cowardice’ by Abdeslam Boulaich

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

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September 2015 favorites

september2015

September 2015

The September stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Doll’s House’ by Katherine Mansfield
  2. ‘Walk In The Moon Shadows’ by Jesse Stuart
  3. ‘The Baby In The Icebox’ by James M. Cain
  4. ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’ by D.H. Lawrence
  5. ‘The Rescue’ by V.S. Pritchett
  6. ‘A Complicated Nature’ by William Trevor
  7. ‘The Standard Of Living’ by Dorothy Parker
  8. ‘Children Of The Sea’ by Edwidge Danticat
  9. ‘The Provincials’ by Daniel Alarcon
  10. ‘Eatonville Anthology’ by Zora Neale Hurston
  11. ‘Birdsong’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  12. ‘The Letter Writers’ by Elizabeth Taylor
  13. ‘The There There’ by Antonya Nelson
  14. ‘Winter In Yalta’ by Antonya Nelson
  15. ‘The Bowl’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  16. ‘Funny Once’ by Antonya Nelson
  17. ‘Literally’ by Antonya Nelson
  18. ‘Death Constant Beyond Love’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  19. ‘A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud’ by Carson McCullers
  20. ‘The Jungle’ by Elizabeth Bowen
  21. ‘Quality Time’ by Richard Ford
  22. ‘The Gully’ by Russell Banks
  23. ‘Inventing Wampanoag, 1672’ by Ben Shattuck

 

August 2014 favorites

august2014

August 2014

The August stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Bright And Morning Star’ by Richard Wright
  2. ‘Symbols And Signs’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  3. ‘The Chrysanthemums’ by John Steinbeck
  4. ‘Free Fruit For Young Widows’ by Nathan Englander
  5. ‘The School’ by Donald Barthelme
  6. ‘The Night The Bed Fell’ by James Thurber
  7. ‘My First Goose’ by Isaac Babel
  8. ‘The Wood Duck’ by James Thurber
  9. ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’ by James Thurber
  10. ‘The Fireman’s Wife’ by Richard Bausch
  11. ‘The Killers’ by Ernest Hemingway
  12. ‘In The Penal Colony’ by Franz Kafka
  13. ‘He’ by Katherine Anne Porter
  14. ‘The Rich Brother’ by Tobias Wolff
  15. ‘Lovers Of The Lake’ by Sean O’Faolain
  16. ‘First Love’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  17. ‘The Mysterious Kor’ by Elizabeth Bowen
  18. ‘Thirst’ by Ivo Andric
  19. ‘In Another Country’ by Ernest Hemingway
  20. ‘The Iron City’ by Lovell Thompson
  21. ‘Dusky Ruth’ by A.E. Coppard
  22. ‘The Odour Of Chrysanthemums’ by D.H. Lawrence
  23. ‘The Door’ by E.B. White
  24. ‘The Camberwell Beauty’ by V.S. Pritchett
  25. ‘The Fly’ by Katherine Mansfield
  26. ‘Christ In Concrete’ by Pietro di Donato
  27. ‘American Express’ by James Salter
  28. ‘The Piano’ by Anibal Monteiro Machado
  29. ‘The Greatest Man In The World’ by James Thurber
  30. ‘Men’ by Kay Boyle
  31. ‘A Couple Of Hamburgers’ by James Thurber

‘The Odour Of Chrysanthemums’ by D.H. Lawrence

NPG x81934; D.H. Lawrence by Elliott & Fry

The Odour Of Chrysanthemums by D.H. Lawrence, 1911

The magic trick:

Using colloquial speech to differentiate characters back stories

One of the key elements at work here is the notion that Elizabeth Bates is not native to the setting. Marriage brought her to this lifestyle of mine work and poverty. She observes her surroundings with the disdain and impatience of an alien.

Lawrence is very careful to let that idea unfold gradually through the story. He never overtly writes of it, instead making only subtle mentions here and there, and – in a very neatly executed trick – using colloquial language. Elizabeth’s words are quoted as proper English; correct spelling and grammar, etc. The neighbors, including Elizabeth’s mother-in-law, speak with a mangled vernacular – for example: “’E saw ’im th’ lamp-cabin.”

This allows the reader to see that Elizabeth is not quite like her neighbors at all. She does not fit in here. Crucially, this is a point that Elizabeth only fully understands, herself, by the story’s conclusion. Had Lawrence simply told the reader at the outset of the story that Elizabeth was a stranger in a strange world, he would’ve been revealing information that the character didn’t yet know, and that’s never a good strategy. Instead, he allows the reader to take the same journey as Elizabeth through the story, eventually recognizing that she is not truly connected to this community or lifestyle. And that’s quite a trick on Lawrence’s part.

The selection:

“I’ll just step up to Dick’s an’ see if ’e is theer,” offered the man, afraid of appearing alarmed, afraid of taking liberties.

“Oh, I wouldn’t think of bothering you that far,” said Elizabeth Bates, with emphasis, but he knew she was glad of his offer.

As they stumbled up the entry, Elizabeth Bates heard Rigley’s wife run across the yard and open her neighbour’s door. At this, suddenly all the blood in her body seemed to switch away from her heart.

“Mind!” warned Rigley. “Ah’ve said many a time as Ah’d fill up them ruts in this entry, sumb’dy’ll be breakin’ their legs yit.”

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