February 2015 favorites


February 2015

The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Death In The Woods’ by Sherwood Anderson
  2. ‘Cheap In August’ by Graham Greene
  3. ‘Debarking’ by Lorrie Moore
  4. ‘The Juniper Tree’ by Lorrie Moore
  5. ‘Flight’ by John O’Hara
  6. ‘To Build A Fire’ by Jack London
  7. ‘Harvey’s Dream’ by Stephen King
  8. ‘The Keyhole Eye’ by John Stewart Carter
  9. ‘The First Flower’ by Augusta Wallace Lyons
  10. ‘Subject To Search’ by Lorrie Moore
  11. ‘Thank You For Having Me’ by Lorrie Moore
  12. ‘Foes’ by Lorrie Moore
  13. ‘Spring In Fialta’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  14. ‘Talk To The Music’ by Arna Bontemps
  15. ‘The Contest For Aaron Gold’ by Philip Roth
  16. ‘The Old Army Game’ by George Garrett
  17. ‘Alma’ by Junot Diaz
  18. ‘Children Are Bored On Sunday’ by Jean Stafford
  19. ‘A Long Day’s Dying’ by William Eastlake
  20. ‘To The Wilderness I Wander’ by Frank Butler
  21. ‘Mammon And The Archer’ by O. Henry

‘To The Wilderness I Wander’ by Frank Butler

To The Wilderness I Wander by Frank Butler, 1956

The magic trick:

Using a bizarre first-person omniscient narration

Butler employs an odd narrative technique here: the first-person omniscient. From the very start, the narrator allows that things aren’t about to go too well for our protagonist, Marianne Smith, in this story. The narrator even blames Marianne for her fate before it happens. The tone is loose, almost comical, but also ominous. It’s a very strange way of foreshadowing, and I liked it. Unfortunately, the long-awaited fate – and believe me when I tell you it is long-awaited – fails to justify the hype. Marianne winds up in a never-land where time gets stuck, and I’d argue this story’s plot got lost in the same place. Still, the narration, especially at the beginning, makes for an interesting study. And that’s quite a trick on Butler’s part.

The selection:

Let me say this story began one warm May morning in the smart, stale, and ordinarily preoccupied mind of a sullenly attractive young woman named Marianne Smith while she was riding uptown on the Seventh Avenue subway. Let me say it began there only because we do not know nearly enough to tell where it actually did or could begin, or even whether the word could apply to what I know happened to her that day.