January 2015 favorites


January 2015

The January stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘How I Met My Husband’ by Alice Munro
  2. ‘Bardon Bus’ by Alice Munro
  3. ‘One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts’ by Shirley Jackson
  4. ‘The Open Boat’ by Stephen Crane
  5. ‘Where I’m Calling From’ by Raymond Carver
  6. ‘The Drunkard’ by Frank O’Connor
  7. ‘The Wind And The Snow Of Winter’ by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  8. ‘Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker
  9. ‘The Enormous Radio’ by John Cheever
  10. ‘The View From Castle Rock’ by Alice Munro
  11. ‘Boys And Girls’ by Alice Munro
  12. ‘The Sun, The Moon, The Stars’ by Junot Diaz
  13. ‘The Skull’ by Philip K. Dick
  14. ‘The NRACP’ by George P. Elliott
  15. ‘Train’ by Alice Munro
  16. ‘The Other Foot’ by Ray Bradbury
  17. ‘Pigeon Feathers’ by John Updike
  18. ‘Jokester’ by Isaac Asimov
  19. ‘Tell Me A Riddle’ by Tillie Olsen
  20. ‘The Speech Of Polly Baker’ by Benjamin Franklin
  21. ‘The Star’ by Arthur C. Clarke

‘The NRACP’ by George P. Elliott

The NRACP by George P. Elliott, 1949

The magic trick:

The portrayal of Andy and Ruth at the core of the story

Forget about the shock value of the story’s context and concept. Mostly. This is a story about America’s greatest talent: the ability to rationalize. It is a simple story, really. A man sleeps his way into separation from his wife and daughter, loses himself in a job he doesn’t have a good feeling about, convinces himself to overlook his doubts and fall in love with a new, younger woman, and, finally, focuses on his own provincial potential for familial happiness in the midst of large-scale human suffering all around him.

It’s the whole creature comforts vs. society and justice debate again. We saw it last year in Chekhov’s Little Trilogy, and Elliott is barking up the same tree here. “The NRACP” enters the argument with a bit more Twilight Zone horror and 1950s race politics. At its core, it’s the same old selfishness. And that’s quite a trick on Elliott’s part.

The selection:

The key to the answer came from my long-limbed, mildly pretty, efficient, but (I had originally thought) frivolous and banal secretary – Ruth. She is one of those women who, because they do not have an “intellectual” idea in their noodles, are too frequently dismissed as conveniently decorative but not very valuable. And perhaps Ruth really is that. But she has made two or three remarks recently which seem to me to display an intuitive intelligence of a considerable order.