January 2019 favorites

January 2019

The January stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Beginning Of A Long Story’ by Maeve Brennan
  2. ‘The Point’ by Charles D’Ambrosio
  3. ‘Guests Of The Nation’ by Frank O’Connor
  4. ‘Voices’ by Alice Munro
  5. ‘Dear Life’ by Alice Munro
  6. ‘The Enduring Chill’ by Flannery O’Connor
  7. ‘The Eye’ by Alice Munro
  8. ‘Armistice’ by Bernard Malamud
  9. ‘O Youth And Beauty’ by John Cheever
  10. ‘Real Estate’ by Lorrie Moore
  11. ‘Night’ by Alice Munro
  12. ‘The Trouble With Mrs. Blynn, The Trouble With The World’ by Patricia Highsmith
  13. ‘The Invisible Japanese Gentlemen’ by Graham Greene
  14. ‘The Slaves In New York’ by Tama Janowitz
  15. ‘Batman And Robin Have An Altercation’ by Stephen King
  16. ‘Tied In A Bow’ by Langston Hughes
  17. ‘The Stranger’ by Rainer Maria Rilke

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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

‘Cheap In August’ by Graham Greene

Greene, Graham 1964

Cheap In August by Graham Greene, 1964

The magic trick:

Turning an unlikely relationship into a beautiful thing

This is not the likeliest of loves. True, Mary came to Jamaica with hopes of a vacation tryst, but the old man she hooks up with is described as splashing water “like an elephant” when she meets him. She is nearing the end of her youth. The man, a Mr. Hickslaughter, is nearing the end of his life. She is educated, full of philosophies on life. He is a schemer who can’t even remember the name of his favorite poem.

Greene pulls the couple together gradually, revealing surprising characteristics along the way about both people. Certainly, Mary is even lonelier and more desperate than we imagined at the beginning of the story.

What is amazing though, and ultimately is the story’s greatest gift, is Greene ability to use the relationship to both lower and raise Mary as a character. Even as we come to see her marriage as perhaps more hollow than we first thought, her encounter with the old man also paints her as tougher and more capable person than she was at the story’s outset. The relationship has served its purpose for both characters, and now they can move on with their lives, apart from each other but stronger for having been together. What began as an odd coupling becomes a beautiful thing. And that’s quite a trick on Greene’s part.

The selection:

It was as though she were discovering for the first time the interior of the enormous continent on which she had elected to live. America had been Charlie, it had been New England; through books and movies she had been aware of the wonders of nature like some great cineramic film with Lowell Thomas cheapening the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon with his clichés. There had been no mystery anywhere from Miami to Niagara Falls, from Cape Cod to the Pacific Palisades; tomatoes were served on every plate, Coca-Cola in every glass. Nobody anywhere admitted failure or fear; they were like sins “hushed up” – worse perhaps than sins, for sins have glamour – they were bad taste.