‘Ceil’ by Harold Brodkey

Ceil by Harold Brodkey, 1983 Continue reading


April 2022 favorites

April 2022

The April stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Roses, Rhododendron’ by Alice Adams
  2. ‘Warm River’ by Erskine Caldwell
  3. ‘What Have You Done?’ by Ben Marcus
  4. ‘A Story In Almost Classical Mode’ by Harold Brodkey
  5. ‘Back Then’ by Mary Grimm
  6. ‘Waugh’ by Bryan Washington
  7. ‘Car Crash While Hitchhiking’ by Denis Johnson
  8. ‘Thrift Store Coats’ by Brooks Rexroat
  9. ‘The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky’ by Stephen Crane
  10. ‘Maggie Of The Green Bottles’ by Toni Cade Bambara
  11. ‘The Landlord’ by Wells Tower
  12. ‘Heathen’ by Mike Wilson
  13. ‘Donna’ by Michaella Thornton
  14. ‘The Princess And The Puma’ by O. Henry
  15. ‘The Day The Dam Broke’ by James Thurber
  16. ‘The Texas Principessa’ by William Goyen

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June 2014 favorites


June 2014

The June stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Venus, Cupid, Folly And Time’ by Peter Taylor
  2. ‘Blackberry Winter’ by Robert Penn Warren
  3. ‘Babylon Revisited’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. ‘Upon The Sweeping Flood’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  5. ‘Good Country People’ by Flannery O’Connor
  6. ‘My Old Man’ by Ernest Hemingway
  7. ‘I’m A Fool’ by Sherwood Anderson
  8. ‘Sonny’s Blues’ by James Baldwin
  9. ‘Only The Dead Know Brooklyn’ by Thomas Wolfe
  10. ‘Double Birthday’ by Willa Cather
  11. ‘The View From The Balcony’ by Wallace Stegner
  12. ‘The Magic Barrel’ by Bernard Malamud
  13. ‘No Place For You, My Love’ by Eudora Welty
  14. ‘The Schreuderspitze’ by Mark Helprin
  15. ‘The Hartleys’ by John Cheever
  16. ‘O City Of Broken Dreams’ by John Cheever
  17. ‘A Day In The Open’ by Jane Bowles
  18. ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson
  19. ‘In The Zoo’ by Jean Stafford
  20. ‘The Lost Phoebe’ by Theodore Dreiser
  21. ‘Welcome To The Monkey House’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  22. ‘How Beautiful With Shoes’ by Wilbur Daniel Steele
  23. ‘The Little Wife’ by William March
  24. ‘A Distant Episode’ by Paul Bowles
  25. ‘The Faithful Wife’ by Morley Callaghan
  26. ‘The Golden Honeymoon’ by Ring Lardner
  27. ‘Resurrection Of A Life’ by William Saroyan
  28. ‘The State Of Grace’ by Harold Brodkey
  29. ‘A Telephone Call’ by Dorothy Parker
  30. ‘The Survivors’ by Elsie Singmaster

‘The State Of Grace’ by Harold Brodkey

brodkey, harold 1954

The State Of Grace by Harold Brodkey, 1954

The magic trick:

Painful description of the shame and sadness caused when a child begins to realize his or her family’s poverty in relation to the neighbors

There is much that is painful about this story; most notably, the experience of reading it. Sorry, I just find this story intolerably annoying. Brodkey is so precious and so self-absorbed, there’s hardly any room for the reader. His narrator pores over every inch of his childhood with a suffocating pomposity, and because the writing is so strong and the attention to detail so exact, it’s very difficult not to read this work as anything other than autobiographical personal essay. As a result, I’m left disliking not the narrator but Brodkey himself – fair or not.

But my apologies for the negativity; I do have a magic trick to discuss. I like the way he so completely describes the feeling of anger, jealousy, and sadness a boy feels when he realizes that his family has less money and fewer opportunities than those around him. It’s another melodramatic, self-absorbed Brodkey moment, but there’s no denying it’s genuinely well-expressed in this story. And that’s quite a trick on Brodkey’s part.

The selection:

Then came an alley of black macadam and another vista, which I found shameful but drearily comfortable, of garages and ashpits and telephone poles and the backs of apartment houses – including ours – on one side, the backs of houses on the other. I knew many people in the apartments but none in the houses, and this was the ultimate proof, of course, to me of how miserably degraded I was and how far sunken beneath the surface of the sea.