May 2015 favorites

May2015

May 2015

The May stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Medal From Jerusalem’ by Irwin Shaw
  2. ‘A Silver Dish’ by Saul Bellow
  3. ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway
  4. ‘One Off The Short List’ by Doris Lessing
  5. ‘Neighbors’ by Diane Oliver
  6. ‘Drenched In Light’ by Zora Neale Hurston
  7. ‘The Snows Of Kilimanjaro’ by Ernest Hemingway
  8. ‘Eli, The Fanatic’ by Philip Roth
  9. ‘The Gift Of The Prodigal’ by Peter Taylor
  10. ‘Che Ti Dice La Patria?’ by Ernest Hemingway
  11. ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’ by Ernest Hemingway
  12. ‘The New Order’ by Nancy Hale
  13. ‘Three Million Yen’ by Yukio Mishima
  14. ‘The Supper’ by Tadeusz Borowski
  15. ‘The Interior Castle’ by Jean Stafford
  16. ‘How I Contemplated The World From The Detroit House Of Correction And Began My Life Over Again’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  17. ‘A Simple Enquiry’ by Ernest Hemingway
  18. ‘Janus’ by Ann Beattie
  19. ‘Family Portrait’ by Sherman Alexie
  20. ‘Champion’ by Ring Lardner
  21. ‘The End Of The World’ by Dino Buzzati

February 2015 favorites

February2015

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

‘The Contest For Aaron Gold’ by Philip Roth

Roth, Philip 1955

The Contest For Aaron Gold by Philip Roth, 1955

The magic trick:

Keeping the storytelling process simple; staying out of the way

I find it amazing, bordering on unbelievable, that Philip Roth was 22 years old when this story was published. Not only because the story is so good, but because of why it is of such high quality. The key is that the writer stays out of the way. The restraint Roth shows here is remarkable. He does nothing fancy. He doesn’t cram in the metaphors or balance out scenes at the beginning and end with repeated symbols. Sure, there is the underlying Holocaust commentary, as he makes plain that Werner was forced from his Austrian home by the Nazis. But even that is subtext. Mostly, Roth simply tells the story of a summer camp where the adults have forgotten to put aside their own petty problems in favor of what is best for the children. Laying back and letting the story unfold naturally is not so easy for the most seasoned of writers. For a young author anxious to prove his talent worthy of the world’s attention, restraint like this is almost unheard of. And that’s quite a trick on Roth’s part.

The selection:

“I don’t mean to say you held him up, Werner. I know kids – they dawdle, play around. Just remind him to get down on time.” He dropped his voice to a confidential octave. “Lefty tells me that the kid is kind of peculiar. Having a helluva time teaching him to swim.”

“Peculiar?”

“Yea. You know, if there’s one thing parents want to see visiting day it’s their kid swimming around like a goddam fish.”

Werner said that was probably true.

“But you know, Werner,” Steinberg started away, “even old Lefty can’t teach them if they’re not there.”

“Mr. Steinberg – “

“Damn near forgot,” Steinberg called back. “Every kid’s going to have something finished by visiting day, Werner. Parents want something for their money.”

Werner thought of baseballs and pancakes. “I suppose so, Mr. Steinberg.”