Category Archives: short stories

tell it slant

In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss 2007 (284 pgs)

Magical realism at it’s best: witches, flying cities, talking bears and all of it oh-so-real-seeming. Enjoyable author, with an old-world flavor updated by modern fantasy sensibilites.

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surely you must be mythtaken

The Ant King and Other Storiesby Benjamin Rosenbaum 2008 (228 pgs)

Wonderful magical stories ranging from the title story featuring a modern day Orpheus and Eurydice wandering through ant tunnels that are possibly hidden in a video game, to the strangest Austen story you’ve ever seen set in a cottage on a precancerous mole, a manor carved into a rotten molar, and the perilous journey in between. My favorite was Start the Clock, where a gang of 9 year olds (who’ve been 9 for 25 years after a virus freezes everyone at the age they were) shop for real estate in Pirateland. But every one of the stories was fun.

what would buddha do?

Twenty Jataka Tales  retold by Noor Inayat Khan, illustrations by H. Willebeek Le Mair, orig pub 1939 (152 pgs)

A collection of short Aesop-esque legends of the former incarnations of the Buddha that relates tales of wisdom and kindness. Here he’s a lion, kindly correcting a panicking hare who thinks the world is ending. There he’s an stag convincing the king through his willingness to sacrifice himself for any of his fellow creature that all animals are worthy of respect. The tales are simple and fun & the morals subtle enough to compliment and not overpower the sweet nature of the book.

stuck in the middle with you

The ones I gave up on:

Can a Robot Be Human?: 33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles  by Peter Cave 2007 (192/read 130ish)

Somewhat interesting, but written in an overly twee style that I could only take in short doses.

Fieldwork  by Mischa Berlinski (320 pgs/read 40) 2007

Love this book, but I’ll have to get it again later. So little time, so few renewals.

The Soul Thief  by Charles Baxter (210 pgs/read 95) 2008

Reads like an art school cocktail party. In a good way. The prose is sophisticated and intellectual without being pretentious. It’s the perfect style for this tale of the entanglements of graduate students searching for connection, while one tries to steal the other’s identity.

Solitaire  by Kelley Eskridge (353/read 213) 2002

Mmm, comfort book. One of my fav books, about a woman sentenced to solitary confinement in a virtual cell in her own mind (which is the point I started this time round). I love the evolution of her character and how being completely alone forces her to face herself.

Unaccustomed Earth  by Jhumpa Lahiri (333/read 45ish) 2008

Short story collection from an excellent author who winningly captures the dichotomous nature of the emigrant experience.

The Third Domain: The Untold Story of Archaea and the Future of Biotechnology  by Tim Friend (296/read 35) 2007

Archaea are microbes older than bacteria that are being discovered thriving in the most extreme environments- from volcanic vents to streams deep within icebergs. It’s a fascinating topic, but the meandering writing failed to grab me.

 

like a kid again

Read a couple of grown-up picture books this week:

The Tale of the Unknown Island  by Jose Saramago, illustrated by Peter Sis 1999 (51 pgs)

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip  by George Saunders, illustrated by Lane Smith 2000 (84 pgs)

 

They’re both fanciful illustrated fables. Island  is about seeking the unknown for it’s own sake and following your dreams, but was somewhat forgetable.  Gappers  was hilarious- spikey orange balls who love nothing more than goats, and shriek with joy unendingly when they find one. Much to the goats’ dismay. Great illustrations from the guy who illustrates The Stinky Cheese Man. Also a moral about misfortune being random, not earned and living the golden rule.

some things are best left unfinished

Chaotic by Kelley Armstrong in Dates From Hell 2006 (112 pgs)

Novella focusing on a couple of sideline characters from Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. Twas ok but I prefer her in full-book form.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 1999 (213/read 12)

A thousand worlds of ick. A friend picked this for our “excuse to get together and drink beer” bookclub. Sophomoric writing and moronic dialogue.

Many Bloody Returns 2007 (read 72)

Things that go bump in the night have birthdays too. So just for them- a collection of bday stories of the undead. Read a so-so one by Kelley Armstrong and an enjoyably madcap one by Jim Butcher, both set in their respective series.

Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital 2007 (358/read 23)

In this modern take on the myth, Orpheus/Mishka is a street musician and Euridice/Leela a mathematician fascinated by him. I was less than fascinated. The only thing I find more boring than reading about music (as opposed to actually listening to it), is reading about people listening to music.

Tesseracts 10: A Celebration of New Canadian Speculative Fiction 2006 (301/read 40ish)

There were a couple interesting stories, but mostly the sci-fi was too hard (spaceships & artificial intelligence) to interest me.

Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link 2001 (266/read 240)

Excellent bizzarity and nonchalant weirdness. I’d pecked at this previously, so some stories were re-reads & a couple I’d just read in other collections.

a streetcar named bizarre

Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology 2006 (288 pgs/read 240)

Slipstream, I never knew I loved ya. This brand of magical realism (or perhaps realistic magicialism) is just my style. Ranging from “realism with a side of weird” to “metafiction with a dash of odd” every story was uniquely enjoyable. There were great ones from Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, Carol Emshwiller, George Saunders, Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Chabon, Theodora Goss, … okay I feel like I’m just recreating the content page- but I loved nearly every story in the book (unusual for me with an anthology). My favorite was an exceptional “angelic visitations cause random catastrophes and miracles in every day life” story from Ted Chiang.