Monday, August 26, 2013

Finishing The Best American Short Stories 1989.

And with this entry, we leave the 1980s.

Good riddance!

The 80s were a tough time for me.  
As recounted in the entries associated with these stories, the decade was rough.  The early years brought my parent’s divorce.  
My mother’s remarriage, my father’s remarriage, time between the two parents.  Entrance into high school and all the positive and negative associations one can draw from that “developmental” period in life.

I can honestly say that I am happy to leave that decade behind.  In the 90s, my life started over and the days that I wish to remember are countless.

Let’s review my time with the BASS from 1989.

So, I seem to have broken my previous record of sloth and it has taken me:
 7 months and 12 days
 32 weeks
 224 days
 160 weekdays

One story and post every 11.2 days
 13 stories by men and 7 by women
 Four of the 20 from the New Yorker

And there we have it.  224 days ago when I posted about BASS 1989, I I wrote that I had been carrying the book around for weeks.  I did before reading it and I I have after finishing it.  Let’s get on with 1990.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Letter Writer – M.T. Sharif

We've made it to the final story in this collection.

 I won’t waste time here reviewing the anthology – that’ll be the next post.
I had trouble finding information about the author – he has published more than once, and this seems to be the story that has brought him the most attention.

Concerning this story –

Another little jewel tucked into the end.  Glad it ended up here as it will leave a pleasant taste in my head concerning this collection.
Perhaps it’s the demonizing of the country that has caused the attraction, the curiosity.  Have we also demonized the culture – the people?  I think we have.

Personally, the attention we have paid to the Iranians since the revolution in ’79 (I was 7 and remember the hostage crisis) has caused me to become more curious of the people.  I would hope (but I’m afraid that I am wrong) that most Americans understand that it’s not the people of these countries that harbor ill-will towards us, but it is the governments ( those in power) – and yes, there are people that act of behalf of their government and do terrible things, but they don’t represent the majority thought of the common man.  It’s easy to shout insults across a wall or an ocean, but when you stand in front of someone, attitudes and some of the boldness tends to shrink away and civility thankfully creeps in.

So – this story contains a bit of truth, possibly more than just a bit of truth in what seems to be an unbelievable situation that a common man is subjected to.
Alas, there always seems to be a bit of fact in fiction.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Boy on the Train – Arthur Robinson

I spent a decent amount of time looking for additional works and a short biography of this author and came up empty.  Even tapped into the Literature Resource Center…no dice.

The Contributor’s Notes state that Robinson worked at several newspapers (not sure if he was a reporter…could have been a pressman) and he did mention that when he submitted the story to The New Yorker he was retired and that this was his first published story.

 I enjoyed the story – nice winding piece about how we end up becoming our parents (or father).

I have my own anxieties about raising W that I've shared here but this story doesn't have the pull for me to share more or delve deeper into my feelings right now.  I know for sure there will be plenty of time for venting in the future.  

Strays – Mark Richard

It seems that as this collection winds down, some real gems are surfacing.  
Such a powerful little story – “Strays”.   It’s so tightly written, each word, each sentence laid out perfectly.

Finishing it, I turned to the Contributor’s notes and found this little surprise.

Richard writes:

“I was lucky.  I had not written a word in weeks.  Months.  I had taken an attic room on the beach in Virginia Beach.  It was summer.  I would lay out and these words were in my brain:  At night, stray dogs come up underneath our house to lick our leaking pipes.  Over  and over.  I knew everything in I needed was in that sentence but I would not sit down in front of the machine.”

So to think that Mark was in that attic on the beach less than 20 miles from where I sit now,  gives me a weird cosmic connection to the story – and to the author.  I know it’s silly but I have a tendency to draw obscure connections.

I discovered a wonderful little interview with Richard by Bold Type – but unfortunately I couldn't find a date associated with it.  No matter.  I found some great little quotes to share. – I like the way this guy thinks!

With contemporary fiction, there's just so much of it that it's hard to sift through it all. I don't think people spend enough time reading the old stuff. There are so many contemporary novels that I read, and I think, so and so did this earlier and better. It's also the hallmark of a lazy writer to know all your classics so you can rob and steal and not have to waste your time trying to reinvent the wheel.

Q: You have an extensive work history, what are some of the more interesting jobs you've held?

A: In that, for me as a young person, in lieu of being in a war or something, it was physically and mentally demanding and pushed me to my limits so I could see what I was made out of. I think knowing your limitations is good, and I don't think there are a lot of opportunities for young people to have defining experiences, things that really push you to the edge of your abilities. For me, it was that coupled with the fact that I had been an invalid most of my adolescence. I was eager to overachieve, to push myself, and see what the limits of my new physical self was. I did a lot of different things that served their own purposes. All of them were great places to get material for stories. I didn't know it at the time; I thought I was misspending my youth, that I had wasted my college education and that I was a loser, all of which may be true.

 I pulled these two selections from the interview so that I may offer a little relational comment.  Part of the reason why I am engaged in this BASS project is so that I can be exposed to some of the greatest authors of the last 40 or so years.
I’ll put this out there right now – and this is the first time that it has been written here (and we've been here since 2008).  
I’d like to write someday.  
I’d like to write a fine little short story, send it out, receive the rejection letters, revise the story, pout, get angry, send it out again to a different set of magazines that might publish it, get more rejection letters and then repeat this dance over and over until one day, one of these little magazines decides to actually publish my little story.  
That’s what I’d like to do.  And I am spending all this time with these great authors in the hope that their technique, style and general badassness will rub off on me and give me my own technique, style and badassness.

So – there, now that’s out there.  Deep breath.

The second selection I pulled, if you've read some of my other posts, you’d know that there were several periods in my life where I had defining experiences and they did indeed push me to my limits and I hope that one day I can pull from those experiences and place them on paper ( bold above).

So, I was very happy to meet Mr. Mark Richard.  
He’s pushing me.  
I like that.  
I can feel it, it’s almost time.