Stuff and Nonsense: short stories

Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts


Paris for One & Other Stories

Paris for One and Other Stories is all about women and their romantic relationships. My favorite of the nine stories was the novella “Paris for One.” Nell, an unadventurous English woman, plans her first trip to Paris with her boyfriend ... who bails on her via text, because he is a selfish boy. Unadventurous Nell has all sorts of experiences in Paris, comes out of her shell a bit, and (inevitably) meets a nice French man who is worthy of her. It was a sweet, gently humorous story with, maybe, not a lot of character development or depth, but good fun none-the-less.

This story collection reminded me strongly of the Maeve Binchy and Marion Keyes novels I used to gobble up while traveling -- all thoroughly sweet and predictable tales. Sometimes with a little bit of a sting – whiffs of adultery, generational disharmony, etc -- but they all dealt lightly with such topics and ended pleasantly enough.

Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes (Pamela Dorman Books, 2016)


Mystery Stories of Violet Strange

Fell down the rabbit hole that is the Internet again one afternoon and, in a long and roundabout way, eventually came to an old article, “Invisible Ink: No 216 - Anna Katharine Green,” from The Independent. Anna Katharine Green, American poet and novelist who may be called the mother of the detective novel. Her most famous novel, The Leavenworth Case, was published in 1876 which snuggles in quite nicely between Wilkie Collins’ 1860 detection novel, The Woman in White, and the first print appearance of Sherlock Holmes in 1887. The Leavenworth Case is a classic locked room (Manhattan mansion, in this case) murder mystery focusing on the death of a wealthy, prominent New York merchant. Suspicion falls on his two nieces, one of who stands to inherit a pretty packet.

Alas, I could not immediately find a copy of The Leavenworth Case in my library system. I do have a copy on hold, but delivery being as it is right now, I do not expect it before May. I could read the Project Gutenberg copy, but I want to hold a proper book. Ridiculous as it sounds, I prefer to read books written before 1920 in a physical format. It just feels more “right.” It as an affectation, I know, and a weird one at that.

Anyway, I did find a collection of Green’s Violent Strange stories on CD. Produced by Tantor Media and read by Shelly Frasier (my most favorite audiobook reader of all time), Mystery Stories of Violet Strange includes all nine Violent Strange stories -- "The Golden Slipper," "The Second Bullet," "The Intangible Clue," "The Grotto Spectre," "The Dreaming Lady," "The House of Clocks," "The Doctor, His Wife, and the Clock," "Missing: Page Thirteen," and "Violet's Own."

So who is this Violet Strange? Violet, in addition to have the best name ever for a detective, is a pretty, young New York debutante who has to keep her detective work on the down low, because much of her skill at detection is based upon her intimate knowledge of behind-the-scenes upper-class New York and her ability to innocently be welcomed into places and situations a male (detective or otherwise) could not so innocuously enter. Yes, so Violet plays her gender and class cards pretty hard ... but in a way I found deliciously subversive. To the greater world she seems inconsequential -- a “silly little chit” and “that airy little being.” But in truth, Violet is cunning, poised, and entirely sure of herself. Violet isn’t detecting merely for detecting’s sake -- although it’s clear she enjoys her work -- she has a clear goal in mind and that goal is to support her sister, whom their father has disowned, through her own agency and enterprise. Unsurprisingly, I was complete smitten with Violet.

The stories themselves are very much products of their time, but I think if you enjoy Edith Wharton’s short stories or Wilkie Collins’ more thrilling pieces, you’ll find some pleasure in Mystery Stories of Violet Strange. My favorite was probably the second story “The Second Bullet,” in which Violet is hired by a widow whose husband and child were killed in what the insurance company calls a suicide, but what the widow is sure was a murder ... and she really needs it to have been a murder, because she’ll be left absolutely destitute otherwise. It’s a classic locked room mystery with a very realistic look at marriage and the strain an infant can add, as well as the precarious financial/class position a single woman (widowed or otherwise) occupies.

Mystery Stories of Violet Strange written by Anna Katharine Green & read by Shelly Frasier (Tantor Media, 2009)


Again, Dangerous Visionss: 46 Original Stories

I must say that, given a choice, Again, Dangerous Visions is not how I would have chosen to read Joanna Russ's "When It Changed" and James Tiptree, Jr's "The Milk of Paradise." My library system's only copy has not aged well and, in general, neither has the collection itself. The stories themselves are still fairly okay, but their individual introductions/afterwards as well as Ellison's introduction to the volume "An Assault on New Dreamers" feel both extremely dated and unnecessary. In some cases, as in Saxton's "Elouise and the Doctors of the Planet Pergamon," they actively detracted from the story.

In the end, of the forty-six stories in Again, Dangerous Visions, I only read five. They're all pretty grim, discomforting stories and I could only read one per sitting. Even then, each one left me feeling like my brain needed a good scrubbing. Or the world needed to be set on fire.

"The Word for World is Forest" by Ursula Le Guin
This is the Hugo award-winning novella that eventually spun into a full-length novel of the same name. I've read the novel and found the novella at once both familar and strange.

"The Funeral" by Kate Wilhelm
A very Margaret Atwood-esque story set in an America in which women are objects with no rights or merits except those awarded to the roles -- mother, teacher, sex slave -- they are trained for in prison-like schools.

"When It Changed" by Joanna Russ
Thirty generations ago, the males of Whileaway where all killed by plague. The females adapted, learning to create (female) offspring, and eventually established a perfectly functional civilization. Then men -- thoroughly average men, I tell you -- arrive from space and everything changes.

"Elouise and the Doctors of the Planet Pergamon" by Josephine Saxton
On Pergamon equality has been achieved by making everyone equally ill. Except a few hardy outliers, who are imprisoned and studied before they are sacrificed for the greater good.

"The Milk of Paradise" by James Tiptree, Jr.
A man, orphaned and raised among aliens "fairer than all the children of men," finds no joy amongst humans when he is returned to them. It's an interesting take on perception and what we're willing to believe (or can be made to believe?) to survive.

Again, Dangerous Visions: 46 Original Stories Edited by Harlan Ellison (Doubleday & Company, 1972)


Her Smoke Rose Up Forever: The Great Years of James Tiptree, Jr.

A collection of eighteen stories by James Tiptree, Jr. (a pseudonym of Alice Sheldon). There isn't a story in this collection I didn't like. Even when I was full of horror and/or apprehension, I found the stories darkly beautiful and intensely fascinating. "With Delicate Mad Hands" is probably the closest any of the stories come to having a happy ending -- and the principal character dies horribly so, obviously, it's a nontraditional happy ending -- but I didn't come away from the collection depressed or despairing over humanity. Thoughtful, yes. Disoriented by the abrupt shift back to this current reality, certainly. In these stories, Tiptree/Sheldon crafted a future that I yearn grab to with both hands while also running away from, screaming as I go.

I feel I should warn you that this short story collection is a kind of literary trap -- pick it up with the intention of skimming a story or two and you'll find yourself surfacing, disoriented and aghast, three hours later. And don't think you can "just" read one before bed! I went to bed early one night with "With Delicate Mad Hands" and it was well past midnight before I gave in and accepted I would have to finish the story in the morning as it is deceptively lengthy. And then I had the most fucked up, creepy dreams. Read these stories in the daytime, under the strong, hot light of the summer sun.

And I can't wait to read more! I don't know why it took me so long start reading Tiptree/Sheldon, but now that’s I've started, I don't intend to stop. Five out of five ghostly white milch deers.

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever: The Great Years of James Tiptree, Jr. w/ an intro by John Clute & illus by Andrew Smith (Arkham House, 1990)


Very Good, Jeeves!

The Husband gave me the complete Jeeves and Wooster with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry for my birthday, because he knows how strongly I Fry and Laurie. I've been trying very hard not to just sit down and watch every episode in one utterly debauched go, but it's hard. Jeeves and Wooster is the best kind of television -- fun, yes, but also quite clever and wickedly sharp.

And I'm pleased to say the actual short stories are equally fine. I meant to start at the very beginning with The Man with Two Left Feet, but Wikipedia told me "Bertram did not have a surname, and it remains a matter of considerable debate amongst Wodehouse scholars as to whether he was indeed Bertie Wooster, or merely Bertie Mannering-Phipps" so I just decided to just go ahead and grab whatever looked most interesting on the library shelf.

Which was Very Good, Jeeves!, because it included "Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit," making it all seasonal and shizzle. While it may not be the first Jeeves story collection, Very Good, Jeeves! served as a fine introduction to Bertie Wooster and his "personal gentleman's gentleman," Jeeves. As with the television series, it's clear Jeeves is the subtle brains operating behind the scenes while Bertie, with a seemingly inhuman tolerance for drink and cigs, is a well-meaning and utterly lovable idiot. Bertie gets into scrapes, Jeeves gets him out, and Bertie seldom realizes quite what's happened. Occasionally, Bertie attempts to exert his authority over Jeeves by behaving as if he were the brains, and Jeeves lets him dangle for a bit, but everything always ends well ... and, again, Bertie is usually unaware of half the things that happened around him. (I fear I make Bertie sound dreadful, but he's actually impossible to dislike).

Some of the stories in Very Good, Jeeves! have also been featured in the television series and I was really chuffed to see that the narration and dialogue in the television series comes so close to the stories. It was very easy, as I read along, to hear Fry and Laurie's voices in my head.

If you enjoy quiet little stories where not much happens, but there's scads of clever dialogue and literary allusions, Very Good, Jeeves! might be just the thing.
It was the morning of the day on which I was slated to pop down to my Aunt Agatha’s place at Woollam Chersey in the county of Herts for a visit of three solid weeks; and, as I seated myself at the breakfast table, I don’t mind confessing that the heart was singularly heavy. We Woosters are men of iron, but beneath my intrepid exterior at that moment there lurked a nameless dread.
'Jeeves,' I said, 'I am not the merry old self this morning.'
'Indeed, sir?'
'No, Jeeves. Far from it. Far from the merry old self.'
'I am sorry to hear that sir.'
He uncovered the fragrant eggs and b., and I pronged a moody forkful.
'Why - this is what I keep asking myself, Jeeves, — why has my Aunt Agatha invited me to her country seat?'
'I could not say, sir.'
'Not because she is fond of me.'
'No, sir.'
'It is a well-established fact that I give her a pain in the neck. How it happens I cannot say, but every time our paths cross, so to speak, it seems to be a mere matter of time before I perpetrate some ghastly floater and have her hopping after me with her hatchet.'
Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse (Overlook Press, 2006)


Not Just for Christmas

After twenty years apart Jimmy Murphy has called his brother, Danny, and invites him for a drink at a local pub. Danny is nervous -- there is so much bad blood between them -- but agrees to meet his brother. On the way to the pub, Danny dawdles along, not wanting to be early as Jimmy ways always late for things. And then he gets to remembering (obsessing?) over some rather terrible boyhood memories starring Jimmy. His brother almost suffocating him. His brother and friends "kidnapping" him. His brother with a bread knife. His brother with his girl.

"You always were the mammy's boy," he said.
"Grow up," said Danny.
"You're the one who should grow up," said Jimmy. "You never could stand up for yourself. Someone else was always to blame. You were always running to Ma. And you haven't changed a bit."

Of course, it's impossible to know if Danny is a reliable narrator as Jimmy's memories don't match. And surely they must have good memories of each other, but if that's so the story doesn't say. It doesn't really matter who's at fault or if they have good memories of each other, really, because I found them both equally unsympathetic. I know these are fictional men, but are brothers really like this with each other? If so ... ugh.

Not Just for Christmas by Roddy Doyle (Gemma Media, 2009)


Tales of Men and Ghosts

I began reading Tales of Men and Ghosts for the Gothic Challenge, but soon realized it just didn’t qualify -- the stories are packed with melodrama and some psychological horror, but there are no (inhuman) ghoulies, very few ghosties, and nothing I feel could be accurately labeled “Gothic.”

While I generally enjoy Edith Wharton’s short stories, this collection could not hold my attention. The first five stories were interesting and I do recommend them, but everything after “Full Circle” was a real struggle to get through as I found those stories consistently tedious and frequently anticlimactic.
  • “The Bolted Door” -- Suicidal playwright keeps telling people he’s a murderer, but no-one believes him. Eventually goes mad trying to prove his guilt. Or, was everyone else right? Was he always mad and never a murderer?
  • “His Father’s Son” -- A young man, raised to experience every pleasure and social nicety his father missed, deludes himself into believing he is not his father’s son. No, he is the son of the great pianist, Fortune Dolbrowski. He has the letters to prove it. Except, they aren’t his mother’s letters.
  • “The Daunt Diana” -- An impoverished art collector finds his heart’s desire, but cannot afford her. He eventually comes into money and acquires the collection in which she resides, but complete happiness eludes him. He sells the collection off. And buys it back, piece by piece.
  • “The Debt” -- Family of an esteemed scientist is outraged when his protégée starts dismantling their father’s theories and puts forth his own.
  • “Full Circle” -- Successful novelist hires a failed novelist to answer his fan mail. Out of guilt, successful novelist starts writing letters to himself to keep failed novelist employed, but he’s not the only one writing fake letters.
  • “The Legend” -- Family takes in a homeless man a friend thinks might be an intellectual genius who died years ago. Just so happens that family hosting homeless man is headed by scholar renowned for his interpretations of genius's work. Didn’t actually get to the end of this story, because all the talk of Pellerin and Pellerinism made me feel like I was back in college, trying to slog my way through Atlas Shrugged.
  • “The Eyes” -- (1st ghost story) Over cigars after dinner, a man tells his friends about having been haunted by a pair of eyes at various points in his life. Was he really haunted by eyes? Were they a Dorian Grey type motif, showing the man's depravity of soul? Or was the man, in a round-about-fashion, just trying to tell his newest protege he was no good and no longer wanted?
  • “The Blond Beast” -- Millner becomes secretary to a tycoon, befriends the son, becomes entangled in some immoral business shenanigans, possibly betrays the son for the father, refuses his thirty pieces of silver, quits his job. (It took me three attempts to get through this story and I hated every character in it).
  • “Afterward” – (2nd ghost story) American couple purchase an antiquated, atmospheric English country house which, they are told, is inhabited by a mysterious ghost they won’t know they’ve seen until well afterward. And that is precisely what happens.
  • “The Letters” -- Lizzie is swept up in a passionate (but chaste) affair with her pupil’s father. Then the wife dies, he goes away, and Lizzie sends him letters, but never hears from him. Then, one day, there he is. She marries him and learns a hard truth about marriage.

In a word: blarg.

Tales of Men and Ghosts by Edith Wharton (Amazon Digital Services, Kindle Edition)


Gothic Challenge: Closed on Account of Rabies

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

I enjoyed Stories of the Macabre so much that I went looking through my library consortium’s catalog to see what other recordings might be available to me. As soon as I saw the title, Closed on Account of Rabies, I knew I had to give it a listen. I mean, doesn’t it look deliciously disturbing?

The audiobook collects fourteen of Poe’s stories and poems. Some have been set to song and all have accompanying atmospheric background music/sounds. I found the background music distracting as it frequently overwhelmed the performer -- too loud and/or too pronounced. Iggy Pop, Christopher Walken, and Gabriel Byrne performed excellent renditions of Poe's most famous horror stories, but I enjoyed them less than Ralph Cosham's on Stories of the Macabre, because the background music was so darn distracting.

That said, oh, you haven’t heard "The Raven" until you’ve heard it performed by Christopher Walken! (Just ignore the guitar).

Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems & Tales of Edgar Allan Poe written by Edgar Allan Poe & read by various (Mercury Records, 1997)


Gothic Reading Challenge: Stories of the Macabre

"For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not — and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul."

I’ve been listening to Ralph Cosham read Richard Adams’s Watership Down and he’s doing such a bang-up job that I started looking for other works read by him. Poe’s Stories of the Macabre seemed a good place to start -- being short and appropriately seasonal.

Stories of the Macabre comprises six of Poe's classic horror stories and two of his poems:
  • “The Bells” -- Oh, those bells! They’ll drive you mad, they will.
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” -- Man takes revenge upon a friend who has insulted him by bricking said friend up in a wall.
  • “The Tell-Tale Heart” -- Man kills his landlord who has a blind eye, because the eye is driving him crazy. Police investigate, madness ensues.
  • “The Fall of the House of Usher” -- Out of friendship, Man visits a crumbling house beset by madness and disease. Someone gets buried alive.
  • “The Raven” -- Man is visited by a raven while mourning the loss of his beloved Lenore. Man descends into madness.
  • “The Black Cat” -- Alcoholic Man sinks into depravity, commits murder, and is haunted by Basement Cat.
  • “Berenice” -- Man, affianced to his cousin, becomes inappropriately fixated on her teeth and removes them from her corpse (which, it turns out, is not actually corpse).
  • “The Man That Was Used Up” -- Man meets the famous Brevet Brigadier General, who is more than the sum of his parts. Or is he? (Not a horror story, actually, but a satire)
Cosham’s superb reading is full of enthusiasm and emotion -- there is absolutely no doubting the wild madness or cold, calculating, wickedness that possesses our protagonists. Indeed, the mad little laugh he gives during “The Tell-Tale Heart” sent chills down my spine and the calm, rational tone he uses while reading “The Black Cat” made my flesh crawl.

And, on a mostly related note, I give you a scene from Edgar Allan Pooh's "The Tell-Tale Heart:"

Stories of the Macabre written by Edgar Allan Poe & read by Ralph Cosham (Commuters Library, 2002)


One Thing Leading to Another and Other Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner

A collection of short stories, many interlinked by recurring characters. The first four short stories feature Mr. Edom, the proprietor of the Abbey Antique Galleries, and his invaluable assistant Mr. Collins. Mr. Edom is always very proper -- properly dressed, properly polite, properly careful. His young colleague is less so, but there is hope for him. The two characters are well drawn, their adventures well written, and their regular customers were just a hoot. I could quite easily imagine these stories being filmed as a BBC or Masterpiece theater miniseries -- just a quiet, low-key period drama. It probably didn't help that I kept visualizing young Peter Davison (aka Tristan Farnon) as Mr. Collins.

The other stories are a mix of unhappy household dramas and fairy stories. I found the human stories to be much more compelling than the fairy stories which seemed too much like history lessons dressed up in fairy togs. The Vicar's wife sees more than she wants to, Miss Logie can't stop pushing culinary boundaries, Evie might very well be a poltergeist ... the fairy play at politics on a scale that didn't move me nearly as much as the small human dramas did.

Anyway, One Thing Leading to Another and Other Stories can be pretty dark stuff, but there's a bitter (biting?) edge of humor to a lot of it and I thought the collection made for a good read overall.

One Thing Leading to Another and Other Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner (Viking, 1984)


Saturday Lunch with the Brownings by Penelope Mortimer

Originally published in The New Yorker, these stories offer a window into the lives of "ordinary" people you might mistake for your neighbors or, but for the grace of god, yourself -- families with too many children, unhappy women with ogre-ish husbands, mad/bad girls, men who realize they've outlived their dreams, and bitterly average people who fantasize about knowing celebrities (and then are horrified by how perfectly dreadful those celebrities turn out to be).

Reading these stories, I'd frequently feel a great sense of relief as I reached the end of one -- as if I had escaped from something terrible -- and yet I couldn't stop myself from going on to the next. They're well-written, expertly crafted stories. While you can't go wrong reading them, you might want to lock your liquor cabinet and hide your knives before you sit down with Saturday Lunch with the Brownings. (If you like Shirley Jackson or Daphne du Maurier's short stories, you'll probably eat these up with a spoon).

What a relief, he thought, as he started up the engine. My God -- it was almost a prayer -- what a relief. The car shot around the gravel crescent, headed towards home. He looked back once, gripped with a moment's uneasiness. The blur in an upstairs window might possibly have been a child, but the cry thrown out to him was soundless and hardly misted the glass. He drove on, vindicated. In a vaguely disquieting way he was no longer lonely. People would say he had done the right thing, and as for Patricia ... Everything passes, he told himself, settling more comfortably in his seat. Everything passes.

Saturday Lunch with the Brownings by Penelope Mortimer (McGraw-Hill, 1961)


Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

Velde offers eight tongue-in-cheek retellings of "Little Red Riding Hood" in this slender (and so pretty) anthology. I found it quite refreshing that many of the retellings recount a point of view different from Little Red's -- we see the classic tale through the eyes of the wolf and the woodsman among others. My favorite retelling was "The Red Riding Hood Doll" in which we see the story spin out through the eyes of Little Red's mother:

So Georgette didn't feel bad about not going to the parties, which, in any case, her mother said were not for the likes of her. She didn't feel bad about not having a husband, since her mother had pointed out often enough that Georgette was too plain and set in her ways to attract a man. But Georgette missed a child to love, a child who would make her feel loved in return. Georgette was quietly sure she would be a better mother than her own mother had been.

Overall, I found the collection a real pleasure to read and recommend it to those who like "twisted" fairy tales.

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde (Marshall Cavendish, 2010)


More Favorite Stories of Christmas Past

The stories found in More Favorite Stories of Christmas Past are:

  • "Keeping Christmas" by Henry Van Dyke
  • "A Christmas Dream, and How It Came True" by Louisa May Alcott
  • "The Last Dream of the Old Oak" by Hans Christian Andersen
  • "Christmas at Red Butte" by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen
  • "Rosa's Tale" by Louisa May Alcott
  • "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

I admit I did not listen to all the stories in this collection -- only made it all the way through "Christmas at Red Butte" and "Rosa's Tale" -- but I was very pleased with these two. Prebble and Bean read very well with great animation and strong characterization. Indeed, I think I could listen to Bean all day. Perhaps she would come sit in my kitchen and read my cookbooks aloud to me if I paid her in cake?

Suuure, crazy lady, sure.

Montgomery's "Christmas at Red Butte" is a sweet story about sacrifice, love, and family. A poor young woman sacrifices a dear memento to provide a "real" Christmas for her family, only to have something even more precious returned to her on Christmas Day. This story seemed familiar and I'm pretty sure I must have read it in Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories.

In Alcott's "Rosa's Tale" a young woman brings her sister's horse a Christmas treat and discovers that the old wives' tale about dumb animals being able to speak on Christmas Eve is true. Rosa's life story shares much in common with Black Beauty and would be a great read for any horse or animal lover.

I tried listening to Alcott's "A Christmas Dream, and How It Came True" and Andersen's "The Last Dream of the Old Oak," but couldn't make it all the way through either of them. Alcott's story was just a little too precious for me to stomach and Andersen's story seemed so heavily drenched in symbolism that listening to it made me I feel as if I was being hit over the head with The Symbolism Stick.

More Favorite Stories of Christmas Past read by Simon Prebble & Joyce Bean (Tantor Media, 2008)


Gothic Reading Challenge: The Canterville Ghost

Even though the Gothic Reading Challenge doesn't officially begin until 1 January, I've already started. Oh, I didn't mean to. No, indeed. I was just on Amazon, looking for something short and free to read on my phone, when Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost just leapt off the screen.

The Canterville Ghost is comedy in Gothic trappings -- sensible, modern, forward-thinking Americans buy a haunted English country house. Discovering a mysterious bloodstain, they set to cleaning it with Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent! Confronted by a chain-clanking fiend, they offer him Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator! Oh, you almost have to feel sorry for the foul spectre -- he's only trying to carry out a job he's had for hundreds of years and here are these wretched, modern Americans, not taking things the least bit seriously! It's humiliating and, obviously, he must have his revenge:

The owl beat against the window panes, the raven croaked from the old yew-tree, and the wind wandered moaning round the house like a lost soul; but the Otis family slept unconscious of their doom, and high above the rain and storm he could hear the steady snoring of the Minister for the United States. He stepped stealthily out of the wainscoting, with an evil smile on his cruel, wrinkled mouth, and the moon hid her face in a cloud as he stole past the great oriel window, where his own arms and those of his murdered wife were blazoned in azure and gold. On and on he glided, like an evil shadow, the very darkness seeming to loathe him as he passed. Once he thought he heard something call, and stopped; but it was only the baying of a dog from the Red Farm, and he went on, muttering strange sixteenth-century curses, and ever and anon brandishing the rusty dagger in the midnight air.

Woooo ...

One of my local libraries has The Canterville Ghost in audio and I'm hoping to get my hands on it before Christmas, as I'm sure it would be a lot of fun to listen to!


The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg

I was looking for something short and funny when I stumbled across Elizabeth Bergs short story collection The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted. As I've been a great fan of Elizabeth Berg's novels since reading Range of Motion, I was pleased to have discovered it. This was an excellent book of short stories about the everyday worries of women -- age, weight, relationships, etc -- and many of the stories resonated with me in an extremely personal way.

The title story, "The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted," it's parallel story, "The Day I Ate Nothing I Even Remotely Wanted," and "Double Diet" are my three favorites from this collection -- as a fat woman who has sometimes dabbled in the land of Weight Watchers, I found them incredibly amusing and very true.

But now I was feeling the shame but also defiance. Like here, I'm carrying the banner for all of you who cut off a little piece wanting a big one, who spend a good third of your waking hours feeling bad about your desires ... we who cannot eat air without gaining, we who eat the asparagus longing for the potatoes au gratin, for the fettuccine Alfredo, for the pecan pie.

The remaining ten stories in the collection are also very good. Indeed, there was not a single story I didn't like!

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg (Random House, 2008)