Posts Tagged ‘gkc’

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Short Story Series #1: The super obvious

June 14, 2012

Of all the English classes I ever had, my 7th grade one was the best. And part of it was that my teacher was great, and part of it was that I realized that grammar is equal parts fun and fascinating — although I realize I may be alone on that one — but probably the single biggest factor was that we had to write an essay on a short story each week. And I could talk a lot about how helpful it was to have to churn out essays and learn to construct an argument and stuff, but what I’m here to talk about today is how much I hated the short stories.

Middle School and High School English classes do a lot to instill in kids the idea that serious literature is super depressing, and short stories, which tend to be sort of single-minded in pursuit of an idea, make it worse — at least with novels, there’s usually time and space to put in a few scenes that will make you laugh, or, you know, offer sidelights on a character that give you hope that they have inner resources to draw on and won’t spend the rest of their lives completely miserable. If they live to the end of the story, that is.

I mean, there were bright spots: “The Speckled Band.” Dorothy Parker. Vocabulary lessons. But I came out of Middle School English with the conviction that all short stories were terrible and that I would hate them forever, with a grudging exception for detective stories.

Anyway, the point of this is that for a long time I really believed I hated short stories — until a couple of years ago when I realized that I was reading short stories all the time, and loving them. It was just that they were short story series, character-driven and funny instead of literary and depressing. These days I get really excited when an author I’ve been enjoying turns out to have a series of short stories or two. So this is the first in what I expect to be a extremely rambling series of posts about those, and how much fun they are — starting with the super obvious. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Books I am in the middle of (with explanations)

October 24, 2008

In roughly chronological order

Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures.

This is my favorite of the Ruth Fielding books, and the kind of thing I often pick up when there’s nothing in particular I want to read. But the most recent time I picked up this one was so long ago that I can’t remember where I got up to in the book, and I’ve poached its bookmark for something else. There’s no likelihood I’ll finish this unless I start it again, and it wouldn’t be on this list except that it’s still sitting on my bedside table.

Royal Escape, by Georgette Heyer.

I got this from a table on someone’s lawn. It was sitting next to a sign that said “free books” — the kind of sign I find it almost impossible to resist. And I like Georgette Heyer, most of the time. I mean, I like historical novels, and I like romances with a sense of humor, and Heyer’s books are kind of relaxing, in that there’s enough going on that you don’t get bored, but not enough that you actually have to think. What I do not like, I realized while reading this book, are historical novels with important historical figures as the main characters. It is for the same reason that, as much as I love Rafael Sabatini, I was never able to finish The Lost King. But I still intend to finish that, and I still intend to finish this.

The Economic Naturalist, by Robert H. Frank.

My parents gave this book to by grandmother a year or so ago, and when she was done with it she lent it to me. Frank offers practical, clear explanations of economic problems, and it is fascinating; I raced through half of it one afternoon, but somehow I haven’t had the urge to pick it up since.

The Stolen Train, by Robert Ashley.

Yes, I posted about it without finishing it. In my defense, when I published that post I thought I was going to finish it. Now I’m not so sure. Also, I know it so well that I didn’t really need to finish it.

Hildegarde’s Holiday, By Laura E. Richards.

I do intend to reread the entire Hildegarde series, and I started the second one right after finishing the first. Somehow I got stalled, but I still have the etext window open. I like these books a lot, but this is the least fun, and it doesn’t really pick up until nearly the end.

The Poems of John Donne, edited by Sir H.J.C. Grierson.

Or rather, the introduction. I tend not to read books of poetry straight through. But last week I was flipping through this book and realized I’d never read the introduction — and I like introductions. So I took it with me when I went away last weekend, and if I hadn’t been so busy, I might have finished it. I don’t know now whether I ever will.

The Hidden Staircase.

This was my favorite Nancy Drew book when I was younger, so I picked it up on Monday when I was looking for something easy and comfortable. This is one I will finish. There’s only about a third left, and it won’t take long. As I’ve been reading this, I’ve been thinking a lot about that fact that it was written to a detailed outline, and wondering how much of the content was in the outline and how much the author was able to improvise.

Four Faultless Felons, by G.K. Chesterton.

When I’m leaving the house and I want to take a book with me, and I’m not particularly invested in whatever I’m reading, or it’s too big to fit in my bag, I tend to pick up a book of G.K. Chesterton stories — The Club of Queer Trades or The Paradoxes of Mr, Pond, or Four Faultless Felons. If I had a copy of Tales of the Long Bow, it would fall in the same category. I don’t usually take Father Brown stories, partly because the Father Brown books I have aren’t as skinny as the others, which are Dover editions, and partly because I’m worried that if I read “The Sign of the Broken Sword” too many times, it will lose its effect on me and stop sending chills up my spine.

Anyway, Four Faultless Felons is a fun one, and very typically Chestertonian. I haven’t stopped carrying it around with me yet, so there’s a good chance that I’ll get through at least the first quarter.

The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan.

I only started this the night before last, and I’m finding it to be a lot of fun. I’d be more than halfway through if I hadn’t decided that I felt more like reading Nancy Drew last night. It’s very different from the movie, so much so that it helps not to think of them as the same story. And there’s something really nice and unpretentious about it.