Sunday, January 20, 2019

On the Gull's Road by Willa Cather Review

The reader who starts reading the short story 'On the Gull's Road' written by Willa Cather will probably be impressed by the excellent writing style of this author. Basically, it is a story of love told by the narrator. Twenty years ago he had a journey on a cruise ship from Genoa to New York City.

A recollection of the time he had during the meetings on the ship's deck with a young married woman was kept in his memory forever. They talked about traveling, about Italian cities which they were floating through, and about the places where they had come which were very remarkable. The text creates the feeling for readers of being there; a kind of "effect of presence".

The story doesn't have a happy ending. It left readers with a feeling of nostalgia and, in some cases, recalled the past love: romantic and sincere.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Invalid’s Story by Mark Twain Review

The main idea of "The Invalid’s Story" by Mark Twain is the power of imagination.

According to the plot, the narrator had to transport the body of his friend who died a day before. The coffin was mistakenly replaced by a box of guns, which was intended to be shipped to a rifle company in Illinois.

As the train moved off, a stranger put a piece of Limburger cheese on the box. Nor the narrator nor the expressman (his name was Thompson) knew about the replacement of the boxes, they were sure that the corpse was inside.

Meanwhile, the expressman made up a tremendous fire in his stove and the Limburger cheese melted. The strong odor spread over the car. It was a smell of the cheese but nobody knew it, all were pretty sure that it was the smell of putrefaction. Thompson tried to suppress the smell by burning other staff such as chicken feathers, dried apples, tobacco leaves, rags and old shoes and so on. The smell became unbearable.

The narrator and Thompson tried to catch some fresh air but because of the cold weather (it was winter), it wasn't a good idea. Finally, the narrator got a fever. Unconscious, he spent many days in the hospital, and only after losing his health, being already an invalid, he knew that instead of the corpse there was a box of guns with him.

Mark Twain described the strength of self-suggestion in a humorous manner. This feature of human character is universal and it makes the story quite enlightening.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

It is the link to the audio:

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Coast of Leitrim By Kevin Barry Review

The short story 'The Coast of Leitrim' by Irish writer Kevin Barry was published this year in the magazine 'The New Yorker'. The story is about the loneliness of individuals and love, about personal phobias and social issues.

The main character is a man, Seamus Ferris, who lived alone in the cottage which he inherited after his uncle passed away. He decided that he had fallen in love with a Polish girl, Katherine, who worked at a café in the town. It was very difficult for him to start a conversation with her, he didn't dare to speak with her. Instead, he found out her name and made some inquiries about her on the Internet. He found her Instagram account and saw the pictures she posted there. In his imagination, he saw himself with his passion and love as Don Quixote from the classic novel of Cervantes. She would be definitely a sensitive and nice person, he thought.

Once he started a conversation. “Do you want to go out with me sometime?”, he said. “That will be fine,” she replied. “When is this happening?”. They drove to his cottage, she stayed with him for a night and they started to live together.

During the time when they were together, Seamus went through many phobias related to the relationships between men and women. He became fixated in thoughts and deeds on the negative. Giving freedom his imagination, he listed his flaws, real and invented. He focused on the excessively thick hair on her knees and he pretended that he liked it and so on.

The tone of the narration in the story is monotonous and the narration had a distance to it. in turn the tone and narration can be said to reflect the place where the events happen and the title, 'The Coast of Leitrim'. He suggested to stop their relationships, she left him and came back to Poland, he moved to Poland and found her ... These are a sequel of actions which happened in the story.

It is not a love story, it is rather the story about two lonely people who go with the stream along the Coast of Leitrim…

Here is the link to the story:

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Fall of Edward Barnard by William Somerset Maugham Review

The short story 'The Fall of  Edward Barnard' is written by the British author William Somerset Maugham. The language of this work is rich and very understandable. As many of Maugham's works, the story includes a strong moral message hidden beneath the actions in the plot.

The story began with thoughts of a young man, Bateman, who was coming back to Chicago from the Pacific island of Tahiti where his friend, Edward, lived. He needed to tell Edward's fiancee, Isabel, about something that happened on the island. The writer disclosed it only in the second part of the story.

The characters in the first part of the story behaved according to the rules and moral principles of the upper class. Edward and Bateman are in love with Isabel. Seeing Isabel's attitude toward Edward, Bateman accepted their love. "He would never marry. He would be godfather to the children of Edward and Isabel, and many years later when they were both dead he would tell Isabel's daughter how long, long ago he had loved her mother. Bateman's eyes were veiled with tears when he pictured this scene to himself."

Soon after Isabel and Edward’s engagement, Edward's father lost his fortune and committed suicide. As a means to support Edward, the friend of his father offered Edward a position with his firm in Tahiti. Edward accepted it in the hope of setting the basis for their future life. Before he left Chicago, Isabel's father talked with him about Isabel's uncle, Arnold Jackson, who lives in Tahiti.  Isabel's father said to Edward, "My advice to you is to give him a wide berth, but if you do hear anything about him Mrs. Longstaffe and I would be very glad if you'd let us know."

Arnold left the US. He wrote a letter to Isabel every month, twenty-four letters for two years, but he never mentioned when he was going come back to Chicago. Once Bateman had a conversation with the owner of the company where Arnold worked. He knew that Edward left his job nearly a year ago. The management of the company concluded that he was 'lazy and incompetent'. Neither Bateman nor Isabel could believe in the company’s judgment of Edward, Bateman admitted. ‘He seems to have lost that high seriousness which I admired so much in him.' Bateman decided to visit Tahiti on the way from New Zealand (where his father had an agency) to Chicago.

Bateman came to Tahiti. Maugham included many details in the story, among these were the negative features of Bateman's character, which remained latent early on. During the conversation with local people, Bateman discovered an element of his personality which he wasn’t aware of before, "A touch of hauteur involuntarily entered into his manner."

He met his friend Edward in the shop, where he worked as a shop assistant. Edward established a good relationship with Isabel's uncle Arnold. Bateman was invited to Mr. Arnold’s mansion for a dinner with his family. Bateman felt humiliated being in the presence of these people (Edward, Mr. Arnold, his wife, and daughter).  Everything that he saw while in Tahiti (Edward as a shop assistant, the impudence of Arnold Jackson who dared to invite him for dinner, etc.) was beyond the bounds of his understanding.

Edward, Arnold Jackson, and Mr. Arnold’s daughter greeted Bateman with sincere kindliness. Edward said to him, “Don't be grieved, old friend, I haven't failed. I've succeeded.” Once Edward became serious, they spoke about Isabel. Edward said that he loved Isabel, but his life was undergoing changes that would make it difficult for them to maintain their relationship. Therefore, he would prefer to end their engagement.

After Bateman told Isabel about his trip to Tahiti, she said:
"Poor Edward, he's nobody's enemy but his own. He was a dear, nice fellow, but there was something lacking in him, I suppose it was backbone. I hope he'll be happy.' She slipped the ring off her finger and placed it on the table."

Eventually, Bateman made a proposal for Isabel to marry him. "She gave him her lovely lips to kiss. And as he held her in his arms he had a vision of the works of the Hunter Motor Traction and Automobile Company growing in size ... And she ... sighed with happiness, for she thought of the exquisite house she would have, ... ‘Poor Edward,' she sighed. "

Maugham didn't express his attitude to the choices of Bateman and Edward directly, but the irony of the name of the story is clear. Sincere feelings of people can't be connected with money. The easy-going character of Edward seems to lead him in the right direction where people meet their happiness.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Riddle by Thomas McGuane Review

The short story Riddle by Thomas McGuane was published in the respectable magazine The New Yorker. The audio of the story was recorded for the rubric 'The Writer's Voice'.  

The title 'Riddle' is very suitable for this story. The idea of this narration is not clear. The author described a sequence of events which occurred to him. He recollected the time of being in a small  American town. The narrator witnessed there a scene of meeting the old man and the boy when the boy called out to the old man “Jack! Hey, Jack!,”. The author wrote, "I don't know if I can put my finger on it after all this time, but the excitement or joy, or whatever it was that these two experienced when they saw each other, has never left me.".

Next part of the story took place in that town many years later. The narrator saw an arguing man and woman. He went out from his car, his car was stolen, and another woman drove him to town. He had a conversation with this woman and in the police station. Ooh! So many actions which were not coherent!

After reading this story, I tried to find on the Internet the comments about the plot of this story. Other readers appreciated the literary style but they also faced the riddle of the main idea of this story. The vivid descriptions of everyday routine and the mystery of vague meaning made this story quite memorable.

This is the link to the story.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

War by Luigi Pirandello Review

The short story 'War' was written by an Italian dramatist, novelist, poet and short story writer Luigi Pirandello. He was awarded in 1934 the Nobel Prize in Literature for his contribution to the genre of drama.

The story represents also this genre. Basically, the author expressed the feelings of parents who lost their sons in the war. The plot of the story was built on conversations passengers (the parents of the soldiers) on the train had.

They argued about the attitude of children towards parents and of parents towards children. One passenger expressed his vision of relationships:

"We belong to them but they never belong to us.  And when they reach twenty they are exactly what we were at their age.  We too had a father and mother, but there were so many other things as well...girls, cigarettes, illusions, new ties...and the Country ..."

The story has a dramatic, tragic ending when the woman, who was desperately worried about her son, asked the man, who expressed patriotic ideas,"... is your son really dead?". The last sentence of the story revealed his sincere feelings, "His face contracted, became horribly distorted, then he snatched in haste a handkerchief from his pocket and, to the amazement of everyone, broke into harrowing, heart-breaking, uncontrollable sobs."

This is a link to the text of the story:

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Cecilia Awakened by Tessa Hadley Review

The short story 'Cecilia Awakened' by Tessa Hadley represents the idea of changes which occur at the moment between idealistic past and how the present is.

According to the plot, the family (mother, father and their fifteen-year-old daughter Cecilia) from the UK was visiting Florence during their summer vacation. They loved the arts, they enjoyed walking to museums. That time was different. It is noticeable that during all days of being there Cecilia was in tension.

Cecilia realized that local people don't like them.  This dislike may be directed to British tourists or tourists in general). Local people communicate with them but they do it because it is their business. It spoilt for Cecilia the atmosphere of the beautiful Italian province.

In the introduction, the author described the attitude of this family toward social life. They are introverts, they prefer to stay home, their circle of communication is restricted. The climax of the story, the moment of realizing the reality, reflected the controversy between the inner and external life of the person.

Looking back at the middle of the story, we can see that Cecilia exaggerated her hostile attitude toward people. There are no reasons for local people to have a special, warm feeling for tourists, they could intrude somebody's privacy, they have different customs.

Some readers commenting on this story made remarks about a not completed ending. The narration was interrupted without precisely written conclusion. Perhaps the writer finished the story without summarizing the main idea deliberately. The right to interpret the story left readers with mixed feelings.

Here is the link to the text of the story: