Thursday, October 26, 2017

Charles by Shirley Jackson Review

The short story "Charles" by Shirley Jackson is about childish imagination, adults stereotypes and many other plot lines and ideas. That's the way Shirley Jackson sees the world, it is complicated, it has multiple dimensions.

The son of the narrator started to go to school (started kindergarten). Just a day ago his whole world was home and family. This change is how his mother estimates the new stage in their life:
"I watched him go off the first  morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave good-bye to me."

Shirley Jackson wrote this passage using an ironical style. She described a quite recognizable situation, the parents, whose children passed through this line, would remember this milestone: their child becomes a part of society. The author told the readers how the son brought home the new impressions every day, how indifferent the parents were: they perceived the actions displaying curiosity as if they were watching the TV-news.

I'm not going to revile the end of the story: let's keep intrigue. This is the link for the text of this story; it is a good subject for discussion:


Sunday, October 22, 2017

At Hiruharama by Penelope Fitzgerald Analysis

The short story "At Hiruharama" was written by British writer Penelope Fitzgerald. Some interesting facts about her as a writer:
- she started publishing her works at the age of 60;
- she was one of the most awarded English writers.

The style of this story is rather specific: it focuses more on describing life in general rather than revealing the plot of the story. The narrator, who was the grandson of the main character and had the same name, used a pretext for describing the life of the first migrants in New Zealand from England. This is the first paragraph:
"Mr. Tanner was anxious to explain how it was that he had a lawyer in the family, so that when they all decided to sell up and quit New Zealand there had been someone they could absolutely trust with the legal business."

The plotline of the first paragraph has very little in common with the main plot line. It is quite a usual situation when somebody had suddenly seen something and it aroused the memories in somebody's mind and we could hear a vivid, detailed story about the past. The author used the short introduction "That meant that he had to say something about his grandfather" and started telling the story about the life of the new settlers in New Zealand.

This is a story about the first settlers in New Zealand from England. Mr. Tanner worked for a well-to-do family in Auckland. He met a 16-year-old girl, Kitty, who worked for another family. They married and started their life in quite a remote place, named Hiruharama which means Jerusalem.

There were no people in that place. When Kitty said that she was expecting a baby, Mr.Tanner rode to Auckland city, where he found a doctor. On his way back to Hiruharama he was given a few post pigeons which he wanted to use to call the doctor when his wife would be about to give birth. The language which the author used, drew out the vivid picture a simple life. A lack of convenience, the absence of civilization and strong character of people - it is what Penelope Fitzgerald presented to the readers.

At Hiruharama by Penelope Fitzgerald


Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Do You Speak English?" by Simon Collings Review

The short story "Do You Speak English?" was written by Simon Collings and was first published on the free web-resource

The plot includes only one scene. The main character Manuel watched mechanically (it didn't bother him so much) the process of catching fish by a ten-year-old boy. One fish leaped out of something like a bucket and was gasping in convulsions. Manuel thoughts were mostly about some issues from his everyday life (about paying rent etc). Manuel saw two tourists, a woman and a man, who must have got lost because that poor district was of no interest to visitors.

The author described the scenery in a very rich style, he drew an ugly picture of personalities and an everyday life:
  • for fish "The gill flaps opened like two gash wounds on the sides of its head as it thrashed helplessly in the gutter.";
  • for the boy who was "barefoot and grubby, and his skin was marked with insect bites"
  • for the woman who "had shoulder-length reddish hair and pale freckled skin".  
  • for the man who "was tall and flabby, his stomach protruding from under his T-shirt."

People used to be composed seeing caught fish. "Fish is what we eat" - this is a usual attitude of people towards caught fish. This was another case. "Look at the   poor   thing,' said the woman, stopping beside the fish, which lay where the boy had kicked   it, probably now gasping its last breaths." Her partner tried to persuade her to avoid being involved in any actions here, but without any results.

She asked the boy about this fish but he didn't understand her. And then she saw Manuel and asked him if he spoke English. She said: "Can you ask this boy what he means to do with the fish? It seems so cruel, it ought to be thrown back". Manuel thought that she wasn't able to understand the boy who lived in the squalid shacks as if she was from another planet. He translated that the boy intended to sell the fish. Persisting in her strange wish, she asked how much the boy wanted for that fish. Even the overrated price didn't stop her. She paid, the fish was thrown back into the water and as it had been already dead, it was grabbed again by the boy after the couple had gone.

This story conveyed the idea of the remoteness of people from each other. The contrast between people was in the focus of the writer's attention in this story. Not only the language separate people, but most important is the fact that they belong to different social groups.

The author drew a very clear picture of the place where this story occurred. He used a lot of adjectives with a mostly negative connotation. Surfing the Internet I’ve seen that this story has been chosen a lot of times as a class material for English lessons. Probably one of the reasons is a very rich vocabulary which the author used. In a brief manner this story raises very actual questions, they give good food for thoughts.

I found out that the author had published this story on his blog
This resource for blogging is similar to the platform which I use for my blog ( Maybe someday I will write my own short story and will publish it on my blog ...

Simon Collings Do You Speak English?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Life As I've Seen It by Laya Bajpai Analysis

Reading the book "Life as I've seen it" by Laya Bajpai allows readers to download in the atmosphere of modern India. The book includes several short stories each is with an independent plot. Each of them looks as a glimpse into the life of person, group of people or society. The reading would be compared with watching documentary but reading gives a better feeling of being there.   

The first story was named "The Guilt". It tells the story of a person who betrayed his first love in a dangerous situation, he ran away when the couple met the gang in the Indian town. We don't know what happened with his girl, the author focused on the life of the main character. After his life changed and he moved from India to the USA, the story erased in his memory when he saw the TV program about riots in India. It seems that Laya Bajpai avoided judging him, the author left this to readers. The current life of the protagonist seems unclouded but the guilt of his treachery will stay with him for all his life.

My favorite story from the book was the second one with the title "A strange Occurrence". This story was written from the first face of the narrator. It was her reminiscences of the girl 9 years old who lived in a small town in the state of Maharashtra, in India. The author described the society pointing out the belonging to definite religious group (Parsi, Catholics) and according to their occupations and origins (staying in Sanatoriums, arriving from Bombay). The girl usually came back home from the school with her father on his scooter. Once she said that she was going to stay in school longer and she would come back home alone, by herself, even it was a long way and her father agreed with it. While she was walking home the heavy rain started. This is how it was described by the author:
"Suddenly it started raining heavily and as I had no raincoat or umbrella, I started getting drenched. The distance was long and in-between there was a nullah that had started overflowing and water was coming on to the road. I was terribly scared and also had no money in my pocket to catch a bus, nor did I know anything about the bus routes, so, I started crying."

This passage gives readers a vivid picture of the girl who appeared in the situation where she was not familiar with. Unknown three ladies were sitting on their verandah watching the rain, they asked the girl what happened and invited her to stay for a while with them. They suggested to sit on the veranda and to wait while they prepared something to eat and left her. The girl thought:  "I had heard stories of people who steal children by giving them good food to eat. I was suspicious. So, when nobody came out of the house for quite some time, I quietly slipped out and as it had stopped raining, I walked home.".

The childish imagination often draws in the mind the mixture of fantasy and reality. This feeling is very recognizable and it is what attracts me in this story. This style of writing reminds me the advice given by one very famous author. He advised to write about what you feel and do it sincerely. It is what readers eager to read and this was implemented perfectly in the book "Life as I've seen it".

I had a chance to discuss this story with the author- Laya Bajpai, with whom I had a lesson about English literature.

This book is available for buying on Amazon:

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Happy Failure by Herman Melville Analysis

"The Happy Failure" by Herman Melville is a short story not about success or failure. It is more likely that it is a story about man's attitude to life.

Herman Melville is an American writer of the eighteenth century, well known for his novel "Moby-Dick".  When I read this story and especially when I listened to the audio (both links for these resources put here after the essay) I had a feeling of that epoch. That was a time of great inventions, when the terms of New World (referring to America) and Old World (Europe) were commonly used. But nevertheless, I keep repeating that this story was not about inventions. Let's look to the plot of this story.

The narrator (he was called youngster in the story), a very young man, was called to help his uncle. After the short riding on the boat, the narrator saw his uncle and the servant of the uncle, Yorpy, who carried a heavy, big box.  Yorpy put the box in the boat under many instructions given by the uncle such as "Put it in, you grizzled-headed cherub--put it in carefully, carefully! If that box bursts, my everlasting fortune collapses."

The uncle said that this a deal of lifetime -device for draining swamps-  and he is going to test it on the island located about ten miles up the river. Youngster expressed some doubts about the necessity of such a long trip under a scorching sun and the uncle demanded that he would put him ashore. The major turn of the story happened when the narrator realizes his mistake, expressed support of the uncle's intentions and continued to help his uncle.

When they came to the island, the uncle seemed to notice somebody in the bush, but he was mistaken. The narrator and Yorpy cooperated with the old man and made a deal about searching for strangers on the island. Afterwards, they started an experiment with the new invented device. They continued their actions in that time even though the uncle understood that this experiment was going to fail. The uncle gave for youngster one advice "Boy, take my advice, and never try to invent anything but--happiness." and he said "Boy, I'm glad I've failed. I say, boy, failure has made a good old man of me. It was horrible at first, but I'm glad I've failed."

The last statement was said by the narrator after the death of his uncle with a great respect:
"I seemed to hear again his deep, fervent cry--"Praise be to God for the failure!"

My interpretation of the moral of this story, that action, aspiration is more important than results. The energy of an elderly uncle, this is what moves the progress. We see this energy from the beginning when he exclaimed "Come, hurrah” when the uncle refused the skeptical mood of his nephew when the old man passed his failure and concluded that it is not the end of the world and so on.

It often happens when the elderly people who worked with a great enthusiasm, begin to be ill as soon as they retire. But if they have hobbies, everything changes - they continue living active and happy life.

The importance of being involved in something interesting was illustrated through the statement which the old man said: "Boy, take my advice, and never try to invent anything but - happiness."

These are the links to the text and audio of the story: