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:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Gun by Mark Haddon Review

The short story 'The Gun' by Mark Haddon was included in the collection of stories under the title ‘The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014.' The works of O. Henry were selected by the publisher because of their clear plots with simple characters and humor.

The origins of this award were when O'Henry’s friends gathered together after his death. In honor of his memory, they decided to regularly select the most remarkable short stories. During this time, there were nine editors of these series.

'The Gun' is a story about two boys who had a dangerous and criminal adventure. One boy found the gun. They were not able to cope with the intense emotions that overwhelmed them. The boys were excited by the power that they gained. Mark Haddon has an impressive ability to involve reader into tense, dynamic events which occurred in the story. It seems that two boys were together only by chance, they are together and they are apart of each other. The author brought the characters so close to each other that the actions of the story seem to have happened with us.

Here we can find the text of the story (after making a trial subscription to the magazine):

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Bad Business by Anton Chekhov Review

The short story 'A Bad Business' written by Russian classical writer Anton Chekhov is a ghost story comprised of mostly dialog. The author’s method of using dialog for presenting the story is quite unusual and remarkable. It could be a subject to literary discussion among with critics.

It is unusual for Chekhov's works that the genre of the story belongs to ghost stories. The plot took place in the cemetery, where a stranger asked the watchman to show him the way to the mill. The stranger seemed to be surprised that he appeared in the graveyard. The bright and distinctive style of the author makes the narration very tangible. For example, the text says

"O-o-oh . . . Queen of Heaven!" there is a sound of an old man sighing. "I see nothing, my good soul, nothing. Oh the darkness, the darkness! You can't see your hand before your face, it is dark, friend. O-o-oh. . ."

The stranger pretended he was weak and helpless to the end of the story when he said that he was a dead man. The feeling of terror captured the watchman. He left the graveyard alive. The burning church, it was what he saw outside. It looked like something terrible was ahead ...

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Blue Stones Allegory by Isak Dineson Review

The story 'The Blue Stones' represents a genre of allegory. The allegory includes two levels: a literal and symbolic. The literal level is about ordinary life, everyday routine and so on. The symbolic level represents the moral of the story.

The story was written by Isak Dineson. She was born in Denmark and spent most of her life in British East Africa, now Kenya. Dinesen is best known for her autobiographical narration published in 1937 'Out of Africa'. Another famous book, 'Seven Gothic Tales' includes the stories set in Europe hundreds of years ago.

The story 'The Blue Stones' is short and it seems simple. The skipper named his ship after his wife, "He had the figurehead of it beautifully carved, just like her, and the hair of it gilt". His wife was jealous about his passion, she even thought that he liked the ship more than her.

During one adventure he helped the king of savages and he was bestowed by the two precious blue stones. As such, it seemed as if his ship had found eyes. The wife was jealous about these stones so much that she secretly replaced them with false stones and kept the original ones at home.

Soon after that, the wife found that her eyesight was growing worse, and she could not see to thread a needle. She was going blind; she cried, "I should have the glass taken out, and the jewels put back." She wanted to do it but it was not possible. This sailing was last for her husband. She got a letter from the Consul of Portugal, that the ship had wrecked, "And it was a very strange thing, the Consul wrote, that in broad daylight she had run straight into a tall rock, rising out of the sea."

Every reader could make their own conclusion about the moral of the story and maybe find some parallels according to their own life's experience.

Here is the text of the story:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ambivalence by Ben Greenman --- Review

The short story 'Ambivalence' was written by contemporary American writer Ben Greenman (he is known under this nickname). In the story, the narrator talks about the night before his marriage.

The girl who was invited by the narrator for this evening was skinny. She wasn't attractive and the narrator was satisfied that he could control his feelings for her. She asked about a number of historical books which were on the shelves in his flat. They belonged to his fiance, he answered. The girl expressed her interest in history. She talked about her ancestor who partly decoded the secret code (known as the Zimmermann Telegram) which was sent by the German army before World War I.

She was an artist, and she brought with herself some drafts. She asked him about the color on one of her paintings. It was blue. Another one was also blue. She commented, "isn't that ridiculous? Two colors which are so exceptional, but they're regarded the identical. Colors are like a code, too.'

When the girl left his apartment, the narrator found the book about the Zimmermann Telegram. He read a few paragraphs that he didn't understand. His future wife had signed her name on the front of this book. Here are the last few sentences from this story:
"He shut the book hard, like a trap. He was trying to capture his ambivalence or kill it. Three days later, he watched his wife sign her name again, on a marriage certificate, beneath a paragraph he understood completely. The ink and sky were blue."

There are many signs of symbolism in this story: coincidences in interests to a history of two women, the secret code which was partly disclosed, the vague meaning of colors. The main character suffered becoming aware of his ambivalence but he couldn't overcome it.

This a link to the text of the story:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

From The General History of Virginia Historical Narrative by John Smith Review

The historical narrative 'The General History of Virginia' was written by one of the first English' settlers in North America, John Smith. The book represents the earliest work of American literature. The author was hired by the English Virginia Company, a group of investors hoping for huge profit from their New World venture.

John Smith described in this book his adventures in the Jamestown colony in 1607 and the continuing years. This narration evoked varies reactions among historians because it wasn't clear whether the true events were described or whether the author exaggerated his role in the life of the colony.

It is remarkable that John Smith used the narration in the voice of the third person. This literary method (using the voice of the third person) gives readers the feeling that it is told by an objective observer.  Smith used the narrator to portray himself and his role in the events.

The narration is quite difficult to read; the sentences in the story are long and complicated. The historical meaning of this work is essential because it was written by a contemporary of those events. The one sentence from the narration below represents some features of the literary style which were mentioned in this review.  It also includes some historical details such as arrows and so on. Here is the sentence:

"Smith little dreaming of that accident, being got to the marshes at the river's head twenty miles in the desert, had his two men [Robinson and Emry] slain (as is supposed) sleeping by the canoe, while himself by fowling sought them victual, who finding he was beset with 200 savages, two of them he slew, still defending himself with the aid of the savage his guide, whom he bound to his arms with his garters and used him as a buckler, yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stuck in his clothes but no great hurt, till at last they took him prisoner... "

He escaped from the Powhatans prison and according to his version described in a final edition of his memoirs, he was rescued by the help of Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas. It may have been an attempt to cash in on Pocahontas's later fame. She visited England in 1616 and became a celebrity. At the time of Smith's imprisonment, she was only ten years old. That part of the story raises doubts.

Despite the controversies which were mentioned above, the story gives the objective view of the epoch. It corresponds with the title ‘The General History of Virginia'.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Review of His Masterpiece by Andrew Barton `Banjo' Paterson

The short story 'His Masterpiece' was written by famous Australian poet and writer, Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson.  The works of the author are well known in Australia. His song 'Matilda' is considered as part of the folklore in Australia--a kind of unofficial anthem of the country. Even the coin in Australia has the picture of Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson on it.

The plot of the story is simple. One stockman (in Australia it is a person who looks after livestock), tells the story that happened to him in the Northern Territory. This region is very difficult to access. People who lived there were respected by others. All stories were taken at face value by people who had never been in that area. As the author said, "When two of them meet, however, they are not fools enough to cut down quotations and spoil the market; they lie in support of each other and make all other bushmen feel mean and pitiful and inexperienced."

The main character told the story how he coped with a problem when a huge livestock of sheers went out of his control. They were frightened by the possum (it is an informal name of the opossum - a tree-dwelling Australasian marsupial that typically has a prehensile tail). The narrator caught them on the old horse while riding through the bushes. For the readers it didn't look as an extraordinary deed, but for the listeners of this story - the stockmen, it was surprising.

The author presented a contrast of the simplicity of the story with a pretentious title, "His Masterpiece". It was made deliberately to present the beauty and meaning of life of ordinary people, the inhabitants of Australia.

The language and vocabulary of the story convey some specific Australian features. All together, they created the atmosphere of the place and time. His masterpiece is the ability to survive in a wild Australian nature and to cope with everyday difficulties.


Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Man in the Brown Coat by Sherwood Anderson Review

'The Man in the Brown Coat' by Sherwood Anderson is about a man who grew up in a poor family and who achieved a success in his life: he writes historical books and he owns a house.

The story was written with the use of very short sentences. This literary method created a feeling that the main character's thoughts were expressed in short phrases. This impression increased because the author combined his sentences with the quotes from typical historical narrations like "Napoleon went down into a battle riding on a horse".

The narrator writes about his wife. She has gone out of the house and she does not know that her every little thought is known by the narrator. He hears the voice of her mind. It can express fear when she says the words of courage. Very often her true fillings are opposite from what she says. He likes her but he is not able to break the barrier in their relationship.

The title of the story 'The Man in the Brown Coat' represented the main idea of the story: the loneliness of the person behind the barriers which he created. There are no big efforts to step out of the space which he made around himself. The controversy of private and social life was displayed by Sherwood Anderson in this very short story.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

How To Talk To Girls At Parties by Neil Gaiman Review

The story 'How To Talk To Girls At Parties' by Neil Gaiman was nominated in 2007 for the Hugo Award. It means that the story was recognized as one of the best examples of contemporary sci-fiction work. The story includes some elements of sci-fiction, although the elements of fantasy and comics are more noticeable.

Primarily, the story expressed the feelings of young boys toward aliens for them: girls of their age. The plot is presented as a narration of memories which the main character recollected: what happened thirty years ago when he was sixteen.

Two boys were going to participate in the party.  The narrator felt very uncomfortable in communication with girls and he tried to fix it. He thought about girls the same as aliens who came to the earth from another planet. He thought about the controversy of awareness since they grew up together and they became so different. Let's look at how it was written in the story:

"... when you start out as kids you're just boys and girls, going through time at the same speed, and you're all five, or seven, or eleven, together. And then one day there's a lurch and the girls just sort of sprint off into the future ahead of you, and they know all about everything, and they have periods and breasts and makeup and God-only-knew-what-else -- for I certainly didn't. The diagrams in biology textbooks were no substitute for being, in a very real sense, young adults."

As it appeared in the story two boys mistakenly came to another party where they met real aliens. It was becoming gradually clear, the girls there were really strange: one girl had six fingers on her hand, the next girl spoke in a very vague manner and so on.

It is remarkable what one girl said about poetry, "We knew that it would soon be over, and so we put it all into a poem, to tell the universe who we were, and why we were here, and what we said and did and thought and dreamed and yearned for. We wrapped our dreams in words and patterned the words so that they would live forever, unforgettable. Then we sent the poem as a pattern of flux, to wait in the heart of a star, beaming out its message in pulses and bursts and fuzzes across the electromagnetic spectrum, until the time when, on worlds a thousand sun systems distant, the pattern would be decoded and read, and it would become a poem once again."

The metaphorical, even philosophical meaning differentiates this story and makes it universal. There is a film with the same title based on the plot of the story. Production of this movie focused on the youth movement; punk in this case. Every reader can find in the story something remarkable. It is why the story was recognized as a winner of reader's sympathies.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Monday, October 15, 2018

August Heat by W. F. Harvey Review

The short story 'August Heat' by W. F. Harvey represents a certain type of mystical genre. The artist intentionally drew a portrait of the man whom he never saw. The man from the picture was a master of monuments who wrote the name of this artist with a day of his death (today) on this monument. He never met this artist.

These two main characters were faced with something inevitable and it seemed that it happened at the end of the story.
Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

“What do fish have to do with anything?” by Avi Review

The story 'What do fish have to do with anything' written by an American author, Edward Irving Wortis, better known by the pen name Avi, is dedicated to readers of a young age. The schools include this story in the study-books for the seventh grade.

The main character, the teenage-boy, tries to figure out how to cope with unhappiness. He sees his mother who is unhappy because his dad has left the family. Before the time of narration, he saw his father who lost his job. The boy found the cure to unhappiness in the phrase of a homeless man. This man said, “What a person needs is always more than they say".

The author gave readers this vague phrase to think about it along with a few messages related to moral choice for a young generation.
This is a link to the text of the story:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Dry September by William Faulkner Review

William Faulkner wrote this story about life in the South of the US. The author described a severe living condition there when the weather in that year was especially harsh. The plot reflects a rough relationship in a society. People might be unjust to others and very cruel. Faulkner gave a relevant title for the story - 'Dry September'.

The author raises in the story racial problems in the American South. He explores the motivation: what makes people so cruel and what differs a mob from a previously friendly group of people. Although the writing style of William Faulkner is relatively difficult for reading, his prose gives readers the unforgettable feeling of time and place in the narration.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rain by William Somerset Maugham Review

The story 'Rain' was written by famous British writer William Somerset Maugham. It discloses the belief which is often disguised in the illusion of a decent appearance.

The author describes the journey of a family of missionaries and their unforeseen stop on a remote island near Australia. They had to leave with a light-minded young woman, Ms. Thompson. She attracted the sailors, organized parties. Her style of behavior led her to prison.

The most strong missionary, Mr. Davidson used his influence for the island's governor to send her to San-Francisco, actually to prison. Finally, Mr. Davidson appeared to be tempted by Ms.Thompson. The author chose not to mention what really happened. Ultimately Mr. Davidson committed suicide. In the last lines of the story, the girl cried, "‘You men! You filthy, dirty pigs! You're all the same, all of you. Pigs! Pigs!'. The other main character of the story, the missionary Dr. Macphail gasped. He understood.

Maugham described an everyday routine which these two families lived in quite thoroughly. It made the story longer than usual short story’s format. But this strategy allowed the author to show how striking the difference between people’s words and actions could be.

This is a link to the text of the story:

The Beauty of Moscow Autumn

CNN listed Moscow, Russia as a top tourist destination for visiting in the autumn. This picture which I took today on the  Vorobyevskaya Embankment of Moscow River proves this statement.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Action Will Be Taken by Heinrich Boll Review

"Action Will Be Taken" is a short story written by Nobel Prize laureate, German writer Heinrich Boll. The story belongs to the genre of satire. The narrator told the story of his working in Alfred Wunsiedel's factory.

He started the story with the statement that, "By nature, I am inclined more to pensiveness and inactivity than to work" but as it appeared, he was the only one who understood the tragedy of being there.

The slogan "Action Will Be Taken" was used by the characters of the story everywhere. They used to show for the public their loyalty to the specific social values. The narrator accepted it. In the last part of the story, when the owner of the factory, Wunsiedel, declared “let's have some action!”, the narrator delayed with an answer. This is what happened next:
"Wunsiedel, who seldom raised his voice, shouted at me: “Answer! Answer, you know the rules!” And I answered, under my breath, reluctantly, like a child who is forced to say: I am a naughty child. It was only by a great effort that I managed to bring out the sentence: “Action will be taken.”

It was late, Wunsiedel was already dead. The narrator participated in his funeral as a mourner and mourning became his new job.

The story gives a good subject for discussion about the social problems, an attitude of the individual for the life and so on. The ability of the author to present a plot with a great sense of humor added motivation to read it.

This is the link to the text of the story: