Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Escape by William Somerset Maugham Review

The short story The Escape by William Somerset Maugham is written in humorist style. If the author wanted to display the plot directly, the story would be named The Escape From Marriage For a Man.

In fact, the method for canceling marriage proposal which Maugham suggested is more universal. He made a routine process of putting off the wedding. The story is short and funny.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Embroidery by Ray Bradbury Review

The story "Embroidery" by Ray Bradbury is very short in length. The plot of the story takes place within a period of ten minutes. For these ten minutes the main characters, three women are preparing embroidered patterns.

The author describes one of their works which includes: a flower, man, road, sun and a house; every detail is depicted carefully. It is a beautiful scene with one flaw in it: the man standing on the road had something wrong with his face.

The lady who created this pattern cried, she wanted to create an ideal picture. The author wrote that she "began to pick away at the thread with her little deft scissors flashing. The pattern came out thread by thread. She pulled and yanked, almost viciously. The man's face was gone. She continued to seize at the threads... The man was gone from the road. She had taken him out entirely."

The plot also describes the thoughts of the ladies who are thinking about everyday household chores. They recall these chores with nostalgic feelings because it is in the past and they know that it will never happen again.

Ray Bradbury writes about the end of the world for these people and he makes comparisons with the final actions of the characters of the story. Some readers have associated the story with the Matrix where each world is part of another world. The attitude of the people towards their destiny is the next subject which is described in the story.

The author leaves open questions about the main idea of the story. This is a topic for discussion after reader has read the story.

Here is the link to the text of the story (page 136 in the pdf-file):

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Few Days In Belgium And Around

We took this trip at the beginning of May 2019. We found a nice place to stay in Brussels. We booked it on Airbnb in five months in advance. The location was very convenient because it is exactly in the center of old Brussels;  The price was very reasonable.

The Arrival Day

From our apartments, the old Brussels can be reached quickly. The Grand Place can be reached by walking for five minutes. It is one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe. Each building here has its own name. Each palace was built in a different style. The photo below shows two of them.

Day One

The price of a ticket for the train is quite high but there are ways to make the journey cheaper. In our case, we had three full days. We bought tickets for ten rides for 86 Euros. Passengers have to write down the date and destination for each person for each ticket. It is possible to get of the train and get on again to continue the journey.  Our plan for the first day was to visit two prominent cities: Gent a Bruges.

The large parking place for bicycles was the first thing we saw in Gent.

The city is a paradise for bikers, there are special bicycle lanes. Gent has a few universities so there are many young people on the streets.

The city is remarkable because of its many medieval buildings, cathedrals, castles, and canals. This day was foggy and partly rainy.

Gent for many tourists is city on the way to the most visited by tourists place- Bruges.

The weather in Bruges changes often during the day. We were impressed by the number of beautiful streets and canals, they were decorated with green trees and colorful flowers.

The crowds of visitors were in only in a few central streets. The picture below shows a place full of tourists.

There are also many empty areas without tourists. They are very picturesque, we took lots of great photos there.

There are many pedestrian zones in the city.

The old buildings, water, greenery, flowers, bridges, calm streets create a fabulous atmosphere.

Bruges is photographer's paradise.

Day Two

We did some researches on the Internet before the tour. The French city of Lille is located relatively close to Brussels. There is less convenient way to reach Lille which cheaper than the train: you can take Flixbus. The price of one ticket is only 5 Euros. It takes 1.5 hours and we decided to visit this city.

The impressions were not as vivid as we had in Bruges. Lille is not a touristic place. The streets are full of cars. That’s why we couldn’t take many photos. We had to take pictures above cars pointing our cameras to the top of the buildings.

When we came back to Brussels, we had the evening to see the capital city of the European Union. The picture below shows the building of the Euro Parliament.

From the business area where the Euro Parliament is located, we rode the Metro. The Metro is very aesthetic, it wasn’t very impressive.

Day Three

This day was dedicated to exploring Belgium province. It was a Saturday, the day when weekend tickets are available, their cost is half of the usual price. We bought the tickets to Dinant.

Dinant is located on the south in a French-speaking part of Belgium. The city is considered as a hometown for the saxophone. The inventor of this instrument,  Adolphe Sax, was born in Dinant in 1814. The signs of it are everywhere.

Dinant is also frequently visited by tourists. The hills of the Ardennes and the Meuse River, old streets, forest - all together create a wonderful background for the fans of Instagram.

It was a cold day. Visiting a  cafe "Tea Room" to try the traditional Belgian waffles was a good idea, so we tried it with chocolate and with caramel. It was delicious.

On the way back to Brussels we thought about having a stop in one of beautiful villages.  We chose Lustin and it was a great choice.

We crossed the bridge and took pictures of wonderful landscapes here.   

The foam on the water added a more white color to the scenery of the picture.

Namur was the last city which we visited this day. We didn't have much time there. The city is quite pretty as other Belgium cities which we visited.

Belgium is a very interesting country for tourists. Many cultures have been living here together for centuries. Belgium provinces and countrysides are underestimated for tourists because many visitors stay in the top cities and don't know much about other places.

Belgium is a nice place to be!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Talk By Stephen Dixon Review

In the short story "Talk" by Stephen Dixon, the narrator constantly changes the way of narration from the first person to the third person and back. This literary method would be a little confusing for readers but it also makes the story unusual and memorable.
Basically, the story is about loneliness. The main character thinks about the fact that he hasn't spoken since the morning. He is a widow, who  lives alone since his wife’s death. The author wrote the character using pronouns- “I” and “he”. They referred to one person. The author splits the character into multiple personalities, as though the narrator is splitting himself into two. It seems as if the main character has someone to talk to, so as he is not alone.

The short story "Talk" was selected for inclusion in the 2014 O. Henry Prize Stories. Stephen Dixon's “Talk” presents a solitary existence which makes the protagonist a stranger to himself. Here the pronouns “he” also means “I.” As a result, form and meaning in the story are united and carry the idea of the importance of being an active member of society.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hallucination by Isaac Asimov Review

The short story "Hallucination" by Isaac Asimov belongs to a genre of science fiction and, like other stories of Asimov, it carries the ideas related to the present.

According to the plot, the fifteen-year-old boy, Sam Chase arrived on Energy Planet. He graduated from the school on the Earth and was sent to this place for no apparent reasons. The boy wasn't interested in astrophysics.

Neurophysiology was an area which challenged him. Sam believed that, "Even today, the human brain continues to be a mystery. We know more about neutron stars than we do about the brain, as we found out when this project first began.

It was known that the project of exploring the planet is temporarily delayed. The Commander was sick. There were rumors that people who lived there were affected by hallucinations. Just after arriving, Sam was warned that it was better to stay inside the Dome (large building). However, he went outside and witnessed something which other people considered a hallucination.

Sam didn't believe the common opinion about the origin of this phenomenon: that it was a hallucination. As a result, a new form of life was discovered. It happened because he wasn't close-minded, and that made the whole difference. Besides the first project about neutron-star energy, new project was started- neurophysiology and Sam found his future.

This is the link to the story:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Amigo Brothers by Piri Thomas Review

The short story "Amigo Brothers" by Piri Thomas put for discussion the dilemma which the main characters had. Two teenage' boxers, two friends had to fight in the tournament. Both of them dreamt twinner. They also wanted to best each other.

The author grew up in New York City. This story takes place in the neighborhood populated with Puerto Ricans and African Americans, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The author described the area where the conversation took place, on the river bank across the city, they stood in front of the railway from Brooklyn to another part of New York City.

The story carried the idea of being honest in their intentions. The friends fought with each other, but through it all, they kept their friendship intact. How was this possible ... a reader can know about it from the story. The story is short and deductive.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, April 7, 2019

A New Kind of War by Ernest Hemingway Review

A New Kind of War by Ernest Hemingway represented another facet of the author's works. It is a news dispatch, a great example of journalistic skill.

Ernest Hemingway described a few scenes which he witnessed being as an American journalist in Madrid, Spain, during the Civil War 1937. The city was under siege by General Franco's Nationalist forces.

The narration started with the line "The window of the hotel is open and, as you lie in bed, you hear the firing in the front line seventeen blocks away." The war invaded into life, it was becoming closer and closer. The author wrote what he saw: "There is the acrid smell of high explosive you hoped you'd never smell again, and, in a bathrobe and bedroom slippers, you hurry down the marble stairs and almost into a middle-aged woman, wounded in the abdomen, who is being helped into the hotel entrance by two men in blue workmen's smocks."

The war in the conversations which Ernest Hemingway had, was represented as a part of everyday life for people. The literary style which the author used made the impression of the war's scenes more understandable for readers who have never been at war.

Ernest Hemingway described in this short article Madrid and the hotel where he stayed, the story of the wounded soldier Raven and Raven's commander, Jock Cunningham. The author paid much attention to describing the sensory details which appeal to the senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Thanks to it, readers have a visual picture of the time and place where the plot took place.

Here is the link to text of the article:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Acceptance Journey by Mary Gaitskill Review

The short story "Acceptance Journey" by Mary Gaitskill was published in 2018 in the magazine "The New Yorker".

According to the plot, Carol, a divorced woman fifty-four years old, got a temporary job in a small town. The author highlighted the feeling of loneliness of her showing some attempts to establish relationships with her neighbors. Carol saw a billboard offering debt resolution and gym memberships. The slogan of this advertising “The Acceptance Journey” brought Carol's attention. The picture of well-looking people hugging one another stuck on her mind.

The idea of loneliness and desire of the woman to go out from the circle of her phobias was implemented in the sequence events like visiting a local church, meetings with neighbors, changing letters with a small girl about Christmas and so on. The story puts some dilemmas for readers and suggests to think about them.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Crucible by Arthur Miller Review

The drama, "The Crucible," by Arthur Miller is based on real events which happened in the city of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. It was a witch trial where accusations were enough to accuse people of performing witchcraft and to sentence them to death. The author studied the records from the court, what the real people said, so the characters in the story are real. Arthur Miller presented the atmosphere of the Salem witch trials, which made neighbors turn against neighbor, the mood of a time when no one was safe.

The drama has also more modern connotation. This part of American political history in the 1940s and 1950s was characterized later as McCarthyism. The term refers to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy who initiated political repressions as well as a campaign spreading fear of Communist influence on American institutions.  A congressional committee was conducting hearings to identify suspected Communists. Miller was called before the congressional committee and questioned about his activities with the American Communist Party. Miller refused to implicate others.

One of the characters of the story, a woman who was accused of witchcraft, named as her helpers all women she knew. They were accused and sentenced to death. It happened many times in the Middle Ages and it took place in a relatively modern society. The mass hysteria with help of mass media is able to turn the peaceful citizens, yesterday's neighbors, to mob.

The drama is deductive and well written, it's good for playing on the stage and just for reading.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Christmas Storms and Sunshine by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell Review

The story "Christmas Storms and Sunshine" was written by English writer Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell in the epoch which was considered as the Victorian era. In a slightly ironic manner, the author described the division of society and the strength of prejudice.

The author started the story with a description of two newspapers which belonged to different political movements:- a Conservative Party - Tories and Reformist Party Whig, two men who managed these newspapers lived with their families in one house. They published the articles which abused the opposite newspaper and party. That manner was spread to the relationships between them.

The author described some examples of the negative attitude of wives of these two men toward each other. It occurred one day before the little son of one the woman became ill. The hostile wives started to care about the baby together, it united them and the two families even had dinner on Christmas day together.

The strength of the story is in details which were described by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. These details might seem small (as a list of dishes or mischief of cat) but they conveyed to the reader the atmosphere of the epoch and relationship in society.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I Walk Between the Raindrops by Bill McKibben Review

The short story "I Walk Between the Raindrops" by Bill McKibben was published in the "The New Yorker" magazine at the end of 2018. The story includes several episodes; however, connection between the episodes is not obvious.

The main character, he was also a narrator of the story, described some events which occurred during his life. His memories were not pleasant. He lived through several disasters and remembered the stories of the people who suffered through them as well. The narrator told readers about some of his actions that unintentionally harmed people.

There were a few episodes in the story with nostalgic notes. The format of the story is similar to a diary. Readers can appreciate the excellent writing skill of the author.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Bret Harte Review

The story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte represented the Wild West. The characters of the story are the gambler, fallen ladies and the local drunk. They were exiled from the town Poker Flat, and they met their fate together.

Bret Harte dedicated his most famous stories to the time of California Gold Rush. However this story is not about the desire of being rich, this story is about the best qualities of the people who faced their fates.
The main character, Mr. Oakhurst, who earned a living by playing poker, received this sentence too. He perceived it with a philosophic calmness. As the author said, "He was too much of a gambler not to accept Fate."

The outcasts left the town. They could die or they could survive. They set a camp in the mountains. The local drunk and a suspected robber, Uncle Billy had gone with the group's mules and the horses were stolen. The group was met by Tom Simpson, known also as "the innocent" with his young girl. They were on the way to Poker Flat to get married. Once Mr. Oakhurst won a great deal of money playing with Tom and he returned the money advising Tom that the latter should never play poker again, as he was a terrible player.

The outcasts displayed their best qualities helping each other and sacrificed themselves. This narration is without a happy ending, the main characters died. This story as other works of Bret Harte represented a genre of naturalism. He described California during the first half of the nineteenth century. Harte's colorful writing helped shape the Western genre as a part of American literature.

This is a link to the text of the story: