Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Short Story Wednesday, Doctor Jack O' Lantern, from Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates


https://www.pifmagazine.com/2000/10/doctor-jack-o-lantern/ 

 "Doctor Jack O'Lantern" is the first story in Richard Yates' ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS, which is one of my favorite story collections by one of my favorite authors. Yates also wrote REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and EASTER PARADE. All three are excellent.

This is a poignant story about a young teacher trying very hard to be a good one and a student who fails both to please her and to fit into his new school. Vinny has come from the City and Yates captures Vinny's part of the city so well by describing how it is the part of NYC that you whizz by on your way to Grand Central and the real New York. 

Vinny is a foster child and his new town is not a good fit for him. The teacher has her students tell about their weekend activities and his account is cobbled from the other children's stories. (Actually he shows more talent as a writer than the rest of them). Scorned by his classmates and sad to have disappointed his teacher, he scribbles four-letter words on a wall. There is a point in this story when he almost bridges the gap between the other boys and himself, but his well-meaning teacher derails that moment and his rage will be his downfall. 

For those who don't get a chance to read it, Doctor Jack O'Lantern is his misunderstanding of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

 

 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Still Here

 Not since second grade have I heard a voice calling out "Patricia, please be still." But that is what I heard when I attempted to do an MRI this week. I got through that one but bailed on the additional two. I have to find an wide open MRI before I can do it. Too claustrophobic for me and it seems like you are gliding into a crematorium. And having to wear a mask makes it that much worse. All of this because my brain is wired a bit differently and they are not sure if this is a problem or not. Enough about that.

Enjoying hearing REBECCA read on audio. Also reading LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, a very good book but the title is too hard to remember. It could be MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY, WHEN THE WORLD GOES AWAY, a million other choices. Book titles are hard. I think the best ones are very short. It is one very scary book.

Still enjoying BORGEN, CRIMINAL-GERMANY,  not a lot else though. The BLY MANOR show is too dense in characters and too short on scares. I think the offerings are beginning to be lesser works although I am looking forward to QUEEN'S GAMBIT beginning Friday.

Signed up for ONE- DAY UNIVERSITY. You get a lecture on a different topic every day for $7.95 a month. Looking forward to learning something that is not political.

So what's up with you.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

On what would have been Phil's 76th...




It doesn't get much easier but I am grateful Phil wasn't sick during this period. So there is that. To the man who never gave me a bad moment much less a bad day. Love, Patti



Friday, October 16, 2020




THE EXPENDABLE MAN, Dorothy B. Hughes

A resident at UCLA hospital reluctantly gives a teenager a ride on a deserted road near Phoenix. Right from the beginning, he seems guilty, worried, and we wonder if he perhaps is an unreliable narrator. His actions seems blameless so why the fretting. The girl comes to his hotel room later that night, demanding an abortion, which he refuses to do.

But after 50 or so pages of his fretting and pacing, we find out why he is overly concerned and it changes everything we have thought about him until that point. Irritatingly, many reviews will give this away so if you plan on reading the novel, stay away from other reviews. I think this moment in the novel is far too important to be divulged. Written in 1963, THE EXPENDABLE MAN was one of Hughes' last works and it reflects much of what is coming in the later sixties. Although she didn't die for another thirty years, her only other writing seems to be a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner.

I found this to be a moderately exciting read although I must confess that Hughes' progressive thinking in some areas is undercut by her judgmental attitude in others. Perhaps this reflects the time, but she comes down very hard on doctors who provide abortions and girls who need them. It is well-written and the characters are deftly drawn. We get a good sense of Phoenix at the time. All in all, a good if not perfect read.


 


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Short Story Wednesday" Lauren Groff "The Midnight Zone" from FLORIDA




You can hear the Lauren Grof read "The Midnight Zone" here. https://www.wnyc.org/story/lauren-groff-reads-midnight-zone/ although I read it in her collection of stories called FLORIDA. It is also available to read in a May 2016 issue of the New Yorker.

 One of Groff's greatest strengths (for me) is her ability to make a landscape come alive. And in this story, it's a woodsy, primitive area of Florida filled with sink holes, wild animals, dangerous men, snakes, etc.

A panther has been spotted just before the father of a young family is called away. Immediately, we are on the edge of our seats as readers. He will be gone two days, leaving his wife with two small boys, no Internet, and even getting the cell phone to work is iffy. The mother has already admitted to not being the most engaged mother in the world. And it seems like she may now be ill with an unnamed malady.

Very quickly things spin out of control, and in trying to change the sole light bulb, with her son holding the stool, she falls and suffers a nasty head injury. She wakes to find her two boys looking down at her and they try as best they can to care for their injured mother. She comes in and out of consciousness and fantasizes roaming the woods around them, seeing the dangers awaiting them. The boys tend her and when their father returns, she can see from his face just how dire her situation was. 

I very much admired that Groff never allows the reader to be off the hook in terms of awaiting a panther's arrival or some similar dire fate. She creates a threatening environment although the boys seem unaffected by it. It is the mother who is terrorized. A great story for me. 


Jeff Meyerson

Edward D. Hoch, Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne (Crippen & Landru 2018).

When I thought of which book to choose for the first of these short story collections to review, the choice was fairly easy.  Why not go with possibly the most prolific short story writer ever, a man who published over 950 stories, including one or more in every issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for 35 years?  Ed Hoch created a dozen or more series characters of varying types, but my favorite remains the impossible crime specialist, small town Connecticut doctor Sam Hawthorne, who had some 72 recorded cases, published between 1974 and 2008, of a remarkably high quality.  Hoch did something interesting here, besides the ingenuity of the stories themselves, by setting them in a specific time and place, a smallish town in Connecticut between the doctor's arrival in 1922 and his final story, in 1944.  You always get a feel for what was going on in the world then, from the Depression to the Second World War.  Crippen & Landru has done fans a favor by publishing all 72 stories in five volumes (of which this is, clearly, the last), all with "Impossible" in the title.  From the first story, "The Problem of the Covered Bridge," in which a man drives into a covered bridge and seems to vanish off the face of the Earth, Hoch was a master at coming up with truly impossible-seeming crimes and then providing mostly brilliant solutions.  I'd recommend starting at the beginning and reading all five volumes, but you can't go wrong with any of them.
 
Jeff Meyerson
 
Other reviews of stories can be found here. 
 
 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Still Here

 Don't forget Wednesday is short story day if you can participate. Send your story to me at aa2579@wayne.edu if you don't blog.




Still watching BORGEN, but also CRIMINAL UK, which is quite good and THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR, which is scary but not too. Reading the books mentioned above, which are also good reads. 

Had a lot of porch visits this week, which will soon wind down I fear. Had an emergency visit to the dentist-my history with teeth is a sad one. Went to Josh's for dinner and a bonfire in their yard. Don't know when this bonfire thing started, but it is nice on a slightly cool night. 

The Michigan Terrorists are very frightening. Don't call them a militia because that implies they are around to aid good causes and they are not. 

Kevin goes back to in-class school tomorrow. Very worried about that. It is going to be hard indeed to avoid Covid over the next six months.

How about you?