Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Short Story Wednesday

Short Story Wednesday


I happened upon an article in "Ploughshares" discussing the ghost stories of Muriel Spark and I happened to have this collection (above) which had a number of the mentioned stories in it. I found them oddly appealing although more as pieces of writing than satisfying ghost stories. 

"The Leafsweeper" has the odd premise of being about a man whose obsession was putting an end to the celebration of Christmas. When enough people were bored and tired with his ranting about it, he was put in an asylum where he rakes leaves In the house where he formerly ranted, another ghostly figure takes his place at Christmas time although he does not rant and rave about Christmas.  The story ends with the two figures becoming one. One has to wonder what the man does when there are no leaves to rake. 

"The House of the Famous Poet" was even stranger. A woman living in the house of a famous poet is on a train ride when a soldier sells her "an abstract funeral" to cover the costs of his fare. The story ends with a bombing where people in the house of the famous poet die thus requiring a real funeral.

And finally "The Executor." A woman's uncle dies and leaves her his house and estate. She turns over his literary work to a foundation, holding back a novel about a witch with a chapter left for completion. As she works to complete it, little notes turn up each day, chastising her for not finishing the work and making disturbing accusations. The Foundation notifies her that they were in receipt of the final chapter and wanted the rest of it. 

None of these were satisfying to me as ghost stories but as I said, I enjoyed them anyway. Sometimes the conceit is more interesting than a satisfying conclusion. I always like Spark's writing and these were stories from a quirky mind. The best kind, I think.

 More short stories

Jerry House


George K 

Matt Paust

Cullen Gallagher


Cullen Gallagher said...

Hi Patti,

Posted another review of Keene's short stories over at my blog this morning:


Rick Robinson said...

Sorry I have nothing again. I'm too upset about the (hanging) election, which I thought would be going much better. Now it's looking like 4 more years and I'm...devastated.

George said...

I confess that I haven't been wowed by anything I've read of Muriel Spark's work. I find her short stories predictable and her novels tedious.

TracyK said...

Glen and I discussed ghost stories recently and he said that often there were no ghosts. I guess the same as many stories in mystery collections are not really mysteries or crime-related. So I will just have to try some.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Gee, I don't think things look like for more years. Well, these all had ghosts of a sort. Maybe not the kind we think of though. By favorite other than TURN OF THE SCREW is THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters. Although that is a controversial one.

TracyK said...

I read THE NIGHT WATCH by Sarah Waters (not a ghost story) and liked it but when I read about THE LITTLE STRANGER it sounded much too scary to me. Now I just read John Grant's review of that book and it has made me rethink that. Maybe I will give it a try someday.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I've read some of Spark's novels and short stories. I prefer THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE and THE GIRLS OF SLENDER MEANS to the stories.

Interesting. I've been reading the Complete Short Stories of F> Scott Fitzgerald. I recently read "More Than Just a House" and "Image on the Heart" from THE PRICE WAS HIGH. (Original publication dates: 1933 and 1936.) Both were written when Fitzgerald was nearing 40, yet both hearkened back to what seems (on reading too many of them in succession) something of an obsession with him, namely a man in his 30s obsessed with a girl in her teens. It was one thing writing the charming "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" in his early 20s, but writing these stories a dozen years later just seems sad to me. He is readable still, but clearly his best days are mostly behind him.

Todd Mason said...

I think the affectations of Fitzgerald became more acute as he aged, and the nature of his and Zelda's later lives could drive excessive nostalgia--and perhaps more. And that being expressed in unfortunate ways.

Well, Patti, you know how much a fan of Spark I am.

And at this hour, it's pretty clear that Biden won and will probably be allowed to win, so the ferocity of Trump tantrums will be fierce. Are already. And we'll see what a Biden Admin can or chooses to do with the current perplex.

Todd Mason said...

Oh, and, of course, the most common understanding of ghost stories is that they definitely aren't required to be terrifying so much as moody...many, after all, are fantasies or magical realism (which is to say, fantasy) rather than horror per se.

Glad you had a good time with those stories..."The Foundation" is the only one which sparks (cough) recognition, but it's been forty+ years since I read THE GO-AWAY BIRD and about half that since I picked up THE COMPLETE STORIES and dipped in here and there in another tumultuous time.

Jeff Meyerson said...

But will McConnell keep Biden from appointing any judges for the next two (or four) years, as he threatened to do to Hillary?

pattinase (abbott) said...

It has been far too long since I read Fitzgerald's stories. And I too am a MS fan. I don't mind at all that the ghost stories are not quite ghost stories and don't quite work. The idea and writing are worth it.
McConnell is nearly as evil as Trump. And that is saying something.