Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Certain European Movies" Emma Cline (THE NEW YORKER)

Like the Hemingway story of a few months ago, this is about a couple, probably in Spain or at least in a Spanish speaking country. This couple doesn't know each other well and it isn't clear if they met on this trip or arranged it. (They are probably academics) She is older than him and the story is from her perspective. The plot is mostly about their trips to various beaches, their difficulty in finding places in a foreign country. How the Europeans staying at this residence find them humorous. 

One beach had become theirs, even though there really is no theirs.

This couple seems ill-suited to each other. There is an age difference. They take pictures, which she knows they will delete before returning home. He has a family in the States

Now if I wasn't looking for a story to talk about today, would I have finished this? Probably yes because unlike the first story I tried (Kelly Link) this one read easily enough. But even on my third read of a fairly short story, I was still picking up hints on its themes. I think I will read it again too.

Interesting how the author (also of THE GIRLS, based on the Manson girls) doles out information stingily, making you hungry for it.  Probably few would have had to read it 4 times to get it all. I think I am a day-dreamy reader, always thinking what I might say were I writing it.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House

George Kelley 

Casual Debris


Margot Kinberg said...

I wondered what sort of a short story writer she might be, Patti. In my opinion, a story that makes you think, and that you have to read a few times, can really have an impact.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Although I am left with still not quite knowing what she means. The typical mystery short is usually pretty clear with its theme.

George said...

My frustration with a lot of THE NEW YORKER stories is their lack of an ending. The reader is left dangling, wondering what would happen next. Like you, I prefer mystery stories that mostly focus on strong endings.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wouldn't say I prefer mystery story endings but I note the difference.

Casual Debris said...

Hi Patti!

I actually have a post for today: "Here There Be Tygers."


Jeff Meyerson said...

I think that what you said is true, there is a different perspective if you're a writer yourself, looking at how a story is put together and how you'd have done it yourself. I don't think I've ever read anything by her. I just put her collection (DADDY) on hold.

Drowning here in short story collections, between the ones I have, the ones that have come in, the ones I bought, and the ones I am waiting for at the library.

This week I finished:

Chris Offutt, KENTUCKY STRAIGHT His first book (1992), worth a read, though he has improved quite a bit since. He was in his mid-30s when this came out,
Jean Rhys, TIGERS ARE BETTER-LOOKING Her second collection, written mostly in the '60s, though some were started long before. I prefer her novels.
Gil Brewer, DEATH COMES FIRST: The Rest of the 1950s Noir

Currently reading the new Crippen & Landru book, J.J. Marric (John Creasey)'s GIDEON AND THE YOUNG TOUGHS and Other Stories His procedurals are probably better read as novels, but these short stories from EQMM go down quickly and easily.

Also downloaded (from the library) McSWEENEY'S MAMMOTH TREASURY OF THRILLING TALES, edited by Michael Chabon (2003), which I discovered because there is a Chris Offutt story in it. Other stories are by Stephen King. Elmore Leonard, Dave Eggers (editor of McSweeney's), Michael Crichton, etc.

Also got TEVYE THE DAIRYMAN AND MOTEL THE CANTOR'S SON by SHolen Aleichem, but not sure I will read it. And have the second Offutt collection of stories on the way from ABE.

That said, none of the stories I read this week stand out as great or terribly memorable, I'd have to say, though Brewer's atmospheric tales of sleazy Florida are mostly fun.

Jeff Meyerson said...

George, the whole New Yorker "lack of an ending" thing is what seems to have prompted Chabon 20 years ago to put this collection together. Once I've read it, I'll let you know. It looks like something that would definitely appeal to you, though.

Todd Mason said...

I have a nagging memory that the Chabon anthology was originally simply a guest-edited issue of MCSWEENEY'S, but I should Go Look. I've had the book for years, though even as I'm finally getting somewhere on getting things back in order, good luck finding it.

Todd Mason said...

Patti, do you find yourself thinking about how you'd write a given story only with allusive stories, or with most stories, or with ones which are annoying you primarily? Which Kelly Link story were you considering? Too enwrapped in fantasy or metafiction shorthand?

Todd Mason said...

I will have my SSW entry readyish shortly!

Jeff Meyerson said...

Todd is right, it was a guest-edited magazine issue, but then he turned it into a book.

TracyK said...

That story is good, and strange. It is definitely a story that inspires me to figure out what is going on and why... with no answer of course. I will have to try more of the flash fiction there.

I often have to read a short story two or three times and pick up more each time I read it. That makes me wonder what I miss when I am reading a book. Sometimes I read too fast.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sorry, I have been gone all day. An interesting day where I went to an art gallery in Wyandotte, Michigan where the original owner was someone Phil and I knew in the late sixties. Met his wife who runs the gallery since his early death in 2001-another guy who never got over Vietnam. However she is exhibiting his work in Jersey City in November.
Tracy-you are right. How much I must miss in novels if I read this story over four times.
I will post Todd and Frank now.
Jeff-funny how you discover a writer and can't get enough of them. Listening to an hilarious novel by Ben Lerner, also set in Spain (Spain is beginning to haunt me). He reads it himself and it's almost a monologue. It may not work in the end but right now it does.(Leaving the Atocha Station)

pattinase (abbott) said...


Todd Mason said...

Patti--I ended up being out after commenting a bit on George's post for a doctor's appointment and other errands, including picking a new drug for the pharmaceutical plethora I currently consume...hence am still writing mine for today.

Sounds like a sobering visit, as well as good catching-up...glad his work seems to be getting attention, and sorry he was haunted by his war experiences (the only episode of Lewis Lapham's BOOKMARK I could find online yesterday for an interested ex-librarian was the one devoted to Lapham, Studs Terkel and Paul Fussell discussing the last's then-recent book about the damage the experience and romanticizing of WW2 did to its veterans did and continues to do:

Thanks for the tip on "The Fairy Handbag"...familiar title, but I haven't read it yet.

I try never to speedread, which does tend to slow me down of late; early on, Fritz Leiber (about whom I'm writing in part today) convinced me with his suggestion that he tries to always read slowly, to capture the cadences and poetic rhythms in the prose of others. If I'm speeding along, it's probably out of impatience.

Casual Debris said...

I read the story last night and quite liked it. Tropes that we've come to recognize from old European movies. A narrative so sparse that many lines carry more weight than they would in a more detailed piece. Like losing their way despite being navigated, losing sight of the other, being on two separate pieces of land, etc. All these reflecting their relationship. Maybe slightly overdone but a nice piece nonetheless.