From the New Yorker
Graham Swift is one of my favorite writers. He won the Booker Prize for LAST ORDERS and was short listed for several other books. MOTHERING SUNDAY, WATERLAND, SHUTTERCOCK and LAST ORDERS have all been made into films.
In this story, the two adult children of a man who died taking his golf clubs out of the trunk have gone to a minister to tell him about their father's life so he will have something to say, (about a man he didn't know) at his funeral. Funny how often this seems to happen in stories.
The woman thinks back over her father's life to an incident when she was nine and her father had called a carpenter to fix the hinges on their door. Although the carpenter was far from a young man, she is attracted to him--the first time she has experienced anything like this. And it becomes apparent that "Joe Short" is something of a Lothario in their neighborhood.
At the funeral, she considers telling this story, how her father held her hand while they waited to have their front door put back on. But in the end, she reads the poem that appears on the program. Of course, it is the writing that makes this story work. There is no eureka moment, no mystery solved, no problem overcome, just people going through a situation we have all gone through so its familiarity is soothing. And perhaps gaining some insight into their life (and ours).
That's a really interesting way for an author to share a character's life and relationships, Patti. Glad the writing style works so well here.
I have a copy of Last Orders but have not yet read it. I recall the controversy over its Booker win, with accusations of plagiarizing Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. I believe it was the novel's structure rather than its style that was being targeted.
For this week I have Greg Egan's "Reasons to Be Cheerful": https://casualdebris.blogspot.com/2022/11/casual-shorts-isfdb-top-short-fiction-4.html
There seems to be a whole genre of "funeral stories" where a death causes all kinds of secrets to be revealed.
I like Swift's writing too. I've read LAST ORDERS and ENGLAND & OTHER STORIES but should probably go back and read the rest. "Hinges" was not in the collection I read, and (checking Wikipedia) is not in his other collection either.
I finished JEWISH NOIR II, which was pretty good. Read THE STORIES OF BREECE D'J PANCAKE, which did grow on me as I went along. Short story collections seem to find me as much as I find them, and more keep arriving from the library or otherwise. Currently reading Dan CHaon's second collection, AMONG THE MISSING. Also Marisa Silver's first, BABE IN PARADISE. Also got in Mary Hood's HOW FAR SHE WENT (winner of the Flannery O'Connor Prize) and the collection THE END OF THE WORLD: STORIES OF THE APOCALYPSE.
I guess it's no surprise that I seem to be reading more short stories than anything else lately. I've added a lot of new authors this year.
I think the Swift is brand new for THE NEW YORKER. I like Dan Chaon and Mary Hood. Never read Marisa Silver though. Or Pancake.
I can see why Chris Offutt was recommending Pancake to his students. The latter was from West Virginia and an area not that different from where Offutt grew up in Kentucky. The Silver seems to be set in Southern California, at least what I've read so far.
Jeff, my mother likewise, though for much of her younger life she lived with her family (or what was left of it, I write advisedly) in Beckley, WV, where she was graduated from HS. Shortly after, she took off for DC with a female friend and worked in the National Archives, then headed for Fairbanks, Alaska and the FAA, where her sister and her family, and her newly relocated pilot fiance were both based. The latter had been playing around on her and expected her to accept that; not so much. She met my eventual father a few months later. I've read a couple/few Pancake stories in anthologies/online (or both), haven't picked up the collection yet.
Graham Swift is a writer I might've Barely read, and keep meaning to read more. He's definitely one of the writers widely embraced by the fantastica audience while only occasionally writing fantastica, and I think one can see why, Patti (and his other fans).
Meanwhile, the minister/etc. who knows nothing about the decedent is not only an easy yet too true comment on form over function, but also allows for spinning any sort of life stories and/or reactions to them to fill that frame, of course...and also if one is looking to write a dramatic role for Rowan Atkinson, or the late Glen Shadix...
This has been a very strange week past, filled with tragedies for those rather close to me, so I depend on the kindness of old acquaintance again for another guest post, this time by gracious ex-librarian and friend to those seeking answers to bookish questions everywhere who ask, Dennis Lien.
Thanks, as always, and sorry for the typical tardiness. It's also been a sleep-addled week, and I'm still fighting with the dishwasher. It might be time to call the pros in...getting it to work properly every Other time is not so very much fun.
Happy T-day to all who US T-day!
Sorry for the sadness for you and your closest, Todd. Life can be very cruel.
It can, Patti...and one can only try to help those even closer to the heart of the tragedy, feeling the loss even more dearly. Thanks.
Glad your parents' ex-minister took the best path possible/his job seriously in that regard, Tracy. While I've had a NEW YORKER sub, I took full use of the archives, and will soon do so again with HARPER'S. Reading the several otherwise unavailable Wilma Shore items was good, for example.
I think many ministers now have to adjust for this. We had a non-religious funeral for Phil and I asked people to prepare remarks. Twenty colleagues and friends spoke at this service. All knew him well and it was very personal and very sad. It went on too long I am sure.
I found MOTHERING SUNDAY a most interesting novel and movie.
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