H. Somerset Maugham’s “The Outstation”

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They were like men dwelling in regions of eternal night, and their souls were oppressed with the knowledge that never would the day dawn for them. It looked as though their lives would continue for ever in this dull and hideous monotony of hatred.”

Having recently read H. Somerset Maugham’s acclaimed novel, The Painted Veil, I had no complaints when his short story, “The Outstation,” came up next in my random selection for my short story reading project. This story is a little longer (24 pages) than some others I’ve read in the past week, but hey, it’s Saturday, and I have plenty of reading time. 🙂

(below: Maugham hard at work)

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I came to think of this story as more of a character study. Set probably in the 1920s, it deals with the relationship of two Englishmen (and by reading the quoted passage above, you can tell that their relationship is not a good one) who serve their country’s empire in one of its remotest locations – on the island of Borneo. Mr. Warburton is the established presence at the outstation, having already served there some twenty years when we find him at the beginning of this story awaiting the arrival of his assistant, a Mr. Cooper. Warburton has some misgivings about Cooper’s arrival, even though another man is needed, since it means of an intrusion on what has become sort of his private domain; he is respected and admired by the natives – a man of power and importance. They get off to a rocky start, too, when Cooper shows up not “dressed” for dinner and professes surprise that Warburton has retained that custom. (“I always dress for dinner.” “Even when you’re alone?” “Especially when I’m alone.”)

You see, Warburton is a “snob” and has always been so, even though he inherited HIS money from a father who was a frugal hard-working commoner, indeed only to lose it through gambling and speculation. (Upon gaining that intelligence about Warburton, you would think the reader’s sympathies would reside with the younger man, Cooper, but that position became untenable for me, when I saw how poorly he treated the natives.)

Cooper is from “the colonies” (in his case, Barbados) and has no respect for the old system of privilege and class consciousness. In short, he has a chip on his shoulder. Over a dinner, Cooper offers the opinion,

” ’Well, at all events the war has done one good thing for us,’ he said at last. ’It`s smashed up the power of the aristocracy. The Boer War started it, and 1914 put the lid on.’
’The great families of England are doomed,’ said Mr. Warburton with the complacent melancholy of an emigre who remembered the court of Louis XV.”

Is it any surprise that these two won’t get along?

In spite of their differences, the unlikely pair struggle on and do their duties for some time, even as their antipathy grows. Things erupt into “bitter hatred” after an incident that occurs when Warburton returns to his office after being absent three weeks on an assignment. During his absence, Cooper has gone through Warburton’s mail and separated the newspapers he receives from home. Thinking it no big deal, Cooper unpacks them and reads them. Warburton is furious. Cooper doesn’t know, and Warburton doesn’t feel the need to explain to him, that meticulously reading the papers, in order, is one of Warburton’s “great pleasures” and a link to the civilized world of which he is no longer a resident. Later in the story, Warburton feels “on a sudden discouraged with life. The world of which he was a part had passed away, and the future belonged to a meaner generation.”

The story left me a little sad too. Two very different characters, out of place in the “normal world” of others end up in a remote region of the world (& I liked how, earlier in the story, Maugham refers to how Englishmen, when they’d run out of other opportunities “went out to the colonies.”) where they perhaps could find a home (indeed Warburton had done just that before Cooper’s arrival) but each other’s presence prevents them from living happily even there. The story is worth reading, though, even if it is not among my recent favorites. It can even be read “for free” on line at: http://maugham.classicauthors.net/outstation/
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“The Mutants” by Joyce Carol Oates

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Still catching up on my short story reading project, I drew then ten of hearts today and was led to the Joyce Carol Oates story, The Mutants. I acquired this story when I bought her collection “I Am No One You Know” and other Stories. A couple years back, for one of my old book club’s annual “short story months,” someone had initially picked the disturbing Oates story, “The Girl with the Blackened Eye” but later changed her mind. After I had already bought the book. 🙂 No matter. I was simply left with another batch of short stories to explore, and I’ve read maybe half of them now. I have scheduled myself to finish this collection in 2012 though, so I guess I’d better get cracking on the remaining ones too.

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I have learned in my previous reading of Joyce Carol Oates that she pulls no punches and can write about anything, even something horrible, in a frank and matter of fact manner. This story was no exception. Based upon the title alone I had no idea what to expect from her with a story named, “The Mutants.” In fact, you probably could’ve given me a hundred guesses and I still wouldn’t have come up with “something related to 9/11″…

The protagonist of the story is a “dreamy, beautiful young woman of that genre, American Midwestern Blond, which indicates not so much a physical as a spiritual type.” Sounds like someone I’d like to know, but we don’t even learn her name in the pages that follow. Her name is not important to the impact of the story, which is one of those that have that great quality of indefinite-ness which allows a motivated reader to perhaps add some of the finishing touches himself.

The young woman is returning to her high-rise apartment in lower Manhattan one morning when she is shocked to see from the corner of her eye the startling image of a low-flying commercial jet – a prelude to the next instant when she is knocked to her knees from the power of the nearby impact. The rest of this very short story deals with her immediate reactions to the disaster. Readers are not told, directly, if she survives the coming hours or not (it seems there is damage to her building as well,) but we do learn how the story got its name:

“She was hollow-eyed and gaunt yet wakeful, no longer the dreamy-eyed blond. A mutant being, primed to survive. Were there not undersea creatures that acquired an extra set of gills, eyes on stalks of either side of their blade-thin heads, cunning in the desperation of survival…”

I presume Oates is saying that, in a way, the 9/11 attacks made mutants of us all (mutants in the simple, pure, non “sci-fi” meaning of something changed). This was a powerful story packed into just eight pages.

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“City of Dreams” by Richard Christian Matheson

The fate of the cookies prayed on my mind for days.”

Isn’t it funny? In my last post, where I once again briefly described the mechanics of my annual short story reading project, I mentioned how letting fate decide the order of my reading often led to curious coincidences. Then, in the post before that, I related how a collection of an author’s short stories is something like a batch of cookies. Should I really be surprised, then, when just a few pages into my latest story, the protagonist decides “to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies?” Once again I feel like Haruki Murakami’s Chance Traveler

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The Ace of Spades which I drew this morning led me to Richard Christian Matheson (son of the great sci-fi author Richard Matheson, of “I Am Legend” and many Twilight Zone episode credits fame) and his story, “City of Dreams.” It has immediately become a candidate for my favorite short story of the year (and in the process perhaps proven that literary talent has a genetic component.) Those who’ve been paying attention already know that my stories in the Spades suit are “sci-fi/horror/ghost stories,” and this one was a home run. I acquired this story when I bought the anthology “Haunts: Reliquaries of the Dead” last October (I like to read scary stories around Halloween :-)) It has thus far proved a rich source of great stories. I’ve posted before about another story (“The Door” by England’s ‘Prince of Chill,’ R. Chetwynd Hayes) in this volume.

(below: Richard Christian Matheson)

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Today’s story:

The human brain has a tendency to “fill in the blanks” in the absence of sufficient data. This is the premise or observation around which this ghost story was built. The author relates in the introduction how, in real life, while sitting on his patio, he would occasionally overhear just tiny bits of conversation, etc. from his new neighbors, who he had yet to meet, which led to speculation – and wild imaginings – about who they were and what they might be up to. The protagonist of “City of Dreams” finds himself in a similar situation when a mysterious, obviously wealthy neighbor moves in next door, updating the property with security camera and landscaping (a “leafy moat”) additions, not to mention guard dogs, in the process. The clockwork comings and goings of a black limousine only add to the tantalizing “mystery” of his new neighbor, who he only thinks of as “the Royal.”

Eventually, he seeks to break the ice by making a gift of the aforementioned batch of cookies and leaves them gift wrapped in the mailbox with a kind of introductory note. It appears at first that he is doomed to be snubbed as there is no reaction or thank you forthcoming, and he is just about to give up the chase when he finds a handwritten note in his mailbox saying simply, “We must meet. How about drinks tonight over here. Around sunset?”

When he visits, he is greeted by an “exquisite” young woman, whose smile takes his heart “at gunpoint.” He talks with her at length “without finding out much about her.” Near the end of his visit he admits, “I thought I must be falling in love. I still think I was, despite everything soon to befall me.” (Everything soon to befall me!? How’s that for in-your-face foreshadowing?) Upon their parting, she presents him with a gift, but encourages him to open it “tomorrow, when you’re alone” so he takes it home with him.

Now begins my cliched struggling with how to end this post without giving everything in the story away… Does the woman really live there? No. Is the present given really hers to give away? No. Just who is this woman? This last is the real question, and it was answered to my satisfaction… If you’re looking for a good collection of “ghost” stories, you could do a lot worse than this one. You can find it for sale at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/haunts-stephen-jones/1103855598m which is where I bought my copy. Happy reading!

Oh, I forgot. I’m supposed to end blog posts with a question. 🙂 Here’s one: What’s your favorite ghost story (and why, if you’ve got the time to share)?

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“Flight” by John Steinbeck

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Yes, I’ve been neglecting my short story reading project for many weeks. I don’t know why, either. It had become such a nice routine to draw a new card from the deck on Saturday morning and find out what story I “must” read next. This morning, though not a Saturday, I decided to start getting back on track. I drew the four of hearts, leading me to John Steinbeck’s story, “Flight.”

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(for those who are new visitors to Bibliophilopolis, my annual short story reading projects involves mapping out fifty-two stories to read during the year [52 weeks, 52 stories!] and assigning each story to a playing card in a 52-card deck, roughly organizing the suits as follows:

Hearts: Favorite Authors
Clubs: Famous Authors I may or may not have read
Diamonds: Female Authors
Spades: Ghost, Scary or Sci-Fi Stories

Once a week (in theory anyway) a new card is drawn from the deck and “fate decides” which story I will read next, sometimes with curious coincidences.
A list of all the stories on my list is found on my page on the left titled: “Deal Me In” – 2012 Short story reading selections. I encourage everyone to try this as an annual project some year.)

Since Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors, his story was in the hearts suit. It resides in my library in an old badly used (by a former owner, of course!) anthology of thirty six stories titled “Short Story Masterpieces” edited by Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine. I don’t remember where I picked this one up, but I’m a sucker for anthologies, and its condition didn’t deter me. It was first published in 1954 and contains several of the stories in my 2012 reading project.

(Below: a young John Steinbeck)

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***Some Spoilers follow***

Though a little disappointed in the story overall – it WAS Steinbeck, after all, and I “expected more” – it was still interesting to me. The characters in the story are a young, 19-year old “man,” Pepe and his family, consisting of widowed mother and his two siblings, twelve and fourteen years old. The location is a familiar one to Steinbeck: California.

Easygoing but somewhat indolent, Pepe seems concerned with whether or not “he is a man.” His mother doesn’t think he is yet, saying at one point, “A boy gets to be a man when a man is needed. Remember this thing. I have known boys forty years old because there was no need for a man.” Is this perhaps the moral of the story? It could be, I suppose, but I didn’t really think so.

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Pepe’s legacy from his father (long since dead – from a rattlesnake bite: “When one is bitten on the chest there is not much that can be done”) is a black knife, a switchblade from the sound of it. Pepe has become proficient at throwing the knife with lethal force into a redwood post on their farm. The wary reader suspects that such a skill may lead to trouble…

His mother sends him on an errand to Monterey (“alone”) to buy medicine. He views this as a rite of passage via which he will “become a man.” She directs him to stay the night there at a friends house. He returns early, though, and from the look in his eyes, Mama knows something has happened. There was a quarrel and in reaction to insults – and a threatening approach – the knife had flown from his hand “almost by itself.” We understand he is a fugitive, and the latter two-thirds of the story deal with his flight (there’s that title!) into. The nearby mountains and canyons.

Though armed (now with a gun) and possessing some degree of sense, we know it will not be enough to elude and outwit his pursuers, who likely really are men. I enjoyed the natural descriptions of the land during his flight, and his encounters with wildlife including a mountain lion, a rattlesnake, lizards, etc. I’ll leave it as a homework assignment for you to discover if he is successful or not in his flight. It’s a short story of about twenty pages – easy reading during a lunch hour or on the bus or rail for a daily commute. One place you can find it for free online is here.

What are your thoughts about Steinbeck? Have you read any of his short stories or, like me, mostly just his novels? Where does he rank among your list of favorite authors?

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Survey Time!

These surveys that get passed around can be entertaining. Just for fun, here’s one that’s currently making the rounds…

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:
I almost never eat & read at the same time, unless it’s at the coffee shop before work in the morning and I get something in addition to coffee.

What is your favorite drink while reading?
Water at home. Coffee “on the road.” I am always trying to drink more/enough water and sometimes I use reading to “help me” when I am able to set aside time for a long session of reading. I make myself a deal to drink a big drink of water “every ten pages” (or whatever). With my “rain man tendencies” this routine helps me keep both going. (Nerd Alert!)

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
If I own it, I’m writing in it. Mostly underlining or adding parentheses to passages I want to find again. Sometimes when I’m done with a book, I’ll immediately go back and review what I’ve marked. I (naturally) wouldn’t mark in a book if I didn’t own it. I often have to diplomatically decline offers to lend me a book because I know I’ll want to write in it. 🙂

How do you keep your place while reading a book?
Bookmark, or any spare piece of paper (receipts are good) I have handy. Sometimes I use the pen or pencil I’m using to mark the book.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
Both, of course! 🙂

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
Chapter ends are preferred,but I’ll stop anywhere if I have to.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
People do this?

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
Thanks to reading e-books on my iPad, I’m pretty good at this since I can switch right over to my Merriam Webster’s Dictionary app. I’m not good at remembering later, which is why I love the fact that the app has a “recently looked up” feature. Great for review!

What are you currently reading?
A Clash Of Kings by George R.R. Martin and Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox. See? One fiction, one non-fiction…

What is the last book you bought?
Agatha Christie’s “Destination Unknown” (heard about it from a fellow blogger)

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?
I usually have a couple going at a time, one fiction and one non-fiction. The latter usually take me longer to get through and sometimes I need to escape to fiction when the going gets tough.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
Several places. My bed, my couch, several different great, independent coffee shops and the library. Time? Early mornings before work (I commute across town and leave an hour or more early to beat the traffic, then just read/blog at the coffee shop unit about 7:45 – that’s where I am now!:-) ) Sundays, since I’m a bit of a heathen, are normally my most productive reading day.

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
It depends on if they’re good. Some authors need to know when to stop, though, methinks. Everything doesn’t have to be a trilogy, you know.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Too many to mention just one. I often enjoy pointing a reader to something outside what I know to be their normal preferences, especially if it’s a book outside of MY normal preferences that I liked.

How do you organize your books?
Very poorly, I’m afraid. I have some clusters of related books, like those that a couple of book clubs I’ve belonged to have read. Or by topic. I have a box of books “I’m really going to read someday” too, but it has dust on it. Sadly (?) I have so many books now that sometimes I can’t find one I want. That makes me mad (but not mad enough to throw other books across the room) 🙂

What about you?

Just Finished: Bagombo Snuff Box

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Over the past couple weeks, I’ve truly enjoyed devouring this collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. Short story anthologies or collections, by their very nature, are somewhat difficult to rate or review, even when all the stories are by the same author. While contemplating this post, I found myself reminded of a batch of favorite cookies, you know the kind, “Like Mom Used to Make.” When they come out of the oven, your anticipation heightens as the aroma and diffusing heat of the oven trigger a textbook Pavlovian response. They’re all the same kind of cookies, so you know you’ll like any individual one of them, but they’re not all exactly the same, depending on their placement on the cookie sheet, the possible vagaries of the oven, or – as in the case of something like chocolate chip cookies – the “local chip concentration” in the batter used for that particular cookie. In spite of these variables, though, when you eat one, there is little doubt you are eating a chocolate chip (or oatmeal butterscotch (Hi,Kim!), or whatever type) cookie.

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So I savored the chance to read this new “batch” of Vonnegut stories, and though some I enjoyed more (or less) than others due to their “crunchiness” or “chip volume,” there was no doubt when I finished one that I had just read a Vonnegut short story, and I was not a little sad when I realized that the entire batch had been consumed. Okay, this labored analogy is starting to make me hungry, so on to the stories…

Though sometimes labelled as a “Science Fiction” writer, Vonnegut wasn’t really one, though two of the stories could be fit into that mold, the lead off story, “Thanasphere,” and later in the book “2BR02B” (the “0” in the title should be taken as “naught” – get it?). Both were quite good, the former – written way before man’s first orbital flight – speculating on what we would encounter, and the latter envisioning a somewhat grim future with a Federal Bureau of Termination and Ethical Suicide Studios that call to mind the 1973 sci-fi classic film, Soylent Green, released eleven years after this story was first published.

(below: Edwin G. Robinson as Sol Roth in Soylent Green’s version of an “Ethical Suicide Studio”)

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Three of the stories – “The No-Talent Kid,” “The Ambitious Sophomore,” and “The Boy Who Hated Girls” – all featured the recurring character, George M. Helmholtz, the “band director of Lincoln High School,” who I first encountered in the superior story, “The Kid Nobody Could Handle” from Vonnegut’s other collection of short stories, “Welcome to the Monkey House.” I was also among those treated to a great “live” reading of this story (by fellow KVML book club member, Janet) this spring at Bookmama’s Bookstore’s “Vonnegut Day” here in Indianapolis. (below: treats for ‘Vonnegut Day’ at Bookmama’s.  Why, yes, of course that’s “monkeybread” 🙂 )

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The three Helmholtz stories in this collection were not among my favorites, however, and I wondered who the real-life inspiration for this Helmholtz character that “keeps showing up” might have been, or whether he could be a conglomerate of various teachers Vonnegut remembered from his days at Shortridge High School. Maybe one of my fellow book club members will have the scoop for me on this next week…

As you might expect from Vonnegut, there were a couple stories clearly influenced by his experience in the war, the somewhat comic “Der Arme Dolmetscher,” where a hapless protagonist is recruited to be a translator because in high school he had memorized, and was still fond of repeating, the first stanza of Heine’s “Die Lorelei” – without even understanding the meaning. The poignant “The Cruise of the Jolly Roger” is much deeper and thought-provoking, however.

If I had to come up with a “common theme” throughout this collection, it would probably be that most of the stories deal with the “struggle to find happiness” if you want to call it that. Happiness in one’s job, one’s relationships, and one’s place in society are all covered,often more than once. I was reminded of Thoreau’s observation about most men leading “lives of quiet desperation” during many of these stories. (Below: an illustration from The Saturday Evening Post from the story, Custom-Made Bride)

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Stories of this type were also my favorites in this collection. I’ve already posted about one of them, “The Package” earlier this month, but here I’d also like to recommend “Lover’s Anonymous,” “Custom-Made Bride,” “The Powder-Blue Dragon” and “This Son of Mine.” The last of these, which my friend Dale also just posted about on his blog Mirror with Clouds, came up by coincidence in my reading order just the day after Father’s Day. The story deals with two fathers and sons and their relationships, which have been sabotaged and crippled by misunderstanding. In fact, I’d argue that misunderstanding (during the search for happiness) is another common theme in this collection, perhaps best illustrated in the “Lovers Anonymous” story already mentioned.

Well, I’ve done it again and rambled on far longer than I like to in a blog post, but Vonnegut is one of my favorites, and it’s hard for me to stop sometimes. 🙂 By my count I’ve now read over sixty of his short stories, and the well will soon run dry since there will be no more forthcoming. I am not happy about this.

So, what about you? Are you a Vonnegut fan or have you read any of his short fiction? What are your favorites?

Back to Westeros

Friday, I finished my “required reading” for the month (the Vonnegut short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box – more on that later, hopefully) and looked around for what to read next. Yes I “still have going” my current non-fiction read, The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox, but I can fairly easily keep more than one book going at a time if one’s non-fiction and the other fiction. (How’s that for rationalization?) Actually, looking back on my prior “June Reading: The Month Ahead” post it seems an obvious choice to pick up George R.R. Martin’s “A Clash of Kings,” but I remain daunted by its size, AND by the fact that it’s book two of God knows how many in the series.

So, I nonetheless jumped in Friday night and Saturday morning and got about sixty-five pages in (and am about to pick it up again as soon as I finish this post). I anxious to find out the fates of Eddard Stark’s children (and their direwolves). And I confess I did have to look up the Wikipedia entry on the first book of the series, A Game of Thrones since it’s been just over a year since I read it and have forgotten much of the plot and characters (there’s that “great memory” again).

I know that this series is wildly popular, but I’m curious as to what other readers and citizens of Bibliophilopolis think of them. I’m “committed” now to read this second one, but should I go on and read them all? Or should I “cut” my losses and stop after this one? As a matter of policy, I don’t “DNF” books I’ve started, but I don’t think that rule should apply to series. Right? 🙂

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Another Vonnegut Short Story

I’ve started working my way though the Vonnegut collection of short stories, “Bagombo Snuff Box,” and on my lunch hour today, I completed the fourth one, entitled simply “The Package” -a story first published in Collier’s Magazine in July, 1952 – almost exactly sixty years ago…

(above: the issue of Collier’s in which this story appeared.  I love how it says “top summer reading – six short stories” at the top)

***minor spoilers included***
Friends Earl Fenton and Charley Freeman are the same age. They went to the same college and were brothers in the same fraternity. Where they were different, though, was the fact that Charley’s family had money. Earl’s did not. In the setting of this story, Earl hasn’t even heard from Charley for over thirty years but gets a phone call from him “out of the blue” as Earl and his wife are just returning home from a lengthy vacation (you see, after college Earl has worked hard and become a shining example of the Self-Made Man).

Upon receiving the call, Earl, who is by nature a friendly person, invites Charley to come to their house (a brand new “package” house, with all the latest technology and gadgets). Coincidentally, moments later the developer they bought the house from calls and also invites himself over, along with a photo crew from a prominent “Homes Magazine” to do a story on them.

While awaiting the arrival of both invited parties, Earl begins to wish he hadn’t been so quick to invite Charley, as his memories of those days, which he confesses to his wife, are not all pleasant. “It does something to a man having to go around waiting on guys his same age, cleaning up after ’em, and seeing them with nice clothes and all the money in the world,” he says. Add to this uneasiness Charley’s somewhat strange appearance (his clothing looks a little threadbare) and behavior (he seems unfamiliar with a tv set, for example – “ah, tv, short for television, I suppose”) after he arrives, and Vonnegut has set up a nice little ‘morality play’ on class consciousness or maybe even class obsession.

For me, It was the mystery surrounding Charley, that made this story interesting. Where has he been? (he says upon seeing Earl for the first time, “This is a pleasure I’ve had to put off for a long time.”) “What has he been doing? Was he in prison? (as Earl’s wife suspects) Why have his fortunes fallen? The reader is kept in suspense about these questions until the very end of the story, which … I hope you will read yourself…

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury

“It was a pleasure to learn” from your writing.

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How Quickly We Forget

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Or, I should say, how quickly I forget. I was reminded this week of how often I do NOT remember the details of a book, and how sometimes they fade quickly. How was I reminded? Well, a co-worker to whom I had recommended a book by a “classic” author stopped by my desk to report she had finished it and, more importantly, to take me to task about an unhappy ending. (Apparently, someone died in someone’s arms in the final pages.) You’d think that’d be something one would remember, wouldn’t you? I guess not, at least in my case. Thankfully, she was just giving me a hard time and had actually really liked the book – as I suspected she would -and we now also have a third co-worker tentatively making her way into the book.

I’ve often been accused of having a great memory. I wish that were the case, although perhaps – relatively speaking – maybe I do. I have a fondness for trivia and seem to remember a lot of little facts about things. All well and good, and it has helped me pass through the Jeopardy! auditions twice now (they still haven’t called me, dammit! 🙂 , but I would actually like to remember things more worthy of remembering – like more of the plot of a Thomas Hardy novel. There, thats the final clue as to which book I’m talking about; I don’t want to type “Spoiler Alert” in this post!) that I read just a year and a half ago.

But how does one go about that? Are we chained to whatever aptitude for memory we are born with, or can it be enhanced? Long ago – I was probably still in college -I discovered a book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas (yes, the famous basketball player) about memory, and techniques used to “memorize” lists and things. I did learn some things from that book, but it did not deal with the type of memory I seek. I desire more to recall rather than “just” memorize. How is that done? Anyone know?

Personally, I think readers fall into one, or a combination, of the following groups of what they remember about books they read:

1: Some remember certain scenes very well if not the whole book

2. Some remember characters very well, as if they were people they actually know

3. Some remember dialogue or quotations that they can seem to recall at will much later

4. Some remember the emotions that a particular book elicited in them.

5. Some remember the entire plot. These are “the lovers of stories” I think.

6. Some – and these are the ones I “hate” 🙂  – remember “all of the above.

Which categories do you fall into? Which categories would you add to this list?

I suppose in truth we are all a mixture. For my part, I’m fairly strong on #1, respectable on #3, passable on #2, and a disaster on #s 4 & 5.

I should say that another short story I just read yesterday also helped prompt me to write this post. It was the second story in the Vonnegut collection, Bagombo Snuff Box, titled “Mnemonics.” In this sweet, very short story, our protagonist, Alfred Moorehead, works in an office which has him attend a memory skills seminar, where we learn that “The images used to help memory vary widely from person to person.” It turns out that the images that help Alfred remember are those of beautiful women, such as Lana Turner and Jane Russell, a technique that leads to amusing consequences regarding his pretty secretary, Ellen, who he has secretly pined for since he met her. There, no spoilers there either. 🙂

That’s all for now. Have a good Wednesday!

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