Archive for short stories

a journal of the plague year² [or the unbearable lightness of staying]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2021 by xi'an

Read Haruki Murakami’s First Person Singular, a collection of short stories, some already published in The New Yorker, and quite diverse. Even with those I did not like much, I appreciated the enormous skill in making an uninteresting event or line of thought into something worth reading, while still keeping the thing utterly mundane. A super version of i-novel as well as a pastiche. Short stories like With the Beatles or Carnival are quite powerful. And The Stone Pillow even more. The cover of the book, with its  Shinagawa monkey reaching out for something adds to its appeal, even though the corresponding story did not really need the monkey [as a monkey].

Spent a whole Sunday morning preparing vegetables from the farmers’ market for the week, with mixed results as some turned sour before we could eat them! (No one got sick though!) And has a taste of our first strawberries [plentiful after a wet cool Spring], cherries [tasty, but which did not resist the onslaught of magpies, pigeons, and slaty-headed parakeets], rubharb, and potatoes [which grew on their own from discarded peel].

Watched Strangers, a 2017 Korean TV series. To quote the New York Times, “the murder mystery “Stranger” has less of the usual awkwardness and obviousness of many South Korean dramas as well as another big advantage: It stars the immensely likable Bae Doo-na as a fearless cop.” Indeed! Besides this central figure of Bae Doo-na, who also plays in Kingdom, the show is faster paced than others and steers away from both supernatural elements and romantic side-stories (if barely). The only annoying part is the constant upheaval of characters’ morals, who at one point or another are suspected of one crime or another. And the rushed final episode.

Saffron and Brimstone [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2015 by xi'an

I cannot really remember how I came across this book, when selecting Amazon (free) books to collect from Andrew on my last trip to New York… (Thanks to ‘Og readers!) Presumably the name popped out of a list of recommended books. The cover was intriguing enough to stop by and to spot that the author was Elizabeth Hand, whose horror/fantasy trilogy I had liked very much in the late 80’s… So I ordered the book and brought it back from New York. Only to realise that this was an altogether different Elizabeth Hand, whose book Available Dark I had read a little while ago. And did not like so much. However, since the book is a collection of short and less short stories, I gave it a try.

As it happens, this Saffron and Brimstone truly is a great collection of short stories, fantastic in a completely different frame than those of the fantasy books I usually review here. It is a fantastic that borders reality, sometimes hardly fantastic, but with a constant feeling of something being not fully natural, not completely normal. The subtitle of “strange stories” is quite pertinent, as the feeling of strangeness hits the reader (or this reader) almost instantaneously from the beginning of each story. I enjoyed all of the eight stories for different reasons, from a reminiscence of an “Alfred Hitchcock presents” short story called the Cocoon that terrified me [as a pre-teen] when I read it late at night!, to variations around Greek myths that brings them beautifully into the modern era. And always with a central female character who brings another degree of strangeness and surreality to the tale.  I do not think it matters the least that those novels are or are not fantasy or fantastic. They are simply gems of contemporary literature. Superb. (Which makes the rather unexceptional Available Dark the more inexplicable!)

thumbleweed news [short story poll]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2013 by xi'an

Although I alas received only three submissions (#a, #b, and #c), following my call for thumb-related short stories, I may as well go and have a poll (for two weeks) as to which one was most appreciated by ‘Og’s readers… (I just noticed you cannot put links within the poll answers, most annoyingly!)

thumbleweed news [short story #c]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by xi'an

Following the previous thumbleweed news, here is a third short story, called #c for the time being. There are a few days left for those who want to contribute to this series!

X woke up with a terrible hang over. Thinking of last night performance, he was proud himself. He is an equilibrist and has been lucky enough to perform at the biggest collaborative circus show in France. He has never seen so many talented and attractive people performing together and this is what he has been dreaming about. 

X was about to get a cup of water and noticed that his right thumb was gone and, wrapped. ‘This must be a horrible dream.’ he thought. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. He tried to remember what happened but all he could remember were some brief moments. After the show, there was a big party to celebrate the last performance. He had a great time till Tim started a fight again. Tim (a lion tamer) was always jealous of X’s talent. Tim got aggressive and threatened X with his lions. ‘His lion took my thumb?’ X got so furious at Tim then, he remembered the moment with Bella. Bella has been working on a hand disappearing magic. Yes, he was drunken enough to volunteer himself for her working magic. She brought an axe to pretend cut his hand. ‘So… my thumb got cut for real?’ He should’ve took Jimmy’s advice, ‘Never volunteer yourself to working magic.’ Last night Jimmy was too busy impressing Liz who was very popular and snobby. X was keen on Liz’s friend, Cloe, secretively. One moment, all of them were sitting at the same table and Liz whispered X that Cloe fascinated a snake show very much. Luckily (?) a group of Indian magicians was sitting at the next table. Yes, he remembered reaching out himself to those snakes for one simple purpose. 

‘My thumb must be beaten and poisoned?’ 

He got confused with these slices of memory and none of them gave him clear reason why he lost his thumb. He got out of his room and found Jimmy and Kev. 

Both looked at X worried. “How are you feeling? We were so afraid that we might lose you. You’ve been in a bed for four days.” Jimmy said. The most surprising question was asked by Kev, “So, what happened, X? How did you end up in the 5th district?” When a milkman found X next morning in the 5th district, his thumb was brutally smashed and even his bone. When he was brought to a surgeon, there was no other option except cutting his thumb. They talked to everyone and tried to find any clue. No one seems to know exactly what happened that night rather most of them couldn’t remember. 

After that, X, Jimmy and Kev traveled around countryside and performed together. After a year and half, that night seemed to be almost forgotten till one morning X read a small article. It was about the new invention of a punch press machine and there was a photo of an inventor, Cloe, smiling beautifully. One of feature caught his eyes, ‘Warning : The maximum pressure is enough to crush human hand.‘

thumbleweed [local] news

Posted in Kids, Mountains, University life with tags , , , , , , on September 15, 2013 by xi'an

Most likely one of the last thumbleweed posts. This one just to mention the marginalia that I have now gone back to the climbing gym, along with my daughter, and that we both managed to climb (apparently) without any injury. Obviously, we have both lost our earlier climbing abilities and are down by about three (French) grades but I am very glad we could and can make it, looking forward to improving our climbing skills back to earlier standards… Or whatever level I can reasonably reach with enough training. (And remember the deadline for submitting the short stories by the end of the month!)

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