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The Sunday Salon: Short Stories #3

The Sunday Salon.com (I realized it's a little incongruous to see the title "Short Stories" followed by a cover of War and Peace!)

My big reading news this week: I finally finished War and Peace! Put a notch in my belt! I find it impossible to review a book like this. I've never read any other translations, so I can't compare this new Pevear-Volokhonsky translation to earlier ones; and the book is so long and complex that I wouldn't even know where to begin. Suffice it to say, it is wonderful; it is challenging; it is funny, frustrating, exciting, boring...in short, it is many things. I did have some "issues" and did not give it a 5 star rating. But I'm so glad I read it; I loved the characters and most of the story. I wearied of Tolstoy stepping out of the narrator role and ranting about Napoleon and historians (though he did insist it was not a novel). Now I need to move away from the Russian tomes for awhile.

LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd sent me this cartoon:


On to my short stories for the day. Of course, this is just an excuse to crack open the new Jhumpa Lahiri collection, Unaccustomed Earth.

  • "Quality Time" from Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver. I am crazy about Kingsolver's writing and had read everything she's written except this collection of short stories, which I stumbled onto in a used bookstore recently. In this story, Miriam, a single mom of a precocious five year old daughter, Rennie, wrestles with the everyday chores of working and raising a child, in addition to the Big Questions and the What Ifs - such as how would she handle guardianship of her three nieces and nephews if her sister should die? What ensues is a delightful and realistic conversation between mother and daughter about where Rennie would live if anything happened to Miriam. Kingsolver is as skilled at the short story as she is at essays, nonfiction and novels.
  • "The Bad News" from Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood. Another great used bookstore find. Like me, the female protagonist cannot bear to hear the news first thing in the morning, before the coffee and the toast. Her husband, Tig, needs to "download" the bad news first thing, to purge it by sharing it. Atwood does an interesting bit on relationships in terms of past, present and future tenses: 'back then, still and not yet.' It's the 'not yet' that's mildly disturbing:
    Communication hasn't failed us, not yet. 'Not yet' is aspirated, like the 'h' in 'honour.' It's the silent 'not yet.' We don't say it out loud.
    Atwood's character then does a time trip and transports the breakfast conversation in her mind to the south of France, 3rd century CE. She finds many parallels, politically and personally.
  • Another couple of stories from Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor: "A Perfect Relationship" and "Men of Ireland." I didn't find these as compelling as the title story, which I read a few weeks ago. Still, he's a wonderful writer and I was happy to stumble onto his short novel, The Story of Lucy Gault at, you guessed it, that same used bookstore. I look forward to reading this highly recommended novel and finishing up his book of short stories.
  • And saving for the last:
    Even the book's cover draws me like a magnet. The danger of starting this collection is that I won't want to put it down, and I have two Early Review books I need to read and review soon. I've been looking forward to Lahiri's new book since I heard about it a couple of months ago, and I've read nothing but rave reviews about it. So, gathering all the discipline I can muster, I'm reading one story this morning, "Hell-Heaven." I'll report in next Sunday's salon how successful I am at depriving myself of the rest until my ER obligation is met.
Here's to a week of wonderful reading. I'm fantasizing about being at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales this week. Hope my friends are having fun there! Maybe one day....

11 comments:

Table Talk said...

I didn't know about the Kingsolver short stories. I love her fiction and wish she'd give us another novel but if I can get hold of a copy of these they would help to fill a gap. Thanks for mentioning them.

Elizabeth said...

I'm waiting for Unaccustomed Earth to come from the library and I CAN'T WAIT!! I'll look forward to your thoughts to tide me over...=)

Terri said...

Ann - Kingsolver's collection is about twenty years old. I knew about it but haven't been reading many short stories until recently, so I was happy to find this. Let me know if you have trouble locating it, I could pass this on to you.

Elizabeth -- the first one I read this morning was phenomenal. As expected.

Laura said...

I thought of you (and War and {Peace) when I read today's "Get Fuzzy" cartoon!

http://www.comics.com/comics/getfuzzy/index.html

Irish said...

congrats again on finishing W&P...i hope to finish that one this year as well. Will take it up again after finishing Middlemarch

samantha.1020 said...

Congratulations on finishing War and Peace..quite an accomplishment!

Shauna said...

I too just started Unaccustomed Earth today. I'm new to Lahiri's work and I'm beginning to think I've been missing out until now. Just out of curiosity, what made you decide to start with Hell-Heaven rather than the first story?

Shauna

(http://shootingstarr7.livejournal.com)

BooksPlease said...

That cartoon is so funny! I did enjoy War and Peace when I read it and wondered why I'd never read it before - I think the title put me off, I'm not keen on war.

I've read as many of Kingsolver's books as I could get my hands on after reading The Poisonwood Bible. I think I've read most of them but I've still got Animal, Vegetable and Miracle to find.

I love all of Margaret Atwood's books and still have some to read - I prefer the novels to the short stories but still enjoyed Moral Disorder.

I've read about Jhumpa Lahiri's books but not read myself - yet. I'm looking forward to your opinion of Unaccustomed Earth.

Terri said...

Margaret - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a wonderful book, very inspiring and, of course, well written. I am ready for another Kingsolver novel though!

I read Lahiri's first collection, Interpreter of Maladies, and thought it brilliant. The story I read yesterday was every bit as good.

Shauna - truthfully - because it was shorter! I had a limited amount of reading time yesterday and wanted to be able to finish one. It was fabulous. I also have her novel, Namesake, waiting in the wings.

Thanks everyone for stopping by! I love having visitors.

devourerofbooks said...

I can't believe you actually trying to read only one story from "Unaccustomed Earth". I will be VERY interested to see how you do with that next Sunday. I instituted for myself a strict rule of ONLY buying from used bookstores lately to save a bit of money. The only exception I'm allowed is if the book is for book club. However, I think I'm going to have to put my rule aside and just go and buy "Unaccustomed Earth," because I just can't wait until it makes it to Half Price Books or on Bookmooch!

devourerofbooks said...

I can't believe you actually trying to read only one story from "Unaccustomed Earth". I will be VERY interested to see how you do with that next Sunday. I instituted for myself a strict rule of ONLY buying from used bookstores lately to save a bit of money. The only exception I'm allowed is if the book is for book club. However, I think I'm going to have to put my rule aside and just go and buy "Unaccustomed Earth," because I just can't wait until it makes it to Half Price Books or on Bookmooch!