Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alice Munro - Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

Congratulations to the one of the great (perhaps the greatest) story-teller of our time! Chekhov is smiling from on high... Way to go Canada!

"The voices in the living room have blown away, Mary thought. If they would blow away and their plans be forgotten, if one thing could be left alone. But these are people who win, and they are good people; they want homes for their children, they help each other when there is trouble, they plan a community - saying that word as if they found a modern and well-proportioned magic in it, and no possibility anywhere of a mistake. There is nothing you can do at present but put your hands in your pockets and keep a disaffected heart." - from "The Shining Houses" in Dance of the Happy Shades

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Princess Casamassima by Henry James

One gets the feeling that this is one of James' more neglected novels from his early-mid career, aptly called a "hidden gem." The story deals with revolutionary politics and social inequality, specifically focusing on young upstarts who must decide whether to become "radicals" or "sell-outs" - but of course, this being Henry James, there is a large share of upper-class banter and intrigue thrown in for good measure. The "patrician" dilettantes that James allows to rub elbows with his "plebeian" malcontents are misfits - uncomfortable with their privileged station in life, drawn to the "romance of poverty" in the same way that the ambitious plebs are preoccupied with (or else completely smitten by) the "embarassment of riches." And here James really shines as a creator of three dimensional characters:  Hyacinth Robinson, Millicent Henning, Paul and Rosy Muniment, Lady Aurora, Captain Sholto. Rosy, Millie,  Lady Aurora and the Princess are perhaps the most scene-stealing simply because they so vividly drawn, each shocking in her own way.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hemingway Greatest Short Stories

What are Hemingway's greatest short stories? Hmmm. That's a tough question for me to answer because I've always found fault with E.H.'s minimalism; however, I do appreciate "In Another Country" - a very well-crafted, poignant story about war and recovery from war.  "You will play football again, like a champion," says the doctor to the narrator early on. There's a line that's bound to resonate. (A timeless depiction, given today's situation.) There's also "The Gambler, the Nun and the Radio," which has to do with the various "opiums" that people rely upon. And I do give E.H. a lot of credit when it comes to identifying the secret wounds of a person, not to mention the existential crisis bubbling up from their mundane routine. As far as "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" goes, I found myself rooting for the lion and the buffalo more than the humans on safari. (I'm assuming that this is a typical reader reaction (?) The character of Margot,  in particular, that of a cold, controlling woman, makes one wonder about Hemingway's relationship/s at the time..."The End of Something" looks really well done, subtle, moody, with dialogue that elevates/accentuates the unspoken word. "It isn't fun anymore," Nick says to Marjorie. That sort of says it all.