Posts tagged short stories

“Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida” Part 3

For the original post in this series, click here. The Gentleman from San Francisco and In Paris by Ivan Bunin Two stories about abrupt deaths, both beautifully written, both very different. The Gentleman from San Francisco is about the transitory nature of existence. A bit like Dostoevsky’s Bobok, it shows how a lot of the things we think are important are rendered irrelevant by death. The gentleman from San Francisco is very wealthy and is treated with exaggerated deference by the staff at a hotel in Italy, but when he… Read More

“Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida” Part 2

Continuing my journey through Russian literature: if you want to see the introduction and reviews of earlier stories, click here. Bobok by Fyodor Dostoevsky Not my favourite Dostoevsky, this one. It’s quite a funny little story about a man who goes to a graveyard and hears the dead people talking to each other in their graves. There’s some good satire about people’s social pretensions – although you’d think it wouldn’t matter any more, the dead people are still very concerned with rank and status and impressing other people. But nothing… Read More

“Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida” Part 1

I was always going to enjoy this book. I have loved Russian literature from an early age, and this short story collection is a Hall of Fame of Russian literature. With a few exceptions, which the editor Robert Chandler highlights in his introduction, the big names are all here. The main omissions are Gorky, Grossman, Pasternak and Sholokhov, because their best work is in other forms like novels or poetry, and Nabokov, because agreement couldn’t be reached with his publishers. But there’s still Pushkin and Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Gogol… Read More

“How to Write Short Stories” by Sharon Sorenson

This is a very useful basic guide to writing short stories. Most of it I have read or heard elsewhere (e.g. “show, don’t tell” – ever heard that one before?), but what I found useful was the examples used to illustrate the lessons. The examples were good because I’ve always thought of formulas for writing short stories as, well, a bit formulaic. I wanted to write stories that didn’t follow a formula, or stories that deliberately broke with the formula. But what I understood from reading this book is that… Read More

Master the Shorts

Lady Glamis just wrote a great series on short story writing. It includes a useful list of markets to submit to, loads of good advice, and also a short story contest. So if you have a story to submit, do send it in for the contest – prize is $50 plus a full critique and publication on the blog. If not, have a read of the series anyway. I want to start writing and submitting more short stories, so it was timely for me.

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 4

In the final part of this series of posts, I’m reviewing stories by Mavis Gallant, V.S. Naipaul, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Hal Porter and Chinua Achebe. Mavis Gallant (Canada) – Orphans’ Progress According to the introduction, Gallant’s work mostly deals with broken families, and this is no exception: two girls are taken into care because their mother is irresponsible. They go to live with relatives, and then at a school run by nuns, until finally they have forgotten where they came from. At the time it seemed normal – it was… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 3

Continuing the series, here are my notes on the short stories by Randolph Stow, Janet Frame, Andrew Salkey and Ezekiel Mphahlele. Randolph Stow (Australia) – Magic This is based on the ‘sulumwoya’ myth of the Trobriand Islands, where incest between a brother and a sister is the supreme sexual taboo. The introduction says he took the myth and added psychological realism and more description of the setting. But I couldn’t see much evidence of either – it felt like a traditional myth. The lust was heavily foreshadowed from the first… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 1

There are some excellent stories in here, from big names like V.S. Naipaul, Patrick White,  George Lamming, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (although this book is so old he is credited as James Ngugi, his birth name which he rejected as a sign of colonial influence). Also some good ones from writers I didn’t know, like R.K. Narayan from India and Amos Tutuola from Nigeria. The editors, Anna Rutherford and Donald Hannah, have also provided for each of the 18 stories a couple of pages of introduction giving background… Read More

“West Indian Folk Tales” retold by Philip Sherlock

What struck me about these stories is the similarity between traditional folk tales in different parts of the world. I grew up, of course, with British or European stories, whereas these stories are either of Carib or African origin. Yet many of them sounded familiar, not in the specifics but in the general themes — explaining the world and how things came to be the way they are, through stories with animals as characters illustrating different aspects of human behaviour. What was also interesting about these stories was that the… Read More