Favorite stories in here?

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Pucker

We all have it coming, kid
May 9, 2010
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The Little Green God Of Agony. As a chronic pain sufferer, I grok it. I wish I could just exorcise the pain and stomp on it.
Reading this story I got to thinking -- the way Melissa does -- about the worst (physical) pain I've ever felt. The first thing that occurred to me is that I've been pretty lucky in that regard. Also like Melissa, I had a broken arm when I was a kid -- trying to imitate my older brothers at a foolish endeavor, even for them -- and a pretty deep bone bruise as a teenager. But the most intense pain I ever felt was an abscess in my jaw. It was the kind of pain that made it impossible for me to function; made it impossible for me to even think about anything but how to stop that ungodly pain. Fortunately for me (again), an emergency trip to the dentist and some mighty fine medication made it disappear in record time. It was -- almost literally -- taken out and stomped.

This story gave me a very strong Green Mile vibe. But it also did a thing that I really like best in short stories: It kept me wondering where it was going almost all the way to the end . . .

Which, of course, wasn't really the end at all, was it?
 

Doc Creed

Well-Known Member
Nov 18, 2015
17,221
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United States
I guess the idea of father as hero is a pretty simple one, although there's a lot more going on here. But what to make of our heroes succumbing to that all-time undefeated champion, Father Time? Visiting my own father recently after an illness which nearly took him -- doctors ... what do they know? -- I was struck less by how quickly and mercilessly we can be ravaged (in a physical sense) once our bodies reach a certain point, as by this notion of functioning intellect being lost inside decaying machinery.
My father understood mechanical things. I do, too, but I never had them patience with them my father did, because you can't cajole mechanical things (although we try sometimes, don't we?). You can't get your lawn mower to start by being nice to it; or bitching at it. I prefer to deal with people, because people can often be led -- all unknowing -- to wherever it is you want (or need) them to go. Especially if where you need them to go is away. But I digress.

It's a sobering thing to face your own mortality in the demise of your parents. But consider the alternative. My own parents had to face the despicable chore of putting two of their children to rest, and that -- to my way of thinking -- is way up high on the list of bad things in a world which seems to delight in continually providing new and better bad things. So does it bother me to sit with my dad at length while he refers to me by the name of another son, gone these 30 years (more or less)? Yes. Yes it does. Am I troubled when he asks after children I don't have? I certainly am.

But being bothered and troubled is not the same thing as being scared. And what scares me most about this thing that awaits those of us unlucky enough to waste away in a bed somewhere is not the lapses into what is no longer called senility. It's the lucid moments which tell me that he's still in there, looking out from the prison of that decaying machinery that frighten me. Physically, we are clearly father and son, although I favor his father more. Intellectually, we are miles apart. My father always had little understanding and less use for the kind of superfluous nonsense around which I have fashioned my life. Like I said, he was (is ... he is) of a mechanical bent, and always preferred dealing with things he could hit with a hammer when they needed it. This always put a certain distance between us that manifests itself now in me being unable to imagine what he is feeling in the sunset of his life, because he never learned how -- or was taught that is was not "manly" -- too express such things out loud.

When we were both younger, it fascinated my father that I could actually make a living simply writing down what other people say. Now I think of it, it kind of fascinates me, too.

Here's a quick aside: The first time I ever got a byline I thought it was pretty cool. But the excitement of seeing your own name in print wears off rather quickly once you realize that the only time people care who wrote the story is when they want to send a nasty letter to the editor about what an incompetent jerk the writer is. Of course, we've got internet "comment" sections now, and that process has become so simple that no one with any sense wastes any time looking at or thinking about it.

But about that byline: My middle name is my father's name. So once I got over the arrested adolescent excitement of actually seeing my own name on a masthead, it amused me to give the same benefit to my father, who was justifiably proud -- in his own mind -- that I had grown up to be something that wasn't a truck driver (which was all he ever said he hoped of me). So, instead of being Michael _____ , I became M. Lawrence ________ . And boy, did he ever get a kick out of that.

As usually happens when I start rambling about how these stories affect, I've completely forgotten what I came in here to say.

Unless it's that effective story-telling, as we see in Batman and Robin Have an Altercation, helps us to at least consider those things that trouble us because we don't understand them; and indeed, perhaps were never designed to understand.

Or maybe I just wanted to talk about my father a little bit.

I'm gonna go call him.
Pucker, Thanks for sharing such a personal story. It really puts things in perspective. This is a moving essay and you are a skilled writer. Do you still write your byline? I'm sure you take a lot of comfort in knowing your father is proud of you.
 

doowopgirl

very avid fan
Aug 7, 2009
6,946
25,119
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dublin ireland
I wish I could remember who said that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the universe. It was probably a poet. Likely an Irish one. But sometimes not knowing is better. I'm gonna say that again: Sometimes not knowing is better.

I see this story as a wonderful counterpoint to Ur,
without the convenient magic.
We've got a similar thing happening: Selfish people creating ripples, but hardly to the same end. I couldn't say if the placement of these stories next to each other in the collection is meant to help convey this relationship (if there is one), but it does. It does to me, at any rate. And that's what I want to talk about as regards Herman Wouk is Still Alive.

Me. And you. All of us.

Without going into detail that would interest no one but me, I can tell you that if I had read this story even two weeks ago, I am almost certain I would have interpreted it quite differently. But I didn't read it two weeks ago. Just so, perhaps, if I were to instead read it two weeks from now. But I read it tonight. And like that guy whose passing through that yellow wood had worn the roads about the same, that made all the difference. There's not much hope in this story, and right now -- at this particular point in my journey -- that strikes me as perfectly fine. I might read this story again in a year ... or two ... or nine, and decide it's about something else entirely. Or I might not. The point is that we're all in the stories. The act of observing informs what we observe. Is that Schroedinger? I think it is. Someone will correct me if it isn't. Or they won't. Writing isn't physics anyway (and good thing), but there is such a thing as interpretation. And interpretation is flexible to a degree.

It would be difficult for me to imagine making the choice that is made in this story, but that is not the same thing as saying I don't understand it. The undiagnosed hopelessness of the (comparatively) young single moms here is palpable. They seem to see their final act -- however misguided -- as a means of eliminating exponents of future hopelessness (or so it seems to me). The poets -- those pesky legislators -- have their lives mostly behind them, and yet still find small joys where and when they can (and indeed, seem to be very cognizant of -- and comfortable with -- their own comparative uselessness in the world). I was very struck by the way Phil and Pauline admired the pithy quote about how the words never weaken, and then go on to agree that Wouk -- in prose -- is not really to either of their taste. That is darkly funny. At least it is tonight.

Couple that with the image of the newspaper -- the words -- "flipping lazily through the grass on the breath of a light breeze" at the end. It's powerful imagery and Pauline begins to question the words, themselves. The words are how she has spent her life; can they be blown away so easily? Surely that cannot be. So she rationalizes: Herman Wouk is still alive. But still, she questions: So that's alright, isn't it?

Or is it? It's an interesting question for a writer -- even an obscenely successful writer -- to ask.

The question Pauline asks -- and Phil's posture -- at the end suggests that the answer is beyond obvious.

But sometimes not knowing is better.
Wow. You're right. A different day, a different interpretation. I get that completely. Thats why re reading is important. The two young women saw the situations of their lives so hopelessly. And somtimes it is better not to know.
 

Arkay Lynchpin

Preserve wildlife; pickle a squirrel.
Dec 4, 2015
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Melbourne, Australia
I saw the 'gray' in Herman Wouk is Still Alive. Jasmines 'small nod' as she holds her youngest to her breast, Brenda's 'getting with the program' and taking them out in style...
 
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Arkay Lynchpin

Preserve wildlife; pickle a squirrel.
Dec 4, 2015
1,648
8,854
52
Melbourne, Australia
Finally finished the 'Bazaar' and preferred the story between stories the most.
A real story, straight from the Hoss's mouth (or hand), eclipses that of any dramatis personae.

The laughs and tears, hope and despair, truth and equivocation of a real person (that has spoken in our time—though many are now inanimate) is far more tantalising than a prosopopoeia requiring our input to keep them alive (or dead—eternally and infernally— if that is what you seek).





.
 
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mjs9153

Peripherally known member..
Nov 21, 2014
3,494
22,165
Mile 81,for the car,though it is a car,is alive,can you dig it? The visual of it blasting off into space at end,almost like the arrival of It,is powerful..
I also liked Bad Little Kid,Obits,Little Green God of Agony,and The Dune.This book would have been cool with some artwork on each story,like in the spoiler above that would look great,and to see the BLK as an artist does,and the others easy to imagine..I kinda pictured the mile 81 car as the one from Heavy Metal,but obviously different,would like to see an artist's conception.Still have to read Drunken Fireworks..
 
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skimom2

Just moseyin' through...
Oct 9, 2013
15,683
92,168
USA
I wish I could remember who said that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the universe. It was probably a poet. Likely an Irish one. But sometimes not knowing is better. I'm gonna say that again: Sometimes not knowing is better.

I see this story as a wonderful counterpoint to Ur,
without the convenient magic.
We've got a similar thing happening: Selfish people creating ripples, but hardly to the same end. I couldn't say if the placement of these stories next to each other in the collection is meant to help convey this relationship (if there is one), but it does. It does to me, at any rate. And that's what I want to talk about as regards Herman Wouk is Still Alive.

Me. And you. All of us.

Without going into detail that would interest no one but me, I can tell you that if I had read this story even two weeks ago, I am almost certain I would have interpreted it quite differently. But I didn't read it two weeks ago. Just so, perhaps, if I were to instead read it two weeks from now. But I read it tonight. And like that guy whose passing through that yellow wood had worn the roads about the same, that made all the difference. There's not much hope in this story, and right now -- at this particular point in my journey -- that strikes me as perfectly fine. I might read this story again in a year ... or two ... or nine, and decide it's about something else entirely. Or I might not. The point is that we're all in the stories. The act of observing informs what we observe. Is that Schroedinger? I think it is. Someone will correct me if it isn't. Or they won't. Writing isn't physics anyway (and good thing), but there is such a thing as interpretation. And interpretation is flexible to a degree.

It would be difficult for me to imagine making the choice that is made in this story, but that is not the same thing as saying I don't understand it. The undiagnosed hopelessness of the (comparatively) young single moms here is palpable. They seem to see their final act -- however misguided -- as a means of eliminating exponents of future hopelessness (or so it seems to me). The poets -- those pesky legislators -- have their lives mostly behind them, and yet still find small joys where and when they can (and indeed, seem to be very cognizant of -- and comfortable with -- their own comparative uselessness in the world). I was very struck by the way Phil and Pauline admired the pithy quote about how the words never weaken, and then go on to agree that Wouk -- in prose -- is not really to either of their taste. That is darkly funny. At least it is tonight.

Couple that with the image of the newspaper -- the words -- "flipping lazily through the grass on the breath of a light breeze" at the end. It's powerful imagery and Pauline begins to question the words, themselves. The words are how she has spent her life; can they be blown away so easily? Surely that cannot be. So she rationalizes: Herman Wouk is still alive. But still, she questions: So that's alright, isn't it?

Or is it? It's an interesting question for a writer -- even an obscenely successful writer -- to ask.

The question Pauline asks -- and Phil's posture -- at the end suggests that the answer is beyond obvious.

But sometimes not knowing is better.
I've not finished the book yet, but I found this story to be POWERFUL. Perhaps his best, in a long career.
 
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jalexbrown

Well-Known Member
May 11, 2009
154
21
Cincinnati, Ohio
Personally I was very fond of Obits, The Dune, Drunken Fireworks, and maybe Morality as being the best ones. But they are all good, and to me picking your favorite story is like picking your favorite food: For most it's going to depend on what you want at that moment.
 
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Pucker

We all have it coming, kid
May 9, 2010
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But they are all good, and to me picking your favorite story is like picking your favorite food: For most it's going to depend on what you want at that moment.
Absolutely.

And I would say that even the same story can speak to you in different ways at different times, depending upon what other stuff is in your head when you're reading or re-reading it.

Or is that just me? :cool2:
 

jalexbrown

Well-Known Member
May 11, 2009
154
21
Cincinnati, Ohio
Absolutely.

And I would say that even the same story can speak to you in different ways at different times, depending upon what other stuff is in your head when you're reading or re-reading it.

Or is that just me? :cool2:
I'm going to say that it depends on the story. Some stories are more cut and dry than others. Something epic like The Stand can provide you with a lot of different contexts and subtexts depending on when you're reading it and what's going on in your world. Other stories - forgive me, but I can't think of specific examples; I am sure someone could - are more to the point, and they are what they are with little to no subtext.
 

staropeace

Richard Bachman's love child
Nov 28, 2006
15,210
48,848
Alberta,Canada
Just finished the book. I am not that impressed because I think I have lost my taste for short stories. The stories were well written though.