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PART THREE, as continued from here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/1351-2/

100 OF THE FINEST SHORT STORIES EVER WRITTEN chosen by David Miller

My previous reviews of older or classic fictions:  https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/

When I review this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

17 responses to “*


  1. A HUNGER ARTIST by FRANZ KAFKA


    An attritional panoply of the professional faster to match MR James’ professional whistler as siffleur. We reach into the cage of his mind and body during the slow fast, especially in his hey-day, whereby he agonises about incontrovertibly proving his honesty in never eating at all, because however many witnesses he has in the changing audience  there is not one of them who can witness the full 40 days of his fast, as his flesh and bones become elbowier & elbowier… towards a telling prophecy of Belsen.


     He also  becomes dissatisfied that he he is not allowed to slowly fast forever, half on half, like Zeno, beyond 40 days, as he is confident he could become an eternal faster, like the hedgehog in Mann’s Holy Sinner, a hedgehog on a rock in a lake, I guess, that later became a Pope. 


    This work allows us to follow the weird cycles of viral popularity and lapsing fame as, today, is exemplified by on-line trending. I feel my gestalt real-time reviewing becomes a similar immersive obsession into the straw upon which I choke. An astute portrayal of a prophetic metaphor. Till he is shuffled aside into outskirts of circuses et al, amidst  the motley animal stalls, where some of the audience can inadvertently see him fast when they pass by to see other things within cages. Till he, as an invisible bony seed of self, feasts in the straw, not with several panthers but with the singular  panther into which he seems to have evolved, I trustingly infur.

  2. THE RING: Isak Dinesen

    “To the two actors in the pantomime it was timeless; according to a clock it lasted four minutes.”

    The young woman married to a young man, after familial doubts, and she goes on a visit to see what turned out to be his sick sheep and listen to talk of a vicious sheep thief with her husband’s elderly shepherd, a visit on sufferance without her dog Bijou that might have scared the sheep, later without her wedding ring, ‘lost’ somehow in a glade or grove, along with that direly disheveled thief? A Zeno Paradox of time, as the pantomime works through, with eventual reunion with her husband, and the meaning of it all never fully to be even half-understood. In the grove or glade, that pantomime with his blade and phosphorescent face. But which of their eyes was the bijou? That glimpse of truth?

    ”For a second the eyes of both followed it.”

    “In the dumb movement her young form had the grave authoritativeness of a priestess conjuring down some monstrous being by a sacred sign.”

    “…and closed his eyes. The movement was definitive and unconditional. In this one motion he did what she had begged him to do: he vanished and was gone. She was free.”

    But free from whom?

  3. My review of THE ROCKING-HORSE WINNER from May 2021 —

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    THE ROCKING-HORSE WINNER by D.H. Lawrence

    “…if I can ride my horse, and get there, then I’m absolutely sure — oh, absolutely!”

    Well, we all know this classic ghost story of a “filthy lucker”, resonant with a foul word in Chatterley, in a house that does not chat but whisper like automatic breathing, of the boy who grows up with his own “nerves” and this household without luck, and he ever finds luck (until it might run out) for his poor mother and unlucky father by endlessly getting there, getting there astride the eponymous horse that he had almost outgrown as his two sisters had perhaps outgrown their dollshouse …but have you related, as Aickman surely must have done, that boy’s obsessive gamble or gambol or gallop of getting there to the Zeno’s paradox half-measures of the stories above, those constant halves of the Le Fanu, the slow progress of the Travelling Grave and its embedded footsteps, the slow progress into neverwhere ever three miles up, and through the stodgy grey fungus of Hodgson, and, yes that of the Ghost Ship, too, through turnips?
    Ever rocking, three miles up, three miles down, three miles up, three miles down…

    Full context of above here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/05/20/the-1st-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories-edited-by-robert-aickman/

  4. My review of the next story as part of my reviews of Katherine Mansfield’s Collected Stories in 2020, here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/katherine-mansfield/

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    A MARRIED MAN’S STORY by Katherine Mansfield

    “Nothing Happens Suddenly”

    This still evolving story has its own “second self”, one that notices unanswered questions and the relationship (described in this monologue by the man in the title) with Things (like the moon, the green star, some white peaks of wax and a shy creeper) for Past’s distancing Remembrance, say, of poison delivered between the thus remembered parents; the social-distancing of his own marriage, gaslighting or not, is seen from amidst those who seek help and those who are asked for such help needing even more help themselves. Not even physical beauty can be evaluated in such a numb bell’s ringing disguised as fiction, a story that never happens to end…but suddenly stops.

  5. THE FALL OF THE IDOL: Richmal Crompton

    “There was a faint perfume about her, and William the devil-may-care pirate and robber-chief, the stern despiser of all things effeminate, felt the first dart of the malicious blind god.”

    A Just William story that proves he is neither just anything nor simply just: “William was a boy who never did things by halves.” And he is swept away by emotions such as love’s blind god, a trait that betrays his sense of justice and objectivity and principle …as he falls in love with his teacher, Miss Drew, while she tries to teach him about ‘principal and interest’, not to speak of the Spanish Armada.

    But by the end ‘blind god’ or ‘feet of clay’ make a dubious ‘syringa’ or ‘guelder rose’ dilemma of a moral to this fable. Some interesting moments in the plot, though, if “already halfway up the walk” that Miss Drew had with her male cousin. …

    “‘You’d have found it simpler if you hadn’t played with dead lizards all the time,’ she said wearily, closing her books.”

    “A white hen appeared in the little doorway, squawked at him angrily, and retired, cackling indignation. Visions of lifelong penal servitude or hanging passed before William’s eyes. He’d rather be executed, really. He hoped they’d execute him.”

    “All I say is she can’t talk straight. I took no end of trouble an’ she dunno what she means. I think her feet’s all right. She walks all right. ’Sides, when they make folks false feet, they make ’em of wood, not clay.”

    “‘That’s always the trouble with women,’ agreed his father.”

    My previous reviews of Richmal Crompton: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/03/06/mist-ghost-stories-by-richmal-crompton/

  6. MY FIRST FEE: Isaac Babel

    “A man who is caught in the noose of an idea and lulled by its serpentine gaze finds it difficult to bubble over with meaningless, burrowing words of love.”

    This is a hedonistically word-encrusted portrayal of the city once known as Tiflis, through whose eyes? A young man who is a writer of thousands of stories or a young male whore for other men of the city who listens to his neighbours thrashing in love? Or both these people? Whether his story or his truth, this has the unique power to make me conjure a promissory fiction-truth itself that is the bedrock of my gestalt real-time reviewing. And he receives his first fee for story-telling as a refunding of his fee to another whore — as part of a sisterhood with this whore, a female whose floppy paps he does or doesn’t love as much or as little as his “bronze promissory notes.”

    “I didn’t make such a mistake. A well-thought-out story doesn’t need to resemble real life. Life itself tries with all its might to resemble a well-crafted story.”

  7. THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE: Aesop

    The ultimate fable for Zeno’s Paradox and how this wading speed has inspired and stuck with many of the other fiction writers I have reviewed in recent years!

  8. BABYLON REVISITED: F. Scott Fitzgerald

    “…they crossed the logical Seine, and Charlie felt the sudden provincial quality of the Left Bank.”

    The logical sane, after Charlie Wales’ inebriated ‘insanity’ of three years before in Paris, when he knew so many Americans wildly socialising there, now gone because of the the ‘Crash’, a period when he lost his daughter Honraria to the guardianship of his sister-in-law Marion when locking out his wife Helen, Marion’s sister, Honoraria’s mother, locking her out in his tantrum of anger during a snowstorm that he could not pay off to stop snowing, like he then paid off everything else!
    Helen later died, his locking her out being the suspected proximate-cause, I guess.
    He is now back in Paris, having generally sobered up, with a job in Prague, eager to have his daughter to live with him and a Governess. Marion however has not forgiven him… and the repercussions of this are adeptly and dramatically conveyed to us, as Charlie begins to be tempted back — or seen to be tempted back — into his old ways?

    “He bought astrapontin for the Casino and watched Josephine Baker go through her chocolate arabesques. […] …and he suddenly realized the meaning of the word “dissipate” – to dissipate into thin air; to make nothing out of something. In the little hours of the night every move from place to place was an enormous human jump, an increase of paying for the privilege of slower and slower motion.”

    “Sudden ghosts out of the past: Duncan Schaeffer, a friend from college. Lorraine Quarrles, a lovely, pale blonde of thirty; one of a crowd who had helped them make months into days in the lavish times of three years ago.”

    “Going over it again brought Helen nearer, and in the white, soft light that steals upon half sleep near morning he found himself talking to her again. […] …but she was in a swing in a white dress, and swinging faster and faster all the time, so that at the end he could not hear clearly all that she said.”

    Later, Lincoln (Marion’s husband and more sympathetic towards Charlie) “was still swinging Honoria back and forth like a pendulum from side to side.”

    Marion needed a ‘tangible villain’, as Charlie (such a ‘villain’) needed a “tangible, visible child” as daughter. A daughter who actually wants herself to be returned to him…. and Helen would not want him to be alone, surely?

  9. PIERRE MENARD, AUTHOR OF THE QUIXOTE: Jorge Luis Borges

    This artful story as a paradoxical literary critique seems highly topical today in alignment with Salman Rushdie’s QUICHOTTE that I once reviewed in manic detail HERE, whereby quotes from this Rushdie book, like ‘Wall Street guys in suspenders getting bottle service in nightclubs or doing tequila shots and throwing themselves at women as if they were banknotes.’ and ‘…so that the book of how everything became nothing cannot be written,…’,
    need to be factored into Borges’ “don Quixote on Wall Street” mentioned in this Menard ‘story’ and…

    …that this Borges is a literary critique establishing, against gainsayers, the correct bibliography for Pierre Menard, including his transcending of the many-many-monkeys-typing-away idea by rewriting DON QUIXOTE, by accident, word for word as a modern novel, and we reach a manic monkey gestalt by dint of a list of Menard’s works from (a) to (s) including, inter alia…

    “(p) a diatribe against Paul Valéry, in Jacques Reboul’s Feuilles pour la suppression de la realité (which diatribe, I might add parenthetically, states the exact reverse of Menard’s true opinion of Valéry; Valéry understood this, and the two men’s friendship was never imperiled);”

    and

    “Those who have insinuated that Menard devoted his life to writing a contemporary Quixote besmirch his illustrious memory.”

    And so, do we besmirch Rushdie’s living reputation by implying he didn’t succeed by different means? No, because he continues to succeed.

    and

    “My obliging predecessor did not spurn the collaboration of chance; his method of composition for the immortal book was a bit à la diable, and he was often swept along by the inertiæ of the language and the imagination.”

    “Historical truth, for Menard, is not ‘what happened’; it is what we believe happened.”

    “Fame is a form – perhaps the worst form – of incomprehension.
    Those nihilistic observations were not new; what was remarkable was the decision that Pierre Menard derived from them. He resolved to anticipate the vanity that awaits all the labors of mankind; he undertook a task of infinite complexity, a task futile from the outset.”

    “Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he shall be.”

    …and thus my manic monkey gestalt: the idea that Borges and Menard and Rushdie and Cervantes are not mutually exclusive. Even Lope de Vega is explicitly mentioned in Borges’ Menard. (The word ‘menard’ seems, when transcending any translation, strangely meaningful, but when you try to explain why it means what you think it means, then that meaning seems mad and ceases to be.)

    ***
    Headquote in my own novel ‘Nemonymous Night’ (Chômu Press 2011):

    “‘You are not your name, not your body, not your various actions—not even your soul or self. Just dig and see, haul back what you find. And try not laugh or cry when, from the core of reality, you reveal the true nature of “you”.’
    — Lope de Vega (loose translation)

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