Stories To Get You Through The Night

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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Published May 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s The Coincidence Of The Arts all about?:

An English Baronet becomes entangled with an American chess hustler and aspiring novelist and has an unexpected affair with a silent Afro-Caribbean woman.

What did I think?:

Coincidence Of The Arts is the first story in this collection in the section entitled “Stories To Intrigue And Excite.” With a heading like this, I must say I WAS quite excited to finally read some Martin Amis but at the same time, approached it with slight trepidation as I’ve read a few less than complimentary things about the author as a person and understand he has a bit of a reputation. I decided to talk to a friend about the author as to what his writing was really like as I knew my source had read a couple of his books and that he would give me an honest opinion that I knew I could trust. Unfortunately, although my friend told me the author could definitely write, he was less than pleased with HOW Martin Amis chooses to write his characters. In particular, he mentioned how black, working class and female characters are written in an extremely stereotypical and perhaps, not a very favourable way.

The British author of The Coincidence Of The Arts, Martin Amis.

Hearing all this, I tried to go into this short story with an open mind. I really do like to make up my own mind about things like this but to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes. The person who voiced his opinion on the author is incredibly honourable, has high morals, believes in equality for everyone and is very scathing of anyone who has obvious prejudices. In other words, he must have had a solid reason and hard evidence to have such a strong opinion. Was he right? I’m afraid so.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this narrative, the synopsis sums it up pretty perfectly but it’s basically the story of a white English man, Rodney Peel living in New York and working as an artist, painting portraits of rich wives for their husbands. He has two main relationships in this story, one with aspiring black novelist Pharsin Courier and the other with a black woman who he desperately wants to paint but eventually ends up sleeping with on a regular basis. Not much really happens in the story of note to be fair, we mainly get Pharsin and Rodney running into each other and Rodney making excuses for not having read Pharsin’s novel yet. Then we get portions of text where Rodney is going out with a friend and telling him about his relationship with the mysterious woman. Things do connect up slightly at the end but the bare bones of this story make it a tale about art, literature and race.

The setting for our story, beautiful New York where the author, Martin Amis also now lives.

Okay, so where on earth do I start? This is such a strange little story that at times, I found myself wondering what the point of it was. Is Martin Amis trying to be too clever? Did I miss the point of the story entirely? Both these things are possible but in the end, I’m afraid this story just wasn’t for me. I’m slightly confused at it being placed in the “Stories To Intrigue And Excite,” section of this collection. Granted, I was somewhat intrigued by Rodney’s relationship with a woman who remains silent during their encounters but sadly, there was no point of this tale that excited me. In fact, some parts of it made me half laugh/half scrunch my nose up in disgust and others left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable. I’ll elaborate. There’s a point very early on in the story before Rodney and his lady friend have “done the deed,” and he’s talking to his friend about how fascinating he finds her. His friend very bluntly asks: “Have you two actually slimed?”

I couldn’t help thinking of this little guy….anyone remember Slimer from Ghostbusters?!

I mean, ewwwwww. I found it hilarious and utterly disgusting in equal measure. Aside from this awful little sentence my main problem with this story was the way people of colour were talked about both by Rodney and his hideous little friend. It was blatant racism of the worst possible kind and definitely does not sit well with me. I’m not sure if they were necessarily stereotypes but Rodney and friend talk about this woman that he is seeing in such archaic and ignorant terms, I literally squirmed whilst reading it.

I would like to try and end this review on a positive, I do always like to try and find something nice to say when writing a more critical review and in this case, I’d like to say that it is obvious the author can definitely write. I may not approve of the way he writes and talks about his characters but there is no denying he has a talent for spinning a yarn. It’s just a shame that from what I’ve heard from others and now, what I’ve read for myself, I will unfortunately not be treating myself to any Martin Amis in the future. If you can rest easy with these kinds of things in literary fiction, I’m sure you will enjoy his work – I however, cannot.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Beachworld by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Part Two

Published April 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the second part of my Short Stories Challenge for 2018. I have to admit, I’m feeling a little disillusioned writing this post and preparing which short stories I’m going to read for the next few months as in Part One earlier this year, I had so many disappointments and very few stellar stories that stood out to me. I think the biggest failures for me would have to be The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe and Books And Roses by Helen Oyeyemi but I could mention a few more. However, let’s end on a positive – there was the wonderful The Apple Tree by Daphne du Maurier and Dibblespin by Angela Slatter which completely restored my faith in short stories. It is because of stories like these that I want to carry on with this challenge and find more great authors like the many, many ones I’ve found so far, purely from their short fiction alone. Let’s do this!

Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.

20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Beachworld by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Set-Up by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

The Underhouse by Gerard Woodward from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

My Mother’s Wedding by Tessa Hadley from the collection Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Published November 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Moons Of Jupiter all about?:

The Moons Of Jupiter follows our protagonist Janet as she visits her father in hospital and comes to terms with the probability of losing him.

What did I think?:

I’m fairly familiar with Alice Munro’s work having read and enjoyed her short story collection, Too Much Happiness a few years ago. However, I often find that a book of short stories by one author has peaks and troughs and there always seem to be some stories that you favour whilst others seem to lack that extra something. It’s perfectly obvious (even to the non-analytical short story reader like myself) that Alice Munro is a talented author and a master of her craft and The Moons Of Jupiter is quite a clever little tale with multiple hidden meanings all revolving around the importance of family and how we re-analyse our own close relationships during times of crisis.

In this short story, our narrator is Janet and she is visiting her father in Toronto General Hospital after he has been told he has a very serious heart condition. The surgeons are willing to operate but make it quite clear to them both that his life expectancy is very much reduced. As well as (or maybe because of) all of this, Janet begins to look deeper into the relationships with her own children, Nichola and Judith which haven’t been plain sailing for one reason or another. After a trip to the planetarium and a heart-to-heart with her father before his operation, Janet begins to put things into perspective and feel grateful for the small moments in life and the love she has for her family.

If you haven’t read any Alice Munro before and you’re looking for something that is quite fast-paced beware, this probably isn’t for you. However, if you enjoy the intricacy of family relationships then this is an enjoyable little read. Personally, I have mixed feelings. I love the sentiment expressed in the story and the writing is obviously that of an author at the top of her game but….(and this is probably going to come out all wrong!), I appreciate a short story that I can get my teeth into, that plays on my mind and I have to think about, and with The Moons Of Jupiter it felt like I had to think too hard to discover what the author was trying to say. I fully admit that after finishing I had to google the story just to make sure I had got the right end of the stick and I had, thank goodness but for a little while, I felt a little bit stupid. I don’t tend to like stories where I have to analyse too much and with this one, it almost felt a little too clever for me and I hate feeling that way! On reflection though, when I had confirmed what the story was trying to say, it did make me look at it in a more positive light and I appreciated all the nuances the author used.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Five

Published November 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: http://www.creativindie.com/how-to-make-money-by-publishing-and-selling-short-stories-and-short-books-on-amazon/

Hello everyone and welcome to the fifth part of my Short Stories Challenge in 2017. My fourth part was quite like the third, up and down. I had a huge disappointment with a short story by Daphne du Maurier which was Monte Verità but I also got some lovely surprises in the form of The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse and The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle. Here’s what I’ll be reading in the next few months:

Best New Horror by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Unplugged by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Wisht by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Freaks: A Rizzoli & Isles Short Story by Tess Gerritsen (stand-alone).

High House by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – An Anxious Man by James Lasdun from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Published July 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s An Anxious Man all about?:

An Anxious Man follows our main character as he deals with financial difficulties on a family holiday.

What did I think?:

I’m always quite excited when this book rolls around in my Short Stories Challenge and it’s time to read a new story from it. I love how it’s packaged and how it’s compartmentalised i.e. divided into different sections with the headings “Stories To Read When…” An Anxious Man falls into the category “Stories To Read When It’s All Going Wrong,” which I have to laugh about – sounds slightly like my life right now! I was especially looking forward to seeing what it was all about as it won the National Short Story Award back in 2006 so I was gleefully anticipating great things. Unfortunately, I have to admit to being slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the author can write for sure, and knows how to spin a good yarn but I was left wanting more.

Our main character Joseph is on a family holiday with his wife Elise and their young daughter Darcy and is attempting to enjoy himself but he has a lot of things on his mind, namely money problems. He and his wife decided to invest an inheritance that she received and they thought they were making a wise decision but fairly recently, the markets have completely crashed and every day they seem to be losing more and more money. Joseph is beginning to feel very anxious at their predicament and makes superstitious bets with the world to prevent anything else going wrong in his life. It is only on meeting another couple on holiday that he begins to relax slightly when the husband of the two suggests that the markets might still pick up and they could recover their losses. However, the anxiety, obsessive thinking and worry are always there, affecting his life, his relationship with his wife and daughter and the way he views other people.

I was expecting so much more from this short story than I felt that I got from it. I don’t mind at all reading a story where very little happens, in fact I occasionally prefer an intimate character study over a thrilling plot if it is done correctly but I don’t really feel like I got enough of that in this narrative. I didn’t really care for Joseph, Elise or the other holidaying couple – in fact, the most interesting thing in the story might have to be a fight over a couple of lobsters and even then, I didn’t really feel as excited about that as I perhaps should have. I don’t think it was the financial aspects of the story that put me off, nothing too intricate or complicated in that way was discussed (which was a relief!). I’m trying to pin down exactly what it was and perhaps it was simply not being bothered about the characters? Who knows! The writing is obviously great, definitely award-worthy and one scene in particular when Joseph is swimming across a lake was especially beautiful but generally speaking, I just don’t think this story was my cup of tea.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Word Processor Of The Gods by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Three

Published July 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from https://www.standoutbooks.com/how-publish-short-story/

Hello everyone and welcome to Part Three of my Short Stories Challenge this year. Part Two was again, very interesting with some really memorable stories read, namely The Birds by Daphne du Maurier and Gallowberries by Angela Slatter which were both fantastic and HIGHLY recommended. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Three!

An Anxious Man by James Lasdun from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Word Processor Of The Gods by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Hot Dog Stand by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Blue Moon by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Master by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women.

Possum by Matthew Holness from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

The Heart Goes Last: Positron, Episode Four by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone).

The White Doe by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

The Light Through The Window by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Published January 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Convalescent Ego all about?:

A Convalescent Ego is about a man who has been quite ill, was hospitalised and is recovering from surgery at home. This story explores his mindset as he has a little accident in the house and pictures multiple scenarios of how his wife will react when she gets home.

What did I think?:

As I mentioned with previous posts regarding this collection, the stories within it are beautifully grouped into separate sections. This story falls into the category of Stories To Read When It’s All Going Wrong and was a wonderful surprise to me as I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The author, Richard Yates is famous for his critically acclaimed novel Revolutionary Road (which is languishing on my shelves at the moment but I do intend to get to it someday!). Unfortunately he passed away in 1992 but if this story is any testament to the way he usually writes I’m determined to get to more of his work sooner rather than later.

The story focuses on a couple, Bill and Jean although we mainly hear from the perspective of Bill. He has been ill recently and is recovering from surgery. He is not expected to recover for at least another month and we get the feeling that both himself and his wife are becoming slightly frustrated with his lack of activity, especially as they have a young child to look after, although Jean is fully aware it is through no fault of his own. Jean takes their son out for a short time and whilst she is away she asks Bill if he would mind rinsing out some teacups for her that she is quite fond of. Poor Bill cannot even do this right, he ends up breaking one of the precious cups while washing it. Easy done, you might say but Bill feels terribly guilty about it all and begins to procrastinate through several scenarios in his head about how his wife will react when she discovers what she has done.

The wonderful thing about this story is how detailed Bill’s possible scenarios become, with full conversations between the two, facial expressions, different endings etc, all which involve him going back to work early, replacing her cup and returning with champagne as a surprise for her which he feels might soften the blow but all scenarios he thinks off, end badly for him. He even goes as far as to start to get ready to go to work, suited and booted, puffing and panting – obviously not ready in the slightest to return to work at all! Throughout this, as images of the many different ways their conversation could go run through his head, I got a incredibly warm feeling towards Bill as a character. I found myself feeling so sorry for him, so admiring of his tenacity in trying to make things better after an incident that was clearly an accident that could have happened to anyone.

Bill builds it up in his mind so much as to be something huge when it was really so trivial and a little ridiculous but his love and respect for Jean is clear. Then….the ending. The way it went in the end when Jean finally did get home was absolutely perfect and gave me a little fuzzy feeling of happiness. It made me realise how connected I had become to the characters and their situation, the sign of a masterful author for sure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew