This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

All posts tagged This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Published April 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Fleeing Complexity all about?:

Fleeing Complexity is the shortest story in this collection comprising of one sentence only:

“The fire spread quicker than the little bastard was expecting.”

What did I think?:

I made a promise to myself when I started my Short Stories Challenge all that time ago that I would faithfully review every single story in a collection that I read, no matter what I though of them, even if I find them tough to finish (which has been the case for one in particular that springs to mind!). Then I came across Jon McGregor, who I have been a quiet fan of ever since reading his novel Even The Dogs. The stories in this collection so far have been nothing short of remarkable and vary in length considerably. There are ones that are a page long, others that are more regular length you expect from short stories and then there’s this one. One short little sentence.

When I first glanced through this collection, this one caught my eye, obviously because of its brevity and I have to admit, my heart sank. Not because I was disappointed, no, not at all! It was because I thought, quite frankly: “How the hell am I going to review THAT?” Now it’s come to the time when I have to review it, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about the process. Jon McGregor has chosen every word he uses extremely carefully. I found this to be the case in all of his other stories but it is especially apparent with Fleeing Complexity.

Read it then read it again. There’s so many questions that could spring to mind and opportunities for the reader to use their own imagination in deciding what is going on. First of all, where has the fire been set? Is it a house? Is it woods? You see what I mean? It could be anywhere! Then, what are the repercussions of this fire going to be? There could be lives lost, property destroyed, consequences or indeed no consequences for the perpetrator, that is, if he/she is ever caught. Then I got to thinking why did this person start the fire? What were the reasons behind it? It could have been revenge, boredom, a teenage prank (assuming it is a teenager?!), a curiosity about fire gone wrong… there are so many options to explore. Next, the unknown narrator refers to our perp as “the little bastard.” Who is the narrator? What is their relationship with the fire-starter? Why do they refer to him/her in those derogatory terms? Finally, I really get the feeling that the spread of the fire was accidental – perhaps not the original starting of the fire but how fast it spread after being lit. Why else would our narrator say that it spread quicker than they were expecting?

So apologies if this post has brought up more questions and speculation than answers and feelings about the short story but it’s just one of those sentences that I think has deliberately been crafted to make you think and wonder about things in that way. Jon McGregor is a fantastic author and can’t do much wrong in my eyes and I love his inventiveness and the beautiful way he has with words and connecting with the reader. I’d love to know if you have any further thoughts about Fleeing Complexity. What do you think it’s all about? Can you think of something I may have missed?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge – If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Published September 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s If It Keeps On Raining all about?:

If It Keeps On Raining is the story of a troubled man who is preparing for a flood by building a tree-house and a raft.

What did I think?:

With every story I read in this beautiful collection by British author Jon McGregor, I become more and more certain that he’s one of the literary lights of modern times. His imagination, vision, storytelling and wordplay are exquisite and ever so clever and If It Keeps On Raining is another example of his writing genius. As with many of the other stories in this collection, the author tells us so much but with a lot of subtlety and gentle hints, so in fact, the reader is kind of guessing what he might be implying about a certain character or situation.

From the very beginning of this short story we are introduced to a man who appears to be quite troubled. He wants an unnamed someone in his life to know how he now begins his days. We guess that he is now divorced (the clues are all there but it’s never mentioned explicitly) as he is proud enough to announce that the house he lives in now belongs to him and him alone. How he begins his days though is quite strange, although consistent. Like clockwork, every morning he opens his door and empties his bladder onto the stony path from his front door leading down to the river. He finds a great amount of peace and satisfaction from this act – perhaps in a way, it’s a two-fingered salute to his ex in that he can do whatever he wants now? Including having a pee on his own pathway?!

As he urinates, his head is chock a block of many things that often go round and round his head in a circle. He looks at the river, the boats and the people on it and imagines disastrous scenarios that may occur if say, one man from a regular boat that goes past were to fall in the river and drown. He compares the river on several occasions to a surging crowd, perhaps one at a football match being crushed and pushed against a fence. It is also implied that our character may have been a police officer, possibly at a traumatic event such as Hillsborough which has caused him such mental anguish that he has had to quit his job and now fills his days with ruminating on the outside world and the terrible things that can happen.

He’s a source of amusement for the men at the yacht club, which he rarely goes to as they seem to find the fact that he is building a tree-house and a raft highly entertaining. He finds some comfort in the fact that at least when the flood that he knows is coming arrives, he will be prepared and they will be washed away by the high river water. Our main character is obviously a man with a darkness in his past but seems to be perfectly happy in his own company and preparing for the disaster he believes is inevitable.

This was a beautiful little story and one of the longer ones in the collection which I was pleased about as I think you needed a bit of length to get to grips with this man’s state of mind and his suffering. As I mentioned before, I loved how we weren’t given the evidence of what had happened to him in cold, hard facts – everything was just suggested and depends on the readers own imagination and interpretation to try and figure out what exactly is going on. Hey, I could be completely wrong but I really enjoyed making up my own mind about our character’s personality and tortured past! Wonderfully clever and definitely worth a read.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

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

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Published September 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Airshow all about?:

In Airshow a grandfather is taken to see the base he was stationed at during the war and it brings back painful memories.

What did I think?:

Jon McGregor manages to surprise me every single time I read one of his stories. I seem to always forget when his collection rolls around that his stories can vary in length, this one was only three pages and is going to prove very difficult to review! Okay, so at the beginning of the story we are told that a family is on their way back from a funeral (whose, we are not sure) and they think it would be a treat for the grandfather if they stopped at the base he was stationed at during the war. He does not say much at first, seeming at a loss for words and just looks at the aircraft in the base from behind a wire fence before telling his family that it was the first home for his family, recalling how his wife used to push the pram up and down the road as the nearby forest and fields were too muddy. Has the family come from his wife’s funeral? We are never told. It is only afterwards we find out:

“Later, they learned that the grandfather had worked as an armourer, loading munitions into the heavy bomber aircraft and cleaning out the gun-turrets and bomb-bays when the aircraft returned. The task would at times have involved the removal of bodies and body-parts, but that was never discussed. From this airfield, squadrons had flown out to destroy whole towns; burying households beneath rubble, igniting crematorial fires, busting dams and drowning entire valleys. Some civilians were killed. The war was won.”

I think it’s absolutely amazing how much the author gives us with just one paragraph and it was probably that paragraph above that affected me most in the entire story. The fact that the grandfather does not discuss the horrors that he must have seen during the war (especially if removing body-parts is involved) and the way that the author describes the war in those last few sentences with emotive words like destroy, burying, igniting, busting and drowning. But it is in those last two short sentences that seem to sum up the theme of this very short story, in other words – yes, the war was won. But at what cost considering the civilian losses?

The final paragraphs of this very emotional story involve the family noticing an airshow going on at a modern RAF base, full with vintage war aircraft ready to fly and dazzle the crowds. I don’t want to say too much about the ending but it has the same feel as the rest of the story. I felt that the message the author was trying to get across was the futility of war and how it is not remembered nowadays in the way it should be in that there can be too much glamour and fun associated with it. For a story which is merely three pages long I found it quite heavy going but in a positive way as I felt really affected by the author’s writing which proves he is doing his job right. I think a lot of it is open to interpretation, which I loved, and perhaps somebody else might get a completely different message? For me personally, it’s Jon McGregor at his finest and this story is another shining example of his huge talent for writing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew