Reading Journal: Tuesday 1st June 2010

And so fellow reader we hit June, beautiful June. It’s the beginning of a new month and to some small degree the door has started opening for summer. We’re not quite there yet of course, but Tuesday’s always feel like a summer’s day to me because I get to bask in the glory of Anton Chekhov. Today was another glorious day of Chekhovbathing as I set myself on a reading journey through two wonderful short stories. The first story I read was A Pink Stocking (official afterthoughts HERE) which is a delightful contemplation on the role of women in the women in the home, and what worth they get/need from a solid education. The second story A Misfortune (official afterthoughts HERE) is very female-centric too, but this time the story focuses more on the psychological, and one woman’s inability to reach a definitive decision on her relationships.

This second story is quite remarkable, and although Chekhov can often be seen playing around with the psychological tussles of his characters, this is the first time I’ve witnessed him doing it to such depth. As I read these Chekhov tales in chronological order (more or less) I’m wondering if I’m seeing the dawning of a new style of writing from Chekhov, or at least a deepening of one one aspect of them. Time can only tell of course, but for now I sense that I’ve hit some kind of ‘mile marker’ with Chekhov and the development of his writing.

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It was Day #6 in my Flash Clash Challenge – the day that Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect debut flash collection is also officially published – and so breakfast was taken up, as it has been for a ew days now, with a spot of flash fiction reading. You can see how the reading went by popping over to the Day #6 summary. All I’ll say about it here, is WOW to Etgar Keret and his story Breaking the Pig.

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Given that the latest contribution that I was reading from Arab anthology Beirut39 (Bloomsbury) – a novel extract entitled The Last Hanging Poem – was penned by an Omani doctor (Hussein al Abri), I was expecting big things of it. And thankfully my expectations were met. The extract, which reads as a complete work in its own right, follows Abdallah bin Muhammad as he becomes more and more obsessed with a mystery man who has been symbolically placing gallows ropes around the city. While I’m not certain exactly what profession Abdallah holds (there’s mention of editors and the man works in a ministry building, so some kind of state journalist perhaps?), I am certain that this ‘case’ consumes him more and more as the story progresses. Thankfully, given that this is an extract, a conclusion is reached and it’s a powerful and memorable one. All in all then a wonderful contribution which shows Hussein al Abri to be rather deft practitioner of his writing craft. All of that and a doctor too? I’m impressed! Story Rating: ★★★★☆

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And so I come to Loser, one of the most expectant stories for me in Gaiman & Sarrantonio’s Stories anthology, because it is one penned by Chuck Palahniuk, that extraordinary writer who has an incredible ability to be powerful, shocking and completely original. I’m pleased to say – for inclusion in this anthology – that Palahniuk has chosen not to be overly shocking, but he is certainly 100% original. You know that TV game show The Price is Right? The one where people are called down from the audience and asked to guess the price of something? Well, have you ever wandered what the experience would be like for someone in the middle of an acid trip? This story shows you.

That’s right folks, it’s ‘Rush Week’ and as tradition dictates the Zeta Delts have to jump aboard a chartered school bus, and head to the taping of a gameshow. This time around it’s The Price is Right and one of the Zeta Delts has been summoned from the audience to take part. The only problem is, all of the party have downed an acid tab, cutely fashioned into a Hello Kitty stamp.

That’s enough about plot how does the story measure up? Well it’s kind of trippy and kind of weird, but it’s ultimately satisfying. I won’t lie and say that this is the best Palahniuk creation I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly well up to par for inclusion in this anthology. It’s one of these ‘I have no idea where this is taking me’ kind of stories, which is not only synonymous with the way that Palahniuk writes, but it also fits in perfectly with the overall aims of the anthology overall. Job done Mr. Palahniuk? I should say so! Story Rating: ★★★★☆

::Wednesday’s reading plans::
Well folks it’s my daughter’s 16th birthday on Thursday (God help us all :)) and so I need to free up as much time as possible over the next next couple of days in order to make sure that the day turns out to be a special one for her. So I’m not going to schedule any set reading over the next couple of days. If I get a chance to dip into anything then all well and good, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it if I don’t.

‘Reading Journal’ provides an unedited, on-the-fly record of the bookish highlights in Rob’s reading day.
About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).

Comments

  1. Amy (Twitter: amckiereads)
    says:

    Happy birthday to to your daughter! I am impressed by how much variety you are getting in your reading, so incredible! I have trouble reading more than one book at a time anymore, unfortunately. Though I suppose we each have our own styles 🙂 I am still waiting for Stories to arrive, and still wanting a copy of Beirut39, so am loving hearing your progress!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
      says:

      Amy,
      Very kind of you to say. I don’t have that much of a problem in keeping up with multiple books. It was a system I taught myself at university, and as long as I stay organised it all seems to work out OK, mainly 🙂

      I do need to pick up on my longer length fiction reading though.
      Warmest
      Rob