Short Stories: My Best List

November 1, 2022 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, Short Stories, WRITING & LITERATURE |

“I do not desire little stories” quoth the German customer in the bookshop where George Orwell worked. And yes, you have to be in the mood. But the right one can repay attention with greater interest than a great many ho-hum novels. Here are my favourites: Cathedral by Raymond Carver (1981) Whilst we are not a real fan of Carver, we liked the simplicity of this piece, and its way of managing to ‘only connect.’ A Distant Episode by Paul Bowles (1988) A linguist’s nightmare. Everyone’s nightmare. Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff (1976) Buddies, guns, snow, neuroses –…

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Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Novel)

By Henry Farrell. The critic Judith Crist said, “the guignol is about as grand as it gets”. Film buffs, was Crist talking about Henry Farrell’s short novel, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” or the 1962 film which it inspired?  Neither.  She meant the film “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte’ which Farrell co-wrote with Lukas Heller, the screenwriter for “Baby Jane”.  But Baby Jane Hudson is more gothicly horrifying on a good day than Charlotte and her lot on a Halloween killing spree. Blanche Hudson, a beautiful and feted film star of the 30s and 40s, has spent twenty dreary years in a wheelchair after suffering a spinal injury.  Her sister Jane shares Blanche’s gloomy Beverley…

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The Invitation

May 7, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | PETER'S WRITING, Short Stories |

“Mors aurem vellens ‘vivite’ ait, ‘venio.’”  (Virgil) — Looking back at it, the cause was indeterminate.  Carol believed that she knew the people.  Paula knew the place.  Nestled in the crook of worn-down mountains, its gimlet, art-deco eyes glowed in the mid-winter murk, warm. and austere. Fog having delayed flight, delay having undermined their arrangements, the sun was already weak and remote when they set off from the airport. “It must be the sponsors who put-up the spa weekender for the lottery.” “So they punish us now?  After all this time?” Dead tones from the dashboard guide the two businesswomen over…

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The Evil Eye

Blood-and-Guts-Oates Image by Larry D Moore CC A-SA 4.0

(by Joyce Carol Oates) Joyce Carol Oates confounds me.  Why is it that she is right up there in the pantheon of Writers-I-Want-To-Be, while I so often find her writing lacklustre?  Why does she write so much?  Why does she persist in the annoying over-use of italics to emphasise? Why does she use her full, unwieldy name?  Is there a  “Joyce Oates” out there writing “blood-and-guts” fiction?  Perhaps the answer to all of my JCO-related questions is that she needs an editor who will tell her the truth. These four novellas are examples of work which is good but not good enough.  The common factor  is…

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Sixty Stories

Hamster image courtesy of Nanny99

(Donald Barthelme) (stories 1964 – c. 1980) A big anthology was always going to be a publishing challenge for a master miniaturist.  The longer pieces here feel forced, repetitive (without consolatory cadence), smacking of desperation and Rushdie-like lists.  When Barthelme works out an angle and sticks to it, he can be very good.  His famous hit, ‘The School’, is hilarious.  He is also menacingly funny where the violence is barely suppressed: in ‘Game’, two men are going berserk while stationed at a missile silo; there’s a kind of Straw Dogs meets Sleepers scenario in ‘For I’m the Boy’; in ‘On…

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