A Short Story Challenge

Hey everyone,

Sorry I haven’t been all that profilic with the blog posts so far this year.

This cold winter has been sapping my creative juices, and energy in general.

I’ve quietly been chipping away at my to-do list from January. I’ve made progress on a couple of things. But I think I need to pick up the pace a bit.

I also think I need to take up a personal challenge I put by the wayside …

I’m going to take another crack at trying to read more fiction.

Yes, I know, I know, I’ve said that before. And I have been trying. (I just finished Zadie Smith’s NW a couple of days ago, in fact.)

But I think I need to change it up a bit.

I keep telling myself I should read more short stories and novellas if I can find them. I think I tried this last year, with friends making a couple of interesting contributions.

But I’m going to give it a bit more effort this year.

I’ve made a couple lists, complete with a couple of links I can refer to, and have made a couple of library requests.

While generally I stick to contemporary fiction, I’m also going to try and throw a few older works in the mix.

And if time allows, I’ll post from time to time about the ones I do read.

So, away I go! And if you have any recommendations for short story collections OR novellas, please leave them in the comments below.

D’s Loquacious Spring Reads

I just recently realized that I have this really horrible habit of being inconsistent when it comes to books.

I’ll read book after book for weeks on end, then just go cold turkey and read nothing but magazines for a month and a half.

It’s probably why I haven’t posted any of my most recent reads since sometime last year.

But have no fear. I’ve been slowly getting myself back up on the hobby-horse. Especially now that I’ve restored my good standing at the library and have been trying to avoid slipping back into my book-refugee ways.

Here’s what I’ve ingested since April. All of them – in the order in which I read them –  are fairly short, and each have a story (or stories) behind my selection.

kinkbookcoverHideous Kinky, Esther Freud

Morocco was my main inspiration behind reading this story. I actually borrowed it from the library before I left, carried it with me across the Atlantic, around the country and back again. But I didn’t start reading it until I went back to work. Go figure. 

It’s definitely a strange little book. Set in the early 1970s, it’s told by a five-year-old girl who herself isn’t quite sure what’s happening, as her mum drags her and her older sister to Marrakech, where they live the Moroccan lifestyle (translation: hippies surviving hand to mouth), and are introduced to a number of characters – and a c0mpletely alien culture – along the way.

I’ve never seen the movie adaptation. Too bad it was made before I got my hands on the book. All I could picture while reading it was Kate Winslet as the mum, which kind of wrecked things for me. 

(Note: the version of the book I read had was an original printing, with the little girl on the sleeve cover, not Kate Winslet as seen here.)


secretgardencoverThe Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

This one, I read because of a list. You know the one. BBC’s List of Books You Should Read, which has probably made its rounds on e-mail forwards and Facebook for weeks on end? 

Well, that little list made me realize (a) my reading repertoire – at 15 books – sucks, and (b) one of the books listed (#73) has been sitting in our basement, collecting dust, for at least two decades.

It was only when I was cleaning out the basement bookcase about five weeks ago that I found it and decided give it a go.

The book was actually my brother’s. Years after he’d abandoned it, I tried on at least two occasions to try reading it, only to discard it about five pages in. (Seriously. Does the image of a jaundiced little white girl living in India make you want to read it?)

The story, in case you don’t know: a little English girl is sent from India after the death of her parents to live with an uncle in Yorkshire, England, and it’s there that she transforms as a person. She also discovers the secret garden of the title, and the “secret” behind it, as well as another one she didn’t bargain for.

In any case, I finally did read it, and I’m glad. It’s a nice classic read for kids. As an adult, I appreciate it more. I even found myself trying to imagine what a thick Yorkshire accent sounded like.

And by the way? That’s number 16, bitches.



 From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg

I found this book the same day as The Secret Garden. It was one of a pair of books awarded to me by my fifth-grade teacher, for my third-place standing in the class Short Story Olympics. (The winner won romance novels, which I secretly coveted).

Until I sat down with it last month, not once had I read the book, in the 21 years I’ve owned it. Ungrateful little bitch, aren’t I?

So, the story: Eleven-year-old girl thinks life is unfair and boring. Girl takes second-youngest of three brothers (who happens to have a LOT of allowance money saved up) and takes off to New York. But not just anywhere. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. What happens – and who Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is – I won’t say. You (or your child) will just have to read it.

As for what I thought of the book … it is what it is.  And it’s not a terribly long read. But it definitely was something to occupy the time. And it also makes me want to revisit Manhattan and nourish my inner museum geek.

Now, where did I put Hey, That’s My Soul You’re Stomping On?


barbookcoverLater, at the Bar, Rebecca Barry

After the previous two books, it was high time to return to some adult fiction. This one, I inherited from a friend’s clothing swap/book exchange in late April.

The book isn’t a book of short stories, as I originally thought, but rather a novel in stories. (The author, Rebecca Barry, herself states in a Q & A at the end of the book, “I am completely intimidated by the mere idea of a novel – the main reason being I’m not very good at plot.”)

That aside, I liked this book, which follows a motley crew of regulars at a local small-town watering hole, at different points in their lives. 

The cast of characters, the salty dialogue, their messed-up lives and how they cope (or don’t) – everything makes this an enjoyable, light read. If Rebecca Barry does complete a novel, as she’s trying to do, I’d love to see how it all turns out.

I was hoping to add a fifth to my list – Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist – but I’m still reading it. But I will certainly include it next time. Provided all those parties, dances, barbecques, long weekends and weddings don’t get in my way.