The Daimon – this is an alternate history, by the master Harry Turtledove, about Socrates and Alcibiades fighting side by side throughout the Peloponnesian War. I don’t know how much this story differs from the actual story of Socrates. Spoiler alert, Alcibiades sentences Socrates to death by hemlock, but in the last second, Socrates attacks Alcibiades, he still dies in the end, but it’s in glorious battle as opposed to noble suicide. Not particularly a favorite of mine from Turtledove, but not bad. Its quite long though, in the realm of a novella.
A Days Wait – the shortest Hemingway story from The Snows of Kilimanjaro, just barely going into the short story length, it takes six minute to be read. The story is very simple, a kid hears his temperature when he sick and realizes he’s going to die, only to find out in the end that he thought the temperature was in Celsius and not Fahrenheit. On an interesting note (interesting to me anyways) Stacy Keech pronounces the kids name as “Shots” but it is actually spelled “Shatz” which is the last name of a very good friend of mine and actually pronounced “Sh-at-s.”
Dear Life – the title story of Munro’s latest collection. It’s actually creative non-fiction, which Munro has experimented with more in her later years, there are ample exsamples of this in both this collection and the pervious one. This story is somewhat about, and gets its title from, an incident when Munro was very young were a crazy old woman came to her house and Munro’s mother locked her and herself inside. As it turned out the old woman used to live in the house. There is some other biographical information about her parents, her father as a fox famer, and her mother not exactly accustomed to the country life. It’s an interesting story, not necessarily the best from the collection, but probably her best at creative non-fiction.
Death is Not the End – and finally, 39 stories into this project we get our first David Foster Wallace. As avid readers of the Obscurity Symposioum will know, Wallace is far and away my favorite writer of all time. I do a have favorite story of his and it will be coming up in the next batch. That being said this story is damn good. It’s very short, again just barely into the short story level, and extremely difficult to understand. It’s about a highly acclaimed poet sitting by his pool reading a magazine. It essentially asks the question: “What is left for someone to achieve after they have achieved everything they could possible imagine?” this also is implied in the title of the story which otherwise would not fit very well. This story comes from Wallace’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” which is both my favorite story collection by Wallace (he published three) and my favorite story collection by a single author. The one downfall with this collection altogether is that the audio version only includes the title story, 5 short pieces (of which this is one) and one sizable but still short story. whereas the book has about 20 stories in it some of which I would love to hear as opposed to read.
The Death of Justina – this is another story from the John Cheever audio collection. I read this story only once before, and I thought that it was about a guy trying to bury his daughter, but the story is actually about a guy trying to bury his wife’s aunt or something like that, and he has to go through all the rigmarole of getting a death certificate so that the body can be moved off his property, and a permeant to move the body, etc. it’s actually a pretty funny story when all is said and done. There’s a very funny passage where the main character finds out that Justina had died at his house and tries to leave work early, but his boss forces him to write an ad, so the guy fires off a very sarcastic plug. The story ends with another such revision of a prayer. My main problem with the story is that it is read by John Cheever himself, and I really don’t like his voice, one of those stuck up novanglian old money accents. My other problem with the collection in general is that for some reason it does not include my personal favorite Cheever story “The Enormous Radio” which is also the first thing I read by him in an American literature class in college, I had heard of Cheever before hand from the Seinfeld Episode.
Dedication – another King story from “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” it could be considered a light horror or magical realism story, it’s quite long, longer then it needs to be I think, about a woman telling her friend about the unusual circumstances surrounding her sons true father. The story is not too bad, but it comes in the midst of a high number of great and/or greater stories within the same collection. Hearing King talk about this story in the notes at the end of the book, you get the impression that this is his favorite story, maybe from the collection or maybe from all the stories he’s written. It’s good, but I don’t think it’s quite that good, though it might be the topic at hand (children) that turns me off.
The Defenders – one of only two Philip K. Dick stories to appear in this anthology, the other one will come in the very last batch of stories, which if all goes well, will be finished before the end of the year. This story is about a nuclear war, the Earth’s surface is inhospitable because of fall out so the war is carried out by robots called Leddies. A Leddy has recently come down the shaft into the underworld where the humans are now forced to dwell, a fairly typical event, however the Leddy has no indication of being exposed to radio activity. The humans are suspicious about this and send a team up to investigate. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s a very good story, quite powerful. As far as I know this story was not turned into a movie as many Dick stories and novels have been.
Dirty Wedding – I know I keep going back to the same issue with Denis Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” and weather the stories in the collection can stand alone. We’ve already covered the first and last story and how they do stand well on their own, but they don’t really count for various reasons. This story, also stands well on its own, but again, I can’t really count it, because it is my favorite in the collection. It’s about a guy taking his girlfriend to get an abortion, very powerful, the story ends with a very good line about the abortion argument, a different opinion then either the pro-life or pro-choice side.
Dissertation – this is one of the funnier, if not the funniest story from Palahniuk’s “Haunted.” It’s about a college student, Mandy Somebody (that’s how she’s always referred) who is at a Chula reservation talking about her theories about big-foot type monsters, and how certain human beings will go through brief transformations. She keeps saying things that ignorant well to do white people might say, and the only reason the narrator is putting up with her is because of the possibility that he could sleep with her. She describes Chula men as having noses that look like “a dick and balls.” This is one of those examples of a story that’s not very long, but pact with tones of information and story, something these writers who write 2 hour long “short stories” could learn from, though they generally choose not to, which is a shame.
The Doctor’s Case – another “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” story, this one not horror at all, but a mystery, and not just a mystery but a fan fiction. this story is about the one case that Dr. Watson solved before Sherlock Holmes. It’s things like this that put this collection far above King’s others, not that it is a hugely great story, but it is pretty good. There is so much variety in this collection, I certainly didn’t expect a Sherlock Holmes mystery in the middle of it.
Dog Years – an interesting Palhunik story about a young man suffering from Progeria who looks to be 80 years old but is actually a teenager. He convinces various stay at home moms who come to help out at the nursing home to sleep with him, and then reveals that he’s not 18 but 16 and blackmails them. It’s funny, but also kind of sad, and very strange of course, which makes it great, to bad Palahniuk refuses to write at this level anymore.
Dolan’s Cadillac – this is my wife’s favorite story from “Nightmares and Dreamscapes.” It’s about a man whose wife was killed by a mobster, and the man sets out on a course of revenge, to try and burry Dolan alive and in his Cadillac. There is a lot character development in the story, showing that the main character is not this type of person, but inspired by revenge he is willing and able to do such things. It’s personally not my favorite from the collection, but definitely up there.
Dolly – Another Munro story from “Dear Life,” this one is about an old woman and her common law poet husband, who befriends a makeup saleswoman who stops at her house one day. Later she finds out that Gwendolyn is actually the titular character from her husband’s most famous poem, and old love affair of his, long before the narrator showed up. The story has kind of a funny ending, it’s pretty good, definitely one of the “hits” from the collection.
The Door in the Wall – this is the third time I’ve read this story, the first two times, I didn’t really understand it, this time though I found it to be a pretty remarkable and beautiful story. My problem is the use of a double narration, a narrator telling the story of a friend of his telling him a story. I can see why it was done for this story, but I still don’t think it needed to be, it’s an old style of writing that is not used in modern short stories very often anymore, which is a good thing. The story kind of reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode called “A Stop at Willoughby” the stories aren’t all that similar, but the endings are.
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules for Antarctic Tailgating – this is probably my favorite Karen Russel story, though there are a few other contenders. This story is more an essay, giving advice for going down to Antarctic to see the food chain games, where the krill take on the wales. The Krill always loose of course, but there are dedicated fans to the franchise, and they hope that one year they will defeat the wales. It’s a funny story, the funniest of the collection even though most of the stories are pretty light. Rule number 1 is “if you’re a fan of team whale then you can go fuck yourself my fine sir.” There is a little bit of plot hinted at in the story, the narrator apparently just went through a divorce. This is also Russell’s shortest story from her collection, I naturally admire shorter works that still hold up, that is the true sign of a great story writer, and she nails it.
Dundun – finally we get to the story from Denis Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” that we can judge whether or not the stories stand on their own. This one is not the first, nor the last, nor my personal favorite from the collection, so this is a good one to make the judgement on, and that judgement is: yes, these stories do stand up on their own, “Jesus’ Son” can be considered a short story collection after all, or a novel in disguise if you like, but it is a collection. This story is about a guy named Dundun who kind of accidently shoots a guy and the unnamed narrator drives him and Dundun to the hospital.