Landscape with Flatiron – this is the second story from Haruki Murakami’s “after the quake” the story is about a transient artist and bond fire builder who lives near a beach and has a pathological fear of refrigerators, so much so that it has caused him to leave his family. His family, which he hasn’t heard from in a long time, lives in a city that was affected by the 1995 Kobe Earthquake. It’s a strange story, open for large amounts of interpretation, but one of the better ones in the collection. It’s hard to pick which story in the collection is the best, it don’t think it is this one, but it is close.
The Last Wrung on the Ladder – this is probably the saddest of any Stephen King story. It’s about a kid and his sister playing in a barn, jumping some 70 feet into a large soft pile of hay. They decide to do one last jump, when the ladder brakes. This is the intense part of the story, but not the sad part which comes years later. Don’t want to give away too much. It’s hard to pick a “best” story by Stephen King, but this one is way up there. Again it’s not particularly scary, but that’s certainly not the point for this one.
The Lawnmower Man – this is a very weird story from Stephen King’s first collection, in which a man hires a company to mow his lawn. Nothing to unusual about that until you see that the lawnmower moves by itself and the man crawls on the ground behind it naked and eating all the grass that has been cut. There is some kind of reference to the goat god Pan, and maybe if I was more familiar with the horror genre I would be able to understand more of the story, as it is it’s just very bizarre, though not particularly scary.
Leaving Maverly – an Alice Munro work of fiction, about a man dealing with the slow death of his wife in a nursing home, and remembering a few years earlier when he used to escort a young girl home from the movie theater she worked at. It harkens back to a theme that is recounted fairly often in Munro stories, that of children growing up in strict religious households. The girl that worked at the movie theater was not allowed to watch or listen to the movies because of her parent’s religious beliefs.
The Ledge – from Stephen King’s first collection, this is one of the few that I actually read on paper, way back when I started to read seriously in 2003. I actually read it from a book in the high school’s library. It took me probably over a week to read it back then. I’ve read it a few times since. The premise is pretty simple, a mob boss finds a guy who’s been sleeping with his wife, and gives him the choice of prison (he’s planted six ounces of heroin in his car) or for him to walk along the ledge of his building. I find the story notable for its ending. One of the better and longer stories from the collection.
Lifeguard – this is another story by John Updike that is less a story and more a prose poem. The story is about a young man who is a college student of divinity and works as a lifeguard in the summer. It is written in the first person and rather than having any sort of recognizable plot it is more a stream of consciousness about how this man makes the connection of being a lifeguard and being a religious scholar. It’s pretty fascinating. In the early stories collection, Updike categorized this story in the “Tarbox Tales” but it could almost as easily been put in the “Far Out” section.
Little Expressionless Animals – despite being from a fairly mediocre book, this is my favorite of all of David Foster Wallace’s stories. It deals heavily with one of my favorite TV shows, Jeopardy, struggling through its first year, when a strange young woman enters the contest and winning throughout hundreds of episodes. The story is non-linear, but is a good way to get started into the world of DFW. It’s also a considerably funny story, maybe funniest in the collection.
The Little Sisters of Aluria – This novella length story from Stephen King’s “Everything’s Eventual” is one of the installments in the Dark Tower Series. Of course almost everything King has written is in one way or another connected to the Dark Tower, this is directly connected as it is about the main character Rowland. I believe this story takes place just before the opening scene of “The Gunslinger,” but I could be wrong, maybe just after. It’s an interesting story though, very western, it reminds me a lot of “Blood Meridian” with the very long chapter titles and what not. While reading this I came up with an idea. The Dark Tower series usues a lot of flash backs and non-linier narrative structure. I have the whole series on audio book (somewhere) and I was thinking of segmenting the novels out so that they all run linearly and listen to it that way. Starting with Rowland as a kid (segments, but not opening segments of “The Gunslinger”) and then ending it where the story ends. It would take a long time to set it up, and also a long time to listen to it, but may be worth it. A project for when im less busy then now for sure, if ever.
The lottery – a classic short story in the short story vein, with the twist ending. Despite being one of the shortest stories in this section (at only 18 minutes long), it has received one of the longest reviews, and that should say enough as to how good and important the story is, not only that but I held back on saying a lot of things. I’m not going to bother putting the spoiler alert here, because I can’t imagine anyone not knowing this story at this point. Something you may not know however is that Jackson wrote this story and had it published in the New Yorker all within one month, and she had admitted to not truly knowing where the story came from or understanding what it means. I suppose it could mean different things to different people, but to me it is pretty straight forward and has to do with the comments of the old man who says “villages giving up the lottery, that’s plane foolishness, these kids today, nothings good enough for them.” That thought process, that is so often held by older people, is the very reason why progress is so slow, and why barbaric traditions all over the world, continue to exist and will continue. The story illustrates this idea beautifully. I have a good friend that I work with who makes comments like this fairly often, and I usually respond to them by saying: “Do they still stone people for the corn harvest in your village?” feel free to use that yourself if the situation should arise.
Lucky quarter – another story from Everything’s Eventual. Not too bad but not the best either. It’s more a magical realism story than anything else. It’s about to maid who finds a quarter in the tip envelope at the hotel she works at and throws it into a slot machine to get rid of it as fast as possible.
Lucky the Account Representative Knew CPR – This is actually the shortest story in the section, one of the shortest in the anthology, despite being from the same guy that wrote “Infinite Jest” (one of the Longest novels ever written) and “Westward the Corse of Empire Makes it’s Way” (the longest story in the anthology). The story is exactly what it’s title would imply, and account representative comes across a VP of the office he works and performs CPR on him. We don’t know what happens, because the story ends with the account representative screaming for help between blowing into the VP’s mouth. Interesting sidebar, evidently mouth to mouth is no longer done in CPR, only chest compressions. Of course they change every year how to do CPR, which is why you need to be recertified so often, and this could have changed back to the more traditional method. Also note that the rate of survival from CPR is something like 6%, they don’t tell you that in class. We don’t know how the story ends, but we can infer a “happy ending” given the nature of the title. All in all, not one of Wallace’s best works.
Lunch at the Gothem Café – another story from Everything’s Eventual. This one about a guy going through a recent devorce. Unlike a lot of the other stories in the collection, this one does not start out with the authors own thoughts on the story, but goes right into it. You think the wife leaving the “I’m leaving you letter” was a joke or a rough spot in the author’s own life, that anecdotally inspired the story, but no, evidently not. It’s also more than a little disturbing that the main characters name is Steve. This is something I avoid in my own writing, of course I don’t like people named Zach anyways, as I’m sure you all know by now. The story is actually the inspiration for the cover art of the collection it is from, and because of that a must read. this is one of his scarier stories to, at least in my opinion.
Lying Under the Apple Tree – this non-fiction from Munro’s “View from Castle Rock” is about her personal experience with adolescent sexuality. Her secret boyfriend at the time is yet again another member of a goofy religion, this one happens to be the Salvation Army. Despite this story taking place back in the 40’s it’s interesting to see how relevant and believable a story like this is, not hugely different than my own experiences coming of age in the new millennium.
Lyndon – I’m not quite sure how to take this story. It’s another DFW story from Girl with Curious Hair, about a close associate of Lyndon Johnson. Meeting LBJ when he was a senator and working with him until after he was president (at least I believe that’s where the story ended, though I could be wrong). The main character of the novel is gay and his partner seems to be dying of AIDS, but the story would be or should be taking place well before the AIDS outbreak. It does a great job illustrating the character of LBJ, but it does so through the narration of a poorly described and unbelievable character, which questions the validity of the entire story. not to mention that it’s over and hour and a half long, and very difficult to follow, even for a DFW story.
Lyra’s Oxford – I’ve had this story in my audio collection, longer than most of the others if not all of them, however this is only the second time I’ve read it, and it will be a great while before I read it again, I think. Lyra’s Oxford is a story, technically short, that serves as a sequel to the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by outspoken British Athiest Philip Pullman. The trilogy came out in the early 2000’s when Young Adult Fantasy Fiction was going through a major revival, thanks in no small part to the Harry Potter series. The series was very good, and I highly enjoyed and recommend it, however it is a one and done series, you read it once, you don’t want to read it again, because SPOILER ALERT (kind of) it has a very sad ending. Anyone hoping that this story will correct some of the heavier aspects of the series will be disappointed. Also the story leaves more questions than it would answer, which is annoying. Not the best story here I’m sorry to say.