The Gambler the Nun and the Radio – Stories G starts out with a nice story by Ernest Hemingway, with a rather long title. In fact I don’t particularly care for the title myself, but the rest of the story is still pretty good. The Gambler is a Mexican, but none of his friends come to see him after he’s been shot. Someone is able to get the friends of the man who shot the Mexican and they keep him company along with the narrator. The Nun is an interesting character, but not very believable. She rambles on about wanting to be a saint and if she dies before she is a saint then she will consider her life a familiar. Even a lapsed Catholic Athiest like me knows that you can’t be a saint until after you die, so you would assume that a nun would know this. It takes away from the realism that Hemmingway is usually able to set up nicely. Perhaps he never had much experience with Nuns.
The Garden Party – I still don’t understand what this story is about, and I like it even less. It has something to do with a garden party and… I don’t know a dead body that shows up at it somehow?
The Genetics Lecture – this is the shortest piece from Turtledove’s “Atlantis and Other Places,” a flash fiction in fact, based on a student’s questions: “Could a different creature have become the dominant species?” great little story to check out.
Gesturing – another good Updike story, this one deals with a typical go to theme for him, Divorce. It’s the subject of at least half his stories if I’m not mistaken, however Updike is such a master at the short story that the theme does not seem repetitive, his characters each handle their own divorces in their own ways, making each one a personal and different story. Thom Jones, who is also a bit of a one trick pony (we’ll get to him in the next after post “Stories I”) does not have quite the mastery as Updike, his stories tend to feel as variations on the same story, as opposed to Updike creating a whole new universe with each one. That aside this may even be the best Updike story on the topic, and being the Updike selection for BASS-Century, it may be his very best story. My favorite? Hard to say, but it could be.
The Gingerbread Girl – this is a very long story from King’s most recent collection, and the problem with it is that it is way too long. It’s about a woman who has just lost a baby and as a means of coping begins to compulsively run, running to the point where it is unhealthy and she is collapsing from exhaustion, which eventually leads to her separation from her husband. Following the separation she ends up on one of the Florida Keys (a local almost as popular as King’s Maine in his later years) where she is abducted by a serial killer, and that’s where the story begins. I would have preferred to see the story condensed, start out post abduction and then threw flash back tell the story of the baby, the compulsive running and the separation. That would have fixed one problem with the story, the other dealing with rape and torture in my current mental state is not something I am easily able to handle and I tend to avoid, but that is a personal problem, I won’t fault King on that. The structure I do fault him on, however the guy’s written over 400 stories so you can’t expect them all to be great.
Girl with Curious Hair – the title story from DFW’s first story collection, just a hair over short story length. Unlike the voice of Wallace we are used to, this story is written more or less in a minimalist voice, but it is a strange minimalist voice, that explains strange details and makes the reader question the bizarre mental landscape of the narrator. Luckily the story is in the first person, if it was in the third person we’d all be questioning the mental landscape of Wallace himself… more so then we’re doing already. The story is about a young Republican who is clearly very disturbed and befriends a gang of punk rockers who end up crashing a Young Republicans event. The bulk of the story takes place at a Keith Jarret Concert with a heavy use of flashback.
The German Refugee – I have mixed feelings about Bernard Malamud. This is only one of three stories I’ve read by him. “The Model” was okay at best, “A Summer’s Reading” was and may still be the worst story I’ve ever read (we’ll do a blog post on that later perhaps). This story is quite good though, it may be just a hair longer than it should be, and a little too overzealous in its character development to be a “Perfect” story, but it’s definitely a really good story. The story does a very interesting job at summarizing WWII and the events leading up to it and how this affected people across the pond on a personal level. This would be a very interesting method to use myself in writing a possible alternate history story.
God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian – believe it or not this short story (and it is pretty short, only ~30 minutes in audio form) was sold as a standalone book. A collection of fiction interviews with famous and/or somewhat famous dead people conducted by Kurt Vonnegut. This is one of his final books, and like most of his works a blend of profound literary achievement and light speculative humor. This story alone may not be better than “Slaughterhouse 5” but it is easily my favorite story within the sampling for Stories G. My personal favorite interview is the one with Eugean V. Debbs. Vonnegut says that he uses the Debbs quote: “While there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” In lectures, and it is laughed at and ridiculed, Debbs then responds by asking him how the Sermon on the Mont is received. This is a story that is both heavy and warm blended together perfectly, well worth the read.
Gold Coast – I’ve read this story a few times now. James Allen McPhearson, who may be a pretty good writer (getting in the Best American Short Stories of the Century is no easy task), but he is not the best reader out there. In fact it is quite hard to make out just what he is talking about. Once you do figure it out the story becomes a pretty heavy representation of life inside a tenement, with all the different stories going on. Saying it’s a heavy representation is almost redundant because what else would life be like inside one of those places.
Good People – another David Foster Wallace story, but not one that you’re going to find in his 3 story collections. If you want to read it you can either go to the New Yorkers Achieves or to for an audio version look at subsection 16 from DFW’s posthumous novel “The Pale King.” This story was actually short listed for the 2008 Best American Short Stories edited by Salman Rushdie, the same year of Wallace’s death, but it didn’t make the final cut. Now granted this story is better than a few from that collection, however it is not one of Wallace’s greatest works. In a similar vain to “The Hills Like White Elephants” by Hemmingway, it deals with the issue of abortion but in an abstract way so that the subject is not definitive. Wallace very rarely gets political, which is a good thing and also one of the reasons why I don’t like this story all that much.
Graduation Afternoon – the shortest story from Kings most recent story collection (at the time of writing this) “Just After Sunset.” It tells the story of a girl from the middle class at her upper class boyfriend’s graduation party. The girl feels unwelcome at the party and knows that the boyfriend’s family is trying to separate them, before she gets pregnant and the boy is forced to marry into the wrong class. Of course all these plans seem trivial when she along with everyone else at the party witnesses a Nuclear Bomb going off in the middle of New York City. Apparently this story was based on a dream that King had.
Gravel – this is either my favorite or second favorite Alice Munro story. The other contender is her story “Childs Play” which was in the BASS ‘08 collection. The story, told from the point of view of a young girl, maybe 7 years old, about her mother leaving her father to live with a sort of drifting hippy in a trailer outside of the town, and taking the young girl and her slightly older sister to live with them. There is a very profound and tragic event that occurs at this trailer next to the gravel pit (hence the story title), and in the last third or maybe quarter of the story, the narrator tells how it has impacted her life ever since. It took me a while to understand why Munro is so revered in the Short Fiction world, this story is one of the reasons. In my opinion she is hit or miss, and more miss, but when she hits… look out.
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis – this is the last story from Russell’s “Vampires in the Lemongrove” and I wish it wasn’t, because this story is strange, even strange for her. Again it’s another story that is too long, just below novella length and doesn’t need to be, but there are a lot of other problems with the story. It’s dirty, not in an sexual way, but dirty in the way you feel walking through a narrow back ally swerving your hips around overflowing trash cans, almost feeling the grime from the walls wafting out and latching onto your skin, do you understand what I mean? It’s also heavy, it deals with bullying, bullying on at least two different levels. None of these things make the story a bad story, the biggest problem is that it comes at the end of the book, it’s the last story there, and it leaves the reader with the wrong overall impression of the book. I would have much rather seen just about any of her other stories from the collection come at the end, maybe not Antarctic Tale Gating, because that’s a little too goofy, and maybe not the title story either (because it’s my least favorite in the collection), but “The Barn at the End of Our Term” would have been a great choice. Regardless, I can’t wait for her next book to come out, she may be the best living American short story writer.
Graveyard Shift – one of Stephen King’s stories from Nightshift, more or less the story that the title of the collection is based on. This story is about a drifter working the graveyard shift at a factory somewhere in Main and over independence day weekend he is recruited to do some cleaning of the subbasement at time and a half. The one thing the guy can’t stand is rats and the further down he goes the more rats he starts to see.
Gray Mater – another story from Nightshift, this one about a man who turns into a monster as the result of a bad can of beer. It’s a funnier story told from the point of view of one of the men from the bar that delivers a case to the monster. It’s a little gross too though, so be warned.
Green Room – a Palahunik story about a woman who is waiting to go on air to sell some sort of diet but there is a cruise ship sinking and she is going to get bumped off. I thought this story was brilliant the first time I read it. Not quite so much anymore. The last line of the story is really bad, had it ended a sentence earlier the story would have been twice as good.
Guts – I do not read this story. I’ve only read this story once before, and that will be all. It’s his most infamous story behind it, if you want to know more, click here.