Autodidact: self-taught


Short Stories of the Week

by V. L. Craven

Short stories have never been my forte. I don’t know why–I tend to like them when I read them–I just don’t read them very much. Since I’m finding myself coming up with ideas for short stories more than for novels I thought I should make a conscious effort to read more of them. So Thursdays will be notes about the short stories I’ve read during the previous week. This week I’m reading Great English Short Stories edited and introduced by Christopher Isherwood. It’s a collection of his favourite stories written by people from the British Isles between

“The Invisible Man” by G.K. Chesterton. This story was originally published in 1910, as the stereotypes attest. This is my first Father Brown mystery and the way he goes about solving cases is so different from contemporary fiction that I’m going to reserve judgment until I’ve read other stories in the series. I enjoyed a great deal the way Chesterton inserted science fiction into an otherwise perfectly reality-based story in the shape of steampunk automatons.

“Albert Nobbs” by George Moore — A woman (Albert) takes up men’s clothing in order to make more money working than she would if she remained a woman. She meets another woman who has chosen to live the same way (Hubert) who says she’s married to another woman and it’s wonderful to have a companion. Albert decides she would like the same sort of situation and begins looking for a suitable mate. The story is about a love affair of Albert’s. This isn’t a story about lesbianism–there’s no sex or even hint of any physical attraction between any of the women–it’s a story about trying to find what you need in life from the point at which you find yourself.

Delicate  and heart-breaking, this is my favourite story thus far. Reminiscent of Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness.

“The Blind Man” by D.H. Lawrence — A man loses his sight in the first world war and is happy in his superficial ignorance of the world. He and his wife become recluses until she takes up an old friendship with a man she’d known a couple of years prior. The story is about the marital relationship rather than logistics of being blind.Their response to their situation is to cut themselves off from others–further distancing themselves from the outside world, as though being blind and caring for the blind isn’t alienating enough.

His wife feels blinded by darkness at one point in the story and her reaction of fear and uncertainty was an interesting contrast to his response. Also, in that scene, her husband is working in the dark, but because he’s used to it the dynamic of the relationship shifts–he becomes the one who can ‘see’ because he’s accustomed to the darkness.

I know I’m missing a bit about this story, but whatever it is is just out of my grasp.

“The Song of the Siren” by E.M. Forster — I enjoy the way he writes, there’s something almost magical about it, but I have no idea what Forster was trying to say with this story. On the outside, it’s about a man who’s seen a Siren and how it drove him insane. There’s other things going on, though, and it must be a metaphor for something but I’m not experienced enough to see what it is. In that way he reminds me of Iris Murdoch. I love her work but I know at least half of her point is flying over my head fast enough to ripple my hair.

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