Cross reviewed at at the Short Story Reading Challenge.
Time to update my short story reading. It’s not as if I am totally ignoring this category, not at all. I read short stories like I read a poem, one at a time and from different books and by different authors, not sequentially as in one book full of short stories before going on to another. Recently I’ve read a couple of stories from Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From. The book is always somewhere in reach, on my table in my work room, the bedside table or somewhere around the house. The stories are, according to the blurb ‘masterpieces in American fiction’. And so they are. Nobody said anything is about a day in the life of a teenager whose parents quarrel as he and his brother are still in bed, early in the morning. He fakes illness and his mother allows him to stay home from school. The innuendo of the relationships between the brothers and the mother is subtly evoked and as a reader you are drawn into the world and thoughts of the teenager, the way he thinks and nothing is crystal clear, of course it is not, he’s a teenager and male. Once everyone has gone he gets his fishing tackle and goes out to fish in familiar territory. He comes across another boy and together they land a huge fish. Both want it to show off to their parents and the decision is made to cut if in half. The story comes to its excruciating end when the teenager proudly shows his half of the fish to his parents, back home and quarrelling again. Then he is shouted at and is told by both to take it out and away. He has managed to divert them from their quarrelling, but only because they now both have a go at him.
I’ve read some more in this collection. They’re all subtle, not a word too many, snapshots of life, of a man who has given up smoking and whose son becomes embroiled in a quarrel with friends and their parents about a bike; then there’s the story of a sleepless student’s wife, who desperately tries to keep her husband awake with her but finally loses and when morning finally comes she gets back into bed, and he’s fast asleep.
You read one and close the book and get on with whatever you have to do. It is like reading poetry, it takes time and you want to savour them.