One of the readings I had to do for class this week discussed the importance of reading journals. It is, according to my textbook, one of the things that can distinguish between a reader and a writer. As writers, we should remember what we liked (and didn’t like) about the things that inspire us. I realized that these mini reviews kind of serve as my reading journal for short stories. They are an easy way to remember what I’ve read, and what I liked or didn’t like about each story. When I read short stories, I sometimes forget which one is which, or what events and characters belong to which story (particularly if I read a lot of shorts by the same author). So it’s nice to look back and see what my thoughts were on each one. I’ve already referenced my post from last week.
As with last week, most of these stories are fiction except those from The View From the Cheap Seats, which is a collection of short nonfiction. I am slowly making my way through it, one story at a time, and I am really enjoying it! The final three stories on this list were read for class (although I had previously read one of them). Overall, I liked this week’s round of short stories, and I’m excited for next week: I’ll be rereading a Hemingway short I enjoyed the first time around and hopefully reading some more Gaiman (and maybe Bradbury).
1. “Telling Lies for a Living… And Why We Do It: The Newbery Medal Speech, 2009” by Neil Gaiman (published in The View From the Cheap Seats). ★★★★✩. This one was interesting to read, because I love The Graveyard Book, and this was a speech Gaiman gave after having won the Newbery for it.
We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write. – Neil Gaiman, “Telling Lies for a Living… And Why We Do It”
2. “Four Bookshops” by Neil Gaiman (published in The View From the Cheap Seats). ★★★★★. I love stories like this that give you a glimpse of how the author learned to be an author before they even knew they wanted to write. In this brief story, Gaiman discusses four bookshops that he loved visiting as an adolescent, and the kinds of books he bought with his pocket money. I really enjoyed it!
3. “The Price” by Neil Gaiman (published in Smoke and Mirrors). ★★★✩✩. I didn’t hate this one, but it was not my favorite. It was a little bit disturbing and strange (typical Gaiman), and I liked the ambiguous ending. But I didn’t like that it made me very uncomfortable, and I still feel bad/sad about a fictional cat.
4. “Three Authors. On Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton: The MythCon 35 Guest of Honor Speech” by Neil Gaiman (published in The View From the Cheap Seats). ★★★★✩. Like “Four Bookshops,” this provided a glimpse into what made Gaiman want to write, and what he wanted to write. It’s also a brilliant tribute to these three authors (of which, I have sadly only read two).
There are authors with whom one has a personal relationship and authors with whom one does not. There are the ones who will change your life and the ones who don’t. That’s just the way of it. – Neil Gaiman, “Three Authors”
5. “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury. ★★★★✩. Creepy, classic Bradbury. This story reminded me a lot of Fahrenheit 451. I liked it, but I kind of wish it had been part of a novel, because now I really, really want to know what happened before the events of this story. Also, it was kind of cool that basically the only character in this story is a house. (Remember that Disney Channel original movie, Smart House? Yeah, that’s where my mind went.)
6. “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. ★★★★★. So, fun anecdote: I actually read this in high school (though I didn’t realize it was Faulkner, and probably didn’t know who he was at that point). My English teacher made us read this story before prom, and then he drew a bunch of poison bottles along the bottom of the chalkboard “just in case” we wanted to poison out boyfriends before prom so our relationships would stay perfect forever (I went to an all-girls school and my English teacher was awesome). It was kind of fun having that memory and rereading this story ten years later. I remember liking this story then, but I think I appreciated it even more now. Definitely want to read more Faulkner!
We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a sprawled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. – William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”
7. “The Gilded Six Bits” by Zora Neal Hurston. ★★★★✩. This was an unexpectedly cute story. I don’t have much to say other than I enjoyed it, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading something of Hurston’s; she’s been on my list for a while.