Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Short Story Project Continues

Today, I will read my fourth short story, another one from Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth. Concentrating on short stories in this way has reminded me of Poe's rules for the short story that I used to teach my Junior English students.

From what I recall, Poe said that a short story should
  • be able to be read in one sitting.
  • create a unified effect - every sentence should contribute to the effect.
  • complete in itself.
I'm sure there's more but I'm too lazy to try to find any old teaching notes that I might have saved. It seems like there was a specialized vocabulary word that I taught my students with these rules, but I can't remember it.

I'm sure that lots of great short stories break Poe's rules, but I have been thinking about them as I read the first three stories in Lahiri's book, pondering what the one effect might be of each story. However, I haven't been so focused on the effect that I'm not enjoying the whole of the stories.

The second story "Hell-Heaven," like the first story, focuses on generational differences. This time, though, the focus is on a daughter's changing views of her mother and her mother's feelings for a male family friend. I really like how Lahiri doesn't create the cliched love triangle; she doesn't take the easy way out of the story. Although the traditional Indian rules of behavior haunt this story, much like they do many of Lahiri's stories, I don't feel like it constrains the characters in an artificial way. (I really should write something about each story as soon as I finish reading. If I did, I think I would have more interesting things to say.)

The third story "Choice of Accommodations" concerns a marital differences rather than generational. Amit and Megan have been married long enough to have two young daughters. Amit is a former doctor-to-be turned medical journal editor, and Megan is in the last year of her residency. The story takes place on a weekend trip to the wedding of one of Amit's old friends. The daughter of the headmaster of the prep school he attended, a woman that he has always been in love with but never really pursued. They have been friends for a long time now. The night of the wedding, which takes place at the prep school, Amit does a lot of thinking about his past and his present.

Thinking about this project has made me think about short stories that I have read through the years and chosen to teach because I enjoyed them so much. Here are some of my favorite short stories:
  • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"
  • Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour"
  • Katherine Anne Porter's "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall"
  • Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
  • Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"
  • James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" - I read this story several years ago now, and since then I am often reminded that it made me want to read one of Baldwin's novels, which I have yet to do. I wonder which one I should read. If you read one, please make a recommendation.
  • William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"
  • John Updike's "The A & P"
That's all I can think of for now. It's time to read now. Later.

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