The first rule…

This is a quote from the book of short stories called The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith.

Quote by Violet Kupersmith, “The first rule of the country we come from is that it always gives you what you ask for, but never exactly what you want.”

Have you read any short stories by Violet Kupersmith? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

The Frangipani Hotel – Summary

From the story about a beautiful young woman who shows up thirsty in the bathtub of the Frangipani Hotel in Saigon many years after her first sighting there, to a young woman in Houston who befriends an old Vietnamese man she discovers naked behind a dumpster, to a truck driver asked to drive a young man with an unnamed ailment home to die, to the story of two American sisters sent to Vietnam to visit their elderly grandmother who is not what she appears to be, these stories blend the old world with the new while providing a new angle of insight into the after-effects of the war on a generation of displaced Vietnamese immigrants as well as those who remained in Vietnam.

Copyright © 2014 by Violet Kupersmith

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

At the very beginning

Excerpt from The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

Photo by Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from the book of short stories called The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith.

I WILL START at the very beginning—the beginning we all were taught as children.

Thousands of years ago, a dragon prince and a fairy spirit fell in love. They married, and the fairy bore one hundred eggs, which hatched into one hundred beautiful children. However, the dragon lived beneath the sea, while the fairy’s home was in the mountains, and they could not be together. Fifty of the children went to live with their mother in the high hills of the North, and fifty of the children went south to the coast, where they learned to fish and make boats while their father watched over them from his palace beneath the waves. These children were the first people of Vietnam.

There is a place very close to the center of my country where the green fingers of the southern mountains almost touch the sea. The water there used to be the loveliest in all of the country—warm, clear, and teeming with fish. The buildings of the fishing hamlet by the bay were painted pink and green and turquoise, and the crumbling remains of a Cham temple overlooked it all from the hills. On the outskirts, where the town began to give way to jungle, in a yellow, colonial house, Vu Nguyen’s wife was giving birth. Huong came from a long line of beautiful and tempestuous women, and she thrashed and let out long, guttural screams while Mrs. Dang, the midwife, tried to calm her. Vu was pacing out by a bamboo grove in the yard, trying to ignore the sounds from inside and occasionally looking up at the rainclouds curdling in the sky. It was the beginning of the monsoon season.

Eventually, there was silence from the house. Vu drew in a long breath, looked up at the dark sky, exhaled, then turned and went in. He came across Mrs. Dang first; she was in the kitchen making a pot of tea, and Vu blanched when he saw that she had not washed her hands. He was a very slight man, and at the sight of her fingers and forearms stained with red he almost fell over.

“Anh Vu, congratulations! I’ll bring you a chicken for supper.” In addition to being the local midwife, Mrs. Dang bred noisy brown chickens that were always escaping from their pen and running loose in the streets. “Now go in and see your children!” She grinned at him with betel-nut–stained teeth.

“My children?”

“Ai-ya!” Mrs. Dang exclaimed, striking her forehead with her hand and accidentally smearing it with red. “How stupid—I spoiled the surprise!”

Vu rushed into the bedroom, where he found Huong and his surprise. His wife’s hair was matted and sweaty, and she had a cigarette in her mouth and two little bundles in her arms. Twins. Timidly, he approached their little trinity.

“They’re girls, Vu,” said Huong, exhaling a gray ribbon of smoke. “I know that’s not what you wanted. And there’s two of them.”

Vu came over and sat on the edge of the bed, carefully avoiding the soils from the birth on the sheets. The babies were awake and blinking their eyes—blue eyes in dark faces. Milky blue eyes, like those of Siamese cats. Outside, the distant rainstorm rumbled. Vu shuddered.

He named the girls Vi and Nhi.

Have you read any short stories by Violet Kupersmith? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

The Frangipani Hotel – Summary

From the story about a beautiful young woman who shows up thirsty in the bathtub of the Frangipani Hotel in Saigon many years after her first sighting there, to a young woman in Houston who befriends an old Vietnamese man she discovers naked behind a dumpster, to a truck driver asked to drive a young man with an unnamed ailment home to die, to the story of two American sisters sent to Vietnam to visit their elderly grandmother who is not what she appears to be, these stories blend the old world with the new while providing a new angle of insight into the after-effects of the war on a generation of displaced Vietnamese immigrants as well as those who remained in Vietnam.

Copyright © 2014 by Violet Kupersmith

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

I look up at that tree and I think I am at home.

Excerpt from Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro

Photo by Geoff Bryant on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from the collection of short stories called Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro.

My mother has headaches. She often has to lie down. She lies on my brother’s narrow bed in the little screened porch, shaded by heavy branches. “I look up at that tree and I think I am at home,” she says.

“What you need,” my father tells her, “ is some fresh air and a drive in the country.” He means for her to go with him, on his Walker Brothers route.

That is not my mother’s idea of a drive in the country.

“Can I come?”

“Your mother might want you for trying on clothes.”

“I’m beyond sewing this afternoon,” my mother says.

“I’ll take her then. Take both of them, give you a rest”

What is there about us that people need to be given a rest from? Never mind. I am glad enough to find my brother and make him go to the toilet and get us both into the car, our knees unscrubbed, my hair unringleted. My father brings from the house his two heavy brown suitcases, full of bottles, and sets them on the back seat. he wears a white shirt, brilliant in the sunlight, a tie, light trousers belonging to his summer suit (his other suit is black, for funerals, and belonged to my uncle before he died) and a creamy straw hat. His salesman’s outfit, with pencils clipped in the shirt pocket. He goes back once again, probably to say goodbye to my mother, to ask her if she is sure she doesn’t want to come, and hear her say, “No. No thanks, I’m better just to lie here with my eyes closed.” Then we are backing out of the driveway with the rising hope of adventure, just the little hope that takes you over the bump into the street, the hot air starting to move, turning into a breeze, the houses growing less and less familiar as we follow the short cut my father knows, the quick way out of town. Yet what is there waiting for us all afternoon but hot hours in stricken farmyards, perhaps a stop at a country store and three ice cream cones or bottles of pop, and my father singing? The one he made up about himself has a title—”The Walker Brothers Cowboy”—and it starts out like this:

Old Ned Fields, he now is dead,
So I am ridin’ the route instead…

Who is Ned Fields? The man he replaced, surely, and if so he really is dead; yet my father’s voice is mournful-jolly, making his death some kind of nonsense, a comic calamity. “Wisht I was back on the Rio Grande, plungin’ through the dusky sand.” My father sings most of the time while driving the car. Even now, heading out of town, crossing the bridge and taking the sharp turn onto the highway, he is humming something mumbling a bit of a song to himself, just tuning up, really, getting ready to improvise, for out along the highway we pass the Baptist Camp, the Vacation Bible Camp, and he lets loose:

Where are the Baptists, where are the Baptists
where are all the Baptists today?
They’re down in the water, in Lake Huron water,
with their sins all a-gittin’ washed away.

My brother takes this for straight truth and gets up on his knees trying to see down to the Lake. “I don’t see any Baptists,” he says accusingly. “Neither do I, son,” says my father. “I told you, they’re down in the Lake.”

Have you read any stories by Alice Munro? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Dance of the Happy Shades – Summary

Here is the book summary:

Alice Munro’s territory is the farms and semi-rural towns of south-western Ontario. In these dazzling stories she deals with the self-discovery of adolescence, the joys and pains of love and the despair and guilt of those caught in a narrow existence. And in sensitively exploring the lives of ordinary men and women, she makes us aware of the universal nature of their fears, sorrows and aspirations.

Copyright © 1968 by Alice Munro.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

A kind of dazed horror

This is a quote from the book Someone Like You by Roald Dahl. As this is a collection of short stories, the quote comes from the story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter.’

Quote by Roald Dahl, “And he told her. It didn’t take long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her with each word.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

I should note, Roald Dahl is a problematic author, there have been quite a few instances of discriminatory language and behaviour from him. In no way do I support or endorse any of those views. I do enjoy his work that I’ve read and some of his short stories got me back into reading. If you prefer to avoid all problematic authors, I completely understand.

Someone Like You – Summary

Here is the book summary:

In Someone Like You are fifteen classic tales told by the grand master of the short story, Roald Dahl.

Here, in Roald Dahl’s first collection of his world famous dark and sinister adult stories, a wife serves a dish that baffles the police; a harmless bet suddenly becomes anything but; a curious machine reveals a horrifying truth about plants; and a man lies awake waiting to be bitten by the venomous snake asleep on his stomach.

Through vendettas and desperate quests, bitter memories and sordid fantasies, Roald Dahl’s stories portray the strange and unexpected, sending a shiver down the spine.

Copyright © 1953 by Roald Dahl.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

Five unsettling short stories to read for spooky season

We are not entering spooky season, as we get close to Halloween and immerse ourselves in the fall spirit. In honour of spooky season, I’ll be sharing a variety of books and stories that could be considered “spooky” either by having supernatural elements or having thriller/horror elements. Enjoy!


For this week, I wanted to share some unsettling short stories or collections of short stories that will get you in the mood for spooky season.

I personally love short stories. They’re a great way to get a taste of a specific author or tiptoe into a new genre that you’re not super familiar with.

These short stories and collections can be a way to get in the mood for spooky season, especially if you’re not a big fan of horror or thriller books. They will give you a taste of something unsettling without putting you too far out of your comfort zone.

These stories are not what you would typically think of for Halloween, but they all have some kind of unsettling element.

I’ve also included a variety, from being published across many different decades and from authors around the world.

Let me know what you think in a comment below!

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Five unsettling short stories

Here’s a list of five short stories or short story collections to get you in the mood for spooky season.

  1. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)
  2. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)
  3. Someone Like You by Roald Dahl (1953)
  4. Apple & Knife by Intan Paramaditha (2018)
  5. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (2019)

Keep reading to find out more about each one.

The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

  • Year Published: 1892
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, horror, short stories, dark, mysterious, fast-paced
  • Considered an important early feminist work based on it’s portrayal of women’s mental health

First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, this short but powerful masterpiece has the heroine create a reality of her own within the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wall-paper of her bedroom–a pattern that comes to symbolize her own imprisonment.

This key women’s studies text by a pivotal first-wave feminist writer, lecturer, and activist (1860-1935) is reprinted as it first appeared in New England Magazine in 1892, and contains the essential essay on the author’s life and work by pioneering Gilman scholar Elaine R. Hedges.

Links:

Metamorphosis (1915)

by Franz Kafka, translated by Stanley Corngold

  • Year Published: 1915
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, magical realism, philosophy, dark, reflective, medium-paced
  • One of Kafka’s best-known work

Waking after a night of troubled dreams, Gregor is surprised to find himself trapped in the body of a hideous man-sized bug. As he lies on his shell and gazes into space, his mother and father begin calling to him from outside his bedroom door. He must get out of bed, they tell him. He has to go to work. They need his money to live.

Gregor replies to them nervously, his voice sounding strange to his ears.

He’ll be out very soon, he says. He’s just getting ready…

But he can’t keep saying that forever.

Links:

Someone Like You (1953)

by Roald Dahl

  • Year Published: 1953
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, horror, short stories, dark, fast-paced
  • Note, Roald Dahl is considered a problematic author, you can read more here. If you choose not to read his work, I completely understand.

In Someone Like You are fifteen classic tales told by the grand master of the short story, Roald Dahl.

Here, in Roald Dahl’s first collection of his world famous dark and sinister adult stories, a wife serves a dish that baffles the police; a harmless bet suddenly becomes anything but; a curious machine reveals a horrifying truth about plants; and a man lies awake waiting to be bitten by the venomous snake asleep on his stomach.

Through vendettas and desperate quests, bitter memories and sordid fantasies, Roald Dahl’s stories portray the strange and unexpected, sending a shiver down the spine.

Links:

Apple & Knife (2018)

by Intan Paramaditha, translated by Stephen J. Epstein

  • Year Published: 2018
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, horror, short stories, dark, medium-paced
  • Language: Bahasa Indonesia
  • You may want to check content warnings before reading

Inspired by horror fiction, myths and fairy tales, Apple and Knife is an unsettling ride that swerves into the supernatural to explore the dangers and power of occupying a female body in today’s world.

These short fictions set in the Indonesian everyday—in corporate boardrooms, in shanty towns, on dangdut stages—reveal a soupy otherworld stewing just beneath the surface. Sometimes wacky and always engrossing, this is subversive feminist horror at its best, where men and women alike are arbiters of fear, and where revenge is sometimes sweetest when delivered from the grave.

Mara finds herself brainstorming an ad campaign for Free Maxi Pads, with a little help from the menstruation-eating hag of her childhood. Jamal falls in love with the rich and powerful Bambang, but it is the era of the smiling general and, if he’s not careful, he may find himself recruited to Bambang’s brutal cause. Solihin would give anything to make dangdut singer Salimah his wife – anything at all.

In the globally connected and fast-developing Indonesia of Apple and Knife, taboos, inversions, sex and death all come together in a heady, intoxicating mix full of pointed critiques and bloody mutilations. Women carve a place for themselves in this world, finding ways to subvert norms or enacting brutalities on themselves and each other.

Links:

The Test (2019)

by Sylvain Neuvel

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, dystopian, challenging, dark, emotional, fast-paced

Award-winning author Sylvain Neuvel explores an immigration dystopia in The Test

Britain, the not-too-distant future.

Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.

He wants his family to belong.

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.

When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.

How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

Links:


Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of short stories.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books and stories to read. I’d love to know which stories you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these stories? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

A leg of lamb

Excerpt from Someone Like You by Roald Dahl

This is an excerpt from the book Someone Like You by Roald Dahl. As this is a collection of short stories, the quote comes from the story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter.’

I should note, Roald Dahl is a problematic author, there have been quite a few instances of discriminatory language and behaviour from him. In no way do I support or endorse any of those views. I do enjoy his work that I’ve read and some of his short stories got me back into reading. If you prefer to avoid all problematic authors, I completely understand.

The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whisky. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work.

Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he would come. There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did. The drop of the head as she bent over her sewing was curiously tranquil. Her skin – for this was her sixth month with child – had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with their new placid look seemed larger, darker than before.

When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen and a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the tyres on the gravel outside, and the car door slamming, the footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock. She laid aside her sewing, stood up, and went forward to kiss him as he came in.

‘Hullo, darling,’ she said.

‘Hullo,’ he answered.

She took his coat and hung it in the closet. Then she walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him, a weak one for herself; and soon she was back again in her chair with the sewing, and he in the other, opposite, holding the tall glass with both his hands, rocking it so the ice cubes tinkled against the side.

For her, this was always a blissful time of day. She knew he didn’t want to speak much until the first drink was finished, and she, on her side, was content to sit quietly, enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house. She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel – almost as a sunbather feels the sun – that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together. She loved him for the way he sat loosely in a chair, for the way he came in a door, or moved slowly across the room with long strides. She loved the intent, far look in his eyes when they rested on her, the funny shape of the mouth, and especially the way he remained silent about his tiredness, sitting still with himself until the whisky had taken some of it away.

‘Tired, darling?’

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m tired.’ And as he spoke he did and unusual thing. He lifted his glass and drained it in one swallow although there was still half of it, at least half of it, left. She wasn’t really watching him but she knew what he had done because she heard the ice cubes falling back against the bottom of the empty glass when he lowered his arm. He paused a moment, leaning forward in the chair, then he got up and went slowly over to fetch himself another.

‘I’ll get it!’ She cried, jumping up.

‘Sit down,’ he said.

When he came back, she noticed that the drink was dark amber with the quantity of whisky in it.

‘Darling, shall I get your slippers?’

‘No.’

She watched him as he began to sip the dark yellow drink, and she could see little oily swirls in the liquid because it was so strong.

‘I think it’s a shame,’ she said, ‘that when a policeman gets to be as senior as you, they keep him walking about on his feet all day long.’

He didn’t answer, so she bent her head again and went on with her sewing; but each time he lifted the drink to his lips, she heard the ice cubes clinking against the side of the glass.

‘Darling,’ she said. ‘Would you like me to get you some cheese? I haven’t made any supper because it’s Thursday.’

‘No,’ he said.

‘If you’re too tired to eat out,’ she went on, ‘it’s still not too late. There’s plenty of meat and stuff in the freezer, and you can have it right here and not even move out of the chair.’

Her eyes waited on him for an answer, a smile, a little nod, but he made no sign.

‘Anyway,’ she went on, ‘I’ll get you some cheese and crackers first.’

‘I don’t want it,’ he said.

She moved uneasily in her chair, the large eyes still watching his face. ‘But you must have supper. I can easily do it here. I’d like to do it. We can have lamp chops. Or pork. Anything you want. Everything’s in the freezer.’

‘Forget it,’ he said.

‘But darling, you must eat! I’ll fix it anyway, and then you can have it or not, as you like.’

She stood up and placed her sewing on the table by the lamp.

‘Sit down,’ he said. ‘Just for a minute, sit down.’

It wasn’t till then that she began to get frightened.

‘Go on,’ he said. ‘Sit down.’

She lowered herself back slowly into the chair, watching him all the time with those large, bewildered eyes. He has finished the second drink and was staring down into the glass frowning.

‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’

‘What is it, darling? What’s the matter?’

He had become absolutely motionless, and he kept his head down so that the light form the lamp beside him fell across the upper part of his face, leaving the chin and mouth in shadow. She noticed there was a little muscle moving near the corner of his left eye.

‘This is going to be a bit of a shock to you, I’m afraid,’ he said. ‘But I’ve thought about it a good deal and I’ve decided the only thing to do is tell you right away. I hope you won’t blame me too much.’

And he told her. It didn’t take long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her with each word.

‘So there it is,’ he added. ‘And I know it’s kind of a bad time to be telling you, but there simply wasn’t any other way. Of course I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after. But there needn’t really be any fuss. I hope not anyways. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.’

Her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to her that perhaps he hadn’t even spoken, that she herself had imagined the whole thing. Maybe, if she went about her business and acted as though she hadn’t been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened.

‘I’ll get the supper,’ she managed to whisper, and this time he didn’t stop her.

When she walked across the room she couldn’t feel her feet touching the floor. She couldn’t feel anything at all – except a slight nausea and a desire to vomit. Everything was automatic now – down the stairs to the cellar, the light switch, the deep freeze, then hand inside the cabinet taking hold of the first object it met. She lifted it out, and looked at it. It was wrapped in paper, so she took off the paper and looked at it again.

A leg of lamb.

All right then, they would have lamb for supper. She carried it upstairs, holding the thin bone=end of it with both her hands, and as she went through the living room, she saw him standing over by the window with his back to her, and she stopped.

‘For God’s sake,’ he said, hearing her, but not turning round, ‘Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.’

At that point, Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head.

She might just as well have hit him with a steel club.

She stepped back a pace, waiting, and the funny thing was that he remained standing there for at least four of five seconds, gently swaying. Then he crashed to the carpet.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Someone Like You – Summary

Here is the book summary:

In Someone Like You are fifteen classic tales told by the grand master of the short story, Roald Dahl.

Here, in Roald Dahl’s first collection of his world famous dark and sinister adult stories, a wife serves a dish that baffles the police; a harmless bet suddenly becomes anything but; a curious machine reveals a horrifying truth about plants; and a man lies awake waiting to be bitten by the venomous snake asleep on his stomach.

Through vendettas and desperate quests, bitter memories and sordid fantasies, Roald Dahl’s stories portray the strange and unexpected, sending a shiver down the spine.

Copyright © 1953 by Roald Dahl.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

Crying was delicious

This is a quote from the story Big Blonde by Dorothy Parker.

Quote by Dorothy Parker, “To her who had laughed so much, crying was delicious.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from another story from Dorothy Parker here.

Collection of short stories – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Three brilliant tales by a master storyteller: ‘Big Blonde’, ‘The Sexes’ and ‘Dusk Before Fireworks’.

W. Somerset Maugham on Parker: ‘Dorothy Parker has a wonderfully delicate ear for human speech …. Her style is easy without being slipshod and cultivated without affectation. It is a perfect instrument for the display of her many-sided humour, her irony, her sarcasm, her tenderness, her pathos.’

Copyright © 1929 by Dorothy Parker.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

A very good-looking young man

Excerpt from Dusk Before Fireworks by Dorothy Parker

Photo by Lauren J | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from the story Dusk Before Fireworks by Dorothy Parker.

He was a very good-looking young man indeed, shaped to be annoyed. His voice was intimate as the rustle of sheets, and he kissed easily. there was no tallying the gifts of Charvet handkerchiefs, art moderne ash-trays, monogrammed dressing-gowns, gold key chains, and cigarette-cases of thin wood, inlaid with views of Parisian comfort stations, that were sent him by ladies too quickly confident, and were paid for with the money of unwitting husbands, which is acceptable any place in the world. Every woman who visited his small, square apartment promptly flamed with the desire to assume charge of its redecoration. During his tenancy, three separate ladies had achieved this ambition. Each had left behind her, for her brief monument, much too much glazed chintz.

The glare of the latest upholstery was dulled, now, in an April dusk. There was a soft blue of mauve and gray over chairs and curtains, instead of the daytime pattern of heroic-sized double poppies and small, sad elephants. (The most recent of the volunteer decorators was a lady who added interest to her way s by collecting all varieties of elephants save those alive or stuffed; her selection of chintz had been made less for the cause of contemporary design than in the hope of keeping ever present the wistful souvenirs of her hobby and, hence, of herself. Unhappily, the poppies, those flowers for forgetfulness, turned out to be predominant in the pattern.)

The very good-looking young man was stretched in a chair that was legless and short in back. It was a strain to see in that chair any virtue save the speeding one of modernity. Certainly it was a peril to all who dealt with it; they were far from their best within its arms, and they could never have wished to be remembered as they appeared while easing into its depths or struggling out again. All, that is, save the young man. He was a long young man, broad at the shoulders and chest and narrow everywhere else, and his muscles obeyed him at the exact instant of command. He rose and lay, he moved and was still, always in beauty. Several men disliked him, but only one woman really hated him. She was his sister. She was stump-shaped and she had straight hair.

On the sofa opposite the difficult chair there sat a young woman, slight and softly dressed. There was no more to her frock than some dull, dark silk and a little chiffon, but the recurrent bill for it demanded, in bitter black and white, a sum well on toward the second hundred. Once the very good-looking young man had said that he liked women in quiet and conservative clothes, carefully made. the young woman was of those unfortunates who remember every word. This made living peculiarly trying for her when it was later demonstrated that the young man was also partial to ladies given to garments of slap-dash cut, and color like the sound of big brass instruments.

The young woman was temperately pretty in the eyes of most beholders; but there were a few, mainly hand-to-mouth people, artists and such, who could not look enough at her. Half a year before, she had been sweeter to see. Now there was tension about her mouth and unease along her brow, and her eyes looked wearied and troubled. The gentle dusk became her. The young man who shared it with her could not see these things.

Have you read this story? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Collection of short stories – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Three brilliant tales by a master storyteller: ‘Big Blonde’, ‘The Sexes’ and ‘Dusk Before Fireworks’.

W. Somerset Maugham on Parker: ‘Dorothy Parker has a wonderfully delicate ear for human speech …. Her style is easy without being slipshod and cultivated without affectation. It is a perfect instrument for the display of her many-sided humour, her irony, her sarcasm, her tenderness, her pathos.’

Copyright © 1929 by Dorothy Parker.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

But nothing is lasting

This is a quote from the short story The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, translated from the Russian by Ronald Wilks.

Quote by Nikolai Gogol, “But nothing is lasting in this world. Even joy beings to fade after only one minute.”

Have you read this story? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

The Overcoat – from a collection of short stories – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Nikolai Gogol was born in the Ukraine in 1809. Vladimir Nabokov wrote of his work that “after reading Gogol one’s eyes may become gogolized, and one is apt to see bits of his world in the most unexpected places.” He died in 1852 after subjecting himself to a severe regime of fasting. “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” are two of Gogol’s finest works. “The Nose” is a masterpiece of comic art, and “The Overcoat” is considered one of the greatest short stories ever written.

Copyright © 1842 by Nikolai Gogol.

Translated from the Russian by: Ronald Wilks

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

A very important person

Excerpt from The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol

Photo by Filip Bunkens | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from the short story The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, translated from the Russian by Ronald Wilks.

One of them, who was deeply moved, decided he could at least help Akaky Akakievich with some good advice. He told him not to go to the local police officer, since although that gentleman might well recover his overcoat somehow or other in the hope of receiving a recommendation from his superiors, Akaky did not have a chance of getting it out of the police station without the necessary legal proof that the overcoat was really his. The best plan was to apply to a certain Important Person, and this same Important Person, by writing to and contacting the proper people, would get things moving much faster. There was nothing else for it, so Akaky Akakievich decide to go and see this Important Person.

What exactly this Important Person did and what position he held remains a mystery to this day. All we need say is that this Important Person had become important only a short while before, and that until then he had been an unimportant person. However, even now his position was not considered very important if compared with others which were still more important. But you will always come across a certain class of people who consider something unimportant which for other people is in fact important. However, he tried all manners and means of buttressing his importance. For example, he was responsible for introducing the rule that all low-ranking civil servants should be waiting to meet him on the stairs when he arrived at the office; that no one, on any account, could walk straight into his office; and that everything must be dealt with in the strictest order of priority: the collegiate registrar was to report to the provincial secretary who in turn was to report to the titular councillor (or whoever it was he had to report to) so that in this way the matter reached him according to the prescribed procedure. In this Holy Russia of ours everything is infected by a mania for imitation, and everyone apes his superior. I have even heard say that when a certain titular councillor was appointed head of some minor government department he immediately partitioned off a section of his office into a special room for himself, an ‘audience chamber’ as he called it, and made two ushers in uniforms with red collars and gold braid stand outside to open the doors for visitors—even though you would have a job getting an ordinary writing desk into this so-called chamber.

This Important Person’s routine was very imposing and impressive, but nonetheless simple. The whole basis of his system was strict discipline. ‘Discipline, discipline, and … discipline’ he used to say, usually looking very solemnly into the face of the person he was addressing when he had repeated this word for the third time. However, there was really no good reason for this strict discipline, since the ten civil servants or so who made up the whole administrative machinery of his department were all duly terrified of him anyway. If they saw him coming from some way off they would stop what they were doing and stand to attention while the Director went through the office. His normal everyday conversation with his subordinates simply reeked of discipline and consisted almost entirely of three phrases: ‘How dare you? Do you know who you’re talking to? Do you realize who’s standing before you?’

However, he was quite a good man at heart, pleasant to his colleagues and helpful. But his promotion to general’s rank had completely turned his head; he became all mixed up, somehow went off the rails, and just could not cope any more. If he happened to be with someone of equal rank, then he was quite a normal person, very decent in fact and indeed far from stupid in many respects.

But put him with people only one rank lower, and he was really at sea. he would not say a single word, and one felt sorry to see him in such a predicament, all the more so as even he felt that he could have been spending the time far more enjoyably.

One could read this craving for interesting company and conversation in his eyes, but he was always inhibited by the thought: would this be going too far for someone in his position, would this be showing too much familiarity and therefore rather damaging to his status? For these reasons he would remain perpetually silent, producing a few monosyllables from time to time, and as a result acquired the reputation of being a terrible bore. This was the Important Person our Akaky Akakievich went to consult, and he appeared at the worst possible moment—most inopportune as far as he was concerned—but most opportune for the Important Person.

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The Overcoat – from a collection of short stories – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Nikolai Gogol was born in the Ukraine in 1809. Vladimir Nabokov wrote of his work that “after reading Gogol one’s eyes may become gogolized, and one is apt to see bits of his world in the most unexpected places.” He died in 1852 after subjecting himself to a severe regime of fasting. “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” are two of Gogol’s finest works. “The Nose” is a masterpiece of comic art, and “The Overcoat” is considered one of the greatest short stories ever written.

Copyright © 1842 by Nikolai Gogol.

Translated from the Russian by: Ronald Wilks

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.