Category Archives: Short Stories

In Sunlight or in Shadow May Inspire Readers to Write Their Own Stories

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This is the only Edward Hopper painting I’ve ever really liked–all because of the collie. It’s called Cape Cod Evening. Hopper created this in 1934. I can go to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. at any time to admire it. NGA’s major exhibit of Hopper’s work ran from September 16, 2007  to January 21, 2008 in the East Building. The West Building’s major exhibit at that time was the British artist J.M.W. Turner. I much preferred Turner because I feel more hopeful and optimistic studying his paintings. Hopper usually makes me think of and feel loneliness, isolation, disconnection, and discord among people. In the painting above, I wonder what the dog’s name is. And I really want the dog to calm down so I can pet it (if the scene were real, of course, and if I were actually there). Most of all. I wonder what’s troubling the people, and who they are. Is it money woes? Have they lost a family member or friend? Will they have to move? Or are they angry with each other?

Recently, I discovered the 2016 anthology In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper. Lawrence Block is the editor. I love what his wife of many years tells him: “You’ve been at that computer forever. Why don’t you go over to the Whitney and look at some pictures?”

Many well-known writers have contributed, such as Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King. A biographer (and curator) of Hopper’s also contributed a story about a little-known incident in the artist’s life. Her biography, mentioned in the introduction, is worthwhile reading for those new to Hopper–or who just enjoy exploring artists.

I have recommended  the book often. Be careful to name the exact title, though. Insert “and” by mistake, like I did, and you may confuse it with a book by Mark Halprin.

The painting below is called Cape Cod Morning. The real painting is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum–another favorite place. Hopper painted it in 1950. It is the frontispiece of the book, and doesn’t have an accompanying story. This gave me some ideas, but I haven’t started writing them down yet. I’m happy that the paintings  are included with each story. Even though you might not enjoy Hopper’s work all that much, you still wonder about the people’s stories. Maybe that’s what he intended.

As I find with most short story collections, this one is not an easy read, but one to be savored. However, I also have a favorite already. When I reread this, I’m pretty sure I’ll notice some things I didn’t before in each one.

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Filed under Art, Short Stories

Revisiting Jane Eyre

I first read Jane Eyre when I was 11, and I really liked it. Although, I never liked or forgave Edward Rochester for locking his first wife in the attic. I actually didn’t want Jane to marry him, but the author and her character didn’t see it that way.

I still have that 1940 copy of Jane Eyre. I  kept it because of the illustrations and that my neighbor gave it to me. .She had given us some books she didn’t want anymore, and it was in the bag. At the time, I didn’t know about Charlotte Brontë, her family, or where she came from. That would change a couple of years later, when I did a book report on the author. I was to encounter the novel several more times in high school, and by then I got bored. But I still love the story in all its forms over the years.

One of the latest, Reader, I Married Him, is a short story collection created and edited by historical novelist Tracy Chevalier. She contributes one story in the collection.  She was inspired to organize an anthology after visiting the Brontë family home and parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire.

Whether sticking closely to the novel or giving the story a modern and very contemporary viewpoint, each of these women–very well known international authors–gives a creative, diverse, and unique interpretation to Jane’s famous line: “Reader, I married him.”  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, sympathize, be outraged. perhaps, or maybe curious about how life turns out for the characters. I couldn’t help but think of Shakespeare, too: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

 

 

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Filed under Classics, Marriage and family, Short Stories, Women's Fiction

Olive Kitteridge: The Novel/Short Story Collection that Always Inspires Mixed Feelings

I watched the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge last weekend on video. Or I did once I settled down and came back into the living room once the opening that showed Olive walking in the woods was over. Once I saw the gun, I fled. Other scenes later on were equally difficult.

As events in the story unfolded and resolved themselves, i was pleased that the producers stuck as closely as possible to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elizabeth Strout–actually an interwoven, previously published short story collection about the people in a small town in Maine. Olive appears in each story, either as a critical character or a minor one. Strout’s roots are in Maine, and I believe that all her books are set there.

Frances McDormand was the perfect choice for the lead, and the rest of the cast was equally strong. I thought the landscape pretty. The overall mood, however, matches how I feel about the book–extremely somber and painful, with terrible struggles. That’s life, I know. Even though there was some light to balance the darkness, I didn’t feel there was enough. I have read the book twice, and I probably will not do so again. I read it once on my own after reading a newspaper review. The second time, I read it for book group.

Overall, I like Olive. For some strange reason, I liked that she was a math teacher. But she can be very prickly even as she is extremely caring. It’s easy to see that her life experiences made her the way she is. Some of her attitudes are generational. And family life can be very tough and messy. You don’t always know the right things to say and do.

My favorite story from both readings is “Incoming Tide,” because ultimately, the message there is hope. Here, as with the stories where she is caring for her husband Henry after his stroke also show the different facets of her personality.

Hopefully, each of us has an effect on the people around us, and in the wider world. Some of them are big; others, not so much. Maybe sometimes you don’t realize how you are memorable to others. Certainly Olive has no idea that she has inspired several students that she isn’t close to.

Before anyone reading this thinks Maine is depressing, here’s proof that it is not. I used to follow another writer’s blog. Olivia Tejeda spent childhood summers in Maine with her family. She wrote about it here. I kept this entry for a long time just because I love the pictures.

A friend of mine also enjoys Maine vacations, and has been back several times. She has graciously allowed me to share some pictures from a trip taken in the fall of 2010. Aren’t they gorgeous?

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This one reminds me of a painting one of my former co-workers completed. It hung in his office for several years.

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This picture was the local library, We both agreed that it would be a great place to work. I like the one of the boat, below:

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Filed under Fiction, Film, Hope, journeys, Libraries, Marriage and family, Short Stories