Alice Hoffman and something new the title should read. I finished The Music at Long Verney by Sylvia Townsend Warner but I don't think I'll write about the last of the stories other than to say that I enjoyed the collection and find her writing whimsical and inviting. I'll be looking for some of her longer fiction as well. I'm working on Alice Hoffman's The Red Garden now and as that is a collection of interlinked stories am in the market for a new story collection to read or perhaps I will begin dipping into books at random and seeing which stories catch my fancy. The beauty of short stories--the come in manageable bites. And hooray we are now into August so it is time to think about cooler weather (fantasize only at this point I admit, but we are making progress) and ghost stories just around the corner.
Firs a few words on the last couple of Alice Hoffman stories I read. The collection is moving along nicely. Last weekend 1863 and the war between the states and this weekend finally into the twentieth century with a story in 1903. "The River at Home" sees the residents of Blackwell, Massachusetts dealing with the War between North and South. Every able-bodied man enlisted all the way down to boys of no more than fourteen and fifteen. This must be true since it is almost too morbid to think up as a fiction, a tintype of fallen soldiers might make its way back to the wives and families and more than one widow might clip it to her dress as one might a corsage! This is a story mixed with love and death and ultimately life. If I mentioned and you still recall a previous story where a young girl drowned, she returns here, or maybe it is just her ghost or maybe there are lots of ghosts with so many war dead and what is one more.
Sometimes bad things happen in these stories but there is always some spin on them. It's not all dire and hopelessness. It is that dash of magical realism that buoys the stories up. In "The Truth About My Mother" a girl of only ten witnesses awful violence perpetrated on her mother and worse by her father. She does the only thing a woman can do at the time, the only think that will make the violence stop irrevocably. And then the pair flee, but in order for the mother to support the daughter by passing herself off as a teacher, she must leave behind the girl with strangers. Unknown to her, to the mother, the daughter has followed her and she does what any young girl in a magical story such as this, who sleeps in the barn of a great house, can do. She helps the owner right the world and line up the planets just so, so that her mother will fall for the man who has seen her and it is love at first sight for this woman so much abused.
I'm ready for the next story of 1918. Then 1935, 1945, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1986 and then the last undated story. I am so curious now to be in the modern age I want to keep going and think I will dive in and keep going sooner rather than later with the rest of the stories. And on the horizon, is the unknown answer to the question "what next?".
I've just received a book in the mail from author A.C. Moyer which is a collection of four longer stories called All Sleep. The tagline is "a lineup of psychopathic short stories" or psychological thrillers which, no pun intended I promise, calls out to be read in September and October when the leaves are falling and begin to crunch underfoot.
I'm sort of leaning towards pulling out once again The Complete Fiction of Francis Wyndham from last year. I had been reading and writing about the stories in the collection in the spring when I stopped just before a longish (novella length) story called "Ursula" which I think I might be in the mood for finally. We'll see. There are always those poor New Yorker stories which have been so terribly neglected or maybe those O. Henry stories that will be released in the fall. By the way, I just realized (looking at my sidebar of books read this year) that I have read no less than five collections of short stories this year. Not too bad at all!