“What You Pawn…”

Alexie, Sherman. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem.” Ten Little Indians. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Reason read: June is National Short Story month.

If the idea of countdowns or running of out time makes you anxious, this short story might make the sweat bead on your brow just a little. The main protagonist, Jackson Jackson, spots his grandmother Agnes’s stolen powwow regalia in a pawnshop window. She had lost her battle with breast cancer so the regalia is all that the grandson would have left of her…if he can get it back. The shop owner makes a deal to sell back the regalia for $1,000. There is only one problem. No one Jackson Jackson knows has $1,000. As an additional gesture of kindness, the pawnshop owner gives the grandson twenty bucks and twenty-four hours to come up with the rest of the cash. The clock is ticking, however the twenty immediately vanishes in the form of “three bottles of imagination.” It might infuriate the reader but subsequently every time Jackson comes into money it is frittered away on something else. Hamburgers vomited back up. Losing lottery tickets. A cigar that will only burn away to nothing. Drinks with strangers. A round for everyone at the bar. But it is the kindness of strangers that gives our hero a break.

Line that stayed with me for obvious reasons, “Indian alcoholics are either sprinters or marathon runners” (98).

Author fact: Alexie has lived on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Book Story trivia: “What You Pawn…” was first published in the New Yorker Magazine in 2003.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102). The reading of this story marks the completion of this chapter.


“Shadow Show”

Simak, Clifford. “Shadow Show.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The show of life must go on, even though one of the key actors has passed away. Bayard Lodge, Chief of Life Team 3 with psychologist Kent Forester, must figure out how to keep their play going. Much back and forth debate is given to the question of who did the dead man embody? What was his part? Just who would be missing from the group? Unfortunately, the end was predictable but it was entertaining read all the same.

Author fact: Simak won awards for his short stories but none for the ones I am reading for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe is a very thematic book.

Nancy said: Pearl considers “Shadow Show” one of Simak’s best and shouldn’t be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


“Garden Party”

Mansfield, Katherine. “Garden Party.” Garden Party: and Other Stories. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Company, Inc., 1922.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

“Garden Party” illustrates many themes: wealth versus poverty, insensitivity versus compassion, death versus life.
Wealthy Mrs. Sheridan has been preparing for an elaborate garden party with flowers and tents, food and music. Servants and gardeners and workers toil like busy bees here, there, and everywhere setting up chairs, organizing the musicians, placing the flowers just so. The excitement catches with her four children, too. But when a terrible accident leaves a man dead right outside their gates daughter Laura doesn’t thinks it’s appropriate for the show to go on. She questions the sensitivity of their actions. Later Mrs. Sheridan allows Laura to bring a basket of food to the dead man’s family. Walking through the poor neighborhood gives Laura a new perspective and in the face of mortality she learns about living.

Quote to quote, “The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty stricken” (p 71). What a devastating image.

Author fact: the location of the garden party was modeled after Mansfield’s own property.

Book trivia: my copy of Garden Party was marked up like someone was editing the book. Bummer.

Nancy said: Pearl asked her readers not to neglect Mansfield, calling “Garden Party” brilliant.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever! New Zealand in Print” (p 124).


“The Answers”

Simak, Clifford. “The Answers.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The Dog, the Human, the Spider and the Globe are exploring an abandoned village. They had stumbled upon it quite by accident and the discovery took them by surprise, especially the Human. So much so that he decides to stay behind. The ever loyal Dog leaves him some provisions, including his own food. The role reversal is telling.

Quote I liked, “There was more to the human race than gadgetry” (p 103).

Author fact: Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe was Simak’s first collection of short stories.

Nancy said: Pearl said Simak’s short stories shouldn’t be missed. She mentions “The Answers” as one of his best.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


June Not Jumping

This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.

Series continuations:

  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.

Short stories for National Short Story Month:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
  • “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis

Fire Watch

Willis, Connie. Fire Watch. New York: Bluejay International, 1985.

Reason read: to make up for the missed short story in Time Machine, the anthology edited by Bill Adler, Jr.

Fire Watch is made up of twelve short stories. It is her first short story collection. The stories are as follows:

  • Fire Watch – favorite line, “The past is beyond saving” (p 35).
  • Service for the Burial of the Dead – imagine attending your own funeral. This is a dark story and probably one of my favorites.
  • Lost and Found – line I liked, “What else had he missed because he wasn’t looking for it?” (p 76).
  • All My Darling Daughters – probably the most disturbing short story in the entire book.
  • The Father of the Bride – the other side of a fairy tale.
  • A Letter from the Clearys – read this one two or three times!
  • And Come from Miles Around – everyone gathers for the eclipse of the century.
  • The Sidon in the Mirror – a creepy tale about copying someone to the point of being twins.
  • Daisy, in the Sun – a family copes of post-nuclear war.
  • Mail-Order Clone – you know the saying, “if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”? Well, this is the blind leading the blind.
  • Samaritan – can you baptize an orangutan? The church treats him like a human so why not?
  • Blued Moon – a comedy of error after error about coincidences.

Author fact: Connie Willis went to the University of Northern Colorado.

Book trivia: There is a scene in the movie American President (starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas) when Douglas wants to send Bening flowers; specifically the state flower of Virginia where Bening’s character is from. He ends up sending a dogwood which is reported to be a tree and a bush (“sir”). I was reminded of that scene when I found out there are two Fire Watch publications. It’s a book and a short story. I was supposed to read the shorter version in December, but the book is also on my list so what the hey.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Fire Watch.

BookLust Twist: from Book¬†Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246).


September Sorrows

What can I say about September? It sucked. There. I did have something to say after all. It sucked because I didn’t diverge or divulge. I like epiphanies that flash like light bulbs and bring about great catapults of change. None of that happened. I barely did anything worth mentioning except a great trip to Colorado. Then Jones died. That really sucked. What else? I didn’t run at all. That also sucked. My uncle started hospice care and do I dare mention September is the anniversary month for my grandmother, father, and high school friend’s passings. An ugly and sucky month all the way around. Silver linings: my 14th wedding anniversary and two opportunities to hear Natalie Merchant sing. Then! And then there were the books. I can’t forget the books! Here they are:

Fiction:

  • Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden (EB & print)

Nonfiction:

  • Most Offending Soul Alive¬†by Judith Heimann (EB & print)
  • Life and Times of Miami Beach by Amy Armbruster (print)
  • The Workshop: Seven Decades of ther Iowa Writers’ Workshop edited by Tom Grimes (print)

Series continuations:

  • Fuzz by Ed McBain (print and EB)
  • Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall (AB & print)
  • The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett (print)
  • Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)
  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay (print & EB)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – finally, finally finished it!