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).
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:
- Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden (EB & print)
- 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)
- 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!
Grimes, Tom, ed. Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories , Recollections, & Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth-Century American Literature. New York: Hyperion, 1999.
Reason read: Grimes celebrates a birthday in September. Read in his honor.
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop became a national institution in the early 1950s, but before that, as early as the late 1890s, the Workshop was designed to teach “verse making.” The University of Iowa wanted to cultivate writers with something creative to say. They developed the first creative writing program in the country and it continues to be one of the best. Why? Obviously, it is the writers who come out of the program. Then there’s this: “Unsurprisingly, a psychological survey of the Iowa Workshop showed that 80 percent of writers in the program reported evidence of manic-depression, alcoholism, or other lovely addictions in themselves or their immediate families” (p 9).
- Chip off the Old Block by Wallace Stegner.
- And In My Heart by R.V. Cassill. Best line: “As if the arrow at the heart could listen to the merely human cry that protests its flight” (p 55).
- The Comforts of Home by Flannery O’Connor.
- The Illegibility of This World by Richard Stern. Best line: “Fear gets so loud, I can’t sleep” (p 118).
- The Fisherman Who Got Away by Thomas Williams.
- Offspring of the First Generation by Bette Pesetsky.
- The Hustler by Walter Tevis.
- Put Yourself in My Shoes by Raymond Carver.
- Saints by Bharati Mukherjee.
- Dunkleblau by Clark Blais.
- Falling in Love by Andre Dubus.
- The Last Generation by Joy Williams.
- A More Complete Cross-Section by John Casey.
- A Sorrowful Woman by Gail Godwin.
- Thirty-Four Seasons of Winter by William Kittredge.
- Mouses by Thom Jones. “I’m embarrassed to admit that I was a little afraid to confront the consequences” (p 247).
- A Solo Song: For Doc by James Alan McPherson.
- Paper Latern by Stuart Dybek.
- Work by Denis Johnson
- His Dog by Ron Hansen
- A Woman’s Restaurant by T. Coraghessan Boyle.
- Aren’t You Happy For Me? by Richard Bausch.
- Blessed Assurance: a Moral Tale by Allan Gurganus.
- Long Distance by Jane Smiley.
- Alma by Jayne Anne Phillips.
- White Angel by Michael Cunningham.
- Mundo’s Sign by Bob Shacochis.
- The Story of My Life by Kim Edwards.
- Birthmates by Gish Jen.
- The Year of Getting to Know Us by Ethan Canin.
- The Zealous Mourner by Marly Swick.
- The Commuter by Colin Harrison.
- Planting by Kathryn Harrison.
- The Sutton Pie Safe by Pinckney Benedict.
- Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry by Elizabeth McCracken.
- Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt.
- Open House by Charles D’Ambrosio.
- Lilacs by Abraham Verghese.
- A Hole in the Sheets by Susan Power.
- Brownsville by Tom Piazza.
- Pipa’s Story by Lan Samantha Chang.
- Buckeye the Elder by Brady Udall.
- Speaking in Tongues by ZZ Packer.
Other quotes I liked, “Good writers are ruthless, and willing to say anything” (p 377).
Author Editor fact: Not surprising, Tom Grimes is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. At the time of The Workshop publication, he directed the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southwest Texas State University.
Book trivia: There was only one story I had a problem with. Marly Swick in The Zealous Mourner has a detail about her character making a point of locking a bathroom door and yet, there is no mention of anyone UNlocking it when the husband stands in the doorway, blinking in the harsh light and announcing he has to pee.
Nancy said: Nancy suggested if you wanted to read up on more writers who spent time in Iowa to check out The Workshop.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 108).
July was jamming. Guess what! I ran a few times this month. Even participated in a charity run for an aunt-in-law (is that a thing?). I am feeling much, much better! And. And! And, I was able to read a ton:
- Jackie by Josie by Caroline Preston – in honor of Jacqueline O. Kennedy’s birth month.
- Cop Hater by Ed McBain – in memory of McBain’s passing in the month of July.
- Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait – in honor of Lizzie Borden’s birth month.
- Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken – in honor of July being Kids Month.
- Gardens of Kyoko by Kate Walbert – in honor of Japan’s Tanabata Festival.
- Animals by Alice Mattison – in honor of Mattison’s birth month.
- The Coldest Day: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam – in honor of July being the month the Korean War ended.
- The Book of Mediterranean Cooking by Elizabeth David – in honor of July being picnic month.
- Den of Thieves by James Stewart – in honor of July being Job Fair month (odd choice, I know).
- The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason – to continue the series started in June.
- Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by Tristam Koten.
Adams, Alice. The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
Reason read: June is Short Story Month.
The first time I read a collection of Alice Adams’s short stories (After You’ve Gone) I noticed similarities that soon became redundancies throughout the stories. The same is true of The Stories of Alice Adams. Virginia, San Francisco, Maine,the Carolinas, and Mexico are popular places for her characters to either live or vacation. Lawyers, artists, and writers are popular occupations for her characters. Old wealth is especially favored. Adultery, money issues, and other marital woes always seem to be in the mix from story to story. In other words, a word of caution: these stories are best consumed intermittently. Like After You’ve Gone I could not read more than one story at a time.
Lots of quotes to quote but here are two I liked, “She was simply enraged at the sea for knocking her down” (p 54) and “Adolescent memories are not only the most recent and thus the most available. They are also the least subtle, the simplest” (p 75).
Author fact: Adams was born in Virginia, raised in North Carolina, and lived in San Francisco. Sound familiar? Proof you write about what you know.
Book trivia: There are a total of 53 short stories in The Stories of Alice Adams. Two stories are mentioned more than once in the Book Lust Challenge and there are eight that I can skip because I already read them in After You’ve Gone.
Nancy said: Nancy said there was an “excellent cross section of her short works in Stories. (Book Lust, p 1).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).
So June went by lightning fast, as I expected. Had good shows with Imagine Dragons and Dead and Company. Spent quality time with family and friends. Ran next to nothing for miles. But, the books! Thanks to not running (still) and all the travel I was able to get a lot of reading done…
- Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson (EB & print)
- Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams (EB & print)
- Afterlife by Paul Monette (EB & print)
- Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (AB)
- Six Days of War by Michael Oren (print) – confessional: did not finish
- Cactus Eaters by Dan White (print)
- I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman (print)
- Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn (AB)
- Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
- Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame (EB & print)
- “Xingu” by Edith Wharton (EB)
- “Verlie I Say Unto You” by Alice Adams (EB)
- “Roses, Rhododendrons” by Alice Adams (EB)
- Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU by Julie Foudy
Adams, Alice. “Verlie I Say Unto You.” The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
Reason read: June is short story month.
My first reaction to “Verlie” is to comment on the blindness of the privileged. Verlie is a maid in Todd family’s home. When news of Verlie’s husband’s death reaches the Todd household no one is sure how to tell Verlie. Their naive expectation of her reaction is one of grief. Never mind the fact Verlie and Horace haven’t seen each other in years. They can’t understand why she smiles at the news. It’s obvious they don’t know their employee even though she has been with them “forever.”
Author fact: Alice’s mother was also a writer, just not as accomplished as Alice.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).