Monday, May 13, 2013

DBB slips into some shorts

Spring is a good time for shorts, and that's what I've been reading a lot of these days, a f*ckload of shorts, in one case. The list has included:
  1. Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens by Michael Gilbert
  2. Erased and Other Stories by author, cameraman, and Detectives Beyond Borders friend Thomas Kaufman
  3. A F*ckload of Shorts by cozy writer Jedidiah Ayres
  4. Short Sentence by miscellaneous and, saving the best for last,
  5. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," by Ambrose Bierce
I suspect I'll have something to say about several of these items, whether about Gilbert's deadpan hard-boiled humor, Ayres' multiple points of view and general degeneracy, or artful, surprising but non-gimmicky endings by Kaufman and in Anne Zouroudi's contribution to Short Sentence.

Click on the the Bierce title above and read the story free online. When you get your breath back, see if you can guess how I think Bierce addresses the great philosophical problem of almost all crime fiction.

In the meantime, what are your favorite stories, crime or otherwise, and why do you like them?
A kind DBB reader sends a link to this Oscar-winning 1962 film adaptation of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."
A commenter informs me that May is Short Story Month. Thanks, Paul.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Thomas Kaufman said...

Peter, thanks for the mention! Favorite short stories includes the ones by Somerset Maugham, Harlan Ellison, and Lawrence Block.

So when you say you're slipping into some shorts...

May 13, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luigi Pirandello. "The Fly" Too bad most of his short stories are not translated into English.

Hugo von Hoffmannsthal's Reitergeschichte ( A Tale of the Cavalry) hit me hard as it, with its war-time setting, vivid descriptions, theme of man's quest and sudden surprise ending reminded me of the favorite Bierce in your post.

May 13, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

When I say I'm slipping into some shorts, I'm not just engaging in childish wordplay. I'm actually reading the things.

May 13, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anonymous: Hugo von Hofmannsthal has been in the back of my mind since I read lavish praise of his libretti (I figured librettos would grate on the ear of an Italian speaker) for Richard Strauss. And it appears that "The Fly" is available in at least two English-language collections of Pirandello stories, one of which has the original Italian on facing pages.

May 13, 2013  
Blogger Cary Watson said...

Alan Sillitoe is an underappreciated short story writer IMO, and my vote for funniest short story I've ever read is The Unrest Cure by Saki.

May 14, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And here’s the story, free and online.

"Perhaps," said the friend, "it is a different thrush."


"Well, you might stand as an Orange candidate for Kilkenny..."

are all right, but it's only later that the story turns into a real knee-slapper.

May 14, 2013  
Blogger Richard L. Pangburn said...

I've been reading them too this spring, along with Charles E. May's Theories of the Short Story on his blog. The Stephen Dobyns EATING NAKED collection has me musing over it.

But I also am enjoying such crime-related collections as DAMN NEAR DEAD (2006, Busted Flush Press), an anthology of Geezer Noir, which includes contributions by Charlie Stella, Ken Bruen, Bill Crider, Laura Lippman, Mark Billingham, Megan Abbott, Jason Starr, and other good ones.

Edited by Duane Swierczynski and introduced by James Crumley (who died in 2008 at age 68).

My schoolteacher made Bierce's An OCCURENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE a reading assignment after Rod Serling ran the TWILIGHT ZONE episode.

Although I read several other good Bierce stories at the time, I didn't catch onto him until I encountered THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY.

May 15, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Richard: "Theories of the Short Story" sounds worth a look. I'll seek it out later today.

I should find a new copy of "The Devil's Dictionary." Mine is old and battered. And, in the matter of crime and mystery, did anyone ever figure out what happened to Ambrose Bierce?

May 15, 2013  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

Or Judge Crater?

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know if Judge Crater wrote stories, but this is the centennial year of Ambrose Bierce's disappearance. Maybe someone should schedule commemorative events, and then not show up.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Richard L. Pangburn said...

Re: Ambrose Bierce Is Missing

Prof. Joe Nickell, who taught at the University of Kentucky before being hired by the Discovery Channel and such for his ghost-busting talents, wrote a book of essays with the title AMBROSE BIERCE IS MISSING AND OTHER HISTORICAL MYSTERIES (University of Kentucky Press, 1992).

In it, he argues that Bierce died by his own hand anonymously, and had created his disappearence legend to coincide with the recurring theme of so many of his short stories. Nickell is an adament non-believer, to put it mildly, and I happened to be in the autograph line at the Kentucky Book Fair behind a couple who were assuring the Professor that they had encountered real live spirits. I listened while he dismissed them as oxymorons.

So, next up, I let him autograph my books while I told him briefly the tale of Samuel Chamberlain's MY CONFESSION, that it was not discovered until the mid-1950s, that it had never been authenticated and needed to be (also his line of work).

Nickell, a former private detective, is also the author of PEN, INK, AND EVIDENCE and has been called as a document expert to testify in several national cases of fraud.

I explained to him that the narrative of MY CONFESSION was the basis for Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN. He said he was interested and gave me his card. But later I couldn't arouse enough interest among the academics at the university level to hire him. The Cormac McCarthy Society has no such funds. It remains an unsolved mystery, as ultimately, that of Ambrose Bierce.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, a staged disappearance is just as good a story as the other kind, isn't it? Knowing nothing about Bierce's disappearance except that he disappeared, my first question for Nickell would be how Bierce arranged for the mystery to persist beyond his own ostensibly self-inflicted demise.

And if Nickell has been called as a document expert, shouldn't his name be Arbogast?

May 16, 2013  

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