Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mad Italian shorts

Thanks, readers. Commenting on Monday's post about short stories, one of you suggested Pirandello's "The Fly." That led me to a collection of Pirandello's shorts called Tales of Madness, a selection from his aborted project to write a short story a day for a year. (Another collection from the project is called Tales of Suicide, but don't worry. Pirandello was not as downbeat as all that.)

To my surprise, the collection's first story is a crime story, pure and not so simple. Not a detective story, though it contains a murder and is almost all mystery.

Here's how the story, "Who Did It?", begins:

"Then you tell me who did it, if what I say just makes all of you laugh. But at least free Andrea Sanserra, who is innocent. He didn't keep our appointment, I repeat for the hundredth time. And now let's talk about me."
Its end ought both to satisfy readers who crave twist endings to their short stories, and to make those same readers ponder the subject raised in the collection's title. If only more crime stories could make their readers think as much about what they've just read as this one did.
*
A commenter informs me that May is Short Story Month. Thanks, Paul.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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30 Comments:

Blogger Paul Davis said...

Peter,

In Regards to your recent posts, May has been designated National Short Story Month -

http://www.pauldavisoncrime.com/2013/05/may-is-national-short-story-month.html

Paul

May 15, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I must be more in tune with the zeitgeist than I thought. I had no idea was national short story month.

May 15, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, here’s that short-story link -in one-click form. Some interesting links in that post. Thanks.

May 15, 2013  
Blogger Paul Davis said...

Peter,

Thanks.

As I note in the above linked post, I'm fond of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby short stories,and my favorite, "Two Old-Timers," is kind of a crime story.

(The story reminds me of O.Henry).

Below is a link to another post in which there is a link to all of the Pat Hoppy stories online, including "Two Old-Timers."

http://www.pauldavisoncrime.com/2013/05/hollywood-hack-f-scott-fitzgeralds-pat.html

(I'm unable to create a hyperlink here for some reason)

If you have not read the Pat Hobby stories, I think you will enjoy them.

Paul

May 15, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have not read the Pat Hobby stories, but I'll put them on my list. These posts are reaping a lot of good suggestions. Thanks again.

May 15, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

Short story month? What an intriguing idea! If I were not waist-deep into a 700 page novel, I would wade into the short story pool. Instead, for now, I throw in my two-cents about Pirandello: My favorite Pirandello work is his play, Six Characters in Search of an Author; carefully considered, in a certain light, the play is also a bit of a "murder" mystery with a twist, but if I were to say more, I would spoil the reading adventure for others. (Poscript: I apologize for mixing so many different metaphors in my first few phrases.)

May 15, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., I'd known Pirandello only at third or fourth hand, through the fun Woody Allen would have with his self-referential metaphysical spoofs of the 1960s and '70s. So that first story in the Madness collection was a really eye opener.

I glanced only briefly at some of the short-story links, but one of them talks up something I'd said about short stories: that today's publishing environments could well nourish their publication. (How lucrative this will be for authors is another matter.)

May 16, 2013  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Interesting discussion on Derek Raymond at the beginning of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTyP43_8Ssk

May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, love 6 Characters but, too often, I think, the "difficulty" of that play puts off future Pirandello readers. Therefore, what I think is Pirandello's best work . . .his body of short stories, is seldom read. There are a few in English translation. The complete short stories are available in French and German but not English.

A movie version of Six Characters, I thoroughly enjoyed is:

Six Characters in Search of an Author (Broadway Theatre Archive) (1976)

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, thanks for that link. I'll put off for a few minutes the work I need today and watch it over my afternoon coffee, then report back.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anonymous, I'll believe that. I had not known that Pirandello wrote short stories until recently. Maybe the stories will lead me to "Six Characters." Is that production available online? On DVD?

May 16, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

The "difficulty" in 6 Characters is, I suppose, the philosophical theme. However, even without the "difficulty," or in spite of it, 6 Characters is a compelling theatrical event in which audiences can scratch their heads and wonder, "What the hell is going on now?" I make that observation in the spirit of recommending a reading rather than a viewing; reading permits time to ponder, but a performance often leaves audiences still scratching their heads after the final curtain. Read and enjoy.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I'm guessing Pirandello enjoyed a vogue in America in the 1960s, to judge from his having figured in Woody Allen's writing. In at least one of his plays (I don't know if it was written for the stage or the page), the author is a character who talks to the characters about the play in which they are appearing, And when did the adjective Pirandellian enter the language, anyhow?

May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely with ET's remarks about reading the play but as this performance sticks pretty closely to Pirandello's stage directions, it's especially well done. And staging helps comprehension. Pirandello is not just concerned about the words, he's also concerned about the visualization as indicated by his descriptions in his short stories. Try both for reading and watching are two completely different experiences.

The movie is listed on Amazon. I rented it from Netflix.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, it's unavailable for streaming on Netflix. I may have to join the plan under which I can get the DVD by mail. "Who DId It?" still the only story I've read, includes some descriptions that would not be out of place in hard-boiled or noir stories.

May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the no-streaming. I rented the disc. Since Pirandello wrote this play as a performance work, not a reading work, I'd really recommend sticking with the visual as a first go and then reading the
play.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I have the stories to tide me over until I add a by-mail plan to my Netflix account. And I know he was principally a dramatist, so surprise that his work might be best experienced on stage.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

When I teach script analysis classes, plays like Pirandello's reward readers (analysts) who can take the time to read and imagine the staging of the play (a skill set needed by everyone involved in theatre) before even thinking about actually staging the play. So, because of my teaching experience, I recommend reading the Pirandello before seeing the performance; once you see the performance, you will find it more difficult to read the script without bringing along your preconceived notions (i.e., viewing experiences).

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll likely read the play before I see it, which is probably advisable given my lack of familiarity with Pirandello's work.

May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Pirandello would enjoy this. The professor of Italian literature wants you to see the play first. The (theater person) teacher of script analysis classes wants you to read the play first. Whatever . . enjoy it.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds like a scene from a play: the two professors arguing as the curtain goes down.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

No, the argument coincides with the current going up! In a Pirandello play, the argument is resolved when the curtain goes down.

BTW, I saw the play in 1965 before reading it many times later. I cannot erase the 1965 stage images from my mind when I read the play, and I think that is a disadvantage.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, now, that argues for the primacy of stagecraft in Pirandello, doesn't it?

I saw Robert Wilson's production of Alcestis years ago and liked it so much that I went back twice more after I saw it the first time. Now, there's a fine example of staging so distinctive that it could impinge on one's reading go the text.

(Good story: It was in the lobby before one of those performances that I had an encounter with Susan Sontag that ended with her laughing heartily.)

May 16, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

To be more precise, I would say that it all instead argues for the primacy of interpretation before decisions about staging. When you see a production, you see the collaborative, artistic contributions of many; when you read a play, you have the intimacy of yourself and the playwright. Which you prefer depends, I suppose, upon your approach to scripts as raw materials for productions.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One might argue, though, that the finished product is not the script but the play. Or, if you don't like the word product, say instead that that the playwright's vision is realized only when the work reaches the stage.

I wonder when people first began to consider plays as something to be read as well as produced and seen.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

According to theater historians, the plays of the Roman playwright were not performed but were instead reading experiences. I know of no other plays prior to his that fit that category (i.e., "closed dramas").

There is always tension between theater and English departments over reading v. performing plays. Some of the former folks insist against literary analysis. My loyalties lies with both (i.e., I teach in both departments), and I argue for both approaches. However, you might be surprised about the numbers of people involved in productions who have not (completely and thoroughly) read and understood their scripts.

There is also a prejudice against filmed versions of plays. Sometimes (or most times) that prejudice is justified. Yes, film versions reach wider audiences, but the staged versions, because of their environments, are most often more reliable representations of the scripts.

But that is enough from the theater/English instructor for one night.

May 16, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

POSTSCRIPT: The Roman was Seneca. (I somehow omitted his name.)

May 16, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

2nd Postscript: And ignore (and forgive) the bad spelling and bad grammar in my postings. Yikes!

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! The professor keeps in students in class for five minutes after the period ends.

Insist against literary analysis, do they? An anti-intellectual prejudice? A big, fat, post-1960s elevation of feeling over thought?

May 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I always forgive bad spelling and grammar, even my own. We, unlike newspapers and publishers, have never had copy editors.

May 16, 2013  

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