Monday, October 8, 2007

Short Story Sunday (maybe in Asia?) and a Tiny Challenge

I'm a day late again; I completely blanked that yesterday was Sunday! However, since I was stuck in bed/on the couch with a cold, I ended up finishing Witches' Brew today. That leaves me with five stories to discuss, so I'll be brief.

I was very hesitant going into "The Birds" by Daphne du Marier, since I'm not a fan of the movie, but it ended up to be great. Nothing like the movie and a lot more sinister. It tells the story of what a country man does to try to protect his family when all of the birds in England mysteriously begin attacking people. Highly recommended!

On the other hand, Mary Elizabeth Counselman's "Night Court" left me cold. One night, a reckless driver gets into yet another crash and finds himself summoned to a court conducted by victims of car accidents. It was way too preachy for me to enjoy. And I saw the 'twist' a mile away.

After that, I had a real treat with "The Lovely House" by Shirley Jackson. A young girl goes to visit her friend in a big old house. But things take an odd turn or two. The ending doesn't wrap everything up; Jackson leaves that up to the reader, which I really appreciate. I'm thinking I really need to read more by Shirley Jackson (I've also read "The Lottery").

"Kindling Point" by Marcia Muller (one of the editors of the anthology, which I find sketchy) felt like an assignment for a college writing class. Take that as you will, but I found it a bit too simplistic and juvenile to enjoy. A woman in an old Victorian finds out that her daughter is talking to ghosts through a Ouijia (sp?) board; the ghosts' story seems to be eerily reflective of the present day.

And the final story was Joyce Carol Oates' "The Bingo Master." This story was very powerful, however it didn't have the slightest element of horror or supernatural or spookiness. So, I'm not sure why it's in the collection, but I'm glad I read it. I don't really want to share a plot summary, since it's the kind of writing that draws much of its power from the unfolding.

There you have it, a whirlwind tour of the last part of Witches' Brew. I'm glad I found this anthology, but I find it was of mixed quality; either the stories were incredible or bad, nothing in between.

Now for the little, bitty challenge (don't look at me that way). Literate Kitten is hosting a horror short story challenge. She's listed her top ten spooky stories and is challenging participants to read just one of them during the month of October. Also, she'd like it if participants provided their own list of ten horror tales. A lot of her selections sound very good, but I've decided to commit myself to "The Monkey's Paw." I'll also be reading another of her picks (the Isak Dinesen) as part of one of my R.I.P. II books. Makes me more excited to read it! I'm not sure if I can come up with ten good creepy stories, but I'll try...

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe. I found this incredibly creepy, and I'm pretty sure it gave me nightmares for quite awhile.

The Birds" by Daphne du Marier. You can tell I didn't read a lot of horror short stories before the R.I.P. II challenge!

"The Lovely House" by Shirley Jackson (see above)

"Riding the Bullet" by Stephen King. I think King is scarier in short story form than novel form, and a lot of the stories in Everything's Eventual were creepy. This one has stayed with me, though.

""Snow, Glass, Apples" by Neil Gaiman. Oh my gosh-this is easily one of the creepiest stories I've ever read. It actually made the hair on my arms stand up.

"The Thing in the Wood" by A.S. Byatt. Also a very spooky tale, one that I still remember vividly after six years.

And, um, that's all I'm coming up with right now. I don't have much experience with short stories. However, my next trip to the library should help change that; I'll be coming home with the ss collections by Joyce Carol Oates, John Saul, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, and the Oxford Book of Gothic Tales. Yay for ghost stories in October!


cj said...

Daphne du Marier wrote The Birds? Holy cow. I had no idea. Her novel Rebecca is one of my favorite books. I may have to see if my library has The Birds.


verbivore said...

I am also having a lot of fun with spooky tales in October - I don't often read mystery so it has been a real treat to discover some writers I didn't know and stories I would never have read.

Nymeth said...

I also didn't know Daphne du Marier had written The Birds. I remember watching the movie as a child and being seriously creeped out. Then again, I was a child. I'm curious to read the story now though.

I am also intrigued about the Joyce Carol Oates story... so far, all the stories I've read by her have been incredibly powerful. I am about to try one of her novels for the Seconds challenge.

I love "Snow Glass Apples" and "The Thing in the Wood"...which makes me wand to read the rest of the stories you listed.

Andi said...

Thanks for sharing! I haven't heard of several of these, but I'll definitely be getting around to them.

I enjoyed The Birds also. I used it when I was teaching high school English, and my students really enjoyed it, too. We had a CD of all of the stories in our textbook, and we listened to The Birds. Great narration...really added another layer of spookiness.

LK said...

Great list! I will add to my Readers Choice selection.

I am thinking of taking on one of your choices...

Will be interested in reading your thoughts, too, on the Dinesen story.

heather (errantdreams) said...

The Poe and Gaiman stories I've read, and are fantastic. Been too long since I've read Gaiman short stories... must do again...

Dorothy W. said...

I didn't know Du Maurier wrote The Birds either -- good to know! These stories sure do sound like a lot of fun. I'm not big on ghost stories, but maybe I should try some anyway ...

amisare waswerebeen said...

I loved the Cask of Amontillado. It was definitely creepy. I'm new to your blog, but hope to visit more often.

Please let me know if I can help with any of your future book purchases through my website.

J.S. Peyton said...

I didn't know "The Birds" was a short story! I'm going to have to read that. I liked "The Birds" movie, though I didn't think it was particularly scary. I was cautious of crows for quite some time though. : ) That's a great list of books you have there. I've never read that Shirley Jackson story, but I love her. Everything she writes always has a measure of creepiness.

Emily Barton said...

All right, sounds like I must read "The Lovely House." I loved "The Birds" when I read it in high school. Maybe it's time to revisit it?

Pardon My French said...

I've got some good ideas now for future authors to check out...I'll try some Shirley Jackson, du Marier and Byatt. Thanks!

Eva said...

CJ, Rebecca's a good one! I didn't realise Marier wrote The Birds either!

Verbivore, I haven't read much mystery for the challenge (I do that a lot on my own), but I don't usually read horror, and I'm enjoying it!

Nymeth, I think I was too old to enjoy the movie The Birds...I just remember seeing strings attached to the birds divebombing, lol.

Andi, ohh-what a neat textbook, that it came with a CD. I love how scary stories are always scarier when spoken!

LK, I can't wait to share. :)

Heather, if you haven't read his new collection, Fragile Things, there're some really good ones in there.

Dorothy, you should! Not all of them are ghost stories. :)

Amisare, thanks for stopping by. The Cask is defitely a creepy one. :)

J.S. Peyton, I didn't know either! I think I've fallen in love with Shirley Jackson as well.

Emily Barton, where are these cool high schools where students read good short stories? We just read novels!

Pardon My French, glad you've taken me up on some suggestions! And thanks for visiting. :)

Melissa said...

Gaiman is definately the best. I have only been able to find a few who compare, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, and a great author, David Dent of Alex Webster and The Gods, which I am just now finishing.

Eva said...

Melissa, thanks for the recs! I'll definitely look into Moore and Dent, neither of whom I'd heard of before.

Lightheaded said...

I loved The Cask of Amontillado! I read it just this month.

Snow, Glass, Apples is one of my favorite Gaiman shorts. You'll probably find the audio version creepier. I mean I was mortified reading the story but when I heard the audio version, goodness! It will definitely raise the scare factor even higher!

danielle said...

Apparently Daphne du Maurier did not like Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of The Birds. I've heard the movie is very different than the book, though it's been ages since I've seen the movie. I would like to read the story, though. I'll have to look for the AS Byatt story, too--you'r piqued my interest!