Since I can't participate in this fall's read-a-thon (insert infinite sadness face here), I'm having my own personal read-a-thon today (hop over to Dewey's site to read the details she recently announced). I was thinking that we would get thrashed by Ike today, but it looks like he's gone to the east of us and all we've gotten is drizzle. Of course it started AS SOON AS I opened my front door to go running this morning. Poo!! So, like Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West), I've been hiding indoors as if the water would melt me. I finished Snow Country and will have my review up later, but I also finished a couple of (or coupla) short stories.
"A COUPLA INDIANS" by RALPH WALDO ELLISON
from Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories (13 pgs)
Two boys have just finished several boy scout tests in order to earn a few badges are are making their way home. Along the way they encounter a carnival and after that pass by Aunt Mackie's house--a woman who causes infinite fear within the boys: "I was afraid. For though I had seen the old woman about town all my life, she remained to me like the moon, mysterious in her own familiarity; and in the sound of her name there was terror."
The first part of the story is mostly banter between the nameless narrator and his friend Buster, who appears to be much tougher than the narrator. Buster speaks about how in addition to being a boy scout he also wants to be an Indian scout, which is apparently much more fearsome and exciting to Buster than being a boy scout. The two boys discuss the band instruments as they pass the carnival and their dialogue contains a lot of sexual innuendos despite the fact that they are only eleven.
The meat of the story, however, comes when the boys are passing Aunt Mackie's house and the narrator sees a beautiful naked young woman in the window. He is entranced by her and can't take his eyes off of her body and the way that she is dancing alone. The first section was difficult for me to get into, but once the boy sees the woman, the tone changes and while I don't really want to give any quotes from the section (I know I don't have young readers--but still), the way that the boy becomes mesmerized by the female body changes the focus of the story from the fun and play of young boys to the desires of a boy on the brink of manhood. On another note--I highly recommend The Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison (his only novel, but sections of it frequent short story anthologies--especially Battle Royale).
I told Nymeth after reading her post about Cheever's stories that I would pick something up by him--that was kind of a while ago. Out of the two I read today, I think I liked this one better. I really like irony, dark humor, and social commentary and this contained all of that and more. While I don't think it is my favorite story ever, I did get a few little chuckles out of it.
The narrator (Moses) of "The Death of Justina" is your basic suburban Joe Schmo. He's said he's going to give up drinking and smoking, but when no one cares that he did he begins to steal away cigarettes and drinks martinis in the closet. When his boss asks him to write a TV advertisement of a youth elixir, he gives him a rambling garbled mess of blah. And to top it all off, when his wife's cousin, Justina, passes away on their living room couch, he finds out that because of some weird zoning rule she can't legally die or be buried where they live. Oh wait--to TOP it all off, there's really nothing he can do about the ordinance because all of the town council members are out of town.
While there was a little bit of rambliness to the story that I didn't love, it has definitely given me a taste for his work and I'll be looking for more of it. I recently got The Wapshot Scandal at a booksale, so maybe I'll start there instead of going for more short stories (since I do better with actually reading novels rather than short stories). Has anyone read it? Thoughts?
Thanks again to CB for hosting the September Short Story Challenge!
What are YOU reading this weekend? Are you staying indoors like me with a book or are you out eating up the last bits of summer?