Rank #1: A Rose for Emily
So, my “identity” was stolen recently. And not for the sake of sordid members-only internet sites or international travel or a weekend of Spitzering other scandalous activities that, if you’re going to have your identity stolen, would constitute Theft in Style. No, my identity was used to buy clip art and stock photography and website services, which is about as exciting as cutting school to go and get a root canal, sneaking out of the house late at night to mow the lawn next door. You get the picture.
So a personal note to identity thieves in training: when you’re done with me, at least return me with a few heavy anecdotes and a thrilling punked-up haircut. OK?
Jun 01 2008
Rank #2: Lawyer Kraykowski’s Dancer
A few days ago I was driving down the street behind a car which, as was warned by prominent display of rooftop sign, was being operated by a Student Driver… a sign which really wasn’t necessary, given the stammering mid-intersection braking and sideview-mirror clipping taking place all the way down the road, and I had this great idea that it’d be a real public service – a true exercise of civic duty – if other drivers could collectively contribute to driving lessons, by driving like raving lunatics around students, just to get them on their toes and on the lookout.
The fantasies were pretty grand, actually, as I patiently crawled alongside the road behind him, and I was just about to peel around him and slam on the brakes, when from nowhere and with no warning, the student hangs an unannounced left turn and smashes right into a car parked not ten feet away from us.
It occurs to me now that this student might be reading this, and if so, listen, man… there’s still hope for you.
The first time I ever drove I blew an engine. While driving in the middle of a major metropolitan area. And this was about a year before receiving a license. But you know, I was motivated by a determination not unlike that of the star of tonight’s story, although maybe without the desire to receive a beating.
So you stay focused, and stay clear of lawyers.Oh, and while you’re at it, do stay away also from any vehicles I happen to be driving.
Feb 05 2008
Rank #3: While the Women are Sleeping
I’m sitting here desperately trying not to listen to the U.S. Presidential Debate that’s streaming into my earbuds, because the entire thing seems like such hot-twisted-metal train wreckage that the hairs on my neck get singed just listening to it. And I like my neck-hairs.
And I know that the next month is going to be full of the same, so to spare your hairs, neck-and-other-wise, I’ve recorded a nice long one for you, replete with what I see (through admittedly hazy eyes) as thematic portents to what I’m listening to. Consider this my own personal bailout to you.
Oct 04 2012
Rank #4: The Interior Castle
I’m more than a little eager to introduce this bit of Jean Stafford– in fact, the last time I was this eager, I was about to jump out of an airplane, an activity I was undertaking using age-faked identification, which was, to the best of my memory, the only time I’ve ever vomited directly onto the feet of an airplane pilot (the pilot then said this wasn’t the first time his feet had taken ablutions this way). And wait, I don’t mean to conflate Jean Stafford with my own underage retching.
Well, actually, I mean to do exactly that. The pain as rendered in tonight’s story is as visceral as words can create, and while I know your constitution can take it, I wanted to give you a chance to brace yourselves. Which is not to say that this is a story about pain, or one of those gruesome hyperviolent boy’s club tales that are all the rage* in certain circles. It’s not even a story about coping (although there’s plenty of that). You’ll have to listen to get the whole extent of the way she handles the body-mind wrestling match. But again: brace yourselves.
For those of you who just listen and don’t bother with my introductory pap, perhaps now is a good time to put your eyes to the above. I’m not fooling!
And about those round food monks mentioned in the story’s introduction, my mind will explode if it doesn’t implore. What do you think?
Dec 02 2009
Rank #5: The Vane Sisters, Vladimir Nabokov
It had been some years since I’ve read any Nabokov, which I can only blame a youthful use of mind-shrinking substances or a two-mile-long to-read list. But recently, I made a full-length audiobook of Dustin Long’s Icelander, whose completion set me on a mission. I’m not going to shill Icelander too much (ahem, only five bucks! And I get a piece!), but there was no way for any reasonable person — or even myself — to finish it and not start thumbing through the old master’s treasures, all of which I’ve loved plenty at some point or other. You’ll see what I mean if you listen to Icelander (ahem: Iambik Audiobooks, who released it, features plenty other Miette-approved titles in its inaugural selection).
So there I was, splayed out on the floor surrounded by cracked copies of Pnin and Pale Fire and Ada and all the rest, just madly paging through a title, locating its place within the vast underworld of my memory, enjoying the moment of recognition, then putting it aside and grabbing the next… and then I reached for the stories.
One of the nicer books in my library of the beaten and battered is a lovely hard-cover of the collected stories, and toward the end of it, the Vane Sisters, which proved to be the reminiscent equivalent of a half-ton of Madeleines force-fed by aliens. Not only had I forgotten how imbued this story was with everything I love about literature, but in its way, it seemed to be a sort of Ur-text for Icelander. No fooling: if you’ll pardon the connect-the-dots of the subject matter, this was not unlike being poked in the neck by the very ghosts the story conjures. Spooky stuff, for a girl on the floor of her own dusty library.
Two clues to solving the story’s puzzle:
1> You may need to listen to it twice.
2> You may need to see this, the final paragraph, to make sense of things:
I could isolate, consciously, little. Everything seemed blurred, yellow-clouded, yielding nothing tangible. Her inept acrostics, maudlin evasions, theopathies – every recollection formed ripples of mysterious meaning. Everything seemed yellowly blurred, illusive, lost.
PS: Wanna hear some of Icelander
by Dustin Long? The entire first chapter is ready for your ears.
Okay, done shilling. Back to Nabokov:
Oct 27 2010
Rank #6: The Boat
Canadian Short Fiction Month continues, as promised, with a story that seems obviously designed to be delivered from the lips straight to the ears. There’s so much beauty tucked away in here of the sort you wouldn’t necessarily see on the page, unless you read to yourself with one of the voices in your head.
Critically and academically, it’s the opening of this story that tends to get the most attention. But there’s an incredible rhythm throughout (the magnificence of which I likely don’t give justice), and it’s the ending that really got the chills going in this reader. I’d say more, but that’d spoil it.
And for those who are here on academic assignment, you shouldn’t take this as any sort of criticism against the value or impact of the opener — listen to your teachers or professors. The opening is worth study. But listen through to the end (yes, it’s almost an hour long).
It also makes prominent use of the word GALUMPH, a word that doesn’t see nearly as much usage as it deserves. Coincidentally, when out for a woodsy walk this morning, my co-perambulator noticed a set of tracks in the snow and noted that they likely belonged to “something large, galumphing.” And following so closely on the heels of my reading, left me all kinds of tickled. So we walked on, me in galumph-appreciative reverie, and stumbled upon a dead porcupine.
I’m not sure if that was an omen or, more importantly, what it has to do with galumphing.
Feb 16 2009
Rank #7: The Hyannis Port Story
I was talking to the resident genius here about false memories and the publishment thereof, when an idea emerged, an idea with such potential for industry salvation that there’s no choice but to document it here, in the interest of knowledge open-sourcing, or whatever.
The idea involved all these made-up memoirs floating about these days, and what a shame it is that they all have to be disparaged, refunded, yanked from shelves or production processes, and so on, especially in times of economic struggle. The idea is to take a fraction of the shelves of the Memoir section at your local bookstore, and refashion them into an entirely new genre: the Memwasn’t. Or the Fauxmoir. Whatever. The name’s beside the point.
But, think it over. It can be an inspiring game for authors, coming up with the most sensational, most unbelievably believable fake memoir imaginable. And at some point, there will be more and more of these books, and maybe no shortage of great ones, and people will be ardently buying and reading them, and the language will evolve and what we know as Fiction will be known as Memwasn’t (or whatever), and we can have stimulating arguments about Literary Fauxmoirs vs Genre Fauxmoirs, and we’ll all be happy again, and rolling in no shortage of books.
So there you have it, for any underemployed marketing brains just waiting for an idea to get you back in the game. All I want’s a credit at your awards speech. And to read all your fake memoirs… make em scandalous.
Jan 12 2009
Rank #8: Strawberries
A few weeks ago, there was a hurricane that you might have read about (unless it blew a rock on top of you and you decided to live beneath it, in which case, my sympathies). During this hurricane, I was away on what was supposed to have been a Caribbean holiday of a few days, which turned into one of a few days plus a few days more plus a few bonus days. Not a bad way to ride out a storm, especially when one is stranded with a good book. Photographic evidence:
I returned to find great areas of my city in all kinds of shambles, but I have every confidence that readers of these pages are already doing what they can to help, so I won’t indulge in (much) proselytising.
Instead, I’ll swoonily admit that had I not been stranded on a Caribbean island with Familiar (BUY: AMZN, INDIEBOUND), I might’ve ended up parched with an atrophied and shriveled brain, wasted and prone to mirage. So you might say that we owe my health, and by extension this podcast, to that book.
So to celebrate, here’s a short piece by the same author, originally published in print by Salt Hill.
Nov 16 2012
Rank #9: Feathers
Oh-h-h-hhhh ladies! Oh men and oh boys and girls, the sexiest man alive is BACK. Patrick has been threatening to start up Patrick’s Bedtime Story Podcast, and with a voice this smooth, he might have to do it, much as I’d miss his occasional guest posts here. I’ll warn you that there’s an outburst of laughter in the middle of this that I didn’t have the heart to cut out, and also that he does a killer bird caw, and that Olla’s voice is a little on the saccharinely fey side. It’s that good.
I don’t get the chance to kick back and listen to another’s purring drone very often, but when Patrick delivers the musing about Fran’s hair, there was a little patter in this dark heart o’mine.
And if you think all babies are angelic beauties and that children are some sort of personification of happiness, this may help set you straight — and in that sense, it’s a morality story. Hope you like. More from me next week.
Jul 09 2009
Rank #10: Two Gallants by James Joyce
Bloomsday is here again, as you surely know, and as is my ritual, here’s another story from the Dubliners. This is the 7th such reading, and sometimes, the thought of keeping this up for eight more years to finish the collection is one I tend to avoid.
But to keep things spicy in the meantime and extend the celebration, I have recorded a hidden bonus track. Now, before you go randomly link-clicking, if you’re offended at all by utter filth, if you think the things that two consenting grownups do with the bodies of each should should only be done with a chorus of angels humming hymns in the background while doves fly overhead, then go elsewhere, please. If none of this is true, go listen to my joyous retelling of a naughty letter from Joyce to Nora. I mean it. FILTHY. I’m warning you.
Whatever your kinky streak, happy day. Here’s the Bloomsday collection to-date.
Jun 16 2011
Rank #11: When I Was Miss Dow
This story was brought to my attention a few months ago, making its way inbox-ward on the anniversorry of my trip down Amniotic Lane, timing not unintentional. Now, I would share with you my thoughts on why this was selected as a Birthday Story, but that would involve psychographic profiling of the sender’s right eyebrow and a frame-by-frame comparison of my genuflection style to that of the author. And that’s just for starters.
In other words, not nearly as fun as speculation, and besides, I’m not about to give you all the information you’d need to know to perform such a task. But I will ask you this: have a listen (and keep your jaw taped up off the floor — this is a good one) and a think about it, and see what comes up. It could be worse, after all. We could be discussing politics.
Sep 08 2008
Rank #12: The Cask of Amontillado
So I read in the news today about the Indonesian macaque monkeys who’ve learned to successfully catch fish, and how exciting this is for biology, and how it’s a living and breathing example of the adaptation of a species to its conditions and environment, and really it was all astonishing stuff to read.
But for some reason all I could think was that these monkeys are capable of catching fish with their bare hands, and in the modern on-demand way we’d expect of them, when it takes me hours of unraveling knots and tying knots and waving a stick around in the water before, if I’m very very lucky, I manage to land anything more than ingredients for a muck-and-weed juice drink.
And then I snapped out of it and thought: huh, jealous of monkeys. Well, why not?
In other news, a killer thunderstorm knocked the power out twice before settling into the atmosphere needed for Poe regaleritics.
Jun 11 2008
Rank #13: Lonesome Road
A mildly embarrassing problem when getting under way with tonight’s story, confessed in full in these lines: when I first sat down to read it to you this evening, I got caught on a raft in a sea of lexical continental drift, and over and over I stammered out the title only to have it read “Roadsome Load.” No kidding: again and again.
And I assure you, Roadsome Load is NOT the title of tonight’s story, and the problem was one of those lingual bowline knots that only whiskey or a nearby leatherman can unhinge. Fortunately for both me and my tongue, it worked out its own kinks JUST in time.
What I need is a blooper outtake bungle reel.
Feb 29 2008
Rank #14: An Unbeliever
The other day I was lying in the woods, on a hammock on a mountaintop, reading aloud to young people, and wondered, for a second, why there was no professional job market for reading aloud on hammocks to young people, why there isn’t a real market demand for just such a role and why imagined salaries for such work wouldn’t rival those of morally questionable military contractors or knee-breaking thugmasters. And of course, what happened next was obvious: my bliss at the hammock and the mountain and the good book and the eager young people were corrupted, and for a split second I was Don Jenaro, an unbeliever and a nasty harridanny crank. Here’s the quote I came back to when we climbed down the hill:
There had been times in his youth, in the ardor of young manhood, when he had cherished ambitions to be somebody great and important. He had not succeeded in surpassing a decent mediocrity. But in this assured, deep-rooted, indestructible mediocrity he had the satisfaction of thinking about those who struggled, those who had a faith, an ideal, a political, social, or artistic belief for which they strove, for which they suffered privations and anxieties – and which perhaps they never saw realized.
I mean, it’s enough to force even the likes of to shut the valve off and get back to reading affectionately to the children.
On a mostly unrelated note, one of the top authors in Miette’s Preferred Podcasted Authors Network here, Bart Midwood, has a new project in the works that I can’t help but pass along. Do add word of The Francophile to your Myface Twitty Bookmarks Feeds and if you’re in the area we’ll go see it together on opening night.
Aug 05 2009
Rank #15: The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allan Poe
This story is brought to you by a very nice man named Jake, who requested it a while ago, and when I read Philip K Dick instead last week, expressed some disappointment.
People of the internet and listeners of these stories, please know that I don’t handle disappointment well. If you ever want to bully me into giving you my lunch money, just tell me how disappointed in me you are.
Now that I think about it, given that it’s a big travel week in the land of the Great Grope, tonight’s story is all kinds of topical. While it’s widely understood as an allegory on the inevitability of the touch of death, I think instead one should think of the inevitability of, you know, the touching of, erm, junk.
Jake, my friend, you’re a genius.
Nov 23 2010
Rank #16: Raymond’s Run
A disclaimer: the Wiki says that tonight’s story is… how to put this… Big in Middle School Circles. But don’t let that put you off (especially if you yourself run in Middle School Circles, or are Big therein). I can be as big of an arrogant elitist as the next lady when it comes to my own sometimes obscurantist needs, but as anyone with a well-rounded appreciation of fiction, I can sit back and take a closer look at the forgotten gems of Middle School. Like those jelly shoes that ladies my age are supposed to nostalge about.
Because we can reminisce about all these things, or read lines like this and put our hands up in admission of the ageless:
“It’s about as real a smile as girls can do for each other, considering we don’t practice real smiling every day, you know…”
That’s pretty good, right? Happy wintertime.
Dec 11 2008
Rank #17: Indiscretion
You’ll have to excuse the fact that this sounds somewhat as if it might have been recorded in a submarine in the icy waters beneath an alien planet; I haven’t been around for a while, and my audio equipment was dusty and had been playing bingo in a church basement, so it was a little creaky when I roused it from its folding chair. But I didn’t want to leave you without at least a shimmer of holiday leer, and think this does the job nicely. I’ve got more guests to post but will be back on the regular beat in January. Meantime, happiest of all of that. Now, have a story…
Dec 15 2011
Rank #18: The Specialist’s Hat
So it was decided that I needed a table, but in thinking about the sort of table I might need, for the purpose the table would serve, it was further decided that the table needed to have certain bench-like properties. A hybrid, as we say in these times.
The problem is, as you may have heard, money in my country is not worth very much these days and table-benches are beyond my budget, and while there’s a new president whose first order of business, as you may have heard, will be to give me a new hybrid table-bench, I know better than to rely on economies and politics, and I went and gathered what I needed to fashion it myself.
Now, I’m not the handiest of people, and I’m actually fairly dangerous when put in front of power tools and sharp edges and, you know, screws and such, but I built the damned thing, which grew increasingly complicated from the initial idea of Top and Legs, to include such delicate bench-like features as Rabbited Feet and Lots of Slatted Inserts and Dependence on Measurements, and no shortage of other over-ambitious features for an unhandy sort. But it’s built. It’s wonky as all-hell, and if you’re ever over at my house and I invite you to sit on it, it can probably be safely said that I’m not your biggest fan. But it’s built– it’s my civic duty to let you all know that, wonkily or not, I’ve done my civic duty. And now it’s time to sit back and read more stories.
Nov 12 2008
Rank #19: Sex and/or Mr. Morrison
A disclaimer for you on this happy June that will become self-evident soon enough: I love this story. I could read it a thousand times over and give you a thousand different insights. I love it in the peepish and borderline obsessive way its narratrice experiences love. Love it, in its own words, “as a mouse might love the hand that cleans the cage, and as uncomprehendingly, too, for surely I see only a part of him here.”
(Except the story doesn’t have a gender, so swap the pronoun for the more appropriate in that quote.)
I first read this story while obdurately at the beach with a friend on a cold, wet day. The only other beach-trawler was an Australian man, whistling and playing football by himself and wearing nothing but a floppy hat. This guy belonged perfectly with this collection of stories.
In fact, if story’s author is one whose writings (long and short) you haven’t yet read, I can tell you authoritatively that they’re perfect reading for rivers and hammocks and beaches and other June-type reading.
Speaking of June reading, by this daymarker it’s just about Bloomsday…
Jun 02 2010
Rank #20: In a Hole
It’s confusing, the name of tonight’s author, right? I mean, the better known writer sharing this name didn’t bother with a middle pseudonymous initial, and there’s a slight tweak to the surname, but we readers would be none the wiser, push-to-shove, and would settle back with a cup of tea and upperclass accent.
But rest assured, there’s nothing Victorian here. Not much, anyway. Maybe a metaphor for industry, revival architecture, the destruction and rebirth of the city… honestly, there’s nothing Victorian in today’s story. Would you just listen to it already?
Mar 13 2008