Monday, March 9, 2009

Short and sweet

I must confess I am not a reader of short stories.

I enjoy the ones I've read immensely, but I'm always left wanting so much more.

I recently reread "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I thought I was preparing to see the movie, but that hasn't happened yet. That's OK. Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors, so it was a pleasure to reread this story.

Although ... Benjamin is born as an old man and the other characters merely treat that as an oddity ... what??? No investigation. No hand-wringing wonder. Nothing.

That spoils the rest of it for me.

It is an interesting concept, raising all sorts of questions about what would it really be like to be youthful with all the knowledge of age. (Notice how few ponder the reverse.)

Perhaps this story just tries to tackle too much in its short format.

As I said I read few short stories, but my two favorites have stuck with me for more than 30 years.

"All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury is the story of a group of 9-year-olds on a Venus where the sun shines and the rain stops only one hour every seven years. One of the kids moved to Venus when she was 5 and so remembers what the sun was like. This sets her apart from the other children. And they don't like that.

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of one cousin visiting another and stealing her thunder with talk of bobbing her hair. Her cousin is jealous and exacts her revenge. But Bernice gets the last word.

I've never really thought about the similar themes of these two tales. Both look at how cruel we can be to one another.

Where I think these two work as short stories is in their singular focus.

And, while I'm not ready to give up my novel reading, I would like to add a few short stories to the mix.

Any suggestions?

- Tricia Ambrose

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