Once in a while I get really tired of reading full fledged novel especially those with snail pace plots; example: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez :-P
So, I either start reading Wikipedia (its more entertaining than watching news on TV ok?) or I will read short stories. Lo and behold, I have in my collection of unread books, a compendium of short stories entitled “Telling Tales by Various Writers”. :-)
This is not your typical Top 10 best short stories kind of book cos as indicated at the back cover; “The publisher’s profits from the sales of this book will go to HIV/AIDS preventive education and for medical treatment for people living with the suffering this pandemic infection brings to our contemporary world.” Truth to be told, I felt really good cos not only the illustrious writers contributed their stories for free; I also did my part by purchasing this book using my hard-earned, cold-hard cash. :-)
Anyway, to cut the long story short (else I will deviate from the topic again), there are 21 short stories in this book and their reviews are as follow:
1. Bulldog by Arthur Miller
About a 13 year old boy buying a puppy with sexual twist, in which he “had it” with the lady who sold him the puppy. After that, he thought about the experience every now and then. It is also about the excitement that comes with growing up.
My 2cents: Cougar getting her Toyboy :-P
2. The Centaur by José Saramago
Touches on the life of the last Centaur to roam the Earth after his kind was hunted down by Heracles. Eventually he died after he slipped off the cliff and body split into two; half a man, half a horse.
My 2cents: He ain’t gonna get any date in current crazy world.
3. Down the Quiet Street by Es’kia Mphahlee
About the on-goings at a place called Nadia Street and its eccentric residents congregating to exchange gossips at the on-going funeral procession only to realize that it’s a cover-up for liquor trafficking.
My 2cents: Reminded me of the movie “American Gangster; starring Danzel Washington”.
4. The Firebird’s Nest by Salman Rushdie
It’s about Mr. Maharaj’s marriage to an American lady. Mr. Maharaj is a firebird and the American lady is the rainmaker. Surrounding the whole establishment is Miss Maharaj and her motley crew of dancers (for what purpose I don’t know). One fine day, Mr. Maharaj went crazy and changed into firebird, burning his sister to cinder. Ms. American went crazy and turned into water/rain and the deluge drowned the firebird and its nest.
My 2cents: Salman’s stories/novels are extremely tough meat to chew on. I don’t even know what to make of this story when it ends. Hidden metaphor perhaps? I’ll give Salman 2cents to explain this story to me. :-P
5. Cell Phone by Ingo Schulze
A couple's (Constanze and the main character, I depict here as "A") life is strained when the main character passed his cell phone number to his neighbour, Neumann. This neighbour kept calling A up even when A has moved out from the neighbourhood. Constanze became paranoid when she thought about the possibility of Neumann passing A’s number around.
My 2cents: Obviously written when cell phone is still a novelty item.
6. Death Constant Beyond Love by Gabriel García Márquez
An a$$ politician who is about to die in few month’s time met his love/lust in one rickety village during his electoral campaign. An equally eager father decided to prostitute his young daughter to the politician in order to straighten his own dire predicament.
My 2cents: Morality down the drain.
7. The Age of Lead by Margaret Atwood
Chronicle around the life of Jane and Vincent. Their interaction and comfortable relationship with each other. Never married, moved apart, went out with different partners but eventually got back together. Though I can’t see the relevance of a dead young sailor (due to lead poisoning) from Franklin Expedition entombed in permafrost in this story. Weird enough. :-P
My 2cents: Maybe Jane and Vincent’s life is akin to the failed Franklin Expedition.
8. Witness of an Era by Günter Grass
Captured the conversation between two World War 1 veterans/writers. Vivid description on usage of chemical weapons during the trench war.
My 2cents: Make lots of love, not war. :-)
9. The Journey to the Dead by John Updike
An old man and his touchy friendship with his dead wife’s friend who is dying of cancer. He refrained himself from becoming too close with her just in case she fancies him as well.
My 2cents: Perasan kuat punya orang tua. :-P (literally translated as: Very handsome old man.. hahahaha)
10. Sugar Baby by Chinua Achebe
Its about a guy named Cletus who threw some sugar away to show that he is rich enough to dispense sugar nonchalantly; something which was unthinkable previously.
My 2cents: Wasteful habit. Spank spank!
11. The Way of the Wind by Amos Oz
Strained relationship between a strong willed Jewish dad, Shimson and his weakling son, Gideon; was pushed to the max when the son failed in his maiden parachute jump. He ended up killing himself and in the process, deeply humiliated his dad.
My 2cents: It’s never easy to please the elders especially the illustrious ones.
12. Warm Dogs by Paul Theroux
Future filled with sterile adults and their ideas of purchasing baby to fit their requirements. A couple named Raths got the worst deal when they ventured across the East River; a place inhibited by wild children to purchase a baby.
My 2cents: Never take any chances. Besides, children have the right to choose too.
13. The Ass and The Ox by Michel Tournier
Everyone knew about the scene at the Nativity but the funny part of this story is that it depicted the animated conversation between the ass and the ox and having them as part of the witness to the birth of Jesus Christ.
My 2cents: I’ve never read any story told from a totally different angle like this. Really refreshing.
14. Death of a Son by Njabulo S. Ndebele
A dad powerless against the apartheid, making blank promises to protect his family only to see everything fall apart when his son is killed by stray shootout by white police. To add salt to the wound, he had to buy his son’s body back from the murderers.
My 2cents: I’m so glad apartheid no longer exists. Hail Nelson Mandela!!
15. The Letter Scene by Susan Sontag
I can’t understand this compendium of mismatched letters at all. No review for this one. A lot of intense emotion but I can’t link it all.
My 2cents: Same offer as Salman Rushdie’s The Firebird’s Nest :-P
16. To Have Been by Claudio Magris
Imagine two little representation of yourself sitting on each side of your shoulder talking about “having been” and “to be”. This is exactly what happened to Jerry, a guitarist who can no longer perform due to injuries.
My 2cents: I will kill both the little guys first.
17. A Meeting, At Last by Hanif Kureishi
A cuckolded husband and the wife’s lover met up; embittered and conflicting interests thrust both alpha male into this ring of deceit. Wonderfully crafted short story.
My 2cents: I wonder if this kind of conversation is even possible.
18. Association in Blue by Christa Wolf
All about blue makes me blur. This is evidently the “bluest” story I’ve ever read. Blue sky, blueberry, blur bird… you get what I mean.
My 2cents: Same offer as Salman Rushdie’s The Firebird’s Nest and Susan Sontag’s The Letter Scene.
19. The Rejection by Woody Allen
Kid rejected by premium kindergarten. Egoistic parents went crazy and started bribing every TD and H (Tom, Dick and Harry). Parents went bankrupt and kid is still rejected. End of story.
My 2cents: How much would you do/pay for your kids or to inflate your egoistic self?
20. The Ultimate Safari by Nadine Gordimer
This is really the ultimate safari as we follow a family’s hardship in their quest to escape the bandits which destroyed their home, their journey through Kruger National Park in order to reach the refugee camp.
My 2cents: Love will get us through all obstacles.
21. Abandoned Children of This Planet by Kenzaburo Oe
An old lady who brought together her family during a traditional funeral and insisting on visiting their ancestral home. The story depicts the growing generation gap between the old and new Japanese people.
My 2cents: Close the gap and learn to love those who’re elder than you.
Finally I’m done reviewing all the short stories… whew!!
All of it are nice with exception of 3 which I don't understand at all. :-P