Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Monday, October 24, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

"Devil Beads" by marina ama omawale maxwell

Story removed by request--sorry!  (It was good free publicity, wasn't it?)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

"A Conversation with my Father" by Grace Paley

A lovely story about telling stories from a modern American master who has written far too little, but whose political activisim has meant so much. The writer meets her creator and plays a sort of Sheherazade for the dying. Read by Lane Jennings.

More on Grace Paley to come soon...

Lane Jennings is a poet who lives near Washington, D. C.; in his spare time, he is a bookseller, research director of The Futurist magazine, production editor of Future Survey, and author of Virtual Futures.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

This site interrupted due to technical difficulties--and laziness

We doubt if anyone out there is waiting with bated breath, but we did want anyone who might stumble upon these pages to know that, due to extreme computer malfunctions, this site is undergoing a temporary hiatus. (We've also been so busy with late-summer visitors that we haven't had a moment free to record anything new.) We promise to come back with a spanking new microphone, the gift of a generous friend, which means better quality recordings for the future!

Don't touch that dial... er, that is don't delete us from your "Favorites" list yet, please!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"The Younger Sister's Clothes" by Yasunari Kawabata

Two sisters: one a working woman, somewhat embittered, yet persevering; the other, somewhat sheltered, almost too young to be married, yet dying. More than clothes unite these two in a story of devotion and desire. Translated by Lane Dunlop. Read by Scoot.

"Palm-of-the-hand stories" is what Yasunari Kawabata called his short, journalistic fiction which dealth with everyday life and people in Japan. More information about Yasunari Kawabata to come, one we get all these computer problems sorted out!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"The Wish" by Roald Dahl

"Step on a crack... " When you were a child, perhaps you played games similar to the ones the boy in this story plays. Let us hope your fate was nowhere as dire as his! Read by Scoot.

We dare not speak the name of the famous book and movie which most people--or at least children--know originates with this Welsh author. Well, maybe we can say James and the Giant Peach. But, like Shel Silverstein or even C. S. Lewis, Mr. Dahl was not your typical children's author, but wrote a great deal for adults as well--and his vision was, in general, every bit as misanthropic and eccentric as that character Johnny Depp most recently played. "Nasty" in its most delightfully British connotation might be apt, as well. Whether much of it is "great" literature (whatever that is) or not, his work is enjoyable, and enjoyably packaged in several short story collections. Now, we're sure the interweb is filled with intimate details of Mr. Dahl's life, but here we refrain. We will tell you that both his daughter Tess and granddaughter Sophie are children's book writers. Research him as you will...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"The Black Sheep" by Italo Calvino

This is a short fable about a country whose ethics, in the end, might not be that dissimilar to the one you live in. In a flock of black sheep, it is of course the white one which stands out. Translated from the Italian by Tim Parks and read by Scoot.

You haven't read Numbers in the Dark, the collection where this story originates? Never read Invisible Cities, either? Haven't even heard of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler? The Baron in the Trees? Surely this can't be true, because Italo Calvino is one of the greatest of Italian writers, of the last century or any other. Folk tales inspired him (he anthologized many himself) and tales of imagination and delight poured from his pen; he also published literary essays and transcriptions of his lectures. Interestingly, he was born in Cuba and fought the Nazi occupation of northern Italy during the Second World War. He died twenty years ago, but his legend, as they say, lives on.

By the way, we really do promise to update this website this week and start publishing again on a more regular basis. At least we'll try to!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"Tropism XV" by Nathalie Sarraute

A young woman encounters a much older man at a dinner party in this anecdotal episode. At first he seems to know everything about England and William Thackeray, but what a bore! Read by Scoot.

Along with Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute sought to recreate fiction writing with the nouveau roman. However, she wasn't really French by birth, but Russian, and had trained to be a lawyer, not a writer. Serraute nonetheless became an important fixture of twentieth-century French literature, much influenced by Proust and Woolf and praised by luminaries such as Sartre. This short piece is from her first book of stories, which she called "tropisms." She died at the age of 99 in 1999. Quite enough time to reinvent the novel several times!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Kisses" by S. P. Elledge

They fell like rain, affecting everyone they touched. Pity the poor narrator, who has yet to be so blessed. Read by Scoot.

This story by the unknown S. P. Elledge, we have discovered, has recently been published in a collection called Ensemble, available at this link.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"Evangelist" by Joyce Cary

A bored, misanthropic Englishman's summer vacation no longer cheers him; maybe it's his attitude, and maybe it's the world. Meeting up with an old acquaintance by chance may or may not make him feel better. Read by Scoot.

If you've read The Horse's Mouth, you've read what we consider one of the most inventive (and most undervalued) novels of the twentieth century, and certainly the best about an artist struggling with his failures. (That novel was one of a trilogy centering around the painter Gulley Jimson.) Joyce Cary, born Arthur Joyce Lunel, had once intended to be a painter himself, but got sidetracked by literature and soon began publishing the novels which made him fairly popular up until his death in 1957 (making the cover of Time along the way). Mister Johnson was the first of several novels set in Africa, based in part upon his experiences as a civil servant and soldier in Nigeria and Cameroon before and during World War I. After the war, Cary moved back to Oxford, England, where his novels followed the social and cultural changes of the country.

Monday, August 22, 2005

"No Cure for It" by Thomas Wolfe

A young boy's growing pains, explored and exacerbated by his parents and his doctor. In the end, the boy must choose whose side he is on. Read by Scoot.

We'll be updating the site this week, with all the promised authors' information, fresh stories, and more. Hang in there!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"An Account of the Death of Mr Partridge" by Jonathan Swift

An almanac predicts a man's death--and so the man must die. But not before as much humor as possible is milked from the situation, of course. Read by Scoot.

Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels, of course... more to come, whenever we get the time!

Monday, August 15, 2005

"Axolotl" by Julio Cortázar

As in the Mexican salamander or "water dog," a creature with amazing regnerative properties and equally amazing metamorphic qualities... The narrator observes them closely in Paris and perhaps go a bit too far in identifying with his amphibious friends. Read by Sushma Joshi.

Details about Argentine writer Julio Cortázar to come (sorry, we're still traveling!)

Sushma Joshi is a fiction writer, playwright, magazine editor, filmmaker, journalist, and all-round cultural phenomenon from Kathmandu, Nepal. She is currently working on a documentary in Manhattan after a busy summer earning an advanced degree in Vermont. Soon enough she will be back in Asia, working on yet more new and exciting artistic projects.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Do You Like It Here?" by John O'Hara

The new boy in a boarding school is grilled by a suspicious master. The boy has been in and out of enough schools to know what he's up against. Read by Jonathan Strong.

We're off hiking! Details about John O'Hara to come...

Monday, August 08, 2005

"Powerhouse" by Eudora Welty

Listen! The charismatic, stupendously talented bluesman known as Powerhouse has come to town! Hear him as he pounds the piano, rouses his audience from their complacence, and evolves into a character (based on Fats Waller) you will likely never forget. Read by David Huddle.

Jackson, Mississippi's favorite daughter, Eduora Welty spent most of her life there, from 1909 to 2001. During the Great Depression of the 1930's, she worked as a photographer for the Works Progress Administration, but soon turned her attention to writing. Eventually she became one of America's favorite authors, far outstripping the "Southern Gothic" label she is often tagged with. Although she wrote several novels, including The Robber Bridegroom, The Golden Apples, and The Optimist's Daughter, she is perhaps best known for her short stories, of which this is one of her most popular. You might also remember stories such as "Why I Live at the P.O.," "A Curtain of Green," "The Petrified Man," and "Death of a Traveling Salesman," collected in many different volumes. One Writer's Beginnings, the story of how she matured into a storyteller, was one of her last and most enduring books. After a long and successful life, she left us in the first year of the twenty-first century, leaving behind a beloved reputation and oeuvre.

David Huddle is the James Brown of American literature: the hardest working writer we know. He has expended his considerable creative energies in an amazing variety of forms, from short fiction to novellas to novels to poetry to plays to memoir and essays. Just a few of his many books are La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl (a novel), Grayscale (poems), Intimates (short stories), The Writing Habit (essays), and Tenorman (a play). A native of Ivanhoe, Virginia, he now lives in Vermont, where he teaches at the University of Vermont in Burlington. We thank him for taking time out of his busy summer teaching schedule to read this story for us!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"The Smallest Woman in the World" by Clarice Lispector

Deep in the forests of the Congo, a French explorer discovers--you guessed it. What this tiny woman invokes in those who learn of her varies from houseold to household and from heart to heart. Read by Scoot.

Though she was born in the Ukraine and had first intended to become a lawyer, Clarice Lispector became one of Brazil's most well-known and celebrated writers. This story is translated by another very well-known writer, the American poet Elizabeth Bishop, who was on and off a resident of Brazil herself. You might call "The Smallest Woman," as one critic has, "an ironic study of racism and sexism." But it also reflects the inherent poetry which Bishop must have admired and which made Lispector's books such as Beside the Savage Heart and The Apple in the Dark such successes. (Those of you who have read Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might see something here akin to the Oompa Loompas in that book.) Lispector, our sources note, saw snow for the first time in 1947 (she was born in 1920, died in 1977). In 1967 she was severely burned while falling asleep while smoking a cigarette (another reason not to start, kids!). And in 1975 she took part in the Witches' World Conference in Bogota, Colombia. Oh, the things you can discover on the Interweb!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"The Porcelain Doll" by Leo Tolstoy

The writer, Tolstoy himself, is under the impression that his wife has turned into a porcelain doll. And for a time, they both rather like it. Read by Jonathan Strong.

This story is contained within a letter written by Leo Tolstoy to his sister-in-law Tanya, the model for Natasha in War and Peace. The letter was begun by Tolstoy's wife, Sonya, half a year after they were married, but finished by Leo himself. (Perhaps Sonya really had turned into a porcelain doll--for a while, at least!) The first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Tolstoy was perhaps the greatest writer and thinker of nineteenth-century Russia. His epic novel War and Peace covers nearly two-thousand pages, but this tiny story is contained within only three. You of course know or have heard of Anna Karenina and Resurrection, his other two novels, and most likely know, too, that he wrote numerous novellas, war stories, an autobiography, and plays. At the end of his life he gave up fiction for religious philosophy, but not before having already been a huge influence on all Russian (and world) literature to come.

Jonathan Strong needs no introduction here, but you can check out reprints of some of his older books at

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"Crazy Robin" by Mary Wollstonecraft

If you love dogs, this frankly sentimental story, written quite a long while before Old Yellar, may elicit a tear or two from you. The rustic hermit so beloved by the early Romantics here has a heartwrenching backstory and no future whatsoever. Read by Scoot.

Though known primarily today as the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley (the creator of Frankenstein, of course), Mary Wollstonecraft was a leading progressive writer of her day who sometimes illustrated her problems with society in fictional form. Two of her more important feminist treatises are Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (sadly, she died soon after the birth of her own) and A Vindication of the Rights of Women. It was thanks to brave thinkers such as herself that the Age of Enlightenment was, well--so enlightened. One wishes she could run for election today, had she not died in 1797, but one could say her spiritual daughters are changing politics as we know it even as you read this.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

"Conversation Piece" by Louise Bogan

Two couples share cocktails in an atmosphere of brittle comraderie. The more they drink, the looser the talk. Read by Jonathan Strong.

Although primarily known as a poet, Down Easter Louise Bogan also published fiction, some of it in the magazine for which she also was poetry editor, The New Yorker. (She held that post for 38 years.) Bogan was a very private person who disdained confessional poetry--and we assume, fiction--but who loved the poetry of Theodore Roethke. She was born in 1897 but by 1970 called it quits in this world.

Jonathan Strong has written at least a couple of poems in his life, but concentrates on fiction these days.

Friday, July 29, 2005

"A Brown Woman" by James Branch Cabell

Pitiable poet Alexander Pope woos a country lass, but she has different ideas. His friend, the poet and playwright John Gay, is no help, either--but there may be good material here! Read by Scoot.

Unknown to most readers today save for his novel Jurgen, Virginian James Branch Cabell was an enormously popular and prolific novelist in his time (1879-1958). You might call his work "fantastic fiction," but it is more literary than that sounds, and his influence on later fantasy and sci-fi authors has been profound--though his own work is much more in the high romance realm. One might never guess that his work once caused him to be dragged into court on an obscenity issue... you'll have to read more to find out what we're talking about here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"A, B,and C--TheHuman Element in Mathematics" by Stephen Leacock

Anyone who's ever had to solve one of those bothersome "story problems" in a math class could find much to be amused by in this bit of levity. Here, the characters A, B, and C discover that the sum is sometimes greater than its parts. Read by Scoot.

Visit the Stephen Leacock Museum at Old Brewery Bay in Canada, and you'll discover more about the writer than we could possibly put here. While you're in Canada, watch out for Leacock Peak in the Yukons, Leacock Park on Lake Simcoe, the Leacock Addition and the Leacock Room at McGill University, the Leacock Hotel at Couchiching Beach Park, and the Leacock Memorial Home nearby--all named after the Anglo-Canadian humorist, economist, educator, and public speaker. That's how popular he was and is, not just Up North, but all around the English-speaking world. A kind of Canadian Mark Twain (who Leacock wrote a book about), the writer (here we'll end soberly, if not a bit glumly) lived from 1869 to 1944.

Monday, July 25, 2005

"A Dry Spell" by Einar H. Kvaran

A government store clerk waits out a prolonged dry spell by philosophising about death with his colleagues. Little does he realize how near actual death is to him. Read by Jonathan Strong.

This story was written one-hundred years ago, when Einar H. Kvaran was approximately 49 years old. (He died in 1938.) Kvaran was of a generation of Icelandic students and scholars who became prominent in the burgeoning regional arts movement of that country around the turn of the twentieth century; he was a journalist and editor who also wrote all types of fiction, as well as poetry and plays. This story may show a tinge of the moralism which eventually overwhelmed Kvaran's work, when he became more interested in the hereafter than the here-and-now. Oh, well, it's still nice to finally have an Icelandic writer represented on this site!

Jonathan Strong used to write plays, as well, but nowadays restricts himself solely to fiction. We've told you about him before.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

"On the Train" by Olga Masters

Upon a local train route somewhere in Australia, an observant passenger hesitantly regards the subtle interplay between a young mother and her two young girls. Whether or not she is right to assume certain things, this passenger can only guess. Read by Scoot.

Pambula, New South Wales, Australia is the birthplace of the writer Olga Masters, who lived from 1919 to 1986 and published four books of award-winning fiction in her lifetime (The Home Girls, where this story originates, Loving Daughters, A Long Time Dying, and Amy's Children) and whose fifth book of stories, Rose Fancier, was published after her death. As one might guess from her titles, she specialized in intimate depictions of mothers and their children and the harsh world--often that of rural Australia--which both exhausted and challenged them. Masters was the mother of seven children herself. The collection Australian Short Stories (complex title, isn't it?), edited by Carmel Bird and published in 1991, is the excellent source of this story and other stories to come from "down under." (Oh, dear, thought you'd get away before hearing that cliche, didn't you?)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Silence, A Fable" by Edgar Allan Poe

A demon tells a story of when the terrors of silence fell upon the River Zaire. Yes, that's right--the silence of what we currently call the Congo. Read by Jonathan Strong.

There's little need to introduce this author, who will already be familiar to most readers as the author of more famous stories and poems than even Stephen King could count: "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Raven," "The Masque of the Red Death," "Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Cask of Amontillado," and on and one... including our favorite, "William Wilson." (Which Brigitte Bardot and Terrence Stamp starred in a movie version of, yet!) But did you know he was the son of two actors or that he began writing while in the army? Or that he lived in a cottage in the Bronx before drifting back to Baltimore, where he died? Or that Baudelaire, Borges, and Kafka were all among his most ardent admirers? Or that he's not just for Hallowe'en anymore?

This is Jonathan Strong's umpteenth recording for us. We thank him for his patience and the loan of his voice. Check previous entries for more about this prolific author.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"The Use of Force" by William Carlos Williams

Their daughter may be dying of diptheria, so the parents call in the country doctor, who does all he can to get the girl to cooperate. Consider now the title of this story and ask yourself who is being most forceful in this anecdote of blunt honesty. Read by Scoot.

America loves writers who aren't necessarily fulltime writers, but have another profession that is perhaps more remunerative. That may be one of the reasons William Carlos Williams was successful, for not only was he a poet (and occasional writer of fiction like this, and plays, and novels, and nonfiction), he was a medical practioner for over four decades. Dr. Williams is said to have delivered over two-thousand babies, and he numbered people such as James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, and Wallace Stevens among his many friends in the arts. One of the true inventers of modernity, he disliked the fancier forms used by another favorite American poet, Robert Frost, preferring to write, as Marianne Moore put it, "plain American which cats and dogs can read." Start, of course, with "The Red Wheelbarrow."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

"The Last Leaf" by Katherine Anne Porter

An old servant finds a home of her own at the end of her life. Her former employers discover then what she really meant to them. Read by Jonathan Strong.

Over nine decades, Katherine Anne Porter may not have produced the world's largest oeuvre--but what an oeuvre! Anyone who has read her short stories about her early life in Texas or the novel Ship of Fools (however flawed it is supposed to be) could tell you what a consummate writer she is. She spent much of her life traveling back and forth between Mexico (where she worked on a magazine for a while), the United States, and Europe. Eventually she settled near the District of Columbia. "I shall try to tell the truth," she once said, "but the result will be fiction." Hmm... sounds like she was near Washington.

Jonathan Strong spends his summers teaching fiction writing at the Bread Loaf School of English in the Green Mountains of Vermont. When he is not busy swatting deerflies there in his off-hours, he can be found working on his own fiction--currently a novel half-done. He promises to keep reading steadily for us!

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Common Prayer" by William Saroyan

One needn't believe in any sort of higher power to appreciate this prose-poem disguised as a story, although it might help to believe in the considerable clout of editors and publishers if one is a poor writer, as William Saroyan was when he penned this. The struggling young scribe from Clay, County, Iowa invokes the greatness of human history--and feels suddenly part of that long march himself. Read by Scoot.

Actually not from Iowa, but a product of Fresno, California, William Saroyan's star might shine a little less brightly than it did some decades ago, when his dazzling collection of short stories all written in one month, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, swung into the literary circus of the 1930's, to be followed up by the very popular My Name is Aram and The Human Comedy, among many others. The Armenian-American Saroyan then, and for several decades, personified the second-generation immigrant whose story desperately needed to be told. Notably profligate with his money and his women, Saroyan's prose was alternately good and bad, but his narratives are always bursting with life, poetry, and honesty. In the end, it might have been idealism which killed him, not just the cigarettes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"Nice Girl" by Sherwood Anderson

If you're wondering if the title is ironic, you've probably read Sherwood Anderson before. If you think that the relationships between Agnes and her married sister and Agnes and her brother-in-law, Tom, who wants a divorce, are complicated, then you must listen to this story that might have been too much even for little ol' Winesburg (this one is set, it appears, in downstate Illinois). Read by Prudence Carter.

For the second time American "modernist" writer Sherwood Anderson graces our pages. Did you know he died in 1941 after contracting peritonitis after swallowing a toothpick in Panama? The things one finds on a random meander through the interweb! Before he died, he was of course a writer who never lived up to the critical and popular success of Winesburg, Ohio, though he certainly kept on trying--in novels such as Death in the Woods and Kit Brandon. Maybe someday if we live long enough we'll read those, too.

A professor of sociology at Harvard, Prudence Carter specializes in the study of education across racial and class lines. Her forthcoming book is Keepin' It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White. She recently spent time studying classrooms in South Africa as well as America. Prudence also plays a mean game of tennis, so watch out.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"Chet" by Patrick Parks

Fat, awkward, and a lot less than charming, Chet is tired of being the Hardy Boys' hapless, foolish sidekick, never getting any credit for helping to solve the many mysteries which somehow center upon their home town, Bay City. However, only Chet knows the dark side of the Hardy Boys, even if he can't stop toadying to them--until he haplessly stumbles upon a mystery far too great for those Hardys to figure out. Read by Scoot.

How many authors born and raised in Iowa can you name? Well, Patrick Parks should be one of them--he's been writing stories and novels for many years now, as well as teaching throughout the Midwest. We hope to see more of his work in print some day, as it as fresh and witty and inventive as this story illustrates. Now a resident of St. Charles, Illinois, Pat is also an expert horseman; even now he is way out west, in the middle of a cattle roundup. Seriously!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

"The Hollow of the Three Hills" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

One of the author's earlier stories, set in the primitive highlands of New England, is hereby presented to you. A mischievous crone conjures up visions from the life of a sorrowing young women. Read by Jonathan Strong.

One of Nathaniel Hawthorne's ancestors had presided over the Salem Witch Trials, so it's no wonder he was enthralled by tales of Puritans pure and not-so-pure and the nature of good and evil. Hawthorne always called his often highly symbolic (so your high school English teacher will tell you) stories "tales" and collected them in several volumes between such novels as The Marble Faun and The Blithedale Romance (no need to mention the even more famous ones here). But Hawthorne wasn't all gloom and doom and black-cloaked colonialists. There must be a good example here somewhere--hmm... We love this aside from Wikipedia, from which we crib so many of our facts about authors: "Edgar Allan Poe wrote important, though largely unflattering, reviews of both Twice-Told Tales and Mosses from an Old Manse." We'll get to you, Mr. Poe...

When he is not busy with his own novels, Jonathan Strong is often to be found lost somewhere in the extensive works of Englishmen Gilbert and Sullivan, whether together or singly. He has redrafted the lost G&S opera, Thespis, which has been produced twice, as well as several other concoctions from the duo which time has left us incomplete. Opera and bel canto have been reoccurring elements throughout his dozen or so novels, so his interests are perhaps not so surprising to his readers.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"A Golden Picture" by Dazai Osamu

A struggling writer remembers his entitled youth and the family servant who he most abused. Of course, he's changed, even reformed--but is his remorse alone enough? Read by Scoot.

Dazai Osamu died just short of his 39th birthday, in 1948: Now, don't you just hate biographical snippets that begin as dry as that? Actually, it's a bit more interesting than it sounds. Shuji Tsushima, as he is otherwise known, was a wealthy landowner's son whose attempts at committing suicide read a little like Dorothy Parker's poem "Résumé:" sleeping pills, sleeping pills again, hanging, and one might say indirect attempts through morphine and then alcohol. At last, drowning did the trick, and Shuji/Dazai took his latest paramour with him. One shouldn't be surprised to discover his stories are full of suicides and attempted suicides, although they were quite popular in Japan during his life. The novel that is supposed to explain it all is called No Longer Human.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Woes Gutenberg never dreamt of

Hello, all! We recently posted this reply to a kind would-be listener who is having problems downloading the mp3 files from this site. If you're having similar woes, please let us know--we're hoping to fix anything that needs fixed soon:

Kind Listener,

... We are very sorry to hear you're having problems downloading stories from the site. Other people have reported similar problems in the past, so you are probably not the only one still having problems. We really couldn't tell you why these problems have occurred; maybe it's our server's fault, or maybe something we've done wrong. Nevertheless, we'll look into the issue some more (last we tried, things were still working fine--for us) and give an update on the site itself. We've been considering a move to another provider (as long as it's cheap or free), and if we do so, we hope these problems will cease. In the meantime, try again maybe at another time of day or by another means and let us know if you've had any success. It's very important that we deliver the promised goods, such as they are!

One more idea: have you tried or are you presently using a podcast "aggregator"? Maybe this is either the cause or the solution to the problem. We'll try checking into this, too, although we're away from home for the summer and these things take time... Good luck with future downloads--and keep listening, if you can!

Scoot, Stories to Go

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"The Monkey" by Robert Walser

For those fortunate enough to have read John Collier's absolutely stunning novel, His Monkey Wife, the territory may sound familiar: an intelligent simian in love with a homo sapiens, desperately trying to express that passion. In this case, a monkey woos an elegant woman who may--or may not--give in to his advances.

Like many other great writers, Robert Walser ended his life in an insane asylum, having given up on writing but not on long walks through the countryside. He had already written over a thousand short works of prose, several novels (half of which have been lost), and numerous poems--so we know what influenced Kafka and why Hesse was envious. Susan Sontag's introduction to his Selected Stories, translated chiefly by Christopher Middleton, calls the Swiss native "a Paul Klee in prose ... A cross between Stevie Smith and Beckett ... the missing link between Kleist and Kafka." He reminds us of another unique Swiss "outsider" artist, the painter and composer Adolf Wolfi, who also ended his life in an asylum. Maybe now you're beginning to sense that this is a very interesting writer, indeed.

Another very interesting writer is Patricia Powell, a native of Jamaica who now makes her home in the United States. Her novels to date are: Me Dying Trial, A Small Gathering of Bones, and The Pagoda; we are anxiously awaiting her fourth. She has won so many awards and received so many accolades it would be impossible to list them all here, but get to your local bookstore posthaste and start scanning the stacks--you will find her.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"Black Boy" by Kay Boyle

Somewhere on the Atlantic seaboard, a young girl rides her horse in the foam and befriends the African-American teenager who pushes her petulant grandfather along the boardwalk in a wheeled chair. In stories of this vintage, you just know this is going to lead to trouble. Read by Scoot.

Kay Boyle thought she might become either an architect or a violinist before she fell into the disreputable life of a writer. Once she had relocated to Paris (a much better place to lead a disreputable life than Cincinatti, where she had spent the majority of her childhood), she became friends with Harry and Caresse Crosby, whose infamous Black Sun Press published her first collection of stories in a typically elegant edition. Soon she became associated with the avant-garde magazine transition, so it is perhaps a little surprising that eventually she became a regular New Yorker type of gal. But she remained controversial, getting herself blacklisted by Senator McCarthy and railing against America's dubious involvement in Southeast Asia (getting thrown into prison twice for doing so). Both the NAACP and Amnesty International claimed her as a member, and she was making noise all the way up to her death in 1992 at the age of 90. Somehow she got a lot of writing done, too, including poetry (such as This is Not a Letter and Other Poems), short fiction (including Nothing Ever Breaks Except the Heart), novels (Plagued by the Nightingale being representative), and nonfiction (Being Geniuses Together among them).

Friday, July 01, 2005

"Witchcraft" by Arthur Machen

The old woman may be odd but innocent... and then again maybe she's not. Mist from the moors pervades this small story of magic most black--or at least a convincing shade of gray. Read by Gerrit Lansing.

If Arthur Machen were alive today, he might be considered "transgressive," even censorable for his boldly sexual themes and unhealthy interest in paganism. In the post-Wildean world of fin-de-siecle England, he was considered dangerously decadent--and was therefore enormously popular, so much so that even today The Friends of Arthur Machen society is a going concern. "The Great God Pan," a tale of a woman who flirts a bit too openly with the goat-heeled god and produces his diabolic offspring, is only one of Machen's most famous works dealing with the occult and the lurid. (Aubrey Beardsley illustrated “Pan,” by the way.) An original member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (most famous for spawning Aleister Crowley), Machen probably knew what he was talking about. One might even say that H. P. Lovecroft--don't worry, we'll get to him!--could not have existed if Machen hadn't come along first. Nor could have cult movie The Wicker Man. Why wait til Hallowe'en? On the next dark and stormy night we're going to settle down with Machen's novella “The White People” or novel The Hill of Dreams. And so should you!

Gerrit Lansing wins the Preakness of the "Stories to Go" derby, since this is his third contribution to our humble pages. Although he's primarily a poet of some decades' standing, Mr. Lansing enjoys arcane literature of all sorts and in fact once owned and operated Abraxas Books, a shop in Gloucester, Massachusetts that specialized in "magickal" texts of many sorts. As you read this he is probably working on poems both new and undergoing revision, possibly for a new edition of his renowned collection, Heavenly Tree/Soluble Forest.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"A Change of Owners" by Sacheverell Sitwell

Psychologically complex and deeply moving, this story of obsessive maternal love and the desire to escape such smothering may come as a surprise to those who thought they knew what the Sitwells were all about (such as us). Here we have a portrait of suburban English life from the early twentieth century that takes quite a turn from the light, drawing-room fare the narrative is first disguised as, before the mask is dropped. Read by Scoot.

Those marvelous literary beasts, the Sitwells, first terrorized the salons of greater London in the 1920s and flourished all the way to 1988, when the youngest and tamest of the menagerie, Sacheverell, finally succumbed to the ignobility of old age and death. While he is probably the least-known and least-read of the Triplets of Renishaw (the family estate), we find him to be a better prose-writer than his phantasmagoric sister, Edith. (She was the better poet. Osbert was somewhat the bore, wasn't he?) "Sachy" invented a new varient of an old form, the literary essay, instilling it with such poetry and erudition many of his descriptions of all kinds of subjects, both ancient and arcane, might cause one to feel a bit lightheaded. He was an expert in architecture, painting, dance, music, fashion, literature, gardening, travel, history... his knowledge seemed to know no bounds. We suggest you find one of his long out-of-print books under a mouldering pile of Horizons somewhere and get lost in Sacheverell Sitwell's illustrations of the bullfights in Seville or the gothic cathedrals of Saxony or the battles on the steppes during the last world war or Beau Brummel's influence on the Regency or South Seas conch-collectors or...

Monday, June 27, 2005

"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor

Due to time constraints and the random "let's read the shortest thing in the nearest available book" nature of this website, it is not often that we get to present one of our absolute favorite short stories, but here is one today. This is a narrative, about a family of ugly Americans who meet Death in the form of an outlaw named The Misfit, which seems both years ahead of its time both in its violence and social critique, and as ancient as a medieval allegory of the Devil and divine redemption. Actually, it's a heck of a lot more fun than that sounds. Read by Elizabeth Leavell.

When she was a little girl, Mary (Flannery) O'Connor owned a chicken that could walk backwards; her pet got written up in the local papers and life was "all downhill from there," as she put it much later. Towards the end of her days, she raised peacocks (a few of which survived until the 1980s, when the last of them was eaten by foxes) and other exotic birds, as well as ducks, geese, and chickens. These are not the most important facts about her too-short life, but they do give some of the flavor of her self-aware eccentricity and comic take on the serious matters of life. She described herself as a "pigeon-toed only child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I'll-bite-you complex," but of course she was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century--normally we'd hesitate to put "American" there, but she is so homespun-American in accent and style, it seems appropriate. See our previous offering from O'Connor, "A Late Encounter with the Enemy" for furthur inconsequential details.

Not unlike her fellow Georgian, Elizabeth Farley Leavell has a love for birds and the quirky nature of mankind. She deals with its quirks every day as a teacher and writer and lives on a very old farm in rural New England, where she battles the mosquitos between long walks among the sand dunes of the nearby beach. People say she can tame a bucking bronco, hunt squirrels with her hound dog, plant rare orchids, and discover another great unknown folk artist, all before a hearty vegetarian breakfast. She also loves to read.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

"Webbing" by Ian Frazier

A typically bland New Yorker-style story is invaded by quite another type of story in this comic skit. The all-American backyard suburban barbecue may never be the same again. Read by Scoot.

From Hudson, Ohio to Manhattan to Montana, Ian Frazier has found ripe material for his own style of humor, which has more than a dash of Jarryesque absurdity to it, wherever he goes. Naturally, he publishes frequently in The New Yorker, but he could sometimes just as well be publishing in the avant-garde Parisian reviews of 1900 or in punk fanzines of the 1980s or in the hyper-hypertextual world of 2010. If he invents an effective time machine, he might be doing all just that soon. Or already has. No doubt you'll see his books everywhere you go now you've read this.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum" by P. G. Wodehouse

Mauve shirts. The Sporting Times. A place called Pounceby Gardens. Another place, a tea-and-bun shop near the Ritz. Valets, horse-racing, and and an attack of the gout. Obviously, we're in Bertie and Jeeves territory. How utterly British of us. Right-o, old chap, carry on. Read by Timothy Wagner.

Even today Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse epitomizes certain conceptions of upper-class England in the 1920s, though he continued building his reputation for several decades after that. The well-known humorist also wrote several other "story cycles" and innumerable novels, plays, lyrics, and "stand-alone" short stories. We like what the "P. G. Wodehouse Appreciation Page" has to say about the great satirist: "Throughout his stories, Wodehouse presents a view of the world which differs from -- his fans would say, improves upon -- the focus most people have. For a variety of reasons, pigs, newts, and statues of the Infant Samuel at Prayer play significant roles in the Wodehousian view, while such things as death, taxes, and work are crowded towards the O. P. wings."

Timothy Wagner is an actor, artist, and academician who will soon be teaching in Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany. Perhaps not unlike Bertie Wooster, he is a great enthusiast of the theater, a discerning balletomane, and an ardent bibliophile who also follows the opera world and the torrid, tragic lives of divas both young and dead. Alas, he is merely American, a native of Maryland--but we'll forgive him that. After all, none of us is British here!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race" by Alfred Jarry

Be prepared for some delightful blasphemy this solstice day, although one could also say that this wildly imaginative retelling of the Christian "passion" may be far from Mel Gibson's, but oddly respectful, all the same. Only Alfred Jarry could have combined his lust for bicycling with the "Greatest Story Ever Told" -- the greatest, that is, perhaps, until this one! Read by Scoot.

Some interesting facts about Alfred Jarry: The second run of his iconoclastic play, Ubu Roi, was done with marionettes. He loved wearing gaucho pants and a paper shirt with a painted tie. He lived between two floors of his apartment house (if you've seen Being John Malkovich, a movie that had to have been inspired in part by Jarry's brand of absurdity, you'll know what we mean). He indulged in absinthe, opium, and shooting pistols at random in the busy streets of Paris. He once painted himself completely green. He founded the science of 'Pataphysics, without which Zippy the Pinhead would be lost. All before he died at 34 in 1907. Oh, yes, and he was also a writer whose fierce satirism and bewildering rule-breaking have yet to be rivalled.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Poldi" by Carson McCullers

Everything one could hope for in a story by Carson McCullers--sensitive characters in sensitive circumstances, set against a backdrop of classical music. Poldi, a budding cellist, captures the hopeless young heart of impressionable Hans. Read by Jonathan Strong.

"She dignified the individual, especially life's losers." So said the New York Times about the writer from Columbus, Georgia whose characters, such as Frankie in The Member of the Wedding or Mick Kelly from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, are self-appointed "losers" adrift in a world they are perhaps too sensitive to forgive. Like Flannery O'Conner (whose works are in some ways similar) she died young--but we won't say Carson McCullers died totally unfulfilled, for she left behind beautiful novels and heartrending short stories that live on through the world's readers.

Jonathan Strong, the author of nearly a dozen novels (most recently published being A Circle Around Her), lives surrounded by eight thousand classical lp records. He is currently working on a novel about an opera singer at the end of her career, tentatively titled Obscurity. Look up his books at your local bookstore, on the dreaded Amazon, or elsewhere!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

"The Shape of Things" by Truman Capote

A sad, quiet story about the not-so-great side of the so-called "Greatest Generation" of World War II. Strangers on a train. An American South much more gritty than "gothic." A study in style--and substance. Read by Scoot.

Truman Capote--surely you know Truman! From the day he had stories accepted by three magazines at once to the day he died in 1984, he was just as much of a character, eventually beloved by talk-show hosts and discriminating readers alike, as any of the many eccentrics he wrote about. We will not mention the famous lisp or the famous fedoras. Or even all that bad press he got from his friends in the Hamptons and Studio 54. We will state that the new collected stories is a must-have and will prove once and for all that despite all the smoke-screens he was one damned fine writer. (Though we'll never figure out Beat the Devil.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"How the World was Saved" by Stanislaw Lem

Never, never, never need nature negate nor nullify negligible, nonexistent "n" nouns now! If you have no idea what that alliteration alludes to, perhaps you best listen to this tale of a robot simply trying to do exactly what its master wants it to do. Read by Scoot.

Stanislaw Lem is one of the most amazing writers you'll ever read, so you might as well start now, perhaps with his robotic story cycle, The Cyberiad. (It's very funny and very smart.) Solaris, though the most well-known of his novels, is hardly the best of his work--work which is sometimes a sort of meta-meta-metafiction that simply must be read to be believed. One simply can't think the same after reading such things! Now, never, never, never call him "merely" a science-fiction writer, though he is a scientist, philosopher, and one of the greatest writers, if not the greatest, to have come from his native Poland.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Tobermory" by Saki

If cats could talk, would you really want to know what they're thinking? (No jokes about getting catty, please.) Read by Gerrit Lansing.

Whether known as H. H. Munro or Saki, this English yarn-spinner has kept generations entertained with his pithy, crafty, even cruel tales. Although many people think he took his name from The Rubáiyát, others say it is after a species of unpredictable South American monkey. By any name, the unpredictable, Burmese-born, English-raised writer (whose mother was killed by a rogue cow) specialized in the kind of stories readers of all ages loved to encounter in newspapers, magazines, and bound volumes as he traversed from one end of Europe to the other. His famous last words, uttered in a foxhole in 1916, were, "Put that damn cigarette out!" Before anyone was able to complain of his using a preposition at the end of a sentence, he was dead.

Cat-fancier Gerrit Lansing is another writer you simply must meet through his poetry, if you're not already one of the many, many people fortunate enough to already know him in person. He lives in a somewhat Gothic (well, maybe not exactly Gothic) manse (well, maybe not exactly a mansion) overlooking the sea.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

"Rose Coloured Teacups" by A. S. Byatt

A tale of three generations of women, a sewing machine, and the ghosts that hover at the edge of memory. Memory, nostalgia, and the impossible past collide in this pithy study of time and transition. Read by Scoot.

Just google "A. S. Byatt" and be amazed by how much you find out about her and her many works. Or go to her own home page at Or read the jacket copy to books such as Babel Tower or Degrees of Freedom or Angels and Insects. Or see the movie based on her book Possession (no comment on its quality!). Or just sit down and read The Matisse Stories or the novel Still Life and discover the writer at her source.

Monday, May 30, 2005

"Hartford After Work" by Jack Kerouac

Perhaps we're stretching things a bit to call this picturesque travelogue of urban life a "short story," but it does have all the acuity of time and place Kerouac's always semi-factual fiction has, so who's to quibble? We see grubby, gritty mid-20th century Hartford through the eyes of a visionary writer and someone who felt as one with and yet separate from those teeming mobs on the city's streets. Read by Neil Miller.

On The Road is of course where everyone starts in a discussion about Jack Kerouac, but in fact he'd been writing and publishing for some time before that novel eventually made him famous enough to drive him crazy. His first couple of novels, unpublished and published, were much more conventional than the speeding, careening joyride of his most popular works, and yet they carried a full load of "promise." In his fairly short life the Lowell, Massachusetts native of French-Canadian extraction produced such a volume and variety of work one can soon see why "beatnik" is the most limiting apellation one could give him, rest his soul.

We last heard journalist and teacher Neil Miller giving voice to Hemingway's clean, well-lit cafe; even as you listen to this, Neil is deep within a southwestern cavern, doing research on his latest book. If he comes out alive, you may find that book on shelves near you some time in the next year or two. In the meantime, his upcoming revision of his history survey, Out of the Past, should tide us all over.

Friday, May 27, 2005

"A Late Encounter with the Enemy" by Flannery O'Connor

For quite a few decades in American history, it was custom to trot out surviving Civil War veterans every Memorial Day or Fourth of July or Armistice Day, whether or not the patriotism was Yankee or Confederate. Fortunately, they were doing this up through Flannery O'Connor's day, so she could write this typically hilarious, typically pathos-drenched story of a Southern "general" who, saber in hand, combats the enemy--whether it be within his own family or out there in the cruel, sensationalistic modern world. Read by Matt Kibbee.

A history of Flannery O'Connor should concentrate not on the tragic, despite her short life, but on triumph--her stories which are like no one else's and yet which everyone imitates even today, and her two novels, which still seem as fresh and strange as the days they fell from her typewriter. We're supposed to, of course, concentrate on her religious themes and Diane Arbus-like use of the grotesque, but it is really her wry, measured, always highly poised and polished voice that brings her characters and situations to life. So think not of her crippled by disease and love-loss, but happy amongst her peacocks in Georgia and winking at the so-so serious literary world.

Soon to be teaching English in Vietnam, newly minted summa cum laude Tufts University graduate Matt Kibbee is a faithful listener we are now proud to have among our contributors. He has also recently completed two novels--his own and War and Peace, quite an accomplishment no matter how you look at it. He comes to us from the lovely gorges and valleys of New York State.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"The End of Robinson Crusoe" by Michel Tournier

"What did ever happen to Robinson Crusoe?" Perhaps this question has kept you awake at night, and so Michel Tournier obliges in this translation by Barbara Wright... The author takes it for granted that we are familiar with the DeFoe novel, which he had already rewritten, radically, in his 1967 novel, Friday or The Other Island. Read by Scoot.

Michel Tournier rewrote his own version of Crusoe for children as Friday and Robinson in 1971; before and since he has been tackling history and historical figures often in his philosophical fiction. "The most gifted and original novelist to emerge from France since the [second world] war" is what the book jackets proclaim, and we are not ones to argue. His second novel, a retelling of the Erl King fable set in Third Reich Germany and translated as The Ogre, is even more highly regarded than Friday--in Tournier's works legend, myth, and the modern world often intertwine. A novel based on the life of St. Sebastian is reportedly still in the works.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On the Road

We're packing our bookbags and heading off down the lonesome highway for a few weeks, searching for new stories and new readers... but promise to try to keep posting new stories when and if we can. Don't be surprised if our descriptions will be short or sound quality even lower than usual, though we promise to try to polish things up as best we can... eventually.

We may not be able to post every other day, but we will post as often as we can. Please be patient and keep coming back! We always appreciate anyone who stumbles upon our humble site and lends a welcoming ear. Listen on!

Monday, May 23, 2005

"The Saint by Accident" by Mohammed Mrabet

Yesterday we offered you a story by latter-day Moroccan Paul Bowles; today we present a story by one of the young Arabs Bowles taped and then translated into English from the Moghrebi. The story Mr. Mrabet tells to Bowles's recorder is perhaps not that different from those told around North African campfires; however, it has a distinctive deadpan irony which is all Mrabet's. Are saints born or made? There may or may not be an answer here. Read by Gerrit Lansing.

It is hard to think of Mrabet, who comes from the Rif Mountains, as a "writer" in the conventional western sense, since he was essentially illiterate before meeting and being employed by Paul Bowles. In collaboration with Bowles, Mrabet produced many volumes of short stories, novels, autobiography, and even at least one play. Mrabet's method was to smoke a lot of kif and proceed to conjure up erratic yet very compelling narratives that are hard to put down if only because they never pause for a second.

Gerrit Lansing has hardly paused for a second throughout his life, either, and has been acquainted with Bowles's post-World War II theatrical world of playwrights and composers, then with many members of the so-called Beat Generation, the avant-garde poets and film-makers of the 1960's and '70s, and a loose-knit and far-flung legion of writers and musicians and artists still active today. In fact, there's scarcely an important man or woman involved in the arts who this product of Chagrin Falls, Ohio hasn't met or known in his decades as a poet and cherubic rabble-rouser. His latest collection is Heavenly Tree, Soluble Forest.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

"The Garden" by Paul Bowles

A typical Paul Bowles story contains human folly, poison or magic or both, and brutality, told in the dispassionate voice of a folk tale--and this one is no exception. Here, a poor man who loves his garden is victimized needlessly because of that innocent love. Read by Scoot.

If you know anything at all about Paul Bowles, when you think of him, you'll think of Morocco, a mild eccentricity, and the culture clash between the ancient and modern worlds. He was also a composer of theatrical and "serious" music which is actually quite good, though usually far more conventional than his fiction or travel writing. His years of living in and traveling through Northern Africa led to the breakdown of his marriage to the writer Jane Bowles, the publication of such novels as The Sheltering Sky, and his collaboration with and translations of several Arab writers.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Another Holiday for the Prince" by Elizabeth Jolley

"In Pottery Class I'm making a jar with a lid. If it comes out all right I think I'll use it for a jewel box as we don't ever eat marmalade." That's how this story about disaffected youth in late 20th century Australia ends; listen and hear how it begins. Read by Sebastian Stuart.

Though she was born and raised in England, Elizabeth Jolley grew up in a German-speaking household. Before she was married she worked as a nurse; after her marriage she and her husband emigrated to Australia, though Jolley did not become well-known (as a writer of radio dramas) until 1975. She easily moved from plays to short stories and then to novels, and lastly, autobiography. Her work is known for its eccentric characters, daring plots, and gimlet-eyed social criticism. Foxybaby is one of her most famous novels, but she hasn't been published in America for quite some time now--shame on you, publishing world!

The last we heard of Sebastian Stuart he was completing a novel about New York society, polishing off a series of comic skits for a Boston charity organization, and working on several movie deals. It is rumored he may even be considering a run for vice-president (with his favorite female candidate at the top of the bill).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"The Rockpile" by James Baldwin

Stay away from the rockpile, the boys are warned, but the allure is overwhelming for these children of the inner city. Ultimately, one boy must suffer for his half-brother's sins. Read by Scoot.

Another Country, Giovanni's Room, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, "Sonny's Blues," "Going to Meet the Man" .... these are a few of James Baldwin's more popular works. Raised in Harlem, he had to relocate to Europe to begin his career as a writer, a career which soared with scathing indictments of racism and poverty. Baldwin lived from 1924 to 1987.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

"The Lightning-Rod Man" by Herman Melville

In the middle of a raging thunderstorm, a salesman knocks at the door with fearsome warnings of what might happen without a you-guessed-what. This short story could shock you! Herman Melville was originally paid $18 for it, though you might agree that it's worth at least twenty (and here it is for you--free!). Read by Jonathan Strong.

Oh, dear--where to begin with Mr. Melville? Surely you know Moby Dick even if you haven't taken the time to read it, and you might have read "Barteby the Scrivener" or perhaps Billy Budd (or seen the play or movie or Benjamin Britten and E. M. Forster's opera). And the more astute among you may know his South Seas novels or even his poetry. Certainly one of the most interesting and complex writers America has ever produced, Melville was a former cabin boy who once lived among real cannibals and later hobnobbed with Boston Brahmins (we'll leave it to you to decide who ate their own with most vigor). He had enough sense later in life to become a farmer.

Jonathan Strong's recent revision of his second novel, Ourselves, is still available.

Friday, May 13, 2005

"Paper Pills" by Sherwood Anderson

Like most of the residents of Winesburg, Ohio, Dr. Reefy has a secret history--which Sherwood Anderson is glad to reveal to us. Well, everyone in town did wonder why that tall dark girl ever married the nervous middle-aged doctor. Read by Scoot.

Though he also wrote novels and poetry, it is probably for his short stories that Anderson, born in Ohio in 1876, is best remembered. He certainly will always be recognized as one of the chief innovators of the American short story cycle, embodied in his tales of midwestern small-town life--its hidden despair and quiet joy. (Emphasize the despair.) You can read more about his real life in his autobiography, Tar. Anderson died in 1941.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Gifts" by Myra Goldberg

At a municipal swimming pool, a mother and daughter together reflect upon three generations of women in their family, all within the space of less than four pages. Read by Martha Collins.

Whistling and Other Stories is the short story collection by Myra Goldberg where you'll find this subtly surprising story. Goldberg, who has a teenage daughter of her own, teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Manhattan. "Deeply serious and very funny," is how Grace Paley described this author's work, which has been anthologized at home and abroad and translated into French.

The award-winning poet Martha Collins makes her second appearance on these pages with this reading. Her works include The Catastophe of Rainbows and The Arrangement of Space. Look for her latest book of translations, poems by Vietnamese author Lam Thi My Da, Green Rice, available now.

Monday, May 09, 2005


Sorry to miss a couple days here--the staff took an unexpected weekend vacation, hoping to bag a couple of new stories from different readers on the way but coming back empty-handed. Nevertheless, we have plenty of stories "in the can" and others in the works...

A few reminders about this site, in case anyone ever reads these little announcements:

"Stories to Go" is totally free, free of ads and free of inducements to do anything but go to your local (not chain and not online, if you can avoid it) bookstore or library to obtain the books whence these stories come.

Therefore, although we are very happy with the work of our friends who read for us, none of us is a professional reader and we make plenty of mistakes and never edit and our studio is low-budget, if nonexistent.

All of these stories are read "cold," that is, with no rehearsals, no preparation other than clearing our throats, and quite often without ever having read the story before (or having read it so long ago, we've forgotten it). Most of the stories are chosen pretty much at random, going for the shortest ones in the books, often surprising ourselves by how good (or mediocre) what we've just read is. So these stories aren't necessarily the best, or the ones we'd choose for an anthology, or even the most representative selections from our chosen authors.

The authors we read depend a lot on what we have at hand and are not meant to be a democratic sampling of the world's innumerable authors, ancient or modern. Since we are sadly monolingual and limited to English, we rely on authors writing in English or authors available in translation. We realize we are not the multiracial multilingual multicultural melting pot literature really is, but we do the best we can with our small library (yes, we own all these books).

Don't be surprised if the miniature story descriptions we provide sometimes "give away" more of a story's plot than you might ordinarily want or need. Nevertheless, hearing a story is different from reading a story, and when hearing a story without having read it before, it often helps to have some general idea of what the story and its plot are about and what they entail, since it's easy to get lost in the sentences when you can't flip back a page or two just to check something. If you really want to be completely surprised, don't read the summaries! (They are not provided by our guest readers, by the way, but by our understaffed staff.)

In general, it takes us about twenty minutes every other day to maintain this site, so the content here is no more than that which twenty minutes can allow. Although our "readership" doesn't even approach that of truly popular podcasts, we are incredibly pleased to find people from all over the earth coming to this site. We are totally surprised to find ourselves sometimes being talked about out there (or in there) in cyberspace, and we are enormously grateful for the kind words and "return customers." This was a site that happened with absolutely no forethought, just a whim to experiment one chilly day last March, and we don't know how much longer we'll last, but in the meantime, we very much enjoy this opportunity to (re)introduce the post-literary world to some wonderful literature. Thanks again!

"The Kiss" by Angela Carter

Take a trip to the center of Asia, to ancient Samarkand, where the Uzbeks dress in brilliant silks and bright lilies and tulips grow among the mountain rocks. Or at least they do in Angela Carter's imagination, in this wee story about the conqueror Tamburlaine (Tamerlane) and his beautiful and clever wife. There may or may not be a kiss involved. Read by Scoot.

Fairy tales, tall tales, ghost stories, myths, and legends were the domain of the Englishwoman Angela Carter's many short stories and novels. It might be reductivist to call her worldview "feminist," though that's part of it--she was a true humanist as well, in love with the imaginary creations of people across the globe. We here at "Stories to Go" are still waiting to see The Company of Wolves, the movie based on one of Carter's reappraisals of the Brothers Grimm, though we actually did meet her, sort of, in a real building in a real town a long time ago. She had amazing long silver hair.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

"The Departure of the Shadow" by Guillaume Apollinaire

A young woman dies and it's all because she lost her shadow. Oh well, her lover was tired of her, anyway. It's easy to label stories such as this modernist and "surrealist" because after all Apollinaire called his work that himself, but there's something of an old-fashioned folk tale, as well, in this short piece translated by Ron Padgett. Read by Scoot.

No, Guillaume Apollinaire wasn't really French, at least by ancestry and birth. (He was really Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris de Kostrowicki, born in Rome, the son of a Polish countess and an Italian-Swiss nobleman.) And no, he didn't steal the Mona Lisa, though the French police once arrested him for that. (It was some other anarchist, wasn't it?) Yes, he did coin the word "surrealism" and had a profound influence as well on the cubist movement. But no, he never publicly admitted he wrote the racy novels that were banned in France until 1970, but, alas, yes, he did die of the flu during the 1918 pandemic, at the age of 38, and so wouldn't have been able to enjoy the profits for long, anyway.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"The Scotty Who Knew Too Much" by James Thurber

Knowing too much can sometimes be as bad as knowing too little. A small but would-be-tough dog finds that out in this second of our Thurber offerings. Read by Stephen McCauley.

Is Sex Necessary? was James Thurber's first book (written with E. B. White), published in 1929; he continued to write humorous stories for children and adults up until his death in 1961. Incidentally, Thurber was partially blinded by a blow from an arrow shot at him by his brother when they were boys, so always listen to your mother.

Rumor has it that Stephen McCauley is very popular in France. He is owned by a small but very tough dog named Woodles.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Leave-taking" by Giorgio Manganelli

Here's our gift to all you graduating seniors (whether it's from high school, college, or the school of hard knocks) out there this month: Before suffering the indignity of birth, a wistful soul addresses his comrades and bids farewell. Both a pastiche of the typical valedictory speech and a metaphysical exercise, this story has an unexpected bitter edge. Read by Scoot.

Though widely known throughout Europe, the Italian Giorgio Manganelli, who died fifteen years ago, is still little-known elsewhere. Noted art critic and translator Henry Martin has recently introduced English-speaking audiences to this author, whose philosophical fiction and critical philosophy and philosophical criticism includes Centuria, a collection of one-hundred "ouroboric novels." (Fortunately, each of these novels is only two pages long.) Long live the difficult avant-garde writer and long live Manganelli!

Friday, April 29, 2005

"Night Walk" by Isak Dinesen

Imagine a self-willed insomnia so powerful, so maddening that it leads you to desperate measures--and a last, feverish scene that might be a divine revelation or an insidious nightmare. The engima of an art student who is stricken by his master's death is Dinesen's own, for us to ponder. Read by Scoot.

Isak Dinesen was of course really Karen Blixen (or perhaps we should say Karen Blixen was really Isak Dinesen), who traveled from Denmark to Kenya to world fame as a spinner of tales which seem both ancient and ageless. Whether in her memoirs (such as Out of Africa) or her fiction (such as "Babette's Feast"), she maintains an elegant, somewhat detached poise that is classical in its proportions and yet very modern in its sensibilites--at least, that's what our inner critic with the hoity-toity attitude tells us. Listen on...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"The Darling" by Anton Chekhov

"The Darling" is one of this prolific writer's most celebrated short stories--and he wrote hundreds of good ones. Translated by Constance Garnett, this is a sad, wry, even touching story about a woman who needs a man in her life to know what she thinks. Read by Jonathan Strong.

The Russian writer Anton Pavlovich Chekhov combined the careers of writer, playwright, and doctor--no wonder he died so young. More than a century later, people are still reading his books and attending his plays. No doubt you've done one or the other or both. In many ways, his plain-spoken, down-to-earth stories influenced the writers who came in his wake, all those who believed presenting realistic slices of life more interesting and compelling than manufactured plots.

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Mummy to the Rescue" by Angus Wilson

Nurse has a difficult case: her charge is out of control and likes to bite. Celia's guardians, her grandparents, don't know what to do with her, either, in this strange and surprising little story. Read by Scoot.

A South African childhood, an education in England, a wartime job as a code-breaker, a postwar job as a librarian, and success as a writer of fiction which perhaps owes more to the Victorians than to the Modernists all made Sir Angus Wilson the man he was. Much of his work was satirical of "Anglo-Saxon attitudes" from the beginning of the twentieth century all the way up to the 1980's; he also wrote biographies of Kipling and Dickens. He was considered an important enough writer by his English admirers to be knighted in 1980, and he died in his beloved Suffolk in 1991.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

"From the Fifteenth District" by Mavis Gallant

If the dead haunt the living, it stands to reason that the living haunt the dead. There, we've given away the "gimmick" to this story, but that doesn't matter; the humor and emotional impact of this story alone is worth the reading (or listening). Read by Elizabeth Leavell.

Born in Montreal in 1922, Mavis Gallant has lived in Europe since 1950 and has been publishing stories, novels, and nonfiction ever since--dozens of her stories have appeared in The New Yorker alone. She is considered a true innovator of the modern short story and one of Canada's chief literary exports to the world. It is said that she reads newspapers in four languages every morning, but maybe that's just to make the rest of us look inadequate.

Like Mavis Gallant, Elizabeth Leavell is an expat of sorts herself--a southerner who now makes her home among the yankees. She teaches and tutors at Tufts University and writes an occasional mystery novel (under assumed names, of course). She is currently bringing up Dora, who recently graduated summa cum laude from her dog obedience class.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Ping" by Samuel Beckett

If you've been worried that our selections are a bit on the conventional side of things, here's a change of pace--a story which is really more an adventure in sound and speech patterns than an exploration of character or plot. Impossible to describe any further, this piece is translated by the author from Beckett's original Gallic version, which was called, inexplicably enough, "Bing." Read by Scoot.

One of the fathers of modern theater, Samuel Beckett is of course known best for Waiting for Godot, done to death in a million venues by amateurs and professionals alike, but still a great play. The absurdist Irishman also wrote fiction and what-you-may-call-it in both English and French. Cranky, dyspeptic, and solidly sordid, his works challenge both language and the reader.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"When I Was Thirteen" by Denton Welch

Brave and Cruel was the title of Denton Welch's sole short story collection published during his lifetime, and this story is both. In it, a schoolboy infatuation during a ski trip leads to a brother's extreme displeasure. Read by Morgan Mead. Time 29:53.

Denton Welch's list of written works is short, and so was his life. But during that short life, the Chinese-born Englishman became a protégé of Edith Sitwell's, developed great talents as a painter, and wrote intimate yet universal pieces that were later considered ahead of their time (they were supposedly a big influence on Jack Kerouac). He has been called "the least-known genius of the 20th century."

Morgan Mead has taught English and published fiction of his own. He has a well-known genius for design and decor.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Serafim" by Tatyana Tolstaya

Serafim is one of the seraphim--or it could all be in his imagination. Our author lets the reader decide that in this story of transformation--and no redemption--in the best Ovidian tradition. What we do know is that Serafim loathes every single person and every earthly thing--even cute little dogs! Read by Scoot.

Tatyana Tolstaya came to the United States to teach for a while--and now divides her time between the States and Russia, where she is a very well-known writer and also cohost of a TV show called "School for Scandal." Primarily a short-story writer, her novel Kys' has not yet been translated into English. Her work is rich and musical and sensual, in the best Russian tradition (see Nabokov).

Friday, April 15, 2005

"A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J. D. Salinger

Bananafish are ordinary-looking fish who swim into a banana hole, eat as many as 78 bananas, and then die of banana fever. This story actually has next to nothing to do with "bananafish," but is really about the girl in room 507. She's bored, waiting for the phone to ring. And then there's Seymour... You'll have to listen to understand. Read by Scott Trudell.

If one more person describes J. D. Salinger as "reclusive," we'll, we'll--but there, we've done it ourselves! Well, you already know he's the author of Catcher in the Rye and may or may not have another book he's been working on ever since, somewhere in North America. And that may or may not be everything you need to know about J. D. Salinger.

The not-so-reclusive Scott Trudell is a Shakespeare scholar who will soon be at Rutgers University. He is currently working on a book about Saddam Hussein--for children, no less.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"Mummified Couple Found in Peatbog" by S. P. Elledge

Across northern Europe and the British Isles, almost perfectly preserved bodies of Iron Age men and women are sometimes dug up by workers in peat bogs. Who were these people, and how did they die? Here's one possible answer. Read by Scoot.

All we know is that S. P. Elledge seems to have been working in America in the late twentieth century. This story is from a long-forgotten anthology.

Monday, April 11, 2005

"Arrangement in Black and White" by Dorothy Parker

Gotham, the 1930s. An elegant cocktail party, buzzing with gossip about the presence of the guest of honor: a real-live "colored" man! Read by Anita Diamant.

"I was born prematurely, which was the last time I was early for anything." Please don't let such famous quips distract from the real talent of that most famous Algonquin Round Table author, Dorothy Parker. That talent lay in "verse," as she called it, her witty book reviews, and most of all in her finely honed short stories. Though her talents were severely compromised by alcoholism, Parker was socially conscious enough to leave her estate to the NAACP.

If you know the novels The Red Tent or Good Harbor, you already know Anita Diamant. She is also a widely known journalist whose books on many aspects of Jewish life and culture are extremely popular. This September look for her new novel, The Last Days of Dogtown.

Happy Birthday to Us!

It seems incredible, but this little Internet exercise has survived one whole month in the harrowing, cutthroat world of podcasting. (Actually, everyone's been extremely polite and helpful.) With no more advertising than being listed in a few podcast directories, word seems to be spreading, and we appear to have regular readers all across the globe--which causes us to be more than a little astonished and extremely grateful. (Our greatest fear, however, is that some non-native English speakers will now be using our unwise pronunciation of certain words.)

To celebrate this first month, we're going to do at last what we should have done some time ago: cut back on the number of our podcasts. Obviously, you can't all keep up with one whole story a day, no matter how much you might want to--and even though we enjoy recording nearly every day, we should probably slow things down a bit. So, we're going to post just once every other day for an indefinite time and see how the "masses" like that. Do you?

You might also notice that we've been including some newer works recently--even some living authors! Now, we don't want to get into any you-know-what kind of trouble, so we want to reiterate that we believe we are protected by "fair use" policies and whatever we read serves to act only as advertisement for the real thing: buying (or at least borrowing) the flesh-and-blood books themselves. Besides all that, this is definitely a not-for-profit enterprise: we only lose money and time by offering you this website. However, if you have any objections to any of our offerings, we will certainly at least consider removing it. (We're not talking about content, which we'll always stand by--but about c*pyr*ght. Please keep those lawyers at bay.)

So, thank you, all our disparate readers and visitors to this site! And thank you, gracious and generous guest readers--you are the true talents here and make this endeavor worth the effort. (Besides, it's been fun.) And if anyone ever wants to leave a comment or drop us a line telling us just how you feel, don't be shy! We do it all for you... and our own egomanical desire to read aloud and actually be heard by someone.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

"Kaspar Hauser Speaks" by Steven Millhauser

Kaspar Hauser was a real person, and he really did undergo the horrific childhood explicated in this story disguised as a lecture to a group of curious German citizens. He was a mystery, an enigma, a riddle, a puzzle that may never be fully pieced together. Millhauser's story is another fascinating fragment to add to all the rest. Read by Scoot.

Don't let Steven Millhauser's Pulitzer for his last novel, Martin Dressler, or the consistent high praise for all his novels since his first, Edwin Mulhouse, fool you--his best work is really in the realm of novellas and short stories, and that is one of the reasons why he is just about our favorite living author. He writes about his childhood in small-town New Jersey; he writes about odd, artistic young men and women in familiar yet strange landscapes; he writes about imaginary lands and legendary people. And he always writes with brilliant detail and love for this marvelous invention called the English language.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"The Upturned Face" by Stephen Crane

In this tale of war and death and duty, two officers confront the need to bury a dead comrade. Read by Martha Collins.

It's quite likely you read either The Red Badge of Courage or The Open Boat in school--and you may remember that Stephen Crane, though he wrote so realistically of the Civil War, was involved in the Spanish-American War instead. (This story takes place during an imaginary war in an unknown land.) Even though he died before he reached thirty, Crane had already revolutionized poetry and fiction with a style which still sounds shockingly modern to us today. Though beloved by many other authors and journalists, Crane was hounded by gossips, retreated to England, and succumbed to tuberculosis in Germany.

Martha Collins divides her time between Massachusetts and Ohio, where she teaches at Oberlin. Not only is she the author of four poetry collections, but she has also translated two volumes from Vietnamese, most recently Green Rice by Lam Thi My Da. Blue Front, a book-length poem, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2006. Contrary to rumor, she is not an international spy, nor has she ever danced with Martha Graham or starred in James Bond films.

Friday, April 08, 2005

"Signs and Symbols" by Vladimir Nabokov

An elderly couple, recent immigrants to America, go to see their mentally imbalanced son in his asylum, but discover that he has once again tried to take his own life. Dejected, they return home to contemplate their loss... and then the phone rings. It sounds simple, and it is--but isn't. Read by Scoot.

In our minds the greatest writer of the twentieth and almost any other century, Vladimir Nabokov was himself an émigré from Russia to America, where he wrote this story in English, a language he had excelled in since childhood. If you've read Lolita, don't stop there, and don't ignore his short stories, where some of his best writing lies. At the very least, this small story definitely disproves the idea that he was a cold, detached writer.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"What are You Doing in My Dreams?" by Dawn Powell

Go on, now--run away from home. When they drag you back, try again. And again. So what if you're a little girl from a small town in Ohio who's set her sights on the bright lights of New York City. If you try hard enough, you'll get there--even if you can't leave all your memories behind with your old dolls. Read by Monique Saint Amant.

Much like the character in this story from 1952, Dawn Powell was a girl who just had to get out of her constrained home town and make the big time. Well, she never quite made the big time, but she did write and publish a great deal, despite failures and setbacks and alcoholism and poverty. Though frustrated with the literary establishment during her lifetime, Dawn Powell wrote on--and her works have recently been revived and celebrated. Not bad for a little girl from Ohio.

Monique Saint Amant has been an actress, brick mason, radio DJ, computer specialist, rock musician, businesswoman, model, and writer--and probably much more, if we only knew; despite it all she's quite modest. Lived all over the place, done most everything. She should write a book, right?

"The House of Asterion" by Jorge Luis Borges

In case you can't fully recall your Greek mythology, Asterion (or Asterios) was the son of the witch queen Pasiphae (wife of the Cretan king Minos) and a bull she happened to fall in love with. Asterion lived in an ingenious building constructed by the inventor Daedalus and spent his free time consuming innocent youths until Thesus put a stop to that nasty habit. Oh, yes, Asterion was also known as the Minotaur. This version of the story was translated by Andrew Hurley. Read by Scoot.

Undoubtedly one of the most important and influential writers of the last or any other century, Jorge Luis Borges is one of our two very favorite writers here at "Stories to Go" (the other one is coming up soon--can you guess who?). This Argentinian had such a vivid imagination and played such cunning games with mythology, philosophy, and history that we should probably just stop everything right now to study his dozens of stories one more time. Will you join us?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

Poor Miss Brill! She's stuck inside the confines of a Katherine Mansfield story, leading the frustrated, unfulfilled life of a Mansfield woman. Even attending a public concert can bring Miss Brill no lasting joy--and people will talk behind one's back so! Read by Denise Donnelly.

Biographical sketches of Katherine Mansfield invariably must point out how she was born and raised in New Zealand, sought the writing life in England, trysted with John Middleton Murray, and died painfully young and not quite fulfilled. This sketch will be no different. But we do want to remind everyone what an achingly beautiful writer of short stories she was, how she expressed even fleeting joy better than the best can express lasting sorrow, and how through it all she was able to keep one hand to the pen and one to her mouth, just barely stifling the grin that often flickered there.

This is Denise Donnelly's second contribution to these pages, and we wish to thank her for her patience and generosity. We hope that now you will search her name at your local bookstore.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"The Short Happy Life of Henrietta" by Evan S. Connell

Quite possibly a sort of tribute to Ernest Hemingway not just in title, Connell's story is similar in its abrupt violence and mordant sense of humor. Cruel to Arabs, very cruel to naive Nebraskans, this tiny tale of murder in the Bois de Boulogne is not at all typical of most of Connell's work, except perhaps in its sly artistry. Read by Scoot.

Known to many fans as the author of the psychologically revealing novels Mrs. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge and the historical study Son of the Morning Star, Evan S. Connell is another Midwesterner who found himself living in France in the 1950s (we think). Connell also has written much more experimental prose-poetry and a whole slew of incisive short stories. It's too bad that despite having loved his work for a long time we still know so little about him--probably he likes it that way.

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway

In a clean, well-lighted cafe, late at night and just before closing time, the waiters and an old man debate life and death in a most Hemingwayesque manner. Read by Neil Miller.

This is one of Ernest Hemingway's most famous short stories, a typical example of his terse yet tender style, simmering with violence just beneath the surface. The author's adventurous, peripatetic life took him from Illinois to France to Florida to Cuba to Idaho, and a lot of places in between. This story was first published when he was living in Key West.

Neil Miller is an award-winning writer who teaches journalism at Tufts University; his last book is Sex Crime Panic, quite possibly set to become a major motion picture. He is currently working on a book about the discovery of a huge cavern system in Arizona.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Solemn Confession

April Fool! Anyone who was paying close attention yesterday might have guessed that we were pulling a nether appendage with our small offering from one "Henry James." Actually, that overly mannered and nearly nonsensical prose was from the wicked pen of none other than Max Beerbohm, parodying the worst of James's latter-day excesses.

Please forgive us for this heinous deception and trust that we won't be pulling any such shenanigans again... No fooling! (Right?)

To make up for our iniquity, here's the real Max Beerbohm--pretending to be Max Beerbohm.

"A Vain Child" by Max Beerbohm

The grotesque 19th century children's book, Struwwelpeter (Slovenly or Shockheaded Peter) by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, is the subject of this odd little bagatelle, in form somewhere between fabricated anecdote and fictionalized memoir. The story of a young boy lost in books with his head in the clouds certainly must have appealed to young Master Max! Read by Scoot.

Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm straddled the nineteenth and twentieth century with his satiric novels, such as the wildly funny Zuleika Dobson, and shorter essays and parodies such as this one, which is actually a self-parody in the best Beerbohmian style. While still a college student, he contributed to the infamous Yellow Book of the Wilde era. Though very English, he was partly German in ancestry, married an American, and spent the latter half of his life in Italy--so one could justifiably call him a humorist of international proportions.

Friday, April 01, 2005

"The Guerdon" by Henry James

A superb example of Henry James's late, most mandarin style, this little story concerns the meeting of royalty and a commoner--or something like that. (Do they ever really meet?) Of course, nothing much happens, but did you really expect that in late James? Read by Scoot.

From The Turn of the Screw to Daisy Miller to The Golden Bowl, Henry James has entertained generations with his novels of manners and morals (as critics invariably put it). Whether you prefer him with one lump of obliqueness--or two, or twenty, depending on which era of his you most worship--this once-forgotten and only recently discovered story is certain to interest even the casual reader. Here is your own guerdon.