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).