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.