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!