Thursday, January 26, 2006

"A Girl Called Apple" by Hanan Al-Shaykh

Apple is an unmarried woman approaching middle age in a culture which, much like any other culture, expects most adults to marry, settle down, and have children. Living as she does with her family in an infrequently visited oasis, Apple's choices may be few, but her willpower strong. Read by Scoot.

Not surprisingly, the writer says she wrote this story after a visit to Yemen. Though she now lives in London, Hanan Al-Shaykh is a Shi'i Muslim from southern Lebanon, and is considered one of the most important female writers in the modern Arab world. Al-Shaykh began her career, as so many writers do, as a journalist in Cairo and Beirut. Her books, which, in part, examine power struggles between the sexes in the Middle East and beyond, include Women of Sand and Myrrh and Only in London--which gives you an idea of the cosmopolitan scope of her writing. Interestingly, the title of one of her lectures was "The New Scheherezade," so one might assume she has many more stories to tell us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

From the top shelf...

Just in case you missed this (of course you did!), here is the explanation we gave to a recent visitor to this site, one who wondered if our last story offering, by Jane Bowles, was complete. Since this answer applies to quite a few of our stories, we thought we might repeat and revise it:

Yes, as abrupt as it is, that is the end of the story. But you're not the first to wonder if the whole file of the day has been downloaded; indeed, as we have lately discovered, some of our offerings have been accidentally truncated--those have been fixed (permanently, we hope). We try to keep most of our downloads as small and brief as possible, usually choosing the shortest stories in the collections we own. (This doesn't mean, therefore, that they are all favorites!) Because most of our readings are so short or fairly short, many of them number among the authors' fragmentary or even not-quite-finished works. Other times, especially with the more experimental stories, the endings are purposely unsettling or left dangling. It's up to the reader to decide whether the way the story ends is successful or not. Don't worry; we'll try to have more unquestionably complete stories as often as we can... Thanks, Marc, for your query.
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Monday, January 23, 2006

"Andrew" by Jane Bowles

A young man who joins the military becomes friends with another, strange young man whose officers allow him to camp out in the woods and cook meat over an open fire. Be prepared for fireworks! Read by Jonathan Strong.

Many people know her as merely the frail wife of writer/composer Paul Bowles (featured here previously), someone who followed him to Morocco, where she came under the thrall of an Arab woman who eventually, some say, led her to her destruction. Well, that may be partly true, but Jane Bowles was an excellent if idiosyncratic writer in many critics' regards, albeit one who took some decades to be fully recognized and realize her just rewards--post-mortem, as if often the case. Her play In the Summer House might be her most widely recognized work, but she is also well-known for her novel Two Serious Ladies and more recently for her collected stories, wherein this one is drawn. So, you see, she was much more than the neurotic portait of her in The Sheltering Sky. Not that we should ever think actual, "real" people ever haunt the otherworld of fiction, any more than those famous real toads in imaginary gardens!