Saturday, February 04, 2006

"The Man in Pyjamas" by Eugenio Montale

On his way down the corridor of a hotel late at night, a guest overhears another guest's anxious voice on the phone in her room. Immediately the unintentional eavesdropper begins to conjecture all sorts of possible scenarios--all that's possible within the space of a couple of pages, that is. Read by Scoot. Time 4:18.

Let's consider this story absurd, since that's how it's categorized in the anthology from which it came (after having first appeared in London Magazine some month, apparently, in the 1960's). The author himself was not so usually absurd, since he was the rather serious translator into Italian of many writers in English, from Shakespeare to Hawthorne, as well as himself. More importantly, Montale was "the most influential Italian poet of the twentieth century," as it says right here in that anthology, and is said to have transformed modern Italian poetry the same way T. S. Eliot transformed English poetry. Who would have ever guessed that from this little scribble of a story?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Cynthia" by Aldous Huxley

A goddess meets her god--or so the ugly, lovestruck "god" thinks. Here's one of those tales which might be told by Oxford graduates as they pass the decanter and thumb through Zuleika Dobson once again for inspiration. Read by Sebastian Stuart. Time 13:50.

The anthology this story comes from is so old it doesn't even mention Huxley's most notorious novel, Brave New World, which hadn't even been published yet. The author and satirist, one of the famous English Huxley family of scientists and artists, was only about 25, a recent college graduate (Balliol at Oxford) himself, when he included this story in his 1920 collection, Limbo. Soon after he would add Leda, Mortal Coils, and Antic Hay to his shelf at the booskhops. It was a long way from there to the swamis and Hollywood and the wild LSD trips that helped inspire a generation of rock stars and hippies until his final injection on the same day that both C. S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy died.

Fresh from several ghostwriting stints, Sebastian Stuart will soon be adding another book to the shelf that holds his thriller The Mentor. It's a comic novel he co-wrote called 24 Karat Kids, and it's already been blurbed by Woody Allen. He has spent much time recently doing scholarly research, as well as writing comic skits for hire, and he will be seen in a forthcoming documentary about his grandfather, the renowned anthropologist Branislaw Malinowski.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Get clicking!

What? You haven't clicked on our link to Librivox yet? If you haven't already, do so now--soon you'll be listening not just to short stories, but to entire books--novels and other works of wonder from out of the public domain and into your earphones! This is an important site everyone should know about, and even yours truly has taken part in the communal readathon. We thank Hugh McGuire from way up in the magical city of Montreal for putting together this important--nay, crucial--resource.

Just to listen to while on your way to the library or bookstore, of course...
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Silent Movie" by Charles Baxter

Maureen is tired of men--their voices, their demands, their ways, their world. And she is, most of all, tired of that man living with her. Read by Jonathan Strong. Length 10:37.

When he was a small child, Charles Baxter was dandled on the knee of rabble-rousing writer Sinclair Lewis. When he grew up, Charlie became a writer himself, specializing in tales of married couples like this one trying to cope with the large and small despairs of our existence, and of other lives of that famous "quiet desperation" in the American Midwest, where the author, as Lewis did, lives. Actually, his writing is not quite as sober as that description might suggest, because we all know the other side of that equation is a quiet joy. Look for Saul and Patsy, his most recent novel, and A Relative Stranger, the collection from which this story comes, and many others.