Wednesday, 3 June 2015

When life meddles with your reading

There is little to write about my reading in May because I read very little. Only a handful of short stories as part of my grand but futile effort to read thirty-one stories during the month. I read less than half and I also didn't make it through any of the unfinished novels. I'm also behind my other challenge to read the ‘first novels’ of various authors.

To be frank, April and May were trying months starting with a month-long home renovation followed by an unexpected health scare in the family and, more recently, my loss of job. Then my laptop crashed beyond repair but my children surprised me with a brand new one. They said they were going to the theatre to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron, a film they’d both seen. My wife and I didn't suspect a thing. They came back in less than an hour with an HP tucked under their arms. What can I say!

I'm relieved the health crisis has passed and all is well. The family is what comes first, nothing else matters. I can always find another job. No one stays jobless for very long. 


I don’t want this to be a sob story any more than it already is, so I’ll tell you about the short stories I read last month. Most of the stories came from Masters of Noir: Volume One which I picked up from Amazon. It's a fine collection of hardboiled stories.

Out of the nine stories in this anthology, I read 
Carrera's Woman by Richard Marsten (Ed McBain) and Look Death in the Eye by Lawrence Block in April, hence they don’t count.

The other seven were…

Identity Unknown by Jonathan Craig

The Girl behind the Hedge by Mickey Spillane

Butcher by Richard S. Prather

On a Sunday Afternoon by Gil Brewer

Frame by Frank Kane

Double by Bruno Fischer

As I lie dead by Fletcher Flora

Besides these, I also read three stories from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, namely ‘Up in Michigan,’ ‘Black Ass at the Cross Roads,’ and ‘The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio.’ I also read and reviewed The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers.

I liked nearly every one of the eleven short stories. They were full of twists and turns. But two stories—‘On a Sunday Afternoon’ by Gil Brewer and ‘Up in Michigan’ by Ernest Hemingway—stood out for their sexual undercurrent.

In Brewer’s story, housewife Julia is trapped in an unhappy marriage. On a day picnic with her husband Dell and their little daughter, Julia is raped by a gang of unruly boys. Her husband is beaten up and tied to a tree. When the boys leave, Julia tells Dell, “I said, I'm glad you didn't do anything, Dell. Because I liked it, Dell. I liked every minute of it. Every God damned minute of it!”

In Hemingway’s story, Liz Coates is crazy about Jim Gilmore, a blacksmith described as short and dark with big moustaches and big hands. He doesn't seem to notice her much. Until one night when he reveals that he has, in fact, been noticing her. During a walk on the dock by the bay, Jim forces himself on Liz. She wants him too but not quite that way. “A cold mist was coming up through the woods from the bay.”

Both the stories were suggestive and they kind of left me squirming. I have never read anything like this by Ernest Hemingway though I have read his hardboiled stories like The Killers. Mild as it was it took me by surprise.

I think I'm going to stop putting a number to my reading though I know I’ll be back next month, hopefully, with better figures than in recent months.

32 comments:

  1. I share you inability to read much this month (or last) due to multiple circumstances. Besides missing the actual stories, I miss the state of relaxation reading provides me. Sorry about all the troubles. I don't know many people who haven't had a hard year around now.

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    1. Patti, thank you. I was in no mood to read. I'm sure June will be a better reading month for me.

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  2. Good that the health scare is sorted out. That is first priority and best of luck with the job hunting. I have been reading despite being really busy but posting reviews was a bit erratic. I have been posting via my Ipad and not getting images up which made up for dull posts, but for the last two days have been able to post from a mainframe computer and been able to post images of the books I reviewed. Makes the post so much more alive.

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    1. Thank you, Mystica. I'm sorry I haven't been visiting your blog and I have been missing out on your reviews, but not for long.

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  3. Sorry to hear of your troubles Prashant. I'm glad the health scare is over, and I hope you secure a job very soon. I've had months and even years where I didn't want to put a number to my reading, too. MASTERS OF NOIR sounds intriguing, and I have been a fan of Hemingway's short fiction since high school.

    Ben

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    1. Ben, thank you. Yes, we're mighty relieved about the health issue. I'm already on the hunt for a new job. The thing about Hemingway's writing is that he makes even his news essays and reports read like short stories.

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  4. Sorry for all the hassles you have gone through. Glad the health scare turned out all right. Sometimes reading just does slow down.

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    1. Thank you, Charles. I'd been in no mood to read anything in the past few weeks. But now I'm getting back into the spirit of reading.

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  5. Hoping that everything starts looking up for you soon! Your kids are sweet.

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    1. Elizabeth, thank you. I'm certain it will. The kids are grown up. My daughter is 24 and my son is 18, and they are very understanding.

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  6. Prashant, sorry to hear of your recent troubles. Hopefully, things have bottomed out and the only way now is up! With decent health and the support of a loving family, things will be fine, I'm sure.

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    1. Thank you, Col. "Loving family" — that's the magic word, isn't it? Yes, I'm looking forward to a new job and a new beginning.

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  7. I'm sorry to hear of the difficulties you've had, Prashant. Job losses are always hard, and to compound it with health issues and the death of your laptop is even worse. I'm glad that all is well health-wise, and how wonderful of your children to give you a new computer. What a fine gift! Thanks for sharing the stories you've read; you've reminded me that I ought to re-read some of my Hemingway.

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    1. Thank you, Ms. Kinberg. The loss of my job, however painful, and my crashed laptop didn't bother me as much as the health issue, but that too has passed by god's grace. The new laptop is a "fine gift" from the children and I'm already using it to look for a new job as a content writer and get back to blogging.

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    2. Congratulations on your considerate children and your choice of reading. And good luck with your job search.

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    3. Thank you, Peter. My wife and I are proud of the kids. They are perceptive in a quiet way.

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  8. Prashant, I am very glad to hear that the health scare is resolved. I know how that is and then to have other troubles piled on top. It must be stressful. I am also glad to hear that you are optimistic about finding a job; a good attitude makes a huge difference. Both my husband and I were laid off from our jobs on the same day about 5 years ago, and it took a while to recover from the stress, although we both were lucky in job hunting. And you have such wonderful kids. That is a blessing.

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    1. Tracy, thank you. I'm very glad things worked out well on the job front for both you and your husband. I'm hoping to land a decent position in coming weeks. You are right, a positive attitude can work wonders though, I admit, I'm not a very positive person. After fifteen years in a steady job I'm going to have to accept the fact that change is inevitable, in every walk of life.

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  9. May was a bit hectic for me as well, although I did manage to read two books. Hope to find time to read more this month. Best wishes!

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    1. Blogoratti, thanks for visiting and commenting. I will have more time to read this month and I'm looking forward to it. The hot weather, one of the worst heat waves we've had in decades, also affected my reading in April and May. Best wishes to you too.

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  10. Dear Prashant, all the very best with the job hunting - it something we all fear of course and I really hope you can start anew very soon. Your kids sound great - well done chum, as you say, family is all that matters. And yeah, that noir collection sounds great too!

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    1. Thank you, Sergio. I'm not too worried about landing a new job. But yes, I look forward to making a new beginning after 15 years in one job and 30 years in the news profession, and especially now that I intend to leave the deadline-infested newspaper world behind. I'm taking a short break during which I will weigh my options.

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  11. Sorry you have been having a tough time, but I am impressed by your positive attitude, which surely stands you in good stead. Not to mention having raised two wonderful children - you and your wife must take some credit for that! Good luck with the future - and with the future reading.

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    1. Moira, thank you. I'm not the most positive of people even if that's the impression I give. I do try to be upbeat, though. The credit for my "wonderful children" goes entirely to my wife.

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  12. Prashant, sounds like May was a challenging month for you but you sound so upbeat and positive and that's the way to deal with life's little crisis when it comes at you. Hope things continue to improve for you and your family and I wish you good luck on finding a new job. which I'm sure you will land very soon. New beginnings are not so bad and I wish you the very best.

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    1. Thank you, Keishon. I try to remain "upbeat" and "positive" though it's a constant struggle with myself to be so. Problem is it doesn't come naturally to me, as it does with so many others, which means I have to put in extra effort to keep my head above the water. I'm looking forward to the change.

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  13. Sorry to come to this so late, Prashant, but, yeah, all that and pets with health problems along with family have made it weird around here, too...and then Gil Brewer pretends even a woman in a loveless marriage enjoys gang-rape...well, no. Not even an extreme masochist is likely to be enjoying that party...but, thanks, Gil, you're funny. Funny in the head. Sweet kids indeed (did you guys start having kids when very young?), and hope June has been a lot better.

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    1. Todd, you are never too late. I hope everything is fine at your end. I'd never read Gil Brewer before, so this story came as a surprise. I'll try and read her other fiction. Thanks for your kind words about the kids, Todd. We got married at 23. Our daughter was born a year later and our son came after a few years.

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    2. Well, Prashant, it won't surprise you (and your wife even less), I'll bet, to learn Gil Brewer was a man...

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    3. Todd, I'm embarrassed. I never bothered to find out if Gil Brewer was man or woman. I don't recall reading about the author before.

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  14. My comment has vanished, so here it is again.

    Interesting that in a time of trouble, you turned to dark crime writing. Nice that one can find commiseration and consolation on the page.

    I have read some Gil Brewer in recent months, and if you like his stories, you might also like Harry Whittington, Charles Williams (the paperback original writer, not to be confused with a British Christian novelist of the same name), and Peter Rabe.

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    1. Peter, my responses to comments on my own blog often vanish, as it happens on other blogs I visit. Now I type both my posts and comments on a saved Word file and then paste it where I want to.

      "Dark crime writing" was pure coincidence. I found the anthology on Amazon and liked most of the stories, more so since I hadn't read much of anything by the nine authors. Thanks for spotlighting the three writers, all new to me.

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