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Reading Short Stories With Varied Results

On Wednesday, I did the math and realized that I was going to have to read 97 books in 102 days to catch up on my Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge.  That’s the problem with setting a huge goal. If you accidentally go through a 2 month reading slump, you fall behind fast.  The good side to setting a big goal is that you typically read far more books than you would have without it.

Anyway, long story short, someone posted a link for me on Twitter to short reads: Then I followed up by digging around at my 4 libraries (online), to see what else I could unearth.

Here are the end results, with varying degrees of success and satisfaction:

The Snows of KilimanjaroThe Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well, I think the 1 star rating makes it clear that I hate this. Some people call this Hemingway’s best work. I think it’s a pretentious piece of crap that lacks emotion, a storyline, and decent characters.

It is poorly edited and extremely sexist (in the most boring sort of way), and yes, I understand this was a popular failure of men from this time period. It basically hates on women, remarking on their stupidity and worthlessness about every third paragraph. Every second paragraph is endless rambling about writing and being a writer that even I, as someone who writes, couldn’t care about.

The whole short story is full of nonsense that I feel pretty sure he wrote while drunk (Hopefully. If not, then I’m actually embarrassed for him). Then I suspect he fell so in love with his own rambling sentences that he didn’t bother to edit decently once sober.

It’s basically a telling montage with one irritating run on sentence after another, and it’s not even interesting or insightful. There are no surprises here, except how much I hate this short story and wish I hadn’t wasted my time finishing it. Don’t expect to feel any emotion while reading it, other than general irritation and boredom. This is tedious. Thank goodness it was short, so the suffering was limited.

Also, I’m actually feeling sad that people from this time period apparently didn’t have anything better to read than this, if it’s considered a classic and some of his best work. I wish I could make a quantum leap back through time to carry the people something insightful, forwarding thinking, emotionally resonant, and unique. Instead, all they got was this boring montage built around a dislike of women, a fear of death, and condescending ideas about art and creation.

Pages: 25

The Case of the Caretaker: A Short Story (Miss Marple)The Case of the Caretaker: A Short Story by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a charming little formulaic mystery. It took a minute to capture my attention.

It also used a word I had never seen or heard before, which almost never happens. The word was acidulated. I had to look it up, which amused me.

Pages: 40

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s a relief that I don’t hate this, as I have many other classic short stories that I’ve been reading lately. There is some actually storytelling here, even though is is a bit convoluted at times and often does more telling than showing. The concept is excellent, and the start is good. The middle lags, and the end is all telling. Overall, though, it’s not a bad read. I obviously knew the general story going in, so that may have taken away some of the intrigue and surprise.

Pages: 144

Brokeback MountainBrokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one instance where I watched the movie years before reading the book. I love the movie, in the kind of way you love something that cracks open your chest, rips out your heart, throws it on the ground, and the stomps it into nothing.

So needless to say, it’s a favorite movie that I watch when I want to cry my eyes out and feel sullen for the rest of the night.

The book is good, and it reminds me a lot of the movie. I actually think this is one instance where the movie might portray the story better, because the book is so short that there isn’t time to create the same level of emotion. Surprisingly, a lot of the dialogue is the same, and they stayed really true to the story.

I guess I’m going to have to throw away my “The book is always better” shirt. . . My hypothesis has been disproven.

Pages: 55

Further Adventures of Carlotta Carlyle: Three Mystery StoriesFurther Adventures of Carlotta Carlyle: Three Mystery Stories by Linda Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a decent collection of novellas, but there are too many typos. If it had less typos, I would give it a 4th star.

I love this author and series. My mother got me hooked on reading them years ago. However, I like the full length novels far better than this collection of short stories. They’re not exactly necessary to the storyline or series, so only read them if you love the MC.

Pages: 37

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of ImaginationVery Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I confess that I don’t even remember who spoke at my commencement. This is far more likely to stick with me, and if I were wise, I’d read it again, upon occasion, to remind myself to appreciate both my imagination and failures.

Pages: 74

The ArgonautsThe Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At times, this is interesting and intelligent, and it made me think. Despite that, I didn’t really enjoy it, because there are other times when it’s tedious and flaky. It lost me at the lengthy section on motherhood. I was fading a bit before that, but I came back around for the part that talks about writing letters.

Part of the problem may be that I didn’t realize it was a memoir, and that’s a genre I’m not necessarily drawn to. There are some memoirs that I have read with rapt fascination, but there are others that are just messy and narcissistic in a way that makes me want to roll my eyes. This falls somewhere in between for me.

She’s too busy gliding across the surface, portraying a sense of chaos that is life, that she never digs deep enough on the things that interest me most. She just flits away again. Then she digs deep on other things that are boring and just her spilling out her inner-monologue which isn’t nearly as interesting as her thoughtful arguments and suggestions. But I can tell she thinks it is interesting which is a bit off-putting.

It’s very hard to describe this story, and I think it’s clear that I’m struggling to review it. I don’t hate it, but I also don’t like it. I find it fascinating but also annoying. There’s some insights here to make you think but other sections that make you feel like your brain has rotted and will fall out of your head.

Overall, I think I was both bored and impatient with this story. I don’t exactly recommend it, because that would be like recommending a myriad of things that may actually have some benefit for me but that I don’t exactly enjoy, such as visiting the dentist for a filling or yoga (kmn).

Pages: 143

The bad news is that I didn’t love some of these.  The good news is that now I only need to read 90 books in the next 100 days. I’m not sure that’s more manageable, but I’m going to try to manage it by reading what I want, going forward, instead of worrying about catching up.

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