Wednesday, August 25, 2021

William Campbell Gault; Jack Ritchie; Talmage Powell: football fiction from PLAYERS' CHOICE, (nominally) edited by Gale Sayers, Dave Robinson, Howard Mudd and Charley Gogolak (Whitman/Western Publishing 1969) Short Story Wednesday

selected by Dave Robinson, Howard Mudd, Gale Sayers, and Charley Gogolak; illustrated by Ken Shields
All-American Washout  (originally published as "Tinsel Tailback")/ William Campbell Gault --
Dark, Dank, and Dismal / Wade H. Mosby 
Boys’ Life v51 #10, October 1961--
That's My Boy / Jerome Brondfield Liberty v23 #47, November 23, 1946--
The Fullback from Liechtenstein / Jack Ritchie --
A Time for Triumph / Talmage Powell --
Dirtiest Game of the Year / Booton Herndon 
The Saturday Evening Post v225 #16, October 18, 1952.

Three stories, for three widely divergent markets, by three writers who eventually became, at least, far better known for their crime fiction than their sports fiction. For William Campbell Gault, that might not've been his first choice for career path, as he was one of the most widely-respected of sports fiction writers at mid-century...his story in this book was taken from the September 1950 issue of the pulp magazine Fifteen Sports the sports pulps dwindled (with this issue, the magazine began running a reprinted piece or several in each number), no digest or other sports-fiction magazines came in to take up their markets, and the presence of sports fiction became somewhat less frequent in the men's and general-interest magazines, Gault began writing, voluminously, sports novels for the burgeoning Baby Boom YA market...while also keeping a hand in with crime fiction, one of his most popular series characters being an ex-pro football player, Brock Callahan. 

In recent decades, there have been several little magazines devoted to sports fiction, particularly to baseball fiction and poetry, albeit a few eclectic ones as well, and ESPN Magazine has had at least one fiction issue. Very very sporadically, Sports Illustrated has run some fiction over the last half-century (not counting photo-retouching).

Talmage Powell's story was published in a 1952 issue of the US Roman Catholic missionary-support magazine Extension, which is still published but with no fiction content so-labelled; the story deals perhaps a bit heavy-handedly with ethical concerns, both for a football-star college student and those who do his schoolwork for him, and the faculty the star player interacts with, as they collectively wrestle with pressures to cheat and/or knuckle under, not least to a once golden-boy graduate and overbearing benefactor to the college in question, whom Powell is clearly happy to have eventually referred to as Dick Manley. 

While Jack Ritchie's story was rather obviously tailored for its market, the November 1963 issue of Boys' Life, one of the most reliable markets for sports fiction in the latter half of the 1900s in the US. It involves a high-school football team, and the rather supercilious but effective motivational analysis a European exchange student, and soccer star back home, manages to apply to his US football teammates. One of whom is also a Manley, albeit not a Dick.

Three decent stories, to say the least, even if the Gault might be drowning in details of the game (and its slang and argot) for those in a less passionate readership than a sports-fiction pulp might serve; the Powell is far lighter on the gridiron chat per se, if also a bit more melodramatic (as is Powell's wont) in the manner it lays out its tale, and the Ritchie is also rather typical of its author in the reasonably sly manner in which the foreign-exchange antagonist of sorts sizes up and re-motivates his American teammates. The Gault is unsurprisingly the best and most adult of them, clearly by design, and certainly with the intended audiences in mind. 

Interesting example of Whitman/NFL cross-promotion in 1969; I could see Sayers, at least, feeling reasonably at home in picking out stories, perhaps all four were, though I have to wonder who at Western Publishing might've culled a longlist for them to pick from. 

For more of today's Short Story Wednesday posts, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

WANDERING STARS, edited by Jack Dann (Harper & Row, 1974, several editions since): Short Story Wednesday; rec'd: THE MAN WHO LOVED THE MIDNIGHT LADY and IN THE STONE HOUSE by Barry N. Malzberg (Stark House Press 2021 (forthcoming)); FROM RABBIT EARS TO THE RABBIT HOLE; A LIFE WITH TELEVISION by Kathleen Collins (University Press of Mississippi, 2021)

My very good friend April bought this for me for my birthday, and a good thing, too, since I'd been meaning to pick it up over the years, but don't believe I ever had. It's a mix of new (in 1974) and reprinted stories, along with new nonfiction in the form of Asimov's introduction, Ellison's glossary of Yiddish terms and editor Dann's headnotes, for this, his first anthology, and I believe the first anthology to attempt to gather Jewish fantasy and sf specifically...reaching out beyond The Usual Suspects, but not too far, to include stories by I. B. Singer, a frequent fantasist, and Bernard Malamud, only slightly less frequently embracing the fantastic in his fiction, and both their stories having been collected by best-of-the-year annual editor Judith Merril in her 1964 and 1065 volumes of The Year's Best SF (Merril in her early volumes used the initials to mean science-fantasy in the broadest sense, including all the forms of fantasy, sf and horror and a bit beyond, and in her later volumes did the same, only preferring the term speculative fiction by then). Dann is particularly pleased to have commissioned the first new fiction to have been published in seven years by Philip "William Tenn" Klass, and well he might, as Klass/Tenn was one of the most engaged and yet grounded satirists to write widely in fantastic fiction (and not to be confused with the UFOlogy writer Philip J. reason that "Tenn" would continue to use his pseudonym beyond his early years when he might've feared some resistance to his surname and also wanted to put his real name mainly to contemporary-mimetic fiction that was less likely to be treated as ephemera than anything published as sf or to some extent fantasy at mid-century). 

Classics of the forms of fantasy and sf such as "The Golem" (Avram Davidson's first story to gain wide acclaim, and a sort of update on Frankenstein as well as the folktales that helped inspire Mary W. Shelley) and H. L. Gold's "Trouble with Water", probably the most widely-read story of Gold's career as a writer, in the decade before he became the controversial and highly influential editor of Galaxy, the sf magazine, and briefly of Beyond, his fantasy-fiction magazine of similar ambition and drive, an attempt by Gold to bring back the kind of fantasy-fiction magazine John Campbell's Unknown had been, where the Gold story was among the most timeless and worldly it cheek by jowl with such then much more recent attention-getting stories as (the sadly, very recently late) Carol Carr's "Look, You Think You Have Problems" ("mixed" marriages can present challenges, after all), and a story by Robert Sheckley from when he was just beginning to restart his career in fiction-writing as well, after a brief, but commercially harmful, sabbatical. I've seen Ellison, on an episode of one of Bill Maher's tv series (back before Maher would quite as thoroughly seek to drown out his guests in his own self-congratulation and weak joke segments) being criticized energetically by the actor Fyvush Finkel, of all people, for sprinkling Yiddish words throughout his onstage panel conversation...Ellison was usually happy to make these potentially new terms clear to his audience, and Tim Kirk's illustration accompanies Ellison's novelet. 

An impressive mix, and Dann was able to publish a similarly good sequel anthology in 1981.

For more of today's Wednesday Short Story entries, please see 

Stark House continues to reprint some of the key works from Barry Malzberg's career, and one of the best of a great lot is this double-volume of two of his best collections of short fiction, The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady (Doubleday, 1980) and In the Stone House (Arkham House, 2000), along with a short afterword (making common cause with Donald Barthelme in the difficulty of making a mark with short fiction in the U.S.) and a four-page bibliography detailing his books alone, under his and several other names. I've reviewed Midnight too briefly here before, have not previously owned In the Stone House, both books seeing their first paperback injustice rectified, even if after too long a gap. Pre-orders for this October release accepted now...and I hope to give you more-detailed reasons why you should soon.

In the Stone House Barry N. Malzberg (Arkham House 0-87054-178-1, Dec 2000, $25.95, 247pp, hc, cover by Allan C. Servoss) Collection of 24 stories. 

  • 3 · Heavy Metal · ss Alternate Presidents, ed. Mike Resnick, Tor, 1992
  • 17 · Turpentine · ss What Might Have Been? Volume III: Alternate Wars, ed. Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg, Bantam Spectra, 1991
  • 28 · Quartermain · ss Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine Jan ’85
  • 39 · The Prince of the Steppes · ss F&SF Jun ’88
  • 48 · Andante Lugubre · ss Science Fiction Age May ’93
  • 54 · Standards & Practices · ss F&SF Apr ’93
  • 61 · Darwinian Facts · ss Stalkers, ed. Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg, Penguin/Roc, 1990
  • 73 · Allegro Marcato · ss By Any Other Fame, ed. Mike Resnick & Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1993
  • 81 · Something from the Seventies · ss F&SF May ’93
  • 87 · The High Purpose · Barry N. Malzberg & Carter Scholz · ss F&SF Nov ’85
  • 105 · All Assassins · ss What Might Have Been? Volume I: Alternate Empires, ed. Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg, Bantam Spectra, 1989
  • 113 · Understanding Entropy · vi Science Fiction Age Jul ’94
  • 118 · Ship Full of Jews · ss Omni Apr ’92
  • 127 · Amos · ss F&SF Jul ’92
  • 134 · Improvident Excess · ss Murder Is My Business, ed. Mickey Spillane & Max Allen Collins, Dutton, 1994
  • 142 · Hitler at Nuremberg · ss By Any Other Fame, ed. Mike Resnick & Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1993
  • 148 · Concerto Accademico · ss Dragon Fantastic, ed. Rosalind M. Greenberg & Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1992
  • 154 · The Intransigents · ss Solved, ed. Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg, Carroll & Graf, 1991
  • 161 · Hieratic Realignment · ss Amazing Spr ’99; given as “Hierartic Realignment” in ToC and “Hieractic Realignment” on story.
  • 173 · The Only Thing You Learn · ss Universe 3, ed. Robert Silverberg & Karen Haber, Bantam Spectra, 1994
  • 178 · Police Actions · ss Full Spectrum 3, ed. Lou Aronica, Amy Stout & Betsy Mitchell, Doubleday Foundation, 1991
  • 188 · Fugato · ss Alternate Warriors, ed. Mike Resnick, Tor, 1993
  • 196 · Major League Triceratops · Barry N. & Joyce Malzberg · nv The Ultimate Dinosaur, ed. Byron Preiss & Robert Silverberg, Bantam Spectra, 1992
  • 220 · In the Stone House · nv Alternate Kennedys, ed. Mike Resnick, Tor, 1992

While Kathleen Collins's new book, after several others exploring the relation of television to broad aspects of our social and personal lives, is a deceptively modest package for an ambitious set of essays, essentially, limning her interaction with television and that of those around us as well, in a time of ever greater societal atomization, and taking esthetic critical approaches to the work in the medium as well as an historical approach and sociological analysis. A librarian and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC, she is a scholar of television, and, to judge by what I've read so far having just received the book, an engaging writer. This, too, will get a more thorough review to come. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Kit Reed: "Winter" (1969); Barry N. Malzberg: "Barbarians? Sure" (2020): Short Story Wednesday

Kit Reed saw "Winter" first published in the 1969 15th volume of Winter's Tales, the annual then edited by A. D. MacLean (as it would be for all its long original run, 28 annual volumes), and she included it in four of her collections over the decades, with good reason; even though it eventually becomes a suspense story, it was also reprinted in the first volume of Richard Davis's annual, with two more volumes to follow from Davis and published for some decades further in the US by DAW Books with US editors Gerald W. Page and then Karl Edward Wagner, The Year's Best Horror Stories...despite not being a horror story, per se. Grim, literate, richly-detailed character-driven stories were among Reed's favorite modes, and this story of two older sisters, living in the northern woods of the US somewhere unnamed, but the kind of country where people hunt to put up meat for the winter, and were and sometimes are dependent on what canned goods and preserves they've put aside, is a prime example of her work. Told from the point of view, and in the slightly eccentric cadences, of the older sister, one whose mild epilepsy has helped her remain something of a pariah in her community, and how she and her slightly younger and resentful sister, who has felt obligated to keep company with her sister for that reason, are like as not to argue as a matter to death and then start joking about it. One day, they find a young male stranger sleeping in their childhood playhouse, used mostly for storage, and they take him in, finding him helpful and grateful for a few day's refuge from the military basic training he's deserted...and he becomes a longer-term guest, and the source of some romantic rivalry between the two women.

The utterly realistic setting of the story, in its starkness and accommodation of lethal weather, can have an almost sfnal feel about it, abetted by the woods-folk attitudes of the sisters...but by the rather severe end to their rivalry, one has the sense of mimetic fiction doing one of the things it can do as well as historical or fantastic fiction, bring the readers into lives unlikely to be too similar to their own. And the turn toward the weirder sort of crime fiction isn't at all an abrupt change in tone.

Barry Malzberg has graciously contributed several times to this blog, and his literary jape for the 2020 annual 14th issue of The Mailer Review, a handsomely-produced little magazine published by the Norman Mailer Society out of the University of Southern Florida; my copy came as a kind gift from Deputy Editor Michael Shuman. Between them, Barry and Michael provide more nonfictional lines of set-up and afterword for "Barbarians? Sure" than the vignette proper contains, but that's more than all right, since the conceit is to give a flavor of the kind of science fiction Mailer might've written in the 1950s instead of such poorly-received work as Barbary Shore and The Deer Park. (There apparently is some surviving Mailer juvenilia of an sfnal nature, notably "The Martian Invasion".) Despite Malzberg previously suggesting that Mailer has been one of his primary influences, until seeing this vignette it hadn't quite registered how much his prose can resemble Mailer's, as the vignette proper could as easily be the work of a retooled (but not Too recalibrated) Mailer as it is of Malzberg in his more humorously baroque mode. Malzberg also slips in a sly reference to the emptiness that can be the fate of an astronaut who realizes he's more tool than heroic explorer, a theme running through some of his most famous early work (and certainly widened to encompass members of other occupations, very much including writers, as he continued to write). Shuman generously supplies an Appreciation of the vignette as postscript, explaining some of the subtler details of the pastiche and parody to the null-SF readership; I'll air the slightest of quibbles with his citation of Arthur C. Clarke and Damon Knight along with Catherine Moore as mainstays of the sf magazines Astounding Science-Fiction and Planet Stories, Clarke presumably cited as one of the best-known sf writers still, Knight as one reasonably well-known for his workshop teaching career among academics...Moore, usually in collaboration with her husband Henry Kuttner, was a key contributor to ASF, but Clarke had only a handful of stories in it (including one of his most famous, "Rescue Party"), even as Knight had a handful of stories in Planet, but none of them his major work...though ASF and PS were among the most distinct of the 1950s sf magazines, while such other good ones as Startling Stories and If  would be more obviously eclectic, have a less polarized identity...Galaxy, probably the single most influential of the decade's sf magazines, also had at least as strong a slant, as did The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by "Anthony Boucher" and J. Francis McComas (and magazines, particularly F&SF, more likely to have Clarke and/or Knight stories in a given issue in the '50s).

Meanwhile, from the story:

"He [the protagonist] was the first Terran in recorded history to conjoin with the Martians. It was shocking and yet somehow utterly meaningless, like the stoned and shadowy eyes of his wife who in a distant eruption of time spent, had been lying against him in the limitless field of the bed they had made and were to lie upon forever was herself an alien."

For more of this round of Short Story Wednesday reviews, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: stories from Dorothy Parker, Janet Flanner, Kay Boyle, Martha Gellhorn, John Steinbeck, et al.: IT'S A WOMAN'S WORLD: STORIES FROM HARPER'S BAZAAR edited by Mary Louise Aswell (Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1944) and THE GIRLS FROM ESQUIRE edited by Frederic Alexander Birmingham (Random House, 1952)

Eight years apart, two anthologies drawn from two roughly comparable gendered magazines, mixtures of fiction, essays and reportage (of a sort), both rather similarly divided into thematic subsections, one book published under wartime austerity (my copy being a Dollar Book Club [Doubleday] edition perhaps heightening that), the other in postwar (at least American) prosperity (two-colored printing within, and with a multicolor illustration on the boards front and back as well as the book jacket); one relatively sober and more or less meant to take women and their estate seriously (even with a sadly unsurprisingly condescending introduction by Philip Wylie, a year after the publication his anti-"Momism" screed, among other matters, in Generation of Vipers--perhaps thrust upon the book by McGraw-Hill's editors...with an eye to the bestseller lists), the other hoping, it seems, to encourage a return to as much condescension toward woman as will still allow for a fun evening and following morning in a swingin' bach-pad with the "girls" (when other terms aren't employed; "women" usually reserved for citations of irritation).  More of the Esquire book is crazy, even for the times.

It's a Woman's World: Stories from
Harper's Bazaar 
edited by Marie Louise Aswell 
(New York, London) Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.

(OCoLC) 591788573
346 pages ; 24 cm

Foreword by Philip Wylie

Women in Love. 

Nuit Blanche / Colette ; 
The winds / Eudora Welty ; 
Romance / Dorothy Baker ; 
Lappin and Lapinova / Virginia Woolf ; 
Slews of love / Helen Howe ; 
Advice to the little Peyton girl / Dorothy Parker Harper’s Bazaar [v67 #2, February 1933]
The cure / Colette --

Women and children. 
The season of summer / Nancy Hale ; 
Consider the giraffe / Gladys Schmitt ; 
Child and the bird / Margaret Shedd --

Women and war. 
The canals of Mars / Kay Boyle ; 
The rented room / Josephine W. Johnson ; 
Home is a place / Bessie Breuer --

Women's professions. 
Gentlemen prefer blondes / Anita Loos ; 
Fashions in spies / Janet Flanner ; 
Movie star comes to New York / Cecelia Ager ; 
Sister / Margaret Case Harriman ; 
Mother's helper / Dorothy McCleary ; 
Young man in an Astrakhan cap / Edita Morris --

It takes all kinds. 
Love child / Maritta Wolff ; 
Like a field mouse over the heart / Elizabeth Eastman ; 
Late afternoon of a nymph / Victoria Lincoln ; 
The Hepburn girls / Lenore Cotten ; 
Ghostly father, I confess / Mary McCarthy ; 
Caput Mortuum / Edita Morris ; 
Horsie / Dorothy Parker Harper’s Bazaar December 1932
The will / Mary Lavin --

What women do when they are alone / G.B. Stern.

The two Dorothy Parker stories are witty and sad, of course. The latter, "Horsie" is the more cutting, detailing the period a visiting nurse spends with a young, conventionally pretty, wealthily indulged couple and their newborn infant; the young father particularly resents not only having to entertain the nurse at dinner (since these people seem to demand to eat with the owners of the household rather than the help), but simply resents any woman being to him unsightly, unlike his wife, who resents having to have the nurse with her through the bulk of the day...both are particularly put off by her equine face. The little they learn about her and her life doesn't make their sufferance of her disruption of their lives any more pleasant, even when they can invite old friends over for some mocking show and tell or when, impulsively, the husband brings along with his daily exotic flowers for his wife a few commoner flowers for the departing nurse, who is flattered beyond what the young couple thought was likely. Editor Aswell notes that we learn more than perhaps we should about the women in both the Parker stories, with no mention of what we learn of the hosts in this one, which seems an oversight, at best, if one we might suspect could happen in an Harper's Bazaar editorial office. 

Parker's "Advice to the Little Peyton Girl" (who is 19yo, but condescended to by everyone in her life and acts out in a girlishly insecure manner almost, one suspects, as a consequence) is a simpler story, mostly a dialog between Peyton and her elder mentor, almost extravagantly admired by the younger woman for her poise and worldly wisdom, some of it actually wise and worldly, but also no promise of a happier life than the young one is currently facing.

Janet Flanner's "Fashions in Spies" is a breezy nonfiction account of the nature of espionage and the women players at it the 20th Century, as opposed to earlier times when it was mostly a game of courtesans, contrasting the the careers of Lydia Stahl and Mata Hari, and how much better things seemed to go for the former, the better embodiment of what today's successful spy should aspire to.

I've read at best one or two Kay Boyle stories before, and remember liking them, so "The Canals of Mars" seemed inviting, even though its placement in the "Women and War" section didn't promise any surprising sfnal content. The last hours for a couple before his departure on a troop train from Pennsylvania Station, offers carefully improvisational conversational prose between a young woman and man, as they walk through a familiar neighborhood and take in or consider taking in various attractions, including a planetarium show, though she suggests that a screening of Pépé le Moko might be better than observing astronomical renderings of the once-mooted green canals or channels of Mars. Not his first dangerous departure, not her first farewell...they discuss, among other things, memories of their last night before his departure for Casablanca, in the manner of the Garbo film Queen Christina. Elegantly allusive, and grounded.

And C. B. Stern's "What Women Do When They Are Alone", suggested as particularly instructive to male readers, is a nonfiction piece that I suspect even at time of publication related more to what writers do when they are alone, on balance, than it does to what even all Anglophone women in Europe and North America do when on their own, even if many writers didn't worry as much about their knitting nor their weight as many non-writing  women might've.

The story and article synopses/assessments continue after the Esquire anthology's table of contents...

The Girls from Esquire edited by Frederic Alexander Birmingham
New York, Random House (1952)

xii + 308 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
"With 30 complementing Esquire cartoons"--Upper cover of dust jacket.

Woman : the necessary evil --
Babe : a story / by Bob Patterson --
A snake of one's own : a story / by John Steinbeck 
Esquire v9 #2, No. 51, February 1938 ed. Arnold Gingrich  full text
All for love --Ladies in stripes : an article / by Edward D. Radin --
The silence of Mr. Prendegast : a story / by Stuart Cloete --
About Shorty : a story / by Martha Gellhorn --
Lady of the evening : a true story / by Morris Markey --

Two legs for the two of us : a story / by James Jones --
The convert : a story / by Irwin Shaw --
New York is full of girls : a story / by Joseph Wechsberg --
The woman from twenty-one : a story / by F. Scott Fitzgerald --
The night bus to Atlanta : a story / by Brendan Gill --
The breaking point : a story / by Budd Schulberg --
No end to anything : a story / by Robert Switzer --

The lady speaks her mind --
It was good enough for father : an article / by Ilka Chase --
The secret of love: have American girls forgotten? : an article / by Betty South --
Blueprint for a divorcee : an article / by Mary Jane Shour --
Let him be lord and master : an article / by Cynthia Harris --
What has become of the old-fashioned man? : an article / by Helen Lawrenson --

Women of the world --
Art and Isadora : an article / by John Dos Passos --
The real Ingrid Bergman story : an article / by Laurence Stallings --
Gertrude, alas, alas : an article / by Elliot Paul --
Tears in the ladies room : an article / by Elaine Greene --
The legend of Dorothy Parker : an article / by Richard E. Lauterbach --

Sugar and spice --
What hath God wrought? : an article / by Robert Ruark --
Are husbands helpless? : an article / by Nathanial Benchley --
Heavenly and earthly love : a story / by Ferenc Molnar --
We were just having fun : a story / by F. Hugh Herbert --
What's wrong with our women? : an article / by Leland Stowe --
The savage beast in us : an article / by Paul Gallico --
Seven moments of love : a poem / by Langston Hughes --

Science and sex --
Marriage makes strange bedfellows : an article / by Lawrence Gould --
Have you a mistress? : an article / by Fred C. Kelly --
Do you know your women? : an article / by J.B. Rice, M.D. --
Glandbook for the questing male: with chart / by George Antheil --
She's no longer faithful if--: a survey / by Marcel Desage 

But if Ms. Stern is a bit blithely overconfident of the universality of her claims about women in the Bazaar anthology, what are we to make of Cynthia Harris's "Let Him Be Lord and Master", which confidently puts forth an argument for abusing wives by husbands...just up to the point of regular "shoving her around", mind you...that, say, even Marabel Morgan twenty-odd years later might find more than a little odd, though it does resonate with "John Norman" novels and the like, published during Morgan's heyday and since. Because, after all, "Anyone who has read at all knows that most women are masochists and delight in being dominated and even hurt once in a while if it is done in the right and artistic manner." Harris is apparently a woman, who doesn't suggest this at all humorously, even backhandedly humorously (actual backhanding encouraged), while assuming nearly all women want to be roughed up, at least, during periodic arguments (every two weeks is her prescription) so the women can meekly apologize afterward for their opposed to realizing that for every woman who likes some sort of rough sexual roleplay, there's a masochistic man, and men and women and others who like to play both ways, and many who don't want to do this at all...but most of her article is about her resentment of her husband who likes to do some household maintenance chores every night...perhaps a non-playful masochist for sticking with her. Then again, perhaps Harris just knew what would not only sell to the magazine, but what would be reprinted in an anthology from it.

I think this might be the highest peak of blithe berserkness in the book, but others are scaling similar heights. 

Happily, John Steinbeck in "A Snake of One's Own" tracks closer to sanity even in offering us a short suspense story involving an essentially thoughtless biochemist, who does terrible things to starfish, rats and others, and the enigmatic young woman who visits his low-budget lab one day, and basically freaks him out. She seems to enjoy the deaths of the animals he's causing, and seeking to hurry the process along, but not in any definitive way...mostly what she clearly wants is ownership of his largest rattlesnake, but for no clear purpose, other than to simply own it (while leaving it with him in his lab). The young scientist is utterly unequipped to determine if she has some sort of death fetish or simply enjoys behaving oddly to leave him befuddled...if the latter, she succeeds. It's a minor if deftly-told Steinbeck, not quite the oddball classic that his horror story about sentient chewing gum is.

While the only woman writer to be included in the fiction pages, Martha Gellhorn (too often known mostly as the woman who could put up with Ernest Hemingway the most) contributes what could be memoir rather than fiction in "About Shorty", an account of a young German woman who seems hapless but usually cheerful as she manages to weave her way through Europe and specifically the Spanish Civil War and the early years of World War II, apparently only to disappear. Gellhorn has sympathy for her, but consistently notes that she's the kind of innocent who seems to bring more trouble to herself and others in war zones particularly than anyone, another example of a woman scorned in the more general way. Esquire doesn't make a great case for itself with this volume at all, so far, despite the wealth of talent involved, even down to the cartoon selection, with minor examples of Syd Hoff's and Gardner Rea's work and abysmal examples by Barney Tobey and a few others, and the only multiple contributor in the volume to get more than one laugh is B. Sergmund. I certainly hope to find better among the fiction at least.

For more of this week's Wednesday stories, please see Patti Abbott's blog (and also see Megan Abbott's new novel, The Turnout)