Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Short Story Wednesdays: Wilma Shore stories (a redux review): stories from THE NEW YORKER, STORY, F&SF, GALAXY, COSMOPOLITAN, SATURDAY EVENING POST and more...

On Wilma Shore on Sweet Freedom.

Wilma Shore: 

The following four short stories (and a very brief "casual") can be read online, but behind a paywall, at The New Yorker Online:

80 * The Curving Road (ss) The New Yorker, June 12, 1948

26 *  and The New Yorker, December 4, 1948: 
The Talk of the Town: "West Coast Intelligence: A nursery school has opened in Los Angeles, called the Tot-orium." * jk/cl of charge...

80 * Dress from Bergdorf’s (Shore's preferred title: "All Sales Final" --see the review of her collection Women Should Be Allowed here) (ss) Cosmopolitan Jun 1959, which can be read online here

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright, (ss) The Saturday Evening Post Dec 21/28 1963 (which can be read online here)

A Bulletin from the Trustees of the Institute for Advanced Research at Marmouth, Mass., (ss) The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Aug 1964 (which can be read online here)
The Podiatrist’s Tale, (ss) The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Apr 1977 (which can be read online here)
...and some nonfiction, from The Writer's Handbook, 1974 edition (online here) "The Hand is Quicker Than the I" (Shore on the uses of first-person narrative form, among an appropriately star-studded cast in the how-to essay anthology.)

Encouraging the reading of Wilma Shore's frequently brilliant fiction (among other writing) is an ongoing concern of this blog, and in the pursuit of that goal, I finally purchased a discounted six week subscription trial to The New Yorker (50% discount code, courtesy of Jackie Kashian's podcast The Dork Forest, is "DORK") so as to allow me online access to the four TNY stories grouped above, while also refreshing my memory of the two latter-day The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction stories (I can only assume that Edward Ferman at F&SF was offered the viciously unnerving "Goodbye, Amanda Jean" but for whatever foolish reason didn't accept it, so that it appeared in Ejler Jakobsson's Galaxy instead). 

"The Butcher" (in Story magazine in 1940) was Shore's second published story, but the first one she liked, as did the editor of Best Stories annual (soon to become, and remain today, The Best American Short Stories series), which demonstrates the early and continuing concern Shore had with the constrictions of traditional roles on men and particularly women; her idealistic and very competent young office worker is as certain she's ready to be an ideal wife as she is an utterly competent and conscientious stenographer, for all practical purposes the only profession a woman can expect to have in New York City in 1940 aside from teaching school. But, somehow, even with an appreciative and reasonably sensitive husband...domestic work at home isn't quite what she hoped it might be. And she couldn't tell you why. As the daughter of an accomplished writer, who dropped out of a California high school to study painting in France and be praised as a budding genius in that field by Gertrude Stein's brother, and then putting aside painting to be the wife of a failing actor, and mother of their child while still very can see where the story might have some autobiographical resonance. 

Eight years later, when the first of Shore's New Yorker stories is published, she has a firmer grip on her tools, can work in the disparities of class as well as the hemming in of sexual assignments in detailing a reunion between a young woman and her former family maid, once a friend as well as servant, now far enough removed from her former ward's life that the latter, also, can't quite put her finger on why their last encounter feels hollow in comparison to their easy interaction when the elder woman worked for the young woman's least not at the time, but, as the former Miss looks back on it a few more years later, she understands better. 
"The Ostrich Farm" deals with family dynamics of a rather more heated sort, as a boundary-free mother and her overdependent daughter don't realize there's any other way to act in regard to each other and their respective husbands. This one, and the two later stories sold to Harold Ross's magazine, are notable compared to Shore's women's and little/radical magazine stories in the degree to which the men are far more in the foreground of the stories...for TNY is about Important Matters, the kind that feature Men, doncha know, in these early but still pretty influential issues of the magazine, where the at times apparently bumptious Ross could express utter confusion in most dealings with women (his successor in the chair would famously hide from everyone). 

But "The Moon Belongs to Everyone", while written from the viewpoint of a male protagonist, still manages to have a gentler if no less wrenching emotional underpinning, where it's less the assignment of roles by society that can be constricting so much as those driven by when a young family, with an infant and a boy on the cusp of adolescence, loses their wife and mother suddenly. And the sense of compromises acquiesced to in the face of tragedy and need, and difficulties in fully overcoming those challenges, taking their toll. 

And by "Lock, Stock and Barrel", the wry sense of humor Shore brings to her best work is in full flower, while no less deftly drawing the predicament of the man who can't quite understand how or why his marriage has failed, and how he tries to come to grips with that fact...or, perhaps more accurately, tries very hard not to. 

These are all good stories, if not quite up to those Shore would collect from her slightly later writing for Women Should Be Allowed, her only published collection...and presumably one delivered to her book publisher about the same time as she contributed to Avram Davidson's Fantasy & Science Fiction "A Bulletin from the Trustees...", her first overt sf story, or at very least her first story for the speculative fiction magazines, and discussed in the earlier posts. Following the savage satire of "Goodbye, Amanda Jean", "Is It the End of the World?" is only a bit less (obviously) apocalyptic, dealing as it does with environmental (mostly atmospheric) degradation so profound that it might well kill us all at any time during the events of the story, but that doesn't mean that the small power-struggles and mutual dependences of family life are any less distracting from that greater danger, and how people will tolerate and adapt to almost any threat in the face of the "need" to simply get to where they want to meet, for one small purpose or another, and on time.

And while "Amanda Jean" and "End" certainly could qualify this post for consideration as entries in the February is Women in Horror Fiction Month observations, "The Podiatrist's Tale", a grimly amusing ghost story, helps clinch the deal...this might not be the last short story Shore published, but I'm not yet aware of another after 1977, and it deals with how the vicissitudes of aging might not be relieved even after death...

Even as we lost another writer not too unlike Wilma Shore in her sensitivity, craft, insight and wit, and bubbling-under influence, Carol Emshwiller, this past Saturday at age 97, with her daughter Susan and son Peter/"Stoney" announcing the fact on Tuesday. Emshwiller, who also had a not to too dissimilar life from Shore's beyond their literary work in some ways, not least in terms of engagement with the community of the avant garde in several artforms, followed such other recently-lost peers as Ursula Le Guin, Kit Reed, Grania Davis and Kate Wilhelm...and inasmuch as I attempted to write up her brilliant first collection Joy in Our Cause a few years back while staying in a hotel in Barre, Vermont, with wonky computer access and there to attend the memorial service for one of the last of my aunts, my father's sister Shirley, it might be past time for a better try. For Emshwiller, too, is perhaps not fully appreciated enough for what she contributed, sometimes obliquely, to modern horror, as well...while writing primarily surreal or satirical or metafictional work, in the modes of contemporary/mimetic fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and even in two innovative western novels.

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for more of today's reviews.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Saturday Music Club: some more sounds of Philadelphia

Diane Monroe: "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"  

Lenny and Carl: "Screamo" 

Dracula's Miniskirt: "Slaughter Beach" 

Bob Malach Band: "The Philly Blues" 

3 Divas: "I Mean You"

Andrea Nardello, Andrea Weber, Michele Lynn and Josh Steingard: "Fire", "Honey Whiskey", "Give Me It All"; "When You Know, You Know", "She Walks These Hills"  (virtual Philly Folk Festival 2020)

Pagan Babies: "Dumb Cops Attacked by Squirrels" 

Frank Bey Band: "Back in Business" 

The Uptown String Quartet on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1997) 

Emily Shehi (solo and with Jungeun Kim): Curtis Institute Graduation Recital 

Program JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Selections, Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005 EUGÈNE YSAŸE Sonata in G major, Op. 27, No. 5 ELLIOTT CARTER “Fantasy: Remembering Roger,” from Four Lauds
FRITZ KREISLER Polichinelle KREISLER La Gitana KREISLER Miniature Viennese March Emily Shehi, violin Jungeun Kim, piano

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Dog Stories" by Francine Prose, SPECIAL REPORT: FICTION November 1990-January 1991: "Animals" (the issue's theme) edited by Keith Bellows: Short Story Wednesday

Francine Prose's "Dog Stories" is, perhaps after Rick Bass's "Antlers", the-best-known new story to be published in the 11/90 quarterly issue of Special Report: Fiction, one of a set of eight magazines published for several years by Whittle Communications for distribution to doctors' office waiting rooms (the issue, with the theme of non-human animals and our interactions, also reprints a story by Colette). Prose's story was selected by Alice Adams for the 1991 volume of Best American Short Stories (from the set of stories presented to her by series editor Katrina Kenison), the only story from Special Report: Fiction to be so included during the magazine's run. Prose included it in her 1996 collection The Peaceable Kingdom.

Reading it, finally, today, in the oversized pages of the Special Report issue (about as large as Life, Look or The Saturday Evening Post in the late '60s, or American Poetry Review or The New York Review of Books today) with ads and center-page illustrations not atypical of slick magazines, is a bit distracting, particularly with one page of the story's text across from a full-page sort-of house ad touting U.S. doctors generally, with a nearly full-sized woman's face just above that of the infant she's holding, and the headline "Amy Lyn Hollander Is My 734th Child"...a steady diet of books, digest and little magazines might lead one to be used to the occasional illustration or book ad, but relatively few full-color human faces peering intently at the reader from the corner of one's eye. Other occasional fiction magazine projects, designed by typical slick commercial magazine staff, such as Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine from the Family Circle folks half a decade later, can feel very Busy in comparison to their less page-design-heavy colleagues, or even the fiction pages as usually presented in the likes of Harper's, The American Scholar or The New Yorker, or the rare other slick magazine still publishing fiction.

My scanner is not quite working, but I'll hope to have an image up soon of the Special Report: Fiction issue.

It's an unsurprisingly good story, told from the point of view of a woman on her wedding day, marrying a man she's lived with for some time, pregnant with their child and sharing parenting duties with him of her son from a previous relation, the son being of somewhat but not extraordinarily special needs attention. Their house is undergoing some renovation at the time of the wedding, but nonetheless they are holding the ceremony in their house and yard; the groom is one of the designers and builders of the house, and one of the carpenters, the most industrious of them and the most handsome, has been invited, and to add to the generally stress of he situation, the bride to be has recently been bitten by a large dog while attempting to visit a barn sale, to buy a work sink on display there for the painting studio being built into the house. Christine, the bride and a professional painter and former teacher, is slightly surprised by the amount of tension even a relatively informal wedding party is inducing in her.  The story is relatively short, and everything described as happening has her spin on it, hyper-aware, analytical or regretful or nostalgic (or some combination) as they come, including some thoughts of how her recent unfortunate encounter with a stranger and her biting dog differs from her most frequently-told dog anecdote, one about her fiancé's dog Alexander and his passion for a collie in heat he meets one day. It's a story less about earthshattering changes in the lives of the key characters than the realization that all the important parts of their lives have been in place before the wedding and that things are good, if not in several ways ideal. And that the awkwardnesses of social interaction can be endured, even when tiresome, or mixed bags, much as they are during the wedding, while pregnant and beginning to show, and suffering minor post-bite throbbing. 

Please see today's other Short Story Wednesday selections at Patti Abbott's blog

Special Report: Fiction, November 1990-January 1991, no volume nor issue numbers, William S. Rukeyser, editor-in-chief; Keith Bellows, editor; Elise Nakhnikian, managing editor (Whittle Communications, $3.50--though not known ever to be distributed to newsstands), 66pp plus covers, 10.5x14" full-color slick with heavier-grade slick paper covers.

Cover * photo of a mandrill sitting on a stool * James Balog * photo (Survivors: A New Vision of Endangered Wildlife, Abrams 1990) 
1 * Table of Contents * illustrated with a photo of Balog sitting on the stool in the same pose as the mandrill
3 * In This Issue: Every Beast of the Earth * The Editors* ed (illus. photo collage by Luis Beach)
5 * Roundtable: Animal Intuition * Vicki Hearne, Donald McCaig, William Wharton interviewed by Elise Nakhnikian * iv (illus. Daniel Zacroczemski)
11 * Leviathan * Jo Anne Randall * ss (illus. Anthony Russo)
16 * Jo Anne Randall * anon * biographical blurb (illus. photo by Roger Mastroianni)
18 * A Poetic Bestiary * group * poetry (illus. Sandra Dionisi)
18 * Where I Am * Brian Swann * pm (reprinted from Prairie Schooner,  Fall 1990)
18 * Natural Sympathy * Carl Zettelmeyer * pm
19 * After the Animal Hospital * Walter Pavlich * pm
19 * Giraffe * Enid Shomer * pm
21 * Rabbits, Live and Dressed * Paul Many * ss (illus. Alan E. Cober)
25 * Paul Many * anon. * bi (illus. photo by Roger Mastroianni)
26 * Antlers * Rick Bass* ss (illus. Thomas Woodruff)
34 * Rick Bass * anon. * bi
37 * Man and Beast * Susan Vita Weiss * ar (illus. photographs by William Duke)
41 * The Keeper * Linda Pastan * pm (illus. John Rush) reprinted from The Georgia Review. Spring 1989 
42 * A Separate Peace: Five authors describe animals that share their lands and lives * group * excerpts (source texts uncredited, possibly commissioned for this issue of the magazine) (illus. Bill Russell)
42 * Tolstoy's Dog * Yevgeny Yevtushenko (translated by Antonina W. Bouis) * ex 
42 * The Eagle * Linda Hogan * ex
42 * Sighting the Bear * Russell Banks * ex
43 * Sacred Cow * Madison Smartt Bell * ex
43 * Making Peace * Barbara Kingsolver * ex
44 * Dog Stories * Francine Prose * ss (illus. Michael Paraskevas)
53 * Francine Prose * anon. * bi (photo by Robin Thomas)
55 * The She-Shah * Colette (translated by Enid McLeod) * ss (from Creatures Great and Small, Farrar, Straus 1952)(illus. Nina Berkson)
58 * Animal Rights Tactics for the '90s * group * cartoons
58 * "Down with Down!" * P. S. Mueller * cartoon
58 * "Oh, Frieda! That blue-haired dowager is to DIE for!" * Buddy Hickerson * cartoon
58 * "Look Up!" * Bonnie Timmons * cartoon
59 * "Peruvian tree sloths stage a lay-in at the strip-mining site." * Mark Marek * cartoon
59 * "Oh, Professor Jenkins, come in. We...I mean I would like to talk with you about your work with the laboratory animals." * Kevin Pope * cartoon
59 * "Arrrg!" [shouts a fur hunter as a fox cheerfully spaypaints its fur with blue splotches] * Elwood Smith
61 * Books with Bite: Fiction that captures the animal kingdom * Digby Diehl * br column (illus. photo-collage by Don Dudenbostel)
61 * The Cockroaches of Stay More by Donald Harrington * br
61 * Edge of Eden by Nicholas Proffitt * br
61 * The White Puma by R. D. Lawrence * br
61 * Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller * br
63 * Cream of the Creatures: Reworked classics, the perils of a daring young rat, and other animal tales for kids * Sherill Tippins * br column (illus. Henrik Drescher)
63 * Belling the Cat and Other Aesop's Fables retold in verse by Tom Paxton, illustrated by Robert Rayevsky * br
63 * A Visit from Dr. Katz by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by Ann Barrow * br
63 * Poems of A. Nonny Mouse selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Henrik Drescher * br
63 * A Rat's Tale by Tom Seidler, illustrated by Fred Marcellino * br
63 * An Eyeful of Animals * Sherill Tippins * children's animated video reviews sidebar
63 * Five Lionni Classics * vr
63 * How the Leopard Got His Spots (as narrated by Danny Glover) * vr
63 * The Fisherman and His Wife (as read by Jodie Foster) * vr
63 *  Pecos Bill (as read by Robin Williams) * vr
64 * Elsewhere in Special Reports * house ad for the then-current issues of Special Report: LivingSR: FamilySR: SportsSR: Health and SR: Personalities
66 * Passages * house ad with excerpts from items in the current issues of the six Special Report: magazines.