So my last escapades with the Enderverse left me under-whelmed a tired of the series. But I still wanted to continue reading them, but the next book I got my hands on was First Meetings in the Enderverse, which is a series of four short stories. Now perhaps because they were short, and perhaps because they weren’t back on Bean and Achilles, but I liked these stories. They were sweet, and interesting.
This is Isobelle Carmody’s second short story anthology, the first being Green Monkey Dreams.
Overall it was a great collection of short stories, not as thought provoking as Green Monkey Dreams, but some very interesting and varied tales, and some beautiful stories.
The title story: Metro Winds
A lovely story about a girl who belongs in the country who is moved to the city and just can’t find her place. The contrast between the girl’s mother, and her aunty who lives in the city is quite striking. The Metro Winds – the winds from the underground network, help the girl find her place. Well, actually her wings, as she is engorged by this beast and transformed.
The Dove Game
Just like in Metro Winds you can get a feeling that Isobelle has a little contempt for cities, and how oppressive, and disconnecting they are.
“Cities smothered the land, he reckoned, stopping it communicating with the people who lived on it, though maybe it was more that cities reflected people’s desire not to hear the land.”
“…[H]is father had said sadly that cities were as confused as the people who lived in them, and that you needed maps for dealing with the people as much as for finding your way around the streets”
It certainly was an interesting story, to see how this young man’s life was changed because of a dying man’s wish. And just how he was lost, and found himself in a foreign city, where he is so disconnected compared to before when he was in the outback. Of course the story of the dying man, and the person he was supposed to meet is also very interesting and mysterious, and turns out to be very haunting and sad.
The Girl Who Could See the Wind
Instead of leaving Australia, this time we have a story where a family comes to Australia, seeking the end of the world. Well really an escape from a promise the mother made to a witch, that promise being her first born daughter in exchange for the man she loved, who died. Certainly was interesting to see Willow see things others just couldn’t, and then the contrast of Rose who saw people more clearly than anyone else. Is Isobelle trying to say there are two (or perhaps three if they are blind to both) people in the world, those who see other people clearly, and those who see the world clearly?
But the story thickens as Rose disappears and their mother is found dead in the winter park, which only Willow and her mother seem aware about – because it’s magical. Eventually Willow goes into the park with her policeman friend to try to find Rose, they end up meeting the witch, who explains the deal, and how her mother had Rose to try and trick the witch and take her instead. And we find that Rose is up in a tower awaiting her rescue by the prince, who is actually her half-brother, who has been through some trials to get there. At the end of it all, the prince is turned into a cat, and he can either leave and be a man, or stay and be with Rose. He chooses to leave, and then immediately regrets it and goes back just before the way closes. While Willow also gets a happily ever after as she and the policeman fall in love also.
I always love how Isobelle can twist old fairytales and stories and come up with something original.
I know from Isobelle’s blog that she has been to Santorini, and I think I can really see her personal experience shine through here. She talks of the smell of the eucalyptus trees, and the feeling of a long flight from Australia, and of Santorini so vividly. For a very long time it was a bit of guessing game to see how this story would be ‘fantasy’, which I liked. Because fantasy doesn’t need to be full on all the time, and in fact this story could nearly end without the fantasy ending, which involved vampires, who once a century find one person to join them to ensure they remain in touch with humanity.
The Wolf Prince
A very complicated story with lots of flash backs and flash backs within memories, but really engrossing. Definitely get the sense of fairytales being woven in, with curses turning men into beasts, only saved by princesses, and the hunt for these princesses which is very complicated. Then the huge mattresses, for a second I thought there was going to be a pea involved, but there wasn’t.
But again, of course given it is the title, we have the theme of cities, and how they hide something more sometimes. Like the passages to the faerie world, this time though it seemed to be Venice which Isobelle was talking about with its canals, but it doesn’t have to be a real place at all.
The Man Who Lost His Shadow
Again another journey to a foreign place, searching. This time for the man’s shadow, which he noticed disappeared not long after his retirement, but the question is how long did he simply not notice? I do like that he went to doctors and the like about not having a shadow and how they just couldn’t comprehend it. Instead he heads to Transylvania?? or somewhere where darkness is strong, after some random interaction with someone who led him there. He gets kidnapped by some criminals for a little while, before being allowed to go on his way, and he ends up having an encounter with a roadside prostitute who is able to give him his shadow back because it’s in her breasts. Yeah, a bit weird.
Bookish Topic Tuesday
Isobelle Carmody and The Red Queen
Edit: Just an edit to point out that the day has nearly come and The Red Queen will be published on the 12th of November 2015! Preorder away!
This week I just wanted to give an Isobelle Carmody update, considering I did a read through of The Obernewtyn Chronicles. Thanks to Obernewtyn.net for keeping me up up date with everything Isobelle Carmody! Happy 15th Anniversary, and loving the updated site!
This was an unexpected find in the library a few weeks ago. I was aware of these two books, since the short stories within were collated by Isobelle Carmody, as well as Nan McNab. I didn’t really know what to expect from the books, I was expecting fantasy since that’s what these writers do, so I wasn’t surprised by that, but I wasn’t expecting fairytales. Now before you close the tab, these aren’t the ordinary fairytales you’d fine written by Hans Christian Andersen, these are dark, adult, fairytales written in a short story format. And they are a divergence from the Grimm’s Fairytales as well. These are fairytales written by authors who mainly write fantasy, but not all are fantastical. I have to say I was quite surprised by this, it was quite good. Some of the stories took a while to get into, but overall they were pretty good.
The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne can be found here http://www.goodreads.com/ebooks/download/9515118-the-birthmark
The last short story!!! It has been an interesting experience reading the 10 short stories and one I may replicate in the future. Some short stories are great, others mediocre, but the good thing is that they are short, so they will be over quickly (some quicker than others). But short stories can never replace a novel or especially a series, I feel so drained and sad after finishing a great novel or a fantastic series because I know there is no more!
But enough of that, let’s get into the last short story. Seems like this one is one of the oldest yet! Sometimes our passion for one thing (whether it be sport, science, books, music) rivals our love for the ‘special’ people in our lives and sometimes that passion is intensified by a special person, who is passionate also. This is certainly the case with Aylmer. He asks his new wife if she has considered removing a birthmark from her face. It’s hard to say if it is rude/insensitive or sweet for him to suggest its removal so that she is fully perfect and without flaw. I hate the word ‘tolerate’ and ‘tolerable’ and all the other off-springs, it sounds like such an effort. “Oh, I’ll tolerate them”. “We should learn to tolerate them.” Tolerate is the wrong word, it doesn’t imply that the person wants them/it there, but will bear through the pain because they are ‘good’ people. I HATE IT!
Why should it grow more and more intolerable, shouldn’t you grow to love everything about your partner, not hate it. What makes everyone ‘imperfect’ is what makes us unique and individuals, there is no such thing as ‘perfection’, it doesn’t exist and shouldn’t exist. If no one was unique, then we would all be the same, and that would be extremely boring, being ‘different’ is what life is all about, you should never try to be someone else, or aspire to be someone else, you should always be yourself, no matter who you are, you are amazing and one of a kind, embrace your ‘imperfections’ and your ‘oddities’ and love yourself!
This is a horrible man, love your wife, no matter what, a birthmark doesn’t make her ugly! You are sad, and now she is sad too. An interesting dream! Her birthmark is irremovable, and if you try you would have to kill her because it is connected to her ‘heart’. This man is so stupid, removing the birthmark won’t make anything different and if it does, it is fake. You can tell she is fully in love with him, she is willing to risk everything just so he will think her beautiful, even if she will die. Either that or she is plain stupid too, but let’s go with the love thing. “doubt not my power” not at all overconfident and egotistical, sure have faith in your abilities, but humility is a great trait. Aminadab is a smart man, one who is not foolish and materialistic, maybe his own appearance has clues to why he does not desire perfection, but he is way smarter than Aylmer! Alchemists, a bunch of fools, and yet we still seem to have the pull towards trying to find immortality for us all, which is plainly stupid. Stop and think for a moment, how immortality would even work. Not the science, but our day to day lives. How would the world cope, if no one died of old age, when it is struggling to survive with 7 billion+ people now? Immortality still won’t make us happy, sure we can fit more things in, do whatever we want, but that isn’t the point, we have already a long life 80 odd years to fill with things. But we choose to fill most of them with trivial and pointless things. When instead we should fill them with lasting memories and have fun!
He is completely mad! Can he not see the love she has for him, and yet he still tries to perfect her, ignoring her love. If he stopped trying to remove the birthmark and actually embraced it, he would be in love and they would both be happy! He doesn’t love her, if you try to change the person you are with, you don’t love them, you’ll love what they turn into, not who they are. The liquid will fail alright! It works, and does indeed remove the mark, but ends up killing her. A terrible and costly lesson to us all.
The story contains again a wonderful message, many short stories do and they convey these morals better than an epic saga, which deals with many trials and tribulations, when the short story can only deal with one. There are a few ideas though that are ‘discussed’. One about perfection being unattainable. That is try as hard as we can, beauty is never perfect, nothing is ever perfect no matter how hard you try, sometimes we can come close, but other times we just fail miserably. Another idea is that we should accept our appearance, and that of the ones we love, and to do otherwise is foolish and leads to nothing but pain and not happiness. I’m sure there could be further depth, but this is not needed.It is a fantastic short story, that has a message that is more relevant now than when it was written. Today we are plagued with ideas of perfection and beauty and body image, which are all superfluous and superficial. Love yourself and love every part about you.
Tomorrow will be by final post of 2011 and will be a single post containing my thoughts on a couple of stories I have read during the year, but have not previously blogged about, enjoy!
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka can be found here http://www.kafka-online.info/the-metamorphosis.html
Just a warning this ‘short’ story exceeds 22,000 words, not really all that short after all. My excitement to read another story by Franz Kafka, is nearly balanced back out by the fact that it is a MASSIVE story. Nearly twice as long (I presume) than any of the others I have read!
But let’s begin. Well that is one way to start a story. What exactly has happened to him? What are these small white spots? He is paying off his parent’s debt to some man, who is now his boss, he sounds like a good son. Why were they in debt? Are they still alive? And, why is he a bug thing???????????
He usually wakes up at 4 o’clock in the morning, lots of people just go to bed at that time, he seriously has a bad job, but sometimes someone has to do the job. He hasn’t had a day off sick in 5 years!!! That is an applaud-able effort, what a trooper, still going to work even if he is sick, much better than some other people who stay home at the slightly hint of a cough. Has he forgotten he looks like a bug, or has he just accepted it.? It seems that he has just accepted it, and still wants to get out of bed and do something. What will happen when other people see him? He is still concerned about losing his job but for some reason not about being a bug thing. It would be quite easy if he just asked for help, but then people have to try and get in the room, when the doors are all locked (which may or may not be such a challenge). The manager himself is at their door, they must be quite close to come at such short notice. Now he is out of bed, is he still on his back? And I must laugh that the manager is called, Mr. Manager, but this guy’s (Mr. Samsa) father. “unimaginable pig headedness”yeah right, because he is totally being big headed when he physically can’t move very well, and can’t at all open the door and doesn’t want to expose himself to everyone, while he is some bug thing. Sometimes managers and bosses are evil, actually nearly everyone is. It is interesting that in a situation like this, no one who knew what actually was going on would insist on opening the door, but because no one knows what is going on they are eager to find out regardless of what is going on. And now he tried to cover up everything, but his voice sounded like an animal and a locksmith and doctor are being fetched.I wonder what is to come, when they open the door.
Maybe the silence is because he cannot hear human voices anymore! His ears now can only pick up the insect frequencies. Such an effort to open a door, it makes us think about how life would be like without arms and hands, or maybe feet and legs. But weird brown liquid came out of his mouth, was it blood like, or was it some acid thing? I wonder how many questions will be left unanswered. Imagine opening a door and finding your son (or anybody) like this, I wonder if they know it is him, or just some massive bug. Just a question, what does his father do if he can prolong breakfast for hours, does he not have a job and if not why not, if he owes this man money? Of course he feels better now, he is the right way up and can move again! Clearly everyone is afraid of this bug thing and do not realise or cannot realise that this is Mr Samsa.
He has been injured from the morning’s events and now has trouble eating food, which was placed in his room. Do they actually realise that it is him, or was it a sister hoping the food might entice her brother home? Maybe they are not making noise because they aren’t in the house any longer, fearing the strange creature. So now they have locked the door from the outside, if they had keys couldn’t they open the doors earlier, instead of having all that fuss! How big is he exactly? He can fit under the couch, so he must be quite flat or the couch has a lot of room underneath. His sister is a brave girl! So it seems that they do kinda think it is their son/brother, but have no idea what is going on, and neither do I! The girl is smart and brings a variety of foods to find out which one he likes!!! Bugs certainly heal quickly and are tough to kill!
Ah, he can actually understand human speech, will he ever turn back into a human, or will he remain this weird creature. The servant begged to leave their house, interesting. It’s nice that it is revealed that he has a life after, a rich one too, but one without love from his family, though his sister is still rather close and good with a violin. Interesting to reveal that he survives, but it doesn’t mention what state he is in, maybe he can earn lots of money by being in a freak show or something. His sister, if she is so good on violin, could busk in the streets and could get a couple of dollars here and there. His mother need not work, if she struggles so dearly with asthma. And I’m sure his father could actually do something, it need not be big, they need money and he is fit enough to do some work. Does this mean that he has terrible sight now and can’t see all that far away? He still has human emotions and desires even as a bug, and wants his sister to be protected from his sight, no matter what the physical expense (4 hours what an effort!)
It is nice to know that his parents are warming to his ‘situation’ and want news of any recovery and his mother even wants to visit him. HAHA, he is taking advantage of his new legs, and is walking up the walls and hanging from the ceiling like a true bug! They are moving all his furniture and I don’t think it is for the best, they are making his more bug and less human by the minute, and his mother has just fainted from the sight of him, how can this go on? Now he has escaped his room and fallen on the table. What chaos, fruit being thrown, everyone chasing around, how is this story going to end?
The mother and sister are truly heroic compared to the father, sure he has a job and is working hard, but he just doesn’t understand. They all are working hard trying to keep afloat during this mysterious, and unfortunate time, how they will ever survive is anyone’s guess. The old woman is the KEY (at least I think). She isn’t afraid of him one bit. And the family has even had to start renting out some of their rooms to try and get more money. What would happen if one of the lodgers were to look at him, disaster probably, and my guess is that will happen! Of course the men see him, but maybe it is good news? No, bad news, the men won’t even pay for the days they have stayed there for and consider taking action against them all! How long had they been there for, shouldn’t they have paid some money, but I guess the family were inexperienced in these matters. Things are not looking good, they are trying to get rid of him, they are all spent. He is dying, is he not. He is getting weaker, maybe his death means he will become a man again? Hold on, didn’t the lodgers want to leave? The cleaning lady seemed very strange in the end. And the family is happy in the end and are able to move on and live life again.
But woah, that was an effort and a half finishing that story and writing a review! It is an interesting tale, and quite odd. We have no idea why he became this thing, and it confuses me to what happened to him in the end, because he talked of the future and what would happen. It was certainly a long tale and I am sure is worthy of high regard and subject to many analyses. It is one that people should read if they have a couple of hours to spare, and didn’t really disappoint, its length just made for heavy reading.
The FINAL short story (in the ‘top’ 10) is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark
A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka can be found here http://www.kafka-online.info/a-hunger-artist.html
The Title sounds SO INTERESTING!
‘Professional fasting’? What! I absolutely love it when the first paragraph just draws you in completely! It sounds awfully barbaric though, and probably breaches some human rights. Permanent watchers, incase he somehow had a secret stash of food?!? What is this… Being hungry is a profession? What kind of world are they living in, and did this every happen in the ‘real’ world? ‘Impresario’? Apparently a person who puts on entertainment, certainly an impressive word. How long do they fast for, and more importantly are they getting paid for this and if so how much, but EVEN more importantly, WHY? The watchers then eat a huge breakfast in front of him, is this not torture?!? Apparently it is his ‘happiest moment’!!
People do this for 40 DAYS!!! Good thing the impersarios put a limit on it, even if for the wrong reasons. This sounds like the worst sort of thing ever. Sure they aren’t forced to do it, and it hints at them getting paid. But what makes someone decide to fast? And now the faster isn’t even happy doing it, and wants to do it for even longer! Then the public start to turn away from fasting, which is good, because why should people be interested in seeing a man starve (even if he wants to), if he doesn’t want to eat, that is his choice, but why would people want to see him do it, and buy photos of him so thin! In a way it is sad that the man now doesn’t know what to do, he thinks himself too old to find a new career (which is stupid) and there is not enough interest in him doing it ‘professionally’ and he is too proud to do it in small fairs. So he goes to a circus, and doesn’t read the FINE PRINT. One of the worst things a person can do. Sign a contract without realising what they are getting themselves into. I’m sure even today, people would be surprised what is actually contained in the legal fine print of all the products and agreements that we ‘accept’. The number of times that we just click the ‘accept’ button without reading the document is alarming, who knows what we are actually signing. And even if we do read it, we hardly understand through all the legal jargon and mumbo jumbo.
So he is put right next to the animals, treated like an animal! People just walk on past. It’s just plain old sad. He is fasting for week after week and no one even cares. Sure it is a strange concept and one that shouldn’t really go ahead but, he should get some recognition for what he is achieving. He is so close to death, and he apologizes! What an amazing (but strange) man. He apologizes because he can’t help but fast because he didn’t find any food that he liked. And so he was buried, and probably had no proper funeral or gravestone. He had no family, and couldn’t really have any friends. It is a sad, lonely life. He did something he love, but began to hate it, which is also sad.
I have to say that it is an amazing story. Especially because, it makes conflict within your own opinions. At first I thought what a stupid thing, why should he do this, someone should stop him. But then you start to feel for the man, who is doing his ‘job’ and doing something he wants to do, but is no longer having any recognition. It makes it difficult to actually decide whether he should have been allowed to fast or whether he should actually get recognition for something he shouldn’t really do. This is a seriously good short story, much better than nearly all of the 10 I have reviewed already (and as I don’t like to say this is the best or this is the worst, vagueness is as close as I get to awarding ‘the best’). A serious MUST READ, and I would seriously think it to be in one of the top 10 lists. Oh my, I just went on Wikipedia, and hunger artists, DID exist! This story is purely amazing, and I hope Franz Kafka’s other works are just as impressive, and I want to read more of his work!!
Short Story #9 will be another story by Franz Kafka (didn’t even realise that there were two stories by the same author), Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, if it is anything like A Hunger Artist then I look forward to reading it, it shall be amazing!