Holst, Spencer

On Hope

I can think of nothing more apt for the rounding-out of a year than a fleeting little fable on outplaying inevitability. If you’re anything like me, Inevitability is one collector you’ve managed to send off-course at least once this year, and that itself is cause for champagne. Happy New Decade to all, but especially to those who continue to believe relentlessly in the potential of literature.

— Mtte.

ps: for those in need of a stocking stuffer, here’s a sneak peek at Jon Frankel’s The Man Who Can’t Die, which I’ll be reading beginning next year, along with your regular shorter gems here. Can’t wait for you to hear it.

Bowles, Jane

Emmy Moore’s Journal

(credit: LIFE Magazine)

There was a time when I was little (and I was so cute, and so little!) when I wanted to be Jane Bowles. I was obsessed with the puppet show, unhealthily so, though thinking back now, I can’t think of any self-respecting adult who’d have introduced such a cute little thing to it.

But so I did not grow up to be Jane Bowles, nor a master puppeteer, though I’m lucky to have grow up (more or less) to be the sort of girl who’s still really excited to find a hefty copy of her collected works in a used bookshop in a far off town.

That said, I’m also the sort of girl to take her dog swimming in a hotel pool, so that’s quite enough autopanegyric.

A story:

Stafford, Jean

The Interior Castle

I’m more than a little eager to introduce this bit of Jean Stafford– in fact, the last time I was this eager, I was about to jump out of an airplane, an activity I was undertaking using age-faked identification, which was, to the best of my memory, the only time I’ve ever vomited directly onto the feet of an airplane pilot (the pilot then said this wasn’t the first time his feet had taken ablutions this way). And wait, I don’t mean to conflate Jean Stafford with my own underage retching.

Well, actually, I mean to do exactly that. The pain as rendered in tonight’s story is as visceral as words can create, and while I know your constitution can take it, I wanted to give you a chance to brace yourselves. Which is not to say that this is a story about pain, or one of those gruesome hyperviolent boy’s club tales that are all the rage* in certain circles. It’s not even a story about coping (although there’s plenty of that). You’ll have to listen to get the whole extent of the way she handles the body-mind wrestling match. But again: brace yourselves.

For those of you who just listen and don’t bother with my introductory pap, perhaps now is a good time to put your eyes to the above. I’m not fooling!

And about those round food monks mentioned in the story’s introduction, my mind will explode if it doesn’t implore. What do you think?

*a pun.

Aichinger, Ilse

The Bound Man

My friends, a confession: I am a sucker. Little stray kittens and musty books and vegetably steamed dumplings…. these things were basically made for me. And stories like this belong on the list of things for which I’m a true sucker, and by “like this” I don’t necessarily mean Austrian (though I don’t mean “decidedly not Austrian” either). And I don’t necessarily mean the sort of story that plucks your arteries and uses them to serenade you corrido-style. Although, again, I don’t have anything against that either.

But there’s something about a perfectly wrought piece of existential blues that never fails to set me on fire, and it doesn’t matter how heavy the hands that deal the metaphorical blow, I just lie down and prostrate myself to it, or dip myself in candy and find the nearest wrapper, sucker-like.

And of course, if the story’s painfully good (haha) on top of that, I’m a total lost cause. Wrap up warmly and enjoy it.

(and PS: I read german poorly, and there’s not much Aichinger available in English translation, so if you have some, consider yourself lucky, or even better, generous (when you wrap it up and send it to me as a holiday gift))

Merritt, A.

The Pool of the Stone God

For those of you who will not be spending the weekend dressed scandalously and behaving just as badly, or scaring young children, or throwing personal hygiene product in the trees of your enemies, here’s a quick little bit of badinage to keep you in the mood.

Note: includes an outburst of wicked laughter. You’re welcome.

Stevenson, Robert Louis

The Adventure of Prince Florizel and a Detective

It was recommended some time ago by a guy named Alex that I read the entire four-story cycle of The Rajah’s Diamond, and it is a request I’ll perhaps fill someday. I’m in the throes of a mini Stevenson obsession right now, so it seems the proper and selfish thing to do. But for now, I wanted to warn you that as an aperitif, what I’m offering here is, in fact, the last story in the cycle.

Now, at least a few of you are going to go perfervidly huffy with me for spoiling the whole work for you. And to that, in the spirit of rapprochement, I should remind you gently that this isn’t reality television or a celebrity love affair or the latest movie by the I See Dead People fellow. I mean, we’re talking about stories that were written a century and change ago, and you can go here to read them before taking a listen here. Or after. Or during. It’s the damned internet, where you can basically do whatever you want (or so I’ve heard).

And so, thanks Alex for the recommendation– you’re more than right about the rip-roaringness of the action, and if you keep asking, maybe I’ll read the rest.

Birrell, Heather

Trouble at Pow Crash Creek

It’s probably one of the better things in life — right up there with creative breakthroughs and lasting love and the slurp of streetside oysters — to have one’s hat tipped to new and great authors. In my case, it doesn’t happen often, because I’m finicky and discriminating with my own tastes, or as others have said, snotty. Some of my closest friends, in fact, have sworn never again to share enthusiasm of their own discoveries, for fear of my response. I’m not proud of this.

So, several months ago, I may or may not have been at a certain big bookish event, and I may or may not have chatted briefly with a representative of an independent publisher known for foresightedness and inventiveness and openmindedness and other qualities sometimes surprising of publishing types. And during this chat, that may or may not have happened, the publisher may have mentioned an author in her catalogue that may (or may not) gel with my very fussy and finicky tastes, and later, I may or may not have gotten my sticky mitts on an illicit copy of that author’s book of short stories.

And it’s hard to say whether or not any of this actually happened, or whether or not this story is related to that anecdote. I mean, it was several months ago, and we all know what happens to memory. But however I may have come across tonight’s author, when I did it was not unlike experiencing a breakthrough while slurping an oyster on the street with one’s lasting love.

If we’re lucky, you’ll feel the same.

Olsen, Tillie

I Stand Here Ironing

So I have this tendency, as you may have noticed, to take a sharp left at matters of personal divulgences, which is a difficult thing to pull off today, given the severity and somber-ity of a story like this one. But so, okay, here you go, three very revealing facts about my own self to accompany a story of introspect and plaintivity and other words existent and non-.

Number 1: I (your Miette) have never owned an iron. So god only knows if, in my delivery of tonight’s monologue, I am at all able to capture the sorts of things that go through a woman’s head while performing such an act.

Number 2: It is my opinion that “She blew shining bubbles of sound” is perhaps one of the finest phrases ever to be shucked from our language, and the fact that it exists in this narrative makes me think the entire thing’s worth another close listen by all of us.

Number 3: I’m not kidding in tonight’s blathery introduction about the naughty naked puppets, though I won’t tell you where people who get here by that route are being sent. Now, I suppose, they’ll just come here. I win!

Okay, your turn?

Enjoy a fine listen this actual autumn. I’ll yam at you next week with something fresh out of Canada, and I’ll bet money that you’ll love it.

Leiber, Fritz

Space-Time for Springers

Can I tell you something about my speculative fiction habits? Of course I can– this my barroom restroom wall and the red marker’s in my slimy mitt.

Here’s the thing: I just love stories about sentient animals. I can’t get enough of talking dogs or super-intelligent rats or telekinetic polar bears– this is the stuff of unconditional love. And I know the analogies presented in this trope can only go so far, sure. But I don’t care– I could start a website called Miette’s Podcasted Stories of Intelligent Animals, and be perfectly happy doing so.

As it is, looking through the archives, there’s not much represented here yet — there’s the Saki, which is hilarious, and now Leiber, which is one of those that will hopefully make you check yourself in the mirror and pucker your nose in search of a stray whisker. I have several others in mind, but meanwhile, do feel free to fill it with your suggestions as well.

Villiers de l'Isle-Adam

The Doctor’s Heroism

Well, I’ve been reading some unavoidable news about Death Panels and baby killing nazi zombies terrorizing in the Norwegian mountains and all sorts of incessant catfighty nastiness which I suppose our world can take, given that it’s really all pretty hopeless, when confronted by the threat of health care. Or zombies.

And I didn’t really think about how topical tonight’s story was until I listened to the reading of it. But Villiers de l’Isle-Adam may have been a little cigar-tunneling heavyhanded in his symbolism in this story (just a smidge), but I’m thinking he might have been on to something.

And if you haven’t read L’Ève Futur, there’s no time like now. You can read it while waiting in line to be judged by the Panel.