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Dinesen, Isak

The Sailor-Boy’s Tale

Twice now I’ve sat down to read something from Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales
, and twice when pawing through for a good story, I’ve ended up spending hours re-reading the stories in here, to the point of distracted negligence, but to the point of great self-satisfaction nevertheless.

One day I’ll just relent and read them all to you, but that’d be a big project, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already running on the fumes of big projects. And if you’re smarter than me, you’ll have discovered a long time ago that when you have too many big projects, the best way to make absolutely certain that you don’t forget to do another one is to tell the Internet about it then whet its palette with anticipation. And you can do so with such a painful and potentially-affected self-consciousness as to ensure that you’ll be forgiven if it takes you a decade to follow through on that promise. And if you’re as tight-fisted as me, you’ll know that this way of going about things is way cheaper than seeing a shrink.

But in any event, if you don’t know the Winter’s Tales, you should read them yourselves. For now, I’ve settled on that which I find most fabulist and late-springish in its step.

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Wilbur, Richard

A Game of Catch

It’s always a little weird to me to read a sports story, with idioms like “burning one in” that are just so far removed from my patois that I can barely even get my mouth to go in that direction. And it’s equally odd to try and project teenage boy-speak, because it’s been quite a while since I’ve taken an interest in the mannerisms of teenage boys. But it’s springtime, and nothing’s more appropriate than boys and baseball. So here’s a little bit of both, no matter how much “burning one in” seems like the last thing you want a teenage boy to do.

But consider yourself forewarned: this is not a work of jolly maypole-dancing return-to-innocence, though it is appropriate and recommended for young and old, whether in classroom, cabana, cubicle or coffin.

In sadder news, J.G. Ballard has died, and I encourage you to have a listen to this reading of The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race. And then you might need to go out and read everything he’s ever read, and thank me for it.

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Hurst, James

The Scarlet Ibis (Unabridged)

I know the great controvery of the Scarlet Ibis has bothered you, and I confess to great shame at using this controversy to draw attention away from the various corporate scandals, celebrity affairs, and political horrors that are sucking the steam off the almost pervasive media coverage known to some as HurstGate.

And so, here is what I hope is the full-length, uncut, unexpurgated, absolute, and intact version of the Scarlet Ibis. I hope. It may take Mr. Hurst himself to convince me otherwise, but enjoy!

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Hurst, James

The Scarlet Ibis

A Listener (you know who you are) wrote to me recently requesting that I laugh hysterically for fifteen minutes into my microphone and post this as a short story for you. Now, while I agree that this would be a particularly amusing johncagey experiment, I have not, unfortunately, seen hyenaic laughter transcribed this way, and have no idea what it might look like on the page.As always, if you can send the story, though, I’ll see what I can do. Thankfully, Denise (you also know who you are) offered an alternate recommendation, which I happily oblige.

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O'Connor, Flannery

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

WhoAm asks whether Flannery O’Connor can be expected soon. Now, I’d thought of saving O’Connor for a while, for obvious (or perhaps not-so-much-so) reasons: the desire to wait until my face gets older and wrinkles become a more permanent part of its own social fabric, or maybe I’ve wanted to save her for the debut of the sequel to Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast.

But it has been asked, and as you well know, I’m either more than happy to comply with requests, or a peerless sucker. Go ahead and ask me to read the next one standing on my head.

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Hardy, Thomas

Absent-Mindedness in a Parish Choir

Have waited nearly a year to read Hardy on his birthday, because I strongly suspect that Hardy’s just the sort of guy who should be birthdayishly feted, and in neither in an ironic nor a pointy-paper-hat way. I missed his birthday, as it happens, but not by long… and actually, missing it seems appropriately Hardyish as well.

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Gogol, Nikolai

The Diary of a Madman

Ahh, so you’ve noticed that I still hadn’t read any Gogol, despite a-hundred-some readings including enough of a Russian contingency to keep a stronghold on the world weight-lifting championships for the next few centuries, and despite a story by an Italian all about Gogol, in its own peculiar way.

The truth is, I haven’t yet read Gogol for only one reason, though it’s a valid one: I fear if I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Gogol is that close to the cuffs. And much as I love him, this is not Gogol’s Bedtime Story Podcast. It’s Miette’s. And she’s evidently a little protective.

But you’re right. Gogol should be here, so here it will be. And it’s long, long enough that my throat hurts, long in the hope that thirst for Gogolic podcasting might be quenchable. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. After all, I’m the King of Spain.

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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

The Yellow Wallpaper

From over here, Evie says:

I would like to recommend “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It has to be my favorite short story… no matter how many times I read it it still gives me the chills!

To which Miette replies: your wish, my command, and about those chills, have you ever tried to read it aloud? It’s utterly skin-crawling. Of course, I’ve already read the Virginia Woolf story with a similar (though not -quite- as resplendent with crawling-skin heebies) narrative structure.

I was just the other day staring at the ceiling in my own bedroom, and could’ve sworn it was comprised really of thousands of cats, trying to escape the two-dee flatlands of the ceiling. And while at the time I attributed that vision to… the detritus of some decisions of my youth … given the evidence put forth by Woolf and Gilman, I’m in pretty good company for textured wall hallucinations. Anyone else ever stare at their walls until they go stereoscopic?

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Jackson, Shirley

Charles

In the plot of today’s story, you will find mentioned a real-world conversational device that I can’t help but love, in a guiltily pleasuristic sort of way. I’m not sure what to call it, though I’m sure the modern linguists have had their way with it.

It’s like an eponymous spoonerism, but maybe a little light on the spoony bits. Specifically, in the story, the title character is an obnoxious, bratty, trouble-making, foot-stamping boar of a kid, and so, to the other characters, “making a Charles” became a token turn-of-phrase for anybody’s obnoxious, bratty, trouble-making, foot-stamping boarish action. The young people these days might lean toward “pulling a …” (as in, “I really pulled a Miette yesterday, charmed the socks right off the world itself,” or, the day before yesterday, it might’ve been “you so pulled a Miette just then– that’s the most ridic thing I’ve ever heard. ” )

In any event, in my world of endless potential projects, I’ve been fantasizing about creating a sort of dictionary, cataloguing all the actions I associated with people I know– it’d be a panegyric, really, to my people, so that I might eventually come up with a new abstruse colloquial vocabulary. I might say, for instance, “Yesterday I Jasoned a Frederick and had a Juniper while Ronning an Ashley,” with each name representing something very specific and particular and well-defined in my own terms. And you think you can’t understand what I’m saying now, just you -wait-.

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