Tag Archives: short stories

The Most Beautiful Woman in Town (Charles Bukowski) – Review

The most beautiful woman in town & other storiesThe Most Beautiful Woman in Town & other Stories by Charles Bukowski
Age: Adult
Genre: Short Stories, Dirty Realism
Publisher: City Lights, 1967 -1983
ISBN 0872861562
240 pages

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I read Bukowski’s The Post Office three years ago, and I really enjoyed the honest and gritty writing style. 3 years later…and this collection of short stories really didn’t go over well with me. The stories were pretty formulaic: a man drinks, has sex, gambles, drinks some more, is constantly being put down by “the man”, and has more sex.

Some of the stories were gems and had the potential for some depth. Some of his lines were like poetry; the most beautiful woman in town was like “fluid moving fire.”  That was the first story in the collection, and incidentally my favorite one of the bunch.

For the most part, I felt that the shock factor of the stories wore off halfway through, and the rest of the stories just seemed to ramble and become repetitive.      All of these stories were written over a span of time in various newspapers, serials and magazines. You could really tell, because there was no common thread and some of the stories just felt like Bukowski didn’t have any heart in it. Most of the stories are set in Los Angeles, although even those set in other cities followed the same format.  At best this book should be read in small sections over a large span of time, rather than all at once.

Hotel of the Saints – Review

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Hotel of the Saints by Ursula Hegi

Age: Adult

This book is a collection of short stories, mostly taking place in Washington State. The back synopsis coves everything I want to say about the contents of the book.

In the Hotel of the Saints, Hegi enters the perspectives of lovers and loners, eccentrics and artists, children and parents: a musician who tries to protect her daughter from loving a blind man; a seminary student yearns for the certainty of faith that belonged to him as a boy…

I’m never sure of how to review short story collections. All I can say about this book is that Hegi is a very talented and complex author. Her perspective is wide and each story is different. Although each story shares a common thread of isolation, and sadness, there are different levels, different people and different emotions linked together. There is an element of loss in each story. Either the character has lost something, is looking for something or is afraid of losing something or someone. This fear and the sense of loss is the catalyst for many of the actions and decisions taken by the characters. I wouldn’t call this collection uplifting, but it is engrossing and the reader can learn a lot about themselves through the though processes of the various characters.

Although each story is touching and can bring out unforeseen emotional responses in the reader, it was the last story that I really connected to. This is a story about two sisters living together with their elderly dog and the fear of losing their dog in the battle against his impending death. Having recently lost a beloved pet, I was holding back tears reading through this chapter. Hegi was able to articulate the connection we develop with animals, and the attachment that grows which is often more for us than for the animal.

If you have ever experienced loss or a sense of doubt, then at least one of these stories will resonate with you in some way.

Hotel of the Saints
by Ursula Hegi
Simon & Schuster, 2001
ISBN 0743227166
170 pages

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Hotel of the Saints by Ursula Hegi

Book 4 of 2011

Half Minute Horrors

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Title: Half Minute Horrors edited by Susan Rich

Age: 10-12

Half Minute Horrors is a compilation of short stories by over 30 authors including Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, Libbra Bray and Erin Hunter. The stories alternate from brief one-page tales, to poems and comic style renditions of nightmarish tales. There are tales of monsters under the bed, lurking shadows, kidnappings, and murder.

Truth be told, I was a little disappointed by the book. The tales weren’t really that scary and after a while, they started to feel repetitive. Some were very clever, like Stacey Godiner’s The Pink Bicycle; a tale of premonition. Others felt incomplete or were just plain boring. I did like that many heavy-weight authors participated in this compilation. I was surprised to see Margaret Atwood, James Patterson and Gregory Maguire on the author list, I didn’t think they wrote for kids. Some of my favorite stories were the psychological fears that children felt. These stories are more of parent’s worse nightmare than of a child’s nightmare, particularly those where children disappear into strange houses, or get thrown in the below freezing pond during summer camp.  Some gave me chills and made me go “ewww” (The Babysitter by Erin Hunter for those that read the book). I would recommend this for younger kids looking for scary stories, read in small portions the stories can be very frightening.

Half Minute Horrors
edited by Susan Rich
Harper Collins, 2009
ISBN 9780061833793
141 pages

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