Friday, April 22, 2011

The Elephant Vanishes

I've been reading this awesome book of short stories called The Elephant Vanishes. I think short stories might be my favorite thing to read. Short stories can't do all the things novels can do (because they're short) but their lightness makes them wonderfully easy to pick up and digest at a moments notice. They're also easy to read three times in a row really quickly. The first time I read "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by JD Salinger I did that. I read it, and then I immediately went back to the beginning and read it again. And there was another one I remember doing this with... maybe it was by Flannery O'Conner, it was about a family in a car, then they're on the side of the road and some criminals are going to kill them. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" - that's it. Bananafish might be my all time favorite though. It's just so... good. It's not that long, but the universe created in just that one short story fills my mind and keeps expanding.
The first creative writing course I took was at TCC a few years ago. Our prof, Lu Vickers, had just finalized her novel, Breathing Underwater. She was a great teacher. I talked with her after class about reading "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and how much I loved it. She offered to assign it to our reading and let me lead the discussion that day in class. I was thrilled! It was exactly what I (thought I) wanted to do for a living - teach! But leading a class of students just there for an easy A through one of my favorite short stories was less fun than I thought it would be. I realize now, it's just much more fun to talk about such things with people who also enjoy them.
Why is it that so many fail to appreciate a sad story? They think if it is sad, it can't be good, because who would want to read about sadness? I'll tell you who: people who have been through it and come out the other side. After that, there is always a taste of nostalgia in tragedy.

Anyway, we've been so slow at work that I have been able to read a lot lately (I got Moby Dick AND The Brothers Karamazov on my Kindle for FREE yesterday!). Maybe while Aaron is out of town this weekend I'll dive into some novels.

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