Before & After: Stories from New York, Edited by Thomas Beller

This anthology was required reading in son’s high school English.

The front cover:

The back cover:

Share Your Desktop Photo Challenge: August 2021

It has been QUITE a summer. How fast it went. And now the Olympics are over, we’re out of Afghanistan, and fall is just around the corner.

You’re alive, we’re alive, wear a mask.

Thank you to the host of this challenge, Clare’s Cosmos!

Support Literary Magazines

Self has short stories in all of these literary magazines.

Gratuitous self-promotion, what?

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

An Alexander Grin Sentence in “The Ratcatcher”

Even though he was carrying a very thick briefcase, he lacked the power to just house me wherever he pleased, but he did offer me the empty quarters of the Central Bank, where 260 rooms stood like pond water, quiet and empty.

— The Ratcatcher, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

He just tosses these sentences off like they were so many bon-bons.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Sentence of the Day: Alexander Grin

As for firewood . . . in those days, many ventured into the attics, and so did I. I walked along the slanted darkness of the roofs like a thief, listening to the wind blaring in the chimneys, and spying a pale splotch of the sky through the broken window as the snowflakes settled over the debris.

The Ratcatcher, Story # 73 in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

There is such an immediacy to his voice.

Kudos to translator Ekaterina Sedia. According to the Editor’s note, this was the first English translation of The Ratcatcher.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Alexander Grin (1880 – 1932)

The thing about this anthology, it is just TOO LONG. How can one properly appreciate stories when the text is so dense and infinitesimally small, and the pieces are mostly short, so there is a pattern of same-ness that tends to dull the appetite.

Nevertheless, self has encountered a treasure in the latter stages of this book! And that treasure’s name is Alexander Grin!

He is represented by two short stories, and they are completely different from each other. One is about a house spirit with a tooth ache (In Russian, the house spirit is known as a domovoi). The second story (Story # 73 of this anthology) is about a ratcatcher and begins this way:

  • In the spring of the year 1920, specifically in March, specifically on the twenty-second — let’s give the accuracy its due, so we may join the lap of sworn documentarists, without which the curious reader would probably start asking questions of the publishers — I went to the market. I went to the market on March 22 of, I repeat, the year 1920. It was the Sennaya Market. I cannot tell you that I positioned myself on a certain corner, nor can I remember what the newspapers were writing about on that day.

Wow, she loves that opening!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Sentence of the Day: “The Hump,” by Fernan Caballero

Skimming! Whoa, self is skimming!

Story #50, The Hump, is by Fernan Caballero (1796-1877), a Spanish writer who self has never heard of. Her real name was Cecilia Bohl de Faber and she wrote about Andalucia, “although she was not raised there.”

  • They set the dumb serving maid to frying pancakes.

Sentence of the Day: “The Remarkable Rocket”

This is self’s favorite story so far in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy. It’s Story # 27. Kudos, Oscar Wilde!

  • “Indeed, I have always been of the opinion that hard work is simply the refuge of people who have nothing whatever to do.”

LOL

“The Remarkable Rocket” by Oscar Wilde

What a relief to encounter Oscar Wilde in this monster of an anthology (The Big Book of Classic Fantasy).

His “The Remarkable Rocket” is Story # 27, and I read a Tolstoy story, “Ivan the Fool,” before getting here, and that story is nothing compared to “The Remarkable Rocket.”

An excerpt:

  • The Prince and Princess were leading the dance. They danced so beautifully that the tall white lilies peeped in at the window and watched them, and the great red poppies nodded their heads and beat time.

Sentence of the Day: Leo Tolstoy

“The women began to rain down bombs onto the army like borax upon cockroaches.”

The Story of Ivan the Fool, Story # 24, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

Whew, this story! Another multi-chap, the second one so far in this anthology. She doesn’t like these long fables as much as the short ones. In fact, the only long fable she liked was one of the early ones in this volume, the excerpt from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker. The Jules Verne multi-chap was just painful to slog through. And even though she read it only a few days ago, she’s already forgotten the title.

Sentence of the Day: Story # 23, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

The floors of the passageways were decked with poppy-petals, so that the queen’s feet would tread on purple only.

Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants, by Carmen Sylva (1843 – 1916), translated by Gio Carval

The Jules Verne story, Master Zacharius, was extremely silly.

The next story, by Louisa May Alcott, was something cute-sy about fairies and the Frost-King.

Self flew past Stories # 16, 17, 18, and 19.

She liked the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Will-o-the-Wisps Are in Town, but it did not slay.

She didn’t read the Lewis Carroll excerpt from Through the Looking Glass because she already knows that book intimately.

She was on the point of cherry-picking (instead of reaching each story in order) until she got to Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants. She hasn’t finished reading it yet, but it is soooo charming.

Furnica got to be Queen of the Ants because: 1) She is an orphan; 2) She is virtuous; and 3) She is extremely hardworking. The ants just love her. After becoming Queen of the Ants, she takes her job so seriously that she “visited the pupae every evening, to test the softness of their cots.” She is a just Queen, banishing recalcitrant ants and even condemning a few to death, though her heart bleeds as she watches “the merciless stabbings” carried out.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

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