I have slipped out from beneath the ashes of last year’s failure and started a new secret commitment to this year, and I’m ready to go public. 365 stories in 365 days. I have cheated a little, giving myself almost two months to decide if I can keep up the story-a-day tradition, and I believe I can (with a few little changes from last year):
- For each story, I’ll include the date read, title, author, run-on-sentence summary, publication details, my opinion and my star rating (search the page for “5 stars” to see my very favourites.)
- Rather than pretending I can read a story a day, I’m going straight for 365 stories in 365 days. (Although I didn’t fall off the wagon until January 7th this year!)
- Though I prefer to deep-dive the story with my eyeballs, I’ve got some short story podcasts lined up in case I need a story on the go.
- Sometimes the thing that would stop me from reading a story is having to log it! This year, if I can’t find publication details with a quick search, I just won’t include them.
- I’m going to check in each month to see how I’m doing so I don’t get too far behind.
Despite all of this, I’m already a bit behind! Fingers crossed I can make it up with some weekend reading! (And if you have a reading log, link to it in the comments so I can cheer you on.)
2023-04-05 “South to that Dark Sun” by Gareth Owen
The tragic story behind the pithy entry on blues singer Terry Arkari in the music encyclopedias of the future. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). The ideas behind this story are great, but the structure is disconnected and feels unfinished. 2.5 stars.
2023-04-04 “Underpass” by Gareth Owen
The chronological account of Mr Urban, who plays the doom-magnet protagonist and inept husband to the worried wife, who encounters teenage troublemakers, a drunk beggar, and an angry pack of stray dogs. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). Satire can be hard to write, and when it fails, the message feels unclear. This story contains all the trappings of a farce without the wit and reversal of expectations (or a horror without the thrill of suspense?). Certainly, the theme isn’t that everyone is equal in death? 2.5 stars.
2023-04-03 “Cleaning Lady” by Gareth Owen
A sixty-nine-year-old former lady’s man finds his bachelorhood oppressive and becomes absorbed with his need for a woman in his house. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). A cautionary tale for superficial men that mimics the classic short story with a moral twist, only now the character arcs are tropes. 3 stars.
2023-04-01 “Under Glass” by Margaret Atwood
A woman has laboured to emerge from a seemingly unembodied state to find her love and life unsatisfactory, and perhaps not worth it. Originally published in Harper’s magazine (1972) Found in Dancing Girls and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood (1977). The dynamics between the characters in this story have that beloved awful relatability that literary short stories often do. 4 stars.
This month I polished off Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks, Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022), I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, and rather than basking in having no unfinished books looming over me, I started four more. Oh, and I am nine stories ahead!
2023-03-31 “Polarities” by Margaret Atwood
Morrison’s relationship with Louise becomes unexpectedly interesting. Found in Dancing Girls and other stories by Margaret Atwood (1977). Great example of an unlikeable but complex main character. I like how this story stirs up feelings about social conventions, privilege, and power–it’s gross-good. 4 stars
2023-03-29 “Sixteen” by Gareth Owen
A young hospital orderly befriends a patient with a secret to tell. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). Spoiler Alert. The story structure is sound if you ignore that it is written about a young man who remains captivated by a misogynistic 40-year-old man, despite his admission to chronically cheating on his wife, being a terrible father, and treating one of his mistresses like garbage. It might be historically accurate, but I’m not sure of the point of romanticizing a time when half the population had very little agency. We’ve got lots in the archives; thanks very much. 1 star.
2023-03-28 “Morte De Smudgie” by Margaret Atwood
Nell recalls grieving the loss of her cat, Smudgie, and what it is like to be on the shore while a loved one floats away on their pyre. Originally published in Morte De Smudgie by Margaret Atwood via The Arion Press (2021). Found in Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood (2023). I like this one, which makes me wonder if I’m less fond of modern short stories than I thought. Beautiful ending. 4 stars. (I’m still 7 stories ahead!!)
2023-03-27 “Gilded Butterflies” by Gareth Owen
Hugo Melville’s acting career promises to take him from the stage to the big screen just as he starts making mistakes, both in the theatre and at home. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). This story and the last three have been a huge shift from the first four stories in this collection. I like Owen’s treatment of an unlikeable character here. 3.5 stars
2023-03-26 “Trapdoor” by Ray Bradbury
Clara Peck lived in her house for 10 years before she noticed the trapdoor above the landing, and now it’s all she can think about. Originally published in Omni magazine (1985). Found in The Toynbee Convector by Ray Bradbury (1988). I liked the premise of this story, but I didn’t find the ending satisfying. 3 stars.
2023-03-25 “The Morrison Triplets” by Debra Spark
J Morrison receives an invitation to an exclusive artist’s retreat as the country heads into a recession and leaves behind his newly pregnant wife to attend. Originally published in Harvard Review #58 (2021). Found online. I’m not usually a fan of epistolary stories, but this was immediately immersive. Excellent example of each sentence making you want to read the next. 4 stars.
2023-03-24 “Fault” by Gareth Owen
Marion can’t forgive herself for the pain she’s caused and plans to end it. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). The characters and plotline were a bit cliché, but the ending was satisfying. 3 stars.
2023-03-24 “Betty” by Margaret Atwood
A young woman looks back on what she learned from the neighbours she met the many times her family moved. Originally published in Ms Magazine (1982). Found in Dancing Girls and other stories by Margaret Atwood (1982). Despite this being an adult telling the story, I think Atwood does a good job showing the mind of a young girl. 4 stars.
2023-03-23 “The Camel” by Gareth Owen
Simonetta describes the mysterious downfall of her brother Roberto. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). A well-rounded story—interesting use of multiple perspectives used to assemble the storyline and context. 4 stars.
2023-03-22 “Oh God What Must I Do?” by Gareth Owen
A lowly secretary teases a high-society gossip about introducing her to an elusive bestselling author. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). The premise of this story is clever, but the frame story feel and bumpy transitions prevent immersion until two-thirds in. 3 stars.
2023-03-21 “The Toynbee Convector” by Ray Bradbury
Roger Shumway is the only reporter Craig Bennett Stiles, the 130-year-old time traveller who saved the world, will talk to. Originally published in Playboy (1984). Found in The Toynbee Convector by Ray Bradbury (1988). I am a slow reader because I need to read every word to process the meaning of a sentence. Sometimes this is a curse, but with this story, I wanted to read every word, and I’d read them again. 5 stars.
2023-03-20 “Faith” by Gareth Owen
Roberto Amoretti marries a woman who falls ill and must reconcile his needs with his faith. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). The formal language of the previous narrator is reused in this story. The ideas are interesting, but the characters are a little stereotypical. 3 stars.
2023-03-19 “Steve Wong is Perfect” by Tom Hanks
Triple X, but not the sexy kind. Steve Wong is forced to deal with unwanted fame after it gets out that he only seems to bowl perfect games. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). Out of the fab four linked stories, this is my favourite. It was immediately immersive, and a great finish for the collection that leaves me wanting more. 4 stars.
2023-03-19 “Our Town Today with Hank Fiset—Your Evangelista, Esperanza” by Tom Hanks
Hank Fiset tells the tale of Esperanza Cruz-Bustermente, a typist who uses her words-per-minute skills for other people. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). This is the final linked story in the shape of a newspaper column from Hank (not to be confused with Hanks), and while I didn’t like him at first, I’ll miss his observations. Hanks definitely saved the best for last. 3.5 stars.
2023-03-19 “The Evitable Conflict” by Isaac Asimov
Now in his second term as World Co-ordinator, Stephen Byerley is investigating the Machine for making mistakes that appear to be adversely affecting members of the “Society for Humanity.” Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction (1950). Found in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (1950). I’m not a huge fan of politically oriented exposition in fiction, though I get its relevance in sci-fi, and especially here. For those of you like me, the ending is worth it. 3.5 stars.
2023-03-18 “Two Scorched Men” by Margaret Atwood
Nell honours her and Tig’s late landlord and his BFF with stories of their eccentricities. Originally published as Two Scorched Men by Margaret Atwood via Scribd (2021). Found in Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood (2023). I like the characters Nell introduces, but you know that irritable boredom you feel when someone tells you something terrible happened, but they don’t want to talk about it? That’s how I feel right now. 3 stars.
2023-03-16 “First Aid” by Margaret Atwood
Nell reminisces about the life-and-death situations they’ve survived while she and Tig complete their first-aid training. Found in Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood (2023). A non-chronological (read poorly transitioned) slice of life that I didn’t put down because of the tension that something might happen (which decreased the closer I got to the last page), and because it’s Atwood. This is the first of several linked stories, so here’s hoping. 3 stars.
2023-03-16 “Made in Heaven” by Gareth Owen
Anna recalls how a break-up with her BFF brought her to the work she was meant to do. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). The premise of this story has real potential, but the execution of the character arcs bordered on tropes, and their voices felt like they came from the author rather than the characters themselves. 2.5 stars
2023-03-15 ” Zia Teresa” by Gareth Owen
A young woman recounts the tragi-comic life of her Zia Teresa. Found in South To That Dark Sun by Gareth Owen (2022). Despite some beautiful lines, this story isn’t cohesive enough to generate the suspension of disbelief required to sink into it, which isn’t helped by the plot meandering to an anticlimactic finish. 2.5 stars
2023-03-14 “Man from Mars” by Margaret Atwood
A student “from another culture” approaches Christine, a nouveau-tolerant upper-middle-class white girl from the suburbs, and before she knows it, he’s found her number and her mother has invited him to tea. Originally published in Ontario Review. Found in Dancing Girls and other stories by Margaret Atwood (1977). An interesting account of early “acceptance” of multiculturalism in Canada rubbing up against burgeoning feminism from the POV of a privileged female teenage boomer, written by a similarly privileged Canadian writer. It gives an unsettling view of where we’ve come from as well as the issues that remain unaddressed. Dated, yet accurate, and definitely still relevant. 4 stars.
2023-03-13 “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde
When American Minister Hiram Otis and his family move into the English country estate of Canterville Chase, their new world attitude disrupts the hauntings of Sir Simon. Originally published in The Court and Society Review (1887) (Read). Wholesome and funny, with a great alternative take on a haunting. 4 stars.
2023-03-13 “Go See Costas” by Tom Hanks
Assan Chepik hopes that the fifth time is the charm when he bargains his way onto a ship headed to the freedom of America. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). A strong beginning and middle with a slightly weaker end, but not by much! This story makes me hope that Tom keeps writing. 3.5 stars.
2023-03-12 “Stay With Us” by Tom Hanks
Tech mogul Francis Xavier Rustan, indulged by his EA, Ms. Mercury, heads out on a folksy-themed reconnaissance mission to the backwoods. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). I think the stageplay format is an excellent choice for this story, but the story itself loses its uniqueness in the third act. 3.5 stars.
2023-03-11 “Arthur the Dog” by Stuart McLean
Dave feels that Arthur has it too good and needs to be put in his place. Originally published in Vinyl Cafe Unplugged by Stuart McLean (2000). Found on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast (Listen). This story is a little bit all over the place, but eventually comes back around to the inciting incident. Not my favourite. 2.5 stars.
2023-03-11 “Gifted” by Stuart McLean
Sam learns that all the trouble at school might be a sign that he belongs in a gifted program. Originally published in Vinyl Café Diaries by Stuart McLean (2003). Found on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast (Listen). I think my favourite Vinyl Café stories are from Sam’s point of view. I really liked how Stuart managed to keep things interesting while most of the action was taking place in Sam’s head. 4 stars.
2023-03-10 “Self-Made Men” by Stephen Leacock
Misters Jones and Robinson compare their humble beginnings from their table in a white-linen restaurant. Originally published in Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock (1910) (Read). Found in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). A fairly on-the-nose commentary on class and privilege. 3 stars.
2023-03-10 “The Past is Important to Us” by Tom Hanks
Billionaire Bert Allenberry spends his time and money time travelling to a simpler time, where he can’t have it all. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). Sometimes a wholesome sci-fi story that feels like it was written in the 60’s deserves 4 stars because I just enjoyed reading it and anticipating what would happen at the end. Great pacing. Ending could have been a wee bit stronger. 4 stars. (Not to be overconfident, but I’m a whole story ahead of the game rn.)
2023-03-09 “Not With a Bang” by Damon Knight
Rolf Smith and Louise Oliver are the last two humans on earth, thrust into each other’s paths for no reason other than necessity. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1949). Found online. The idea of what would happen to gendered etiquette and morality after an apocalypse is intriguing. Even better if it claps back at the patriarchy from the pen of a man from the 40s. 4 stars.
2023-03-09 “The Changeling” by WW Jacobs
Mr. George Henshaw was spotted with Ted and two women by his wife and conspires to set up a double alibi. Originally Published in The Strand Magazine (1906) (Read). Found in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). This is the third story in this book by Jacobs and each is about men being outsmarted by the women they are trying to manipulate, which gives me a strange feeling. I like that the ending of this is inconclusive–feels like less of a moral tale. 3.5 stars. (68 stories in 68 days! I finally caught up on my reading today!)
2023-03-08 “Our Town Today with Hank Fiset—Back from Back in Time” by Tom Hanks
Hank Fisit is back again with his musings about nostalgia-related time travel. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks. I am not a huge fan of Frank, but he’s starting to endear himself to me. The last lines could be a little ominous and for the first time, I’m curious if there will be more about him later. 3 stars.
2023-03-08 “These are the Meditations of My Heart” by Tom Hanks
After a break-up, a young woman begins to sell anything that won’t fit in her car with the intention of heading off to follow her dreams when she buys an old typewriter for five dollars. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks. I almost put this story down before the end of the first two paragraphs when it hints that she’s hung up on a man, but Hanks turns it around. 4 stars.
2023-03-08 “Tobermory” by Saki
Cornelius Appin isn’t particularly clever or good-looking, but he did succeed in teaching a cat to talk once. Originally published in The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki (1911) (Read). Found in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). Speculative fiction from before the term existed. I like the descent into disorder that this story takes and how aptly it captures the nature of humans to not entirely think things through–“wonderful creatures which have assimilated themselves so marvellously with our civilization while retaining all their highly developed feral instincts.” Indeed. 4 stars.
2023-03-07 “A Special Weekend” by Tom Hanks
After living with his Dad following his parent’s divorce, Kenny Stahl’s mom wisks him away for a birthday weekend. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks. Some short stories have plots, others don’t, and still others are in between because the author is trying for plot but doesn’t quite hit the mark. I liked how it started out, but this story turned out to be one of the third kind. 2.5 stars.
2023-03-07 “My Brother Henry” by JM Barrie
A man mires himself in a web of lies when an acquaintance misremembers an encounter in their youth. Originally published in My Lady Nicotine: A Study in Smoke by JM Barrie (1891) (Read). Found in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). This story is hilarious. If you know anything about autism and demand avoidance, this is exactly the kind of situation you get into trying to avoid demands. 4 stars.
2023-03-06 “The Whirligig of Life” by O Henry
Ransie and Ariela Bilbro implore Justice-of-the-Peace Benaja Widdup to divorce them. Originally published in Harper’s Monthly Magazine (1903). Found in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). This is the perfect title for this story. The written dialect made this story difficult to read–I prefer Zora Neale Hurston’s way of writing phonetically. 4 stars.
2023-03-05 “Evidence” by Isaac Asimov
To get a leg up in the mayoral electoral race, Francis Quinn posits that Stephen Byerley is actually a humanoid robot with a positronic brain and hires Lanning and Calvin to prove it. Originally published in the Astounding Science Fiction magazine (1946). Found in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (1950). Central to sci-fi world-building is the human nature factor, and I like how this story imagines how a robot might make a more capable leader because it lacks our nature. 5 stars.
2023-03-05 “The Storyteller” by Saki
Three children and their aunt encounter a young bachelor on a train and the two adults have a storytelling showdown. Originally published in Morning Post (1914). Found in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). A great example of children and education written from an adult’s perspective. 4 stars.
2023-03-04 “Who’s Who” Tom Hanks
Susan Noreen Gliebe has been crashing on her friend’s one-bedroom apartment couch for more than a month and is getting desperate that her acting dreams won’t come true when she runs into her old theatre manager, Bob Roy Jr. Found in Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). A good story with a solid beginning, middle, and end, but not a lot more than that.n 3 stars.
2023-03-04 “What Stumped the Blue Jays (“Baker’s Blue Jay Yarn”) by Mark Twain
Jim Baker recounts the story of a blue jay puzzled by a never-ending hole. Originally published in A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain (1880). Found in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). Funny that he chose a blue jay and leaves the reader to decide whether that is an insult or a compliment. 3.5 stars.
2023-03-03 “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Holmes entices Watson to accompany him to Aldershot Camp, where Colonel James Barclay has allegedly been murdered. Originally published in The Strand Magazine (1893). Found in The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes: 37 short stories and a complete novel from The Strand Magazine (Read). The story where Holmes uses the word “elementary,” and maybe the first time he has referenced the bible. After reading so many stories of the other mystery duos, I really appreciate the balance of Holmeses (well-earned) arrogance and humility. 4 stars.
2023-03-02 “The Doll’s House” by Katherine Mansfield
The Burnell girls receive a dollhouse from a family friend that they lord over the children at school. Originally published in The Nation and Atheneum (1922). Found online. This story shows the pervasiveness of classism and the subtle process of how children assume their parent’s prejudices. 4 stars.
2023-03-01 “The Man in the Black Suit” by Stephen King
An old man confides the story of the time he met the devil in his diary before he dies. Originally published in The New Yorker (1994) (Read). Found on the Stories Telling Stories YouTube Channel (Watch). I like how Stephen King can take a simple, childish story and through the eyes of a man I know survives the ordeal, can make me anxious for him. 4 stars.
This month I read sixteen stories, bringing the grand total to fifty-three. Not too bad! I listened to a lot of stories this month, and I’m hoping to have more time to sit and read in March. My goal is to catch up on the five remaining stories and read the rest of Fun & Quirky Classics and Uncommon Type.
2023-02-28 “The Lady of the Yellow Painted Library” by Tobi Ogundiran
When a telephone salesman’s silver tongue fails to spare him the punishment for losing a library book, he runs. Originally published in Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight (2022). Found on LeVar Burton Reads (Listen). I liked this story, especially the ending, but the tension wavered in the middle build. 3.5 stars.
2023-02-27 “Wok Hei St” by Guan Un
Compass is a novice binder, capable of finding lost things, and his Aunty Ping needs something found. Originally published in Strange Horizons (2022) (Read). Heard on LeVar Burton Reads (Listen). A nonlinear narrative (in the is case, a story that begins at the end and then moves into a flashback to tell the story). It was good, but it didn’t really captivate. 3 stars
2023-02-26 “Teeth” by Stuart McLean
Eugene is determined to have his corn and eat it too, despite the time his teeth came out attached to a corn cob in front of all of his friends. Originally published in Secrets from the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (2006). Heard on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. I laughed out loud at this one (I love the Eugene and Sam relationship). Since I have the book this story was published in, I read the story while listening. It is very interesting to see the editing choices they made when putting it in print. 3.5 stars.
2023-02-25 “Dave Goes to the Dentist” by Stuart McLean
Dave chomps down on a chocolate Mary Turlington told him was filled with cream and finds toffee, nuts, and part of his tooth. Chaos ensues. Originally published in Secrets from the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (2006). Heard on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. I like how Stuart uses extreme stories to make the ideas relatable and less traumatic. 3.5 stars
2023-02-23 “Sins of the Third Age” by Nadine Gordimer
Peter and Mania make their way from war-torn countries and concentration camps to a new land of their choosing and work to retirement in Italy while we wait for the other shoe to drop. Originally published in Harper’s Bazaar. Read in Something Out There by Nadine Gordimer (1979). Masterful tension and a perfect ending. There is so much to this story, but the thing I took away was Gordimer’s articulation of the effect of inertia on creating the life you want. 5 stars.
2023-02-18 “The Curse of the Crayfish” by Stuart McLean
Greta realizes that Carl is depressed because he’s missing the annual fishing derby, resulting in Carl, Bert, Dave, and Kenny getting up to no good in a boat. Originally published in Revenge of the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (2012). Heard on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. Funny heartwarming story. 3.5 stars.
2023-02-17 “The Turlington’s Dog” by Stuart McLean
Bert Turlington has been wanting a dog since childhood, and when Mary finally concedes, Bert is skeptical. Not yet in print. Heard on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. A sweet little story about unexpected pleasures. 3.5 stars.
2023-02-15 “The Adventure of the Reigate Squire” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Watson has taken Holmes to the country to recover from an arduous case when Holmes finds himself embroiled in a robbery turned murder. Originally published in The Strand magazine (1893) (Read). Listened to on Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Frye. I like how the backstory for the strain on Holmes’ nervous system is not from a case that we know; it makes me feel like the story is not just a new mystery but another episode in Holmes’ life. 4 stars
2023-02-10 “Escape!” by Isaac Asimov
When their competitor’s supercomputer destroys itself after it encounters a paradox in its programming, US Robots tinkers with The Brain to sidestep the same fate. Originally published in the Astounding Science Fiction magazine (1945). Found in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (1950). I love the exploration of robot (and therefore human) psychology and personality in The Brain character. 3.5 stars.
2023-02-04 “The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones” by Stephen Leacock
The story of a man who could not take his leave. Originally published in Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock (1910). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild. Great example of a story that takes an idea to the extreme. 3 stars.
2023-02-03 “The Grey Parrot” by WW Jacobs
Mr Gannett is concerned his wife will cheat on him while he is away for work, so he buys her a parrot and tells her that it will report to him everything she does in his absence. Originally published in The Grey Parrot by WW Jacobs (1908). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (Read). This story could either be taken as a win if you read it as a woman outsmarting her controlling husband, or as a warning to men that women are deceptive. I suspect it is the latter. 3 stars.
2023-02-07 “Petit Lac Noir” by Stuart McLean
Dave and Morley get a sweet deal on a cabin getaway in exchange for doing a few chores. Chaos ensues. Originally published in Extreme Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (2009). Heard on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. I like how this story begins with two characters from outside the Vinyl Cafe universe. 3.5 stars.
2023-02-06 “Dog Pills” by Stuart McLean
Arthur the dog isn’t performing at his best and a visit to the vet inspires Dave to shore up his own health regime. Originally published in Auto Pack (CD) by Stuart McLean (2014)(Not published in print). Listened to on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. An example of a story about the inner workings of a single character’s mind. 3 stars.
2023-02-02 “Burd” by Stuart McLean
A rare bird lands in Dave’s back yard introducing him to avid birders far and wide. Originally published in Home from the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (1998). Listened to on Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. A good example of a story where a character gets swept up in a plotline. 3 stars.
2023-02-01 “Tree of Heaven” by Stuart McLean
Now that the kids are grown, Dave rediscovers his purpose in a seedling growing in the filth of his car. Originally published in Vinyl Café Diaries by Stuart McLean (2003). Listened to on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. This story is one of those stories where Dave plays the classic stupid male role (right down to being afraid of his wife) but redeems himself by falling in love with life. 4 stars.
2023-02-01 “Little Lost Robot” by Isaac Asimov
Dr. Susan Calvin and Peter Bogert are trying to find a loophole in the laws of robotics that will help them locate the robot that one of the researchers ordered to get lost. Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction. Read in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. At the beginning of the story, the character asks “It’s only been about twenty years since the hyperatomic motor was invented and it’s well known that it was a robotic invention. What is the truth about it?” Dr. Calvin goes on to tell the story, which is a digression from the topic but never comes back around to answer the question. This feels like an oversight in the frame story of the book. 3.5 stars.
Starting out ahead of the game with 38 stories read and one collection under my belt! My favourite story this month was “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, though I treasure every story I read of hers.
2023-01-31 “Attack of the Treadmill” by Stuart Mclean
Dave is humbled by a teenage boy and it all starts with a broken shoelace. Originally published in Revenge of the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (2012). Listened to on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. Sometimes Dave playing the stupid man role wears on me when there aren’t any redeemable moments. This story is one of those. 3 stars.
2023-01-30 “Dave and the Bike” by Stuart McLean
Dave helps a local bike enthusiast curb his evangelist ways. Originally published in Revenge of the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (2012). Listened to on the Backstage at the Vinyl Café podcast. I like how Stuart ties in the detail of buying the shoes with the climax of the story. 3 stars.
2023-01-29 “A Science Experiment” by Stuart McLean
Murphy earns his way into Sam’s heart with a secret that will blow everyone away. Originally published in Secrets from the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean (2006). I like how Stuart can drag out an inciting incident for 5 pages. 3 stars.
2023-01-28 “Laura” by Saki
Laura is only given a few more days to live and is convinced she will reincarnate as a lower organism; Amanda has her doubts. Originally published in Morning Post (1914). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). I don’t know much about Saki, but from what I’ve read, he isn’t on the side of women’s rights in general, so I’m not entirely sure what to make of this story. Regardless, it is amusing. 4 stars.
2023-01-27 “The Inconsiderate Waiter” by JM Barrie
A gentleman finds himself endeared to the waiter at his club and can barely stand it. Originally published in The Inconsiderate Waiter by JM Barrie (1893). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). I love how the main character of this one sticks to his bit till the very end. 4 stars.
2023-01-26 “Hoodoo McFiggin’s Christmas” by Stephen Leacock
Hoodoo McFiggin has done all that is required of him in anticipation of Santa’s arrival and so should get everything he wants, right? Originally published in Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock (1910). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). This story makes me think of how psychologists come up with their hypotheses. 3 stars.
2023-01-25 “His Lordship” by WW Jacobs
Farmer Rose and Mr. Cray conceive of a plot to humble the farmer’s daughter, but in addition to good looks she also has cleverness on her side. Originally published in The Strand Magazine (1906). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). As I neared the end of this story, I thought that for once a female character would prevail. Alas. 3 stars.
2023-01-24 “The Mouse” by Saki
Theodoric isn’t used to dealing with the cruder aspects of life, especially in public and before the fairer sex. Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). I think the original moral of the story was that others’ problems are greater than your own, but has evolved into, stop worrying what others think about you. 4 stars.
2023-01-23 “Luck” by Mark Twain
A young man and a clergyman sit side by side at a banquet to honour an admiral when the clergyman admits that he has been hiding the fact hero is a fool for his entire career. Originally published in Harper’s Magazine (1891). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). A fantastic commentary on military and the church. 4 stars.
2023-01-22 “The Waterslide” by Stuart McLean
Bored by the dog days of summer, Sam and Murphy stumble upon a scheme to make some ice cream money. Read in The Vinyl Café Celebrates by Stuart Mclean (2021). This story is a perfect example of a three-act structure and excellent pacing of characters and action. 4 stars.
2023-01-21 “My Financial Career” by Stephen Leacock
A man goes into a bank to open an account and gets swept up by an awkward bout of nerves. Originally published in Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock (1910). Read in Fun & Quirky Classics edited by Carolyn J Wild (2022). I love how the stream of consciousness of the character plays off of dialogue with the supporting character. Didn’t want it to end. 4 stars.
2023-01-20 “A Way To Go Home” by Rush Leaming
Michael sits in the duggout with a bully from school. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). I like the build of tension in this one. 3.5 stars.
2023-01-19 “Here” by Rush Leaming
A single father grapples with his vices. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). A hopeful little flash piece that isn’t out of reach. 3.5 stars.
2023-01-18 “Ashes” by Rush Leaming
A man’s stream of consciousness as the towers crumble to the ground on September 11, 2001. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). As a short story rehashing a terrible event, this piece could be a meaningful expression of futility, but as it is, it feels more like a dredging up of old memories without purpose. 3 stars.
2023-01-17 “Robo-Cop Rides Again” by Rush Leaming
Ro-bo Cop graduated the program at the Slate Thompson Rehab facility and stayed on to walk away as a legend among men. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). The graphic descriptions don’t feel quite meaningful enough to the story, so it feels a bit gratuitous. 3 stars.
2023-01-17 “A Little Patch of Sunshine” by Rush Leaming
A man’s stream of consciousness from inside a mental health institution. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). A brief post-modern glimpse into institutionalized mental health. I like the pop culture references. 3 stars
2023-01-16 “Agora Dogs” by Rush Leaming
An American with a warrant out for his arrest and nothing to show for his time on the planet settles into a summer job in Greece, meets a woman who makes him not hate himself, and kills a man. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). A fun read, but a little loose. 3 stars.
2023-01-15 “The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Mr Hall Pycroft has taken a suspiciously good job offer and is worried he’s been had. Originally published in The Strand magazine (1893) (Read). Listened to on Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Frye. A good mystery, but nothing that sets it apart from other Sherlock stories. 3.5 stars.
2023-01-14 “Liar!” by Isaac Asimov
It’s Susan Calvin, Alfred Lanning, Milton Ashe, and Peter Bogert against Herbie the telepathic robot and their own assumptions. Originally published in the Astounding Science Fiction magazine (1941). Read in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. I love the thorough exploration of the three laws of robotics through these stories, but I strongly dislike how the only woman in the story is not only a psychologist but driven to destruction by her emotions. PrOgrEsS. 4 stars.
2023-01-14 “The Adventure of the Yellow Face” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Mr. Grant Munro employs Mr. Holmes to solve the mystery that his wife refuses to reveal. . Originally published in The Strand magazine (1893) (Read). Listened to on Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Frye. Is this the first time that Sir Arthur Connan Doyle has the opportunity to denounce racism in Sherlock? I like the way he does it. And I know I have been reading a lot of Poirot lately, but I am so glad for Sherlock’s humility in this one. 4 stars.
2023-01-13 “Ella, La Loca” by Rush Leaming
Everyone calls Elsa crazy, but one man sees her differently, not that that changes anything. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). A sweet story, though I would have liked to see his choice not to step in at the last party affect him a little more. 3 stars.
2023-01-12 “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T Kingfisher
The creator is ill and must go away. He commands Sister and Brother to go off into the universe to find food and not return until he signals that he is back. Read in Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy (2020) (Read). The comparison of the innocence of humanity and AI development is compelling. I wonder how much inspiration was taken from Asimov’s iRobot. 4 stars.
2023-01-12 “Happy Hour at the Pub Madrid?” by Rush Leaming
Mr. Lovenuts has gotten himself in a pickle and it is hard to tell whether the other bar flies are on his side or not. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). This story is more of a humourous anecdote than a short story. The ending just doesn’t satisfy. 2.5 stars.
2023-01-11 “Alphabet City” by Rush Leaming
Convinced he’s not “clean cut on the inside,” a young man goes in search of a guide to the heart of the old New York underbelly. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). I like how the main character shifts from unlikeable to tolerable, not only to the reader, but to himself. 4 stars.
2023-01-10 “Parade” by Rush Leaming
Michael is in Zaire, sick with an infection, in the back of an SUV with a broken axle, 10 miles from the nearest village and further from a highway. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). The tension building in this story is great until just before the climax. Then, it’s a bit deus ex machina and the other characters lose their purpose. 3 stars.
2023-01-09 “The Man Who Screams at Nightfall” by Rush Leaming
An American moves to a small village in Zaire to help set up a fish farm and finds Kachamba, a handyman, on the streets of the village battling his demons. Read in The Man Who Screams at Nightfall: and other stories by Rush Leaming (2022). I like this story but I want it to be tighter. There are a few false endings that could use some better integration to give the ending the punch it deserves. 3 stars.
2023-01-06 “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston
The Village speculates on a tragic love triangle in their midst. Originally published in Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life (1925). Read online. The last paragraph sums up the undercurrent of this entire story, and it is amazing. 4 stars.
2023-01-06 “Our Town Today with Hank Fiset—At Loose in the Big Apple” by Tom Hanks
Hank Fiset is back with his commentary on his sejour in New York City. From Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). This story is only four pages long, and I had a hard time making myself finish it. Frank is a bad writer, boring, and a super bummer. But maybe that’s the point? 2.5 stars.
2023-01-05 “The Conscience of the Court” by Zora Neale Hurston
Laura Lee Kimble is accused of assault, mayhem, and the premeditated attempted murder of a white man and is at the mercy of the court to prove her innocence. Originally published in The Saturday Evening Post (1950) (Read). Read in The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction 7th Ed. I love the way that Zora provides an example of a future that accommodates the differences between people. 4 stars.
2023-01-05 “Alan Bean Plus Four” by Tom Hanks
Four friends (two of them dated previously) slap together a rocket ship intent on making a jaunty boomerang around the moon. Originally published in The New Yorker (2014) (Read). From Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). I was hoping he’d give sci-fi a try. This story is fun and silly and understated. Approved. 3.5 stars.
2023-01-04 “John Redding Goes to Sea” by Zora Neale Hurston
John Redding wants nothing more than to see the world beyond the horizon but unless he can get his mother’s blessing, he doesn’t feel right leaving. Originally published in Stylus magazine (1921). Read online. A great example of the dichotomy between the collective and the individual. I like how Zora made me consider the plaint of both sides. 4 stars.
2023-01-04 “A Month on Greene Street” by Tom Hanks
Bette Monk is a single mom of three who is understandably concerned about the guy next door hitting on her who doesn’t quite fit her vision of her new life. From Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). SPOILER While I know that a love story must end happily, this one is a little too throw caution to the wind for me. 3 stars.
2023-01-03 “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston
Delia Jones has worked, sweated, cried, prayed, and sweated through fifteen years of marriage to Sykes and is done with his abuse. Originally published in Fire!! Magazine (1926). Read online. It is very clear why this story is anthologized again and again. Delia’s agency till the very end makes it so satisfying. 4 stars.
2023-01-03 “Welcome to Mars” by Tom Hanks
Kirk Ullen and his father go surfing for old-time sake and finds that time has taken its toll. From Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). Even though this story isn’t particularly unique, it was satisfying. I get the feeling that Tom is building his storytelling skills in this book. This story is a good example of a developing writer. 3 stars.
2023-01-02 “Drenched in Light” by Zora Neale Hurston
Isie Watts endlessly challenges Grandma Potts to keep her in line, but this time she takes it too far. Originally published in Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life (1924). Read online. I like that Zora leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable at the end with no moral or preaching from the characters. 4 stars.
2023-01-02 “Our Town Today with Hank Fiset—An Elephant in the Pressroom” by Tom Hanks
A news reporter reflects on a newspaper going digital and Al Simonds, a mainstay of the newsroom. From Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017). As you know, I’m not a huge fan of epistolary pieces, but I think it served to show the M/C’s emotions and showcased the various parts of his argument. In general a little more of a rant than a short story. 3 stars.
2023-01-01 “A Junket in the City of Light” by Tom Hanks
Rory is a struggling model-actor-bartender who is picked up as the love interest opposite one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood and gets a free trip to Paris out of the deal. From Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (2017) (Read). At the beginning of the story the character makes the observation the best places to stay in Europe have a Nazi past, and I couldn’t stop wondering how I felt about that throughout the whole story. 3.5 stars.