Moments in Literary History 1

In the late Spring of 1891, Greenbough Smith, the newly appointed literary editor of

‘The Strand’ received a submission of two handwritten manuscripts.

Forty years later he described how he reacted on that day—“I at once realized here was the greatest short story writer

since Edgar Allan Poe, I remember rushing into Mr. Noames [publisher ] room and thrusting the stories before his eyes ….

Here was a new and gifted story writer; there was no mistaking the ingenuity of the plot, the limpid clearness of the style,

the perfect art of telling a story.”

The two stories that excited Smith’s interest were ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ and ‘The Red-Headed League’

Meg

Something is bothering

this silkie





She wanders

round and round

the yard

in

a solipsistic fluff

driving us round the bend.

She worries the others.





A few days later

when we let her out she resumes

her circling

then huddles beneath

the bird bath

and will not move.

We shift her.

She crawls under a bush

hard to reach.

The cat who often bothers the chooks

leaves her alone.





That night it rains and rains.

In the morning

she is bedraggled

and dead.

I lift her into the earth.

There isn’t much of her.

The chooks settle after that.

So do we.

How Was It, Chief?

He brings me a muffin.

I asked for a blueberry.

I get choc chip.

I asked for a fork.

He brings me a knife.

You’ve got no idea how rude customers can be, he says to a couple at the next table. You don’t know what you’re doing, mate, they sometimes say. Hey! I’ve got backbone. I bite back: Don’t know what I’m doing??? You don’t know what you’re talking about, I say to them. I’ve been in this trade for ten years.

His face is going red. He starts to inflate like a pufferfish. His words bristle.

The couple cower before their coffee.

So how was it, chief? he asks me in passing.

You don’t know what you’re doing, I feel like saying but my mouth is full of muffin.

Instead I give him the thumbs up. It seems the best policy. I’ve made his day.

The Best Exotic Mongolian Beanie

What sort of wuss wears a beanie around the house?

It’s not Outer Mongolia for f**’s sake

But it looks exotic and it’s warm and woolly.

A tower of a hat from Ulaanbaatar, the trader told me. A beanie fit for Genghis Khan.

I could see him storming through the steppes wearing it proudly like a crown,

I had to have it with its burnished reds and browns and black leopard spots.

But I look a proper Charlie wearing it in the mall or library or on public transport.

In restaurants people just stare.

So I wear it when gardening or on evening walks along the esplanade before disappearing

into my yurt where I cuddle up with a copy of Sonomyn Udval’s ‘Collected Short Stories’

which everyone should read.





  • what’s the strangest structure you’ve slept under?
  • have you read any of Sonomyn’s wonderful stories?
  • do you wear beanies on cold, wintry days?

Dairy Dreams

As soon as I began reading it, ‘The Ice Cream Palace,’ I began to have dairy dreams.

Don’t you know it is forbidden, I said. I banished you from my diet years ago.

But the dream  pulled up to me like a Mr. Whippy van chiming.

What could I do?

I settled back into my vanilla-and–pistachio armchair and read Gianni Rodari’s deliciously delightful tale.

My eyes greedily licked every sentence.

I scooped the words up with pleasure.

They melted in my mouth.

The residue ran down my chin in rainbow rivulets.

Is it Character then?

Is it the characters, then?

No, it is not.

Scenery. dialogue,

intrigue,

the machinations of plot?

No, it is not.

Really? None of the above?

Then, pray tell, what?

Far more important

than any of those,

he says,

is vivacity,

the vivacity of the prose.





* what is it you most treasure in a short story?

pic courtesy of Pixabay

Goulash

I am reading a short story but it is not making any sense.

Call me ‘old-fashioned’ but I think a story should make sense.

Maybe it’s because it’s told in a goulash of styles.

But the writer is an accomplished writer.

Does that mean I am not an accomplished reader?

Can a writer be over-confident, cocky? If so, can a reader?

Maybe it’s my mindset.

Maybe I should loosen up like good old George, slouch around in the ungrammatic, delve in the demotic, savour the stew

  • have you read any books or seen any films that made little sense? did you continue with them anyway?
  • what makes an accomplished reader?

Collections of Jokes Do Not Win Pulitzer Prizes

A short story though it may be funny is not a joke.

The last line of a joke is the punchline.

The last name of a story has no name.

You remember a punchline.

You do not remember the last line of a story.

You may remember the first —- I still remember the opening lines of David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities — but I do not remember the last.

No one does.

You tell people jokes.

You do not tell short stories.

Short stories have an author.

Jokes do not.

No one knows who the first person was to tell a joke that does the rounds.

Jokes are short.

Short stories, except those of Lydia Davis, are comparatively long.

Collections of jokes do not win Pulitzer prizes.

Collections of short stories do.

I like them both.

There is one way short stories and jokes are alike: the good ones you like to hear or read over and over again..

I Know a Little about Eagerness

person-beside-black-leather-heavy-bag-980437

Hey! when are we going to gym?

my muscle shirt calls out to me from the bag in the corner

where my gym shorts and sneakers also reside.

I know a little about eagerness, I reply.

I’m eager to finish ‘The Alps’, that short story by Colin Barrett which is why I’m at the laptop at six in the morning.

I’m eager to see the next episode of ‘Lego Masters’ — only 14 hours to go.

I can’t wait to get back to the pub with my mates

or go to the cinema again to see the live action Mulan, the new James Bond

so yes, I know a little about eagerness, I say.

Okay, okay, my gym clothes say, we didn’t want a sermon. A date would have done.

I get that, I say. Weeks, maybe a month. Can you guys hang on? I’m just as eager to get back as you: the punching bag, the weights, the lat pull down….

Okay, they say, shoulders a little slumped. Can you drive us past the gym, just to have a look ?

I can do that, I say, just soon as I finish this poem.

 

* the prompt for this was eswini’s ‘The Museum of Unnecessary Things’ on WordPress