Mate for Life (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

“I still just wish you two could have worked things out,” Torrey’s mother said to Allan. “Get out here, boys!” she yelled toward the house, where ka-pew, pew-pew-pew ricocheted from an X-Box and out the window. “Your father’s here to pick you up, let’s go!”

“Well, Eleanor, unfortunately your daughter is a lot more like a praying mantis than a lovebird.”

He instantly knew that, father of her grandchildren or not, Eleanor would make him pay for that one. “I’ll just wait in the car,” he said quietly, and tried not to openly slink back down the driveway.

 

Josch13
Photo: Josch13

Every week at Uncharted, Ivy hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction challenge and blog hop. This week’s cue was MATE. Fun sixes from other authors are at the link.

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (Book Review)

mDigital FortressDigital Fortress by Dan Brown

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am not throwing the book into the wall because it does not belong to me–and neither does the wall, since I rent. 😦

Bookshelves: just-really-really-horribly-bad, everyone-loved-it-but-me, bloody-awful, was-the-editor-drunk, intrigue, thriller, popular-fiction, mary-sue-and-gary-stu, bad-dialogue, abandoned, purple-prose

Up until now I’ve defended Dan Brown against the Dan Brown haters. Up until now I hadn’t tried to read Digital Fortress.

The characters are cardboard-perfect-cliched and I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to buy that the NSA, for Pete’s sake, has no resources other than an untrained college professor to find the ring that will save the world. “I’m a teacher, not a damned secret agent!” He really says that. This was when David Becker assumed the appearance of Bones McCoy in my mind’s eye although he’s really an alternate-universe incarnation of Robert Langdon, minus the Mickey Mouse watch and the fell-down-the-well incident, and I became even less able to take him seriously than I already was, which wasn’t much. Mostly, though I cannot take the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher being referred to as the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher every single time the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher does something or every time the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher says something and every time someone thinks about the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher or talks to the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher and fantasizes about just bending the brilliant and beautiful Susan Fletcher over the desk and having a go. Barf.

I enjoyed The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, found The Lost Symbol to be so-so, did not even make it a quarter of the way into Inferno. The premise of Digital Fortress was awesome but the writing didn’t come close to doing it justice. It is physically impossible for me to endure an entire book’s worth of this drivel, and I am done with Dan Brown.

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Five a Day (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Jane exits the stall, already anticipating another cup of coffee. This one weekday, she’s got almost unlimited fluid intake.

Part of her vagrant reality is having no decent, or even very private, bathroom. In the morning she heads immediately to the gym, before she’s even had tea.  The homeless newspaper office, but often with a long line. McDonald’s requires a receipt within the last 30 minutes. The college. The public library on her way back to Tent City. Five stops a day. She’s learned to coordinate her hydration accordingly.

Who could imagine a college ladies’ room as a luxury?

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Photo: back_road_ramblers

This installment from The Life and Times of Jane Doe is in response to Charli’s flash fiction prompt for the week: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about Five a Day. Fun flashes from other authors are at the link.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (Book Review)

Sister CarrieSister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Reasons to like this book:

Bump up your classics cred, with what was at the time the “newfangled” realist or naturalist writing style. Read about an immoral woman, one who chose neither the path of hard, respectable work nor respectable marriage, who wasn’t also vilified by her creator even through it wasn’t because she didn’t try or because she lacked good intentions. It’s not her fault she was fired from her grinding sweatshop job after being sick. It’s not her fault the guy she married was already married and took her through a sham ceremony. It is refreshing that Dreiser passes no judgments; indeed, he shows us how reasonable it is for a poor, young woman freezing her way through a Chicago winter to accept the gift of a coat, even a stylish and expensive coat, from a man of means and stature to whom she is not married. It gets even better when, despite her common- law marriage and her avarice, Dreiser does not make her die the lonely and agonizing death, à la Madame Bovary or Lady Dedlock, that was de rigueur for other shameless hussies of literature. Carrie soars above and beyond her perceived sins, achieving wealth and glamour by her own merits, leaving the men who took advantage of her behind her in the dust or the gutter or wherever they happened to land. It’s refreshing.

Another reason to read it: Another victim of both bowdlerization and banning, once by its own publisher. I’m a firm believer in reading banned books.

Reasons to not like this book: I found the writing just a bit ponderous. “Oh, the drag of the culmination of the wearisome. How it delays, – – sapping the heart until it is dry…” is an example. Every little detail of people’s thoughts and deeds is rendered in excruciating detail, and I felt I was wrestling the story from the twists and turns of Dreiser’s rather grandiose writing style.

Upshot: Atypical treatment of an atypical woman for the times, and despite its period (it was published in 1900), it is possible to read it without throwing it against the wall, and even to be entertained. I say, go for it.

Bookshelves: classic, women, literature-with-a-capital-l, banned-and-challenged

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The Book of Ash by Mary Gentle (Book Review)

Ash: A Secret History (Book of Ash, #1-4)Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished my umpteenth reread of this series and realized I have never reviewed it. Perhaps because it’s simply too much awesome to review. I would give it 37 stars if I could.

This book has it all.

Magic, cleverly disguised as prayer, cleverly disguised as quantum physics.

Fantasy.

Medieval history.

Priests and prophets, saints and miracle-workers, slaves and mercenaries. Historians and archaeologists and physicists. Genetics. Movable realities.

The ruins of a Visigoth Carthage appearing off the North African coast, where countless previous surveys showed nothing. Ancient scholarly manuscripts magically recataloguing themselves in university libraries. A man missing for sixty years mysteriously turning up where he should have been the whole time.

Golem. How freaking cool are GOLEM?

Kickass female characters. Not kickass like being the most beautiful and pulling off the most politically advantageous marriage while having the best sex and wearing the most sumptuous gowns kind of kickass, but the command a mercenary army and wear custom-made Milanese plate armor and have your own warhorse and know how to take somebody’s head off with a poleax kind of kickass.

(Warning: The reality of war is gritty. Ash is a something of a politician but she is no lady, and says “fuck” a lot.)

The ending shatters me every time.

(For those intimidated by 1120-page books that can be used as doorstops, or who have bursitis and don’t want to lug around something big and heavy, my copy of this book is four normal-sized paperbacks: A Secret History, Carthage Ascendant, The Wild Machines, and Lost Burgundy. I love the cover artwork on my copies. All paper-and-glue editions are out of print, but they can be found used online. It’s also available for Kindle.)

Bookshelves: comfort-favorites, sci-fi, fantasy, mysticism, medieval-history, heroine-kicking-ass, action-with-a-body-count, grittiest-reality, this-is-the-stuff-right-here, war, women

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Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Reading Challenge Book Review)

Address UnknownAddress Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow.

I am very picky about short stories, not easily pleased. Every short story I read gets measured against the likes of “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and they all fail to cut it.

Address Unknown cuts it.

When I included this in my 2017 Reading Challenge (#3, a book of letters) I thought this was an actual book, and that’s how it came to me, a small hard-bound volume not much larger than my phone. I read the whole thing in about thirty minutes.

This is a quick and devastating story, told in the letters exchanged by two friends, business partners in an art dealership, one remaining in America and the other returning to their German homeland in 1932. In their letters back and forth we see the rise of Hitler and the fall of human decency. The betrayal is bone-chilling (“That is why we have pogroms,” said oh-so-matter-of-factly) and the revenge is brutal.

Just read it. And Trumplings, take note.

(I was slightly annoyed by the foreword written by Whit Burnett, editor of Story magazine in which this piece first appeared in 1938, wherein he waxes amazed that such a powerful story was written by a woman. Stuff it, Whit.)

Bookshelves: short-story, world-war-ii, nazi-hate, classic, historical-fiction, schadenfreude, epistolary, plot-twists-and-irony

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The Most Interesting Man in the World–Nanjo Castille (Flash Fiction)

Sit carefully in my tooled leather chair, studs and verdigris, pour my snifter of brandy. Reflect on how much I look like the pimp Esteban from Kill Bill and wonder which one of us the joke is on. Adjust my cravat.

Scroll around the Internet for designer names; perfume bottles with stitching and sewing, handbags by the likes of Choco Caramel and Channel and Coochi, which sounds almost as bad as a dongle, no matter if it’s a real word.

I don’t always enter flash fiction rodeos, but when I do, you can’t tell if I was serious or not.

michael-parks-kill-bill-vol-2
Michael Parks as Esteban Vihaio in Kill Bill
The-Most-Interesting-Man-In-The-World
Or, we can just have a Dos Equis.

This silliness is doubly inspired. It’s partly in response to Charli’s flash fiction prompt for this week: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about The Real Nanjo Castille, who was the signee of something that may have been a spam  email or may have been an incredibly tongue-in-cheek entry in one of October’s Flash Fiction Rodeo events–read more at the link. It was also inspired by Nyquil, because I have what is evidently the plague on top of insomnia.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (Book Review)

American PsychoAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Pretty sure I’ve stumbled across another book that was written to impress other writers. This entry in my 2017 reading challenge (#28, a book with an unreliable narrator) proves once again what a lowbrow I am.

I’ve read six chapters of nothing but detailed descriptions of everybody’s designer clothing, and the ridiculously expensive booze they drink and the upscale food they eat, a comparison of high-end business cards that reads disturbingly like a dick-measuring contest, and constant anxiety about not getting a good table at whatever pretentious and overpriced yuppie bistro is the latest cool place to be. That’s it. Four pages of the parade of top-end products that makes up his morning grooming routine and another two pages of all the crap from Hammacher Sclemmer in his kitchen. There seems to be a fixation with videotapes; I’m guessing porn will play a large part later on. Every woman is either a “hardbody” or is not, and they are all interchangeable. He can’t remember one person from the next, always mixing up names and faces, and I can see that as a symptom of the pathology at play here, but he does it with music too and it really really annoyed me when one of the best rock and roll songs of all time, “Be My Baby,” was not properly attributed to the Ronettes. That should have been one of the ones he got right.

The thing is, I think I get it. I’ve heard enough to know it’s about a brilliant young financial wizard on Wall Street in the late eighties who is also a serial killer. This endless blahblahblah of conspicuous consumerism is a clever device, really, the soulless clutter of day-to-day life playing up the soulless rage that comprises the mind and heart of our torturer murderer. But it’s a veritable slog to try to read. …and she’s wearing a wool-crepe skirt and a wool and cashmere velour jacket and draped over her arm is a wool and cashmere velour coat, all by Louis Dell’Olio. High-heeled shoes by Susan Bennis Warren Edwards. Sunglasses by Alain Mikli. Pressed-leather bag from Hermès. This for every single person who enters the narrator’s line of sight, including doormen and cocktail waitresses, this endless haute couture word vomit. It does echo what I imagine to be the greed and shallowness of senseless killing, the young hotshot moving through the world of junk bonds and leveraged buyouts and coke in the men’s room, twenty-six years old and pulling down two hundred grand a year, so why not reach out and take all the Wurlitzer jukeboxes and $850 gazelleskin wallets and deathsack prostitutes you want? I’m picking up desensitization as a gimmick here. Our impeccably dressed killer is a shark in more ways than one, and don’t try to tell me that anyone who aspires to Wall Street isn’t a predator of sorts.

But…it’s boring. This might have worked brilliantly for me as a short story or a novella, but as a full-length novel it is simply tedious. I’m already skimming at page 57; no way am I slogging through 400 pages. Dnf-ing. This might also be one of those times where the movie really is better.

Bookshelves: well-i-tried, writing-with-a-capital-w, pomo, unreliable-narrator, bloody-awful, misogyny-rules, abandoned, gore, horror, satire, dark-humour, literary-fiction, literature-with-a-capital-l, artsy-fartsy, dnf, ugh, reading-challenge

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Chair on the Porch (Flash Fiction)

Lora steps out of the SUV and inhales deeply, the scent of dead leaves and humus and apples, oddly enough. She doesn’t remember apple trees around here.

She picks through brambles to the overgrown cabin. How many years since anyone has been here, this jewel in the woods, where they used to hide from civilization?

She eases into the cobwebbed chair on the tiny porch. She has just settled her gaze on the autumn-brilliant tree line when a splintering crash lands her on the plank boards.

Maybe you can go home again, but you have to fix it first.

cgdphoto
Photo: cgdphoto

The Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch Literary Community is over, and we’re back to the regular weekly flash fiction challenges. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a chair on a porch. Fun flashes from other writers are at the link.

Accept No Substitutes (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

“How did your soup turn out?”

“The soup is nonexistent,” Torrey snaps, “because who on earth has bone broth sitting around the house?”

“We’ll find you a list of substitutes you can use when cooking,” Lesley smiles.

“The websites I found say if you don’t have bone broth, you can substitute gelatin, and if you don’t have gelatin, you can substitute agar agar, whatever that is,” Torrey replies. “What’s the point of a substitute list, when I’m even less likely to have the substitute than the real ingredient?”

poppicnic
Photo: poppicnic

Every week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This week’s cue was “substitute.” Fun sixes from other authors are at the link. Join us!