Too Much Up (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

Becca reels across the room as the panic attack hits, waves of nausea and terror roiling.

Naturally, her pills are in the bedroom, on the other side of the endless stretch of floor-to-ceiling windows, and getting to the wine in the kitchen would be not much easier. She whimpers with another flare of fear, backs into the farthest corner and lowers her eyes to the floor, the only way she can not see the expanse of open air on the other side of the windows. So much for opening the drapes to let some light and fresh air into the place.

The worst thing about panic attacks, she decides, is their ability to take even the comfort of your own home away from you. How do you feel safe when twenty-two floors up is twenty-one too many?

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Photo: Pexels

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

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Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (Book Review)

Farewell, My Lovely (Philip Marlowe, #2)Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good Lord.

I know it was the attitudes and nomenclature if the time–this novel was published in 1940–but I have never waded through the sludge of so many racist and misogynistic attitudes EVER. I even learned some racial slurs I hadn’t known before. See, kids? Reading is educational.

This book is chock-full of dinges and niggers and shines and wops and dames and broads and an Indian who says things like, “Gottum car,” I kid you not. So part of me is just rolling my eyes and cringing through the whole thing. And I think PC is important, yes I do, although I also think we get carried away with it sometimes. But the thing to realize is that PC is only just the surface, it’s the skin-deep beauty that cannot hide the flesh underneath, still rotten with prejudicial attitudes. Almost eighty years after this book was written, women are still not fully credited for everything we can do, still do not have equal pay or control over our own bodies. Racism is going strong, institutionalized and systematic in virtually every aspect of American life and even normalized by our current presidential administration. Simply making the words unacceptable in polite society does not enlighten anyone, does not change the underlying attitudes and accepted norms of that society. We’ve got a lot of work to do yet. But we have to start somewhere, and PC is as good a place as any.

But on the other hand- -that’s my favorite hand, the other hand–the prose. The prose! Hard-boiled poetry.

“I had seen some of his work and it was the kind of work that stays done.”

“She’s a nice girl. Not my type.”

“The wet air was as cold as the ashes of love.”

“She hung up, leaving me with the curious feeling of having talked to somebody that didn’t exist.”

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.”

Gold.

Couple of things to note. The word “okay” is spelled “okey” through the book and I kept tripping over it. Was that normal then? I learned a few new terms for “marihuana,” including “jujus” and “tea” and “American hasheesh.”

One of the best parts of the writing of the time is that “dick” is not a dirty word. “Private dick.” Private dick? Don’t mind if I do. The best dick is always private. Dick, dick, dick.

As for the story itself, I’m torn. The plot is all over the place and in a couple of spots, but particularly toward the end, it was really slogging. I considered not finishing it– I know! Not finish a Raymond Chandler book?–but at 88% you might as well push through. Then I read somewhere that this novel is the cobbling together of three of Chandler’s short stories, which explains the disjointedness. The story opens with Marlowe working on a case, and he gets sidetracked by a shooting in a “shine joint” and a missing woman, and never bothers to go back to his original case. So, the plot. It’s okay (or okey), but I think we really read Raymond Chandler for the tough-guy characters, and the dames with legs “to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window,” and the sentences you read over and over again because they’re just that good. The plot is only necessary as a vehicle for everything else that sets noir apart. And for that, four stars.

Bookshelves: noir, whodunit, manly-men-kicking-ass, detective, mystery, crime, bad-dialogue, so-bad-it’s-good

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Harvest (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Jane takes a deep breath, opens her professional email address.

This past week she has, as always, sent out a plethora of resumes and cover letters, responding to ads and notices from every source she can find. She has agonized over word choices, triple-checked spelling and grammar and attachments, made her resume as snazzy as she knows how, applied for jobs she’s sure she’d hate. Desperation trumps selectivity. Looking for a job is a full-time job. Hard work. Or a lottery?

17 new messages, the program tells her. Maybe, today, she will have garnered the magic one. The “yes.”

JulieG
Photo: JulieG

Every week at Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the phrase or show what what it means without using the words. Go where the prompt leads.”

Old Ironsides (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

“You’ll get your alimony check when it’s due, same as last month and the month before that and the month before that, and that’s when you’ll always get it, and I don’t care if you can’t budget yourself,” Allan says wearily. “You know, Torrey, I couldn’t afford to be married to you and I can’t afford to be divorced from you either.”

“Well, I always was out of your league.”

“Out of my something, anyway,” Allan snaps. “You like to think you’re twenty-four carat, but you’re just gold-plated. A gold-plated, gold-digging pain in my…wallet.”

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Photo: Pexels

Every week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe is in response to this week’s cue: “plate.” Come join us!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: fantasy, magic, ya, love-the-cover, steampunk, lgbt-inclusion, multiple-povs, this-is-the-stuff-right-here, witches-and-wizards

When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.

Finally got that fantasy fix I was wanting.

I had posted my negative review of Mistborn and was reading through other reviews. One fellow negative reviewer referred readers to Six of Crows instead, and I’m so glad she did.

This is another of those YA books that doesn’t really read YA, to me. The language isn’t simplistic, nor is the plot. The only thing really “teen” is that sexual content is circumspect, and I’m fine with that. Few things are more awkward for me the reader than a detailed sex scene that has obviously been laboured over that leaves me cold or unmoved or even cringing. I’d rather a writer allude to what’s going on and leave the rest to my imagination, which is probably our biggest erogenous zone anyway.

So, back to the book. Six badass outcasts of society come together for the one big job that will buy them all freedom:

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Lots to love here, along with the little bit of love that is fallen into. I love these characters, kids who don’t read like kids, forced to grow up too fast. I love the world of the Grisha, which reads like a fantasy Scandinavia with modern elements, magic and witchhunting, and a steampunk vibe. The dialogue is fresh, the pace is galloping, and the plotting is tight, no loose ends here even if it is a cliff-hanger at the end. (Sequel coming right up!)

What I might have liked most of all, though, is the actual, physical book. The physical object, all black and goth with the black-edged pages, how arty and stylish and sexy is that? The pages of the sequel are red. These books make me happy just looking at them.

Six of Crows

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Riptide (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

“And after you lost your job, it just cascaded, the domino effect,” the writer prompted. Interviewing Jane, Woman in the Street, of all people! “Woman Living in the Street,” more like.

Jane nods, raises the cup of coffee in salute and thanks, and thinks. “Yeah, homelessness. One thing after another. No jobs back home, spent everything to move here for one. Lost that job. Spent my savings to live. Evicted.” Sip of coffee. “Job-hunting is my job now. It’s tougher when you’re older.”

She eyes the journalist thoughtfully. “But not dominoes. More like getting sucked under by a riptide.”

riptide ista-weyr dot wikidot, CC Attribution ShareAlike 3 point 0
Photo: ista-weyr.wikidot.com, CC Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Each week at the Ranch (Carrot Ranch Literary Community, that is) Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s challenge: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a riptide. How can it be used to pull a story? It could be a stretch of turbulent water or a pull of another kind. Go where the prompt leads even if you find it unexpected.”

Girls Standing on Lawns by Maira Kalman (Reading Challenge Book Review)

Girls Standing on LawnsGirls Standing on Lawns by Maira Kalman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is very simple and short for packing such an interesting punch. It was #29 in this year’s reading challenge, a book with pictures.

Bookshelves: art, pictures, artsy-fartsy, nostalgia, americana, non-fiction, social-commentary

This deceptively simple little book is a small collection of anonymous photos donated to MOMA of…girls standing on lawns, with poetic blurbs from Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and paintings of the photos by Maira Kalman. And that’s all it is. You can read the whole thing in ten minutes, and that’s meandering.

But wait. Such intrigue. I turn the page, then turn it back, look more closely, study it. Who are these girls, these women? What would someone think of the pictures in my mother’s endless boxes of pictures that have me standing on one lawn or another? I would be as anonymous as any of the women in this book. It’s an interesting way to see yourself, with no context whatsoever, without knowing that was me before my initiation into the clique-ish Job’s Daughters and not a prom, without knowing how much money my mother spent on that beauty parlor hairdo, without hearing the screaming argument as I furiously dragged a brush through it, ruining it because I hated it so. Or without knowing how badly my stomach was knotted as I posed before that first day of school in a new town full of strangers. Without knowing how desperate I’d been to be invited to that birthday party I was on my way to, without knowing how many hours I’d babysat to earn the money for that dress I was posing in, without knowing that lawn was lovingly watered and trimmed by my grandfather and felt like velvet to bare feet, without knowing who loved me enough to want to preserve me at that moment and said, “Stand over there. Let me get a picture.”

girlsstandingonlawns2
What’s the story, Morning Glory?

A moment in time, sliding over the surface only. But what was the moment, exactly? Who was behind the camera? It’s hard for me to remember, after all these years, and you don’t know at all. I’m just a girl, standing on a lawn. I could be any girl. That could be anybody’s lawn, anybody’s camera. The lack of context is what gives these photos their depth, their potential to be any story you want them to be.

girls

It can be difficult to see these sorts of snapshots as art, or this book as a literary pursuit at all. I think people tend to view photography as the red-headed stepchild of the arts, not taking it quite seriously, especially once cameras became readily available to the common person with no sense of the artistic whatsoever. I fear this has only increased as cameras have proliferated to the point where one can be found in almost anyone’s hand at any given time. Selfies are almost offensively ubiquitous — or are they? Are they another art form, a reflection of the fluidity of art and of our culture? Artist Dylan Neuwirth would say so, judging from his “Just Be Your Selfie” exhibit, recently seen at Tacoma Art Museum and in Seattle’s Occidental Park.

Pictures of girls standing on lawns are going to be few and far between before very much more time passes, and that’s a shame.

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