Monday, September 6, 2010

a dose of short story peril

(from M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman)

October was in the chair, so it was chilly that evening, and the leaves were red and orange and tumbled from the trees that circled the grove. The twelve of them sat around a campfire roasting huge sausages on sticks, which spat and crackled as the fat dripped onto the burning applewood, and drinking fresh apple cider, tangy and tart in their mouths.

Thus begins "October in the Chair." And yes, as you likely gathered from the opening paragraph, this story brings us the months of the year personified. This is but one of the many things that makes this story so wonderful. (Note: Wonderful does not necessarily equal happy.) And perhaps I should say "stories," for "October in the Chair" is a story within a story. The inner story tells of a lonely little boy who runs away from home, and meets a delightful, but very different, sort of friend. Beyond that, I don't feel like I should say with so many things, it's more fun to discover it for oneself.

This was absolutely the most perfect beginning to short story peril that I can imagine. While not what I would call frightening, it evoked just the perfect mood. Not pure melancholy...sort of melancholy with a twist. The atmosphere of this tale, along with the cool temperatures, pulled a few weeks into the future and I felt completely as if I was in the midst of an autumn day.

(from The Best of Roald Dahl)

On the morning of the third day, the sea calmed. Even the most delicate passengers--those who had not been seen around the ship since sailing time--emerged from their cabins and crept up onto the sun deck where the deck steward gave them chairs and tucked rugs around their legs and left them lying in rows, their faces upturned to the pale, almost heatless January sun.

A passenger ship on the Atlantic is the setting for my next RIP short story venture ("Dip in the Pool"). I admit this isn't the most likely of settings for RIP mischief...but this is Roald Dahl, and the mischief did come to pass. In the form of a calculated risk. And a risk wouldn't be a risk if things couldn't go wrong...

(from Just an Ordinary Day by Shirley Jackson)

He was taller than I had imagined him. And noisier. Here I was, all by myself, downstairs in the dormitory smoking room with my typewriter, and all of a sudden there was this terrific crash and sort of sizzle, and I turned around and there he was.

Not the way one expects to come face-to-face with the devil, is it? But in "The Smoking Room" that is exactly how our plucky heroine encounters the evil fellow. (I can't believe I just said "plucky"...but it just feels so right that I just can't bear the idea of changing it. :p) And why does the devil show up in the dormitory smoking room? Well, what does the devil always want--he wants her soul, of course. But it's not going to be as easy for him as he'd hoped...I called her plucky for a reason, after all.

I'd definitely say I lucked out with my first three short story peril choices. (Of course, the odds were pretty good, considering the authors I chose, huh?) I positively adore short stories, and I'm constantly berating myself for not making more time to read them. Yet one more reason to be grateful to Carl. Hopefully, every weekend this fall will find me enjoying a few more...

Rich, Annie, and I also watched our second film for Peril on the Screen. Frenzy, another Hitchcock thriller. And we all enjoyed it quite a lot. (With the exception of a truly despicable "rape joke" that had me wanting to throw my shoe through the TV screen, that is.)

Our next viewing will probably be Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. But that will have to wait until next it's back to the real world for us, with tomorrow being the first day of the fall semester for Rich and Annie. (Wednesday for the boys.) The one thing I find utterly depressing about fall...


  1. You have me DYING to read some short stories right now!! I swear, if I didn't have so many books going already, I'd go pull my DuMaurier book right off of the shelf. So glad you enjoyed October in the Chair! It's one of my fav Gaiman shorts! Wasn't it great? And I just love your photos!!

    I'm a huge fan of the old hitchcock black and whites!! I think my favorite is Spellbound! But if you do get that one, make sure to get the one with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck!! It's SO good!

  2. I absolutely loved "October in the Chair" too...I haven't read tons of his shorts yet, but I think this may well be my favorite one so far! Oooh, and you know I'm pretty sure we've got Spellbound on tape. :D And I haven't seen it in probably 20+ years, so I really don't remember much at all. Now I'm really excited--perhaps we'll watch that one Friday instead. :D

  3. You've been quite the busy bee already! Your list looks fun! And I love the pictures

  4. really glad you are enjoying your choices so far!... love that pic of the moon, did you take it?

  5. "October" is my favorite of those! Gaiman creates such lovely seasonal ambiance.


  6. I am glad you enjoyed 'October'. I should see if I can get 'Fragile Things' for the challenge. I haven't read that collection yet...

  7. Great choices. October in the Chair is one I seem to listen to every year for RIP as I make my way through the Fragile Things audio (it is also in that collection). Definitely a mood setter. I've read several Dahl short stories but cannot recall if I've read that one. I really should check out some Shirley Jackson short stories. I enjoyed both of her novels so much last year.

    I don't know if I've seen Frenzy or not. Hmmmm... We started watching season one of Alfred Hitchcock Presents over the weekend for our Peril of the Screen. They were so much fun. And Alfred Hitchcock is just hilarious and adorable in his comments before and after the episodes.

    I know so many parents who truly ready for their kids to go back to school once August rolls around. The fact that you dread it is just one more reason why I love you and your family.