It’s No Big Deal…

Hello there, Reader!

I am writing today because I have a small, personal triumph that I wish to share with you. Mostly I just want a little bit of “You GO girl!!!!” or “That is the most awesome thing ever, Dude!” and I can imagine that I’m getting that from you because I don’t know you and so I can just imagine you doing that to inflate my easily flattered ego. I’m sure reality is very, very different. In reality you will probably just shake your head at me and slowly back away, but in my head you are clapping adoringly.

Anyway, my small, personal triumph is… I read a whole collection of short stories called L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories by Rockstar Games!

I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in. Go ahead. Take your time. I’ll wait.

I know. It’s no big deal. It’s eight very short stories. No need for adoration or clapping or even a “Well done, you!”. However, if you know me, you know that my ability to finish anything in one go is pretty triumphant. I’m one of those annoying readers who read 10 books at once and short story collections are rarely, if ever, read all the way through. So you see. Triumph! Yay me! *imagines crowd clapping*  

I’m not saying this book is filled with stories that will change your life or move you so much that you’ll quit your job to become a writer. But it will.

No. I’m just kidding. I read the whole thing partly because I need to read about three books a week to reach my goal of 50 books read by Jan. 1, 2013 and partly because it is a collection of stories that are—you guessed it—noir themed.*

I already wrote about one or two of these stories. I will write about one or two more in the days to come.**

Another small triumph is that I read another two books (The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and Let’s pretend this Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson) last week and got myself through half of a fourth (One Day by David Nicholls).*** Go me!

See ya next time,

Kiki

*I love noir. No really. I love it. I lust for it. It is the most awesome thing ever. Seriously. It completes me like Renee Zellweger completes Tom Cruise.

**That is if my Internet works. I will complain about this endlessly.

***This isn’t through any kind of innate awesomeness or super duper self-discipline. Really, it’s all because the Internet didn’t work for a few days.**** And because I have no life.

****See! Told you I’d complain about it.

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#5 and #6 The City of Angels

Hello there, Reader!

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I have spent a week—seven consecutive days—doing nothing but watching Youtube.* What is my problem? Anyway, I have finally torn my eyeballs away from my computer screen and locked them onto the screen of my Kindle where I read, among other things, a couple of short stories that I would like to share with you.

The first story I’d like to share is written by one of my favorite writers. She started off writing Hollywood noir starring women you probably don’t want to get mixed up with. She is most recently known for the wonderful novel “Dare Me”. She reminds me of Chandler and Ross Macdonald. The story is called “The Girl” and is published in L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories. L.A. Noire is based on the Rockstar Games game of the same name. (That was not the best sentence I’ve ever written!) “The Girl” is about June Ballard, an actress, who is lured to a depraved Hollywood party by promises of future work.

The story is typical Abbott. You can feel the rot under the glitz in every paragraph. You move along with June as she navigates the party and the dark recesses of the house, where she must decide if she’s willing to make a pact with the devil.

The second story I want to share with you is also from L.A. Noire called “School For Murder” by Francine Prose.

I haven’t read much by Prose. In fact I’ve only read The Lives of Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired. Now that I’ve read some of her fiction, I might just pop over to Amazon and buy one or two of her novels.

“School For Murder” takes the reader behind the scenes of a noir film. It is a story about a WWII veteran turned actor, down on his luck and desperate. His only job in six months? The silent role of a maniac killer who strangles the girlfriend of some poor guy who gets nailed for the murder. But he can’t do it. He can’t pretend to kill, not after what happened in Okinawa. So, he goes to an acting class that goes beyond the Method.

There you have it, Reader. Two noir stories from a collection I recommend, especially if you enjoy noir. Other authors included in L.A. Noire are Lawrence Block and Joyce Carol Oates.**

So what about you reader? Are you a noir fan? What is it about noir that makes it so intriguing? Why do we love these stories that revel in the dark side of life?

Catch ya later!

Kiki

P.S. – Does anyone know if the game L.A. Noire is available for Mac and, if so, is still available?

*Actually, this was written a lot longer than seven days ago. My Internet stopped working and then it worked again and then it stopped again. Anyway, there will be another post today. So…that will make two posts in one day. Can we just pretend I was extra productive?

**I will post about Oates’ story one of these days.

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UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello there, Reader!

I do not have a story post today. I just wanted to drop by and say, “UGH!!!!!!!”. Why? Well… I’ve been a bit lazy the last few days. Actually, I went on a 48 Hours, Dateline, Nightmare Next Door, Vlogbrothers and Emma Approved marathon. So… I haven’t read anything this week. *facepalm*

Anyway, I just wanted to give you a heads up on my addictions. I can’t promise I’ll stop entirely, but I can promise that will not watch a thing until I have finished at least two short stories. And, you know, sleep a little.

Okay. I’m going to go do one of those things now.

See you next time.

Kiki

P.S.- If you don’t know who the Vlogbrothers are you should go to youtube right now and start watching there videos. Also, if you like Jane Austen’s Emma (or even if you don’t like it) you should go watch it at youtube. Also, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

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#5 Card Games Can Be Murder

Hello there, Reader!

As always, please excuse my absence. My Internet was down for a while and when it finally started working again I decided to have myself a Castle marathon. What can I say? A little Nathan Fillion and some entertaining “Who Done It’s” always does a girl some good. On top of that, I discovered that in order to make my goal of 50 books read by the new year, I will have to read 2.6 books a week. That shouldn’t be too hard. I hope. Of course, I’m already behind this week. Gah!

Ok. Here’s what we are really here for: short story #5. The story is “The Bridge Partner” by Peter S. Beagle from The Best American Mystery Stories 2012.*

OMG!!!! (Excuse me while I get my pop culture slang on.) It’s rare that I find a short story that makes me go, “Why did that have to end? Why isn’t this a novel? OMG! I love the person who wrote this!”. I don’t want to talk it up too much because sometimes the hype can destroy the awesomeness. Let’s just say this particular story was as close to perfect that I’ve read in a while. “The Bridge Partner” met all six points on what I like to call “My Personal Scale of Story Greatness”.**

This is the scale:

Point 1) It is well written.

Point 2) It leaves my wrist sore from gripping the book in anticipation of what ever dastardly/devastating/tragic/funny thing comes next (or the eReader equivalent).

Point 3) It makes my knees weak, like after a great Halloween horror house experience or a decent kiss.

Point 4) It makes me want to read it again.

Point 5) I keep thinking about it days or weeks or months or years later.

Point 6)  It makes me go and look up the writer and then forces me to choose between paying the rent and purchasing everything that writer ever published.

This short story made me a very poor chickadee indeed. Ok. Not really because I already own some of Beagle’s books, including “The Last Unicorn”. But you get my point.

“The Bridge Partner” is about Mattie Whalen who (surprise, surprise) plays bridge and believes her new partner just threatened to kill her. We spend the rest of the story with Mattie as she tries desperately to figure out what is going on. Is Mattie’s bridge partner a ruthless killer or has Mattie simply imagined it all? I wish I could say more, but I would give too much away.

Ok. There you have it, Reader. I hope that you enjoyed it as well if you read it and if you didn’t, well, I hope you’ll put on your TBR pile.

Does anyone else have “Personal Scale of Story Greatness”? Whether you do or don’t, how do you judge when a short story/poem/book/ is good, bad, great or just satisfactory?

Until next time,

Kiki

*Originally published in “Sleight of Hand” by Peter S. Beagle

**I use this scale for works that I think are purely for entertainment and not for works that fall into the umbrella categories of “classics”, “non-fiction” and “poetry”. Each of those categories and their subgenres have their own scale.

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#4 Promises and Secrets

Hello Dear Reader!

Please excuse my absence. My Internet has been down for the last few days. And apologies, this one is going to be super short.

 

Story #4 is “Au Sable” by Joyce Carol Oates from her collection of short stories entitled “Faithless: Tales of Transgression”.*

The story is about a man who receives a call from his father in-law. During the phone call, the man is asked first to make a promise and then to keep a secret from his wife.

This is not my favorite Oates story, but it has definitely grown on me over the last few days. It is simple and short, but it leaves you with questions. Would you make that promise? Would keep that secret? Even after days of thinking about it, I’m still not sure if would or could.

What do you think? Have you read the story? Would be able to make that promise or keep that secret?

Happy reading!

Kiki

*Originally published in Harper’s

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#3 Family Visits To The Big Apple…

Hi Reader!

I was supposed to put this up yesterday, but my Internet stopped working as I was writing it. GrrrrrrrUgggggghhhhh!

Anyway, here’s story #3:

“Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out” by Patricia Highsmith from the book “Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules”*

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Reader. Actually, it’s not a secret at all. I love Patricia Highsmith. I wish more American’s read her. She is brilliant and terrifying. I mean, Tom Ripley is her brainchild after all! And even in those stories without death, the threat of it is always there, in every line. “Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out” is no exception. In it we follow a woman for an evening as she first prepares for and then deals with a visit from her sister. Nothing really happens in the story. There’s no death and nothing really goes wrong. It is a typical story of anyone who has had to deal with a visit from a close family member. However, you spend every minute and every line waiting for something terrible to happen. A train wreck, the apartment’s on fire or a heart attack. Every. Single. Line. Even three days later I find the anxiety creeping and coiling in my stomach whenever I think about it.

I’m not saying this is a good introduction to Highsmith. You should probably start with her novels, especially “Strangers on a Train” or “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. And please, don’t judge by the movies. As in almost every case they pale in comparison to the novels. No one, not even Hitchcock,* has successfully brought her stories to life on the big screen.

So what do you think? Have you read the story? Have you read any Highsmith? Will you? If not, why? If you have read Highsmith, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on why the Europeans seem to think more highly of her than Americans do.

That’s all for now. See you next time, Reader!

Kiki

*This story was originally published in “Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith”

*For the record, Hitchcock is my favorite director.

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#2 A Story About An Autopsy…

Howdy Reader!

Here’s the second story: 

“Autopsy Room Four” by Stephen King from the book “Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales”

This is a short story about a man who realizes he is about to be cut open in (you guessed it!) autopsy room four. King does a great job of keeping the reader guessing about whether or not the guy is actually dead or not. I read this on Halloween and was properly scared. Also, I have to say it involves one of my great fears–being aware and unable to communicate that awareness, or anything else for that matter. 

What about you, Reader? Have you read it? Did it scare you? What’s your great fear? Spiders? Clowns? Insanity? Let me know in the comments!

See you next time!

Kiki

An interesting side note: At the end of the story, King mentions the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode starring Joseph Cotten. Cotten plays a man who is injured so badly that the doctors think he’s dead. I need to look that one up. 

 

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