Monday, October 01, 2007

Reader's Diary #296- Raymond Carver: A Small Good Thing

Short Story Monday

Looking back at some of my earlier Short Story Monday posts, I noticed that I have a tendency to reduce short stories to morals or themes. But to simply say "A Small Good Thing" is about tragedy bringing people together would be selling it short.

"A Small Good Thing" is a wonderfully written but heart-wrenching tale. Perhaps it is because I'm a parent that it had such an impact on me, but I don't remember ever coming this close to crying over something I've read. Fortunately, I read it during some downtime at work and so I contained myself (they'd never let me live it down had I gone all blubbery).

It's hard to say why I enjoyed it so much but it had something to do with the lack of pretension. There's not a lot of overly flowery language, he doesn't take risks in terms of chronological order, and the characters are of the everyday variety. Yet for all that, it's not sparse, boring or uncreative. To use a cliche, it's a good old fashioned tale.

I also thought his pacing was fantastic. The tragedy that sparks off the story just sort of hit me as a reader, as such things so often do occur in real life: without warning or foreshadowing. Likewise, the tension is dished out in intervals and made even more palpable because the readers have a knowledge that would help the characters slightly, but we are left helpless-as are the characters within the story, just for different reasons.

As you can tell, I'm being a little greedy on the details, but I really don't want to spoil such a wonderful story for anyone. Just get a box of Kleenex handy.

(I'm again reminding my fellow bloggers that if you, too, write a short story post, please consider submitting the link to me at jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com to use in my short story themed Bookworms Carnival coming up in November.
This month's carnival will be hosted by This Is The Life. Her theme is Thrills and Chills: Spooky Books that Keep You Up at Night. Send her your spooky book post link before October 12th.

Also find links to other Short Story Monday participants at Raidergirl's Adventure In Reading.)


Stephanie said...

Since I have been doing Short Story Sunday's (but usually on Monday) for the RIP challenge, thought I would come over here and see what you were doing!!

This sounds like an excellent short story!!

John Mutford said...

Stephanie: It really is. Btw, I've been enjoying your posts on the Gaiman short stories as well. So much in fact that next week I'm going to read one of his as well.

Stephanie said...

Oh goodie!! There are some really good stories in Fragile Things. The last story is sort of a novella. If you have read American Gods, it has the same main character. I'm looking forward to it!!

I will probably be sticking with the short story sundays (on Monday!) even after the RIP is over. Of course, I'm kind of partial to Gaiman and King. But I'll keep looking over here for more ideas!

Gentle Reader said...

A Small Good Thing is one of my favorite short stories ever! Glad to hear you enjoyed it. I love Carver, really need to reread him one of these days.

Allison said...

I love when stories start off with a bang.

I don't have time to read this now, but shall return.

John Mutford said...

Stephanie: It's not actually one from Fragile Things, but I'd like to pick that up some day as well.

Gentle Reader: I'll be seeking out more for sure.

Allison: Me too. Something that draws you in right from the get-go.

raidergirl3 said...

I read it, but I read very quickly, because I sensed pretty early I didn't want to get too involved in this one. However, I didn't cry, and I'm not sure I would have if I read slower. Good story though. Thanks for the link.