Monday, October 10, 2011

Reader's Diary #766- Michael J Cunningham: Family Thanksgiving

Michael J Cunningham, as far as I can tell, is probably not the same Michael Cunningham that wrote The Hours. I could be wrong, but I doubt many Pulitzer Prize winners are submitting their short stories to Backhand where, according to their submission guidelines, writers don't get paid.

Not that there still couldn't be gems to be found for free, of course. Over the past few years of hosting Short Story Mondays I've found many wonderful and free short stories online, by well known and lesser known authors. I can't say, however, that I'm particularly impressed with thankful for Michael J Cunningham's "Family Thanksgiving."

"Family Thanksgiving" begins with the author describing how at family gatherings he finds himself taking mental vacations. The sky here, he muses, could be the sky over the Bahamas, and thus, with his mind elsewhere, he can cope with familial stress. Though I disagree that the skies are the same wherever you go (it's been my experience they are shockingly different), I can relate at least to the sentiment.

But that's where my attachment to the story ended. I found the narrator, to be honest, too annoying. With a little more humility, this story about an extended family thanksgiving could easily have been a Stuart McLean tale. With more crotchetiness, it could have been a Mordecai Richler story. But somewhere in between doesn't work and many of the jokes just aren't funny.
I suspect others at this shindig don't particularly enjoy being near Uncle Jack any more than he enjoys being near them. I picture the family sitting on a beach, sipping pina colladas, and soaking up the sun, when suddenly they look up to see Uncle Jack staring down out them-- they all look at one another and scream, and suddenly they're all back in an autumn leaf strewn backyard, having to face reality that they're stuck having Thanksgiving together.

I, on the other hand, am quite thankful for my small family of four this year. No offense to uncle Jack.

(Did you write a story for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Anonymous said...

I have had those moments of wishing I was not at Thanksgiving dinner. I think I'll pass on the story though.

I read a creepy one this week, not scary, more disturbing.

Julie @ Read Handed said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you. I'm glad you enjoyed your family, unlike the character in the story you read. This week I read the Raymond Carver story that the movie Everything Must Go (with Will Ferrell) is adapted from. The story is called "Why Don't You Dance?".

Kinna said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, John. Your point about finding wonderful stories free online cannot be stressed enough. My short story this week is about a workplace orientation.

Teddy Rose said...

Extended family holidays can be harsh and sometimes pretty good. It depends on the family. Happy Thanksgiving John!

I reviewed another classic:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Ha! I hope I haven't been too Uncle Jackish during family gatherings!

I shall have to read this and decide whether I have been or not.