Monday, March 13, 2023

Reader's Diary #2078 - Paul v Walters: Heartbreak

Sometimes I'll read a short story that leaves me wanting more and often it's because those stories felt incomplete. That's not the case with Paul v Walters' "Heartbreak" which works thoroughly as a story about a reunion of a somewhat toxic relationship.

But that relationship seems so compelling, the characters hint at just enough depth, that I'd read a whole novel about them.

Monday, March 06, 2023

Reader's Diary #2077 - Alan Grayce: A Delivery of Cheesesteaks

"A Delivery of Cheesesteaks" by Alan Grayce is one of those sci-fi stories where I think the story would have been better served without the sci-fi elements. 

About a homeless veteran who becomes a hero, the sci-fi elements felt tacked on to me, like an afterthought to ensure publication. The homeless guy was great though!

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Reader's Diary #2076 - Charles Johnson: All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End

Probably a whole slew of reasons why Charles Johnson's cartoons escaped my radar until now, but I'm grateful they finally did. 

There are political cartoons and there are satirical political cartoons, the latter, if done right, are also funny. Johnson's cartoons are funny. Broken up into specific collection, Johnson offers short introductions to each and in one of these he considers whether or not a cartoon can considered a visual poem. He concludes, "Like the best haiku, where a thought or feeling is perfectly expressed in just a few lines and is instantly understood, a well-done cartoon can often lead to an epiphany or 'Aha!' moment of laughter and sudden insight into a subject." Indeed, Johnson's cartoons are visual poems.

They are a product of their time, of course, and most come from the 60's and 70's. The style reflects that (which I loved) and there are many, many references to politics at the time (Black Panthers feature heavily). Yet, for better or worse, many of the themes and insights still resonate today.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Reader's Diary #2075 - Anthony Varallo: Dispatches from a Housesitter

When a short story, such as Anthony Varallo's "Dispatches from a Housesitter" ends abruptly, especially if I've been enjoying it up to that point, I find myself wondering if missed something or if the author had an intent in mind.

The description and voice in this story are superb. As for the point? I'm wondering if I'm supposed to see a parallel between the narrator and the dog he's taking care of...

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Reader's Diary #2074 - Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow

Usually when I struggle through an exceptionally long book, I wind up with Stockholm Syndrome. I confuse the elation of finally finishing it with having enjoyed it after all. This was not the case with Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

I still barely have a sweet clue as to what I just read. The style, point of view, perspective was all over the map. It felt self-indulgent, with Pynchon trying to prove how shocking and/or witty he could be. It was dull, it was confusing, it was awful.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Reader's Diary #2073 - Mary Elizabeth Burroughs: Waste

To me, there are two types of sci-fi: sci-fi lite and hardcore sci-fi. The latter I find to be less accessible for occasional sci-fi readers and characterized by a lot of world-building including fictional jargon. Mary Elizabeth Burrough's "Waste" I found to be hardcore sci-fi.

As such it took me a little while to get into it, but eventually I was able to appreciate the story and the social commentary about classes; in this dystopian world the lowest class being short-lived, deformed humans who literally live at a dump.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Reader's Diary #2072: Joe Sweeney: How I Met Your Father

Like the TV show that inspired the title, Joe Sweeney's "How I Met Your Father" has a frame story in which a parent is retelling how she met their children's father. 

When I've tried my hand at writing short stories, I wrestled with how much description to include. How much detail do you need to set a scene and should it have any other significance (help set the mood, for instance). I find this story to be a bit too descriptive; a lot that not only felt irrelevant but also distracting and implausible that a person would remember such trivial details while reminiscing. 

Still, it was a light and entertaining piece.

Monday, February 06, 2023

Reader's Diary #2071 - O. Henry: A Newspaper Story

I still remember an old writing assignment from my childhood; a day in the life of a penny. I thought of it again today with O. Henry's "A Newspaper Story" which essentially is a day in the life of a newspaper.

The moral of the story is that the printed word holds power to affect change but it's somewhat in jest. In this case it's the physical paper that actually creates change, and coincidentally, in the lives of those written about in the newspaper.

It's amusing, fast paced, and wonderfully detailed.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Reader's Diary #2070 - Arathi Vallipuranathan: Potato Curry

Arathi Vallipuranathan's "Potato Curry" is a sweet, possibly sad (but I found it sort of sweet) short story about a daughter and her dying mother.

Alternating with the present day and flashbacks, we get a sense of both women, who, like many children and their parents, find themselves a bit distant and different as they age. It doesn't mean however, there isn't time for an understanding.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Reader's Diary #2069 - Joe Vallese (editor): It Came from the Closet

I've yet to watch the Shudder series Queer for Fear which claims to look at the LGQBTQ+ community in horror film. I had a friend who watched it report to me that while he found it interesting, he found some of the ideas to be a bit of a stretch, reading LGBTQ metaphors into movies that he really didn't see strong, if any, connections. I'll still try it, but I had similar initial reservations about It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections of Horror

Also, I should note that I had never considered before that horror films had a particularly strong fanbase in the LGBTQ community. The first time I heard anything of the sort was when Babadook surprisingly became a Pride icon.

To be clear, It Came from the Closet, doesn't necessarily assert that horror films are inherently queer. Nor does it make, at least I didn't think so, leaps of reasoning to find connections. What it did do, however, was present thoughtful, personal essays from queer horror fans. In some of these, they acknowledged that some films were more problematic than queer positive, and in such cases, there were profound reflections on as to why they were still fans. 

I was also extremely impressed by the diversity and intersectionality. Not only were the letters represented, but we also had POC writers, writers with disabilities, and so on. 

It gave me a lot to think about and I also added a few horror films to my "to watch list". 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Reader's Diary #2068 - Emma Franieczek: The Other Woman

I love the scenes described by Emma Francieczek's "The Other Woman," at once evoking a mood and complimenting the character development. 

It's a story of a love triangle, and as these things tend to go, eventually a tragic love triangle. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Reader's Diary #2067 - Andrew S. Weiss and Brian "Box" Brown: Accidental Czar

Like most of the world, my attention has been with Ukraine for some time now and of course, on the man responsible. Accidental Czar: The Life and Lies of Vladimir Putin, written by a former White House advisor on Russian relations, seemed like a great place to start.

It certainly confirmed my suspicions on the man: all the ruthlessness and fragile ego of Trump but with an actual brain for schemes, he's an incredibly dangerous individual. Perhaps it was not the intent though of Weiss that I also walked away realizing more and more how Russia and U.S. interfere in the world and we're all largely victims in their game. 

As for the art, I was less impressed. I absolutely loved Box Brown's Tetris and his style fit that book and topic perfectly. Here though he was drawing real life political figures and they most definitely did not resemble who they were meant to represent. I found it really distracting.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Reader's Diary #2066- Allie Erickson: A Man's Man

 The voice in Allie Erickson's "A Man's Man" is strong and yet it isn't. It's strong in the sense that it's well-developed and believable yet it's from the point of view of a man who lacks any confidence. He sees his difference from other men (soldiers) as a reason for shame. Nor does he entertain the idea that maybe some of the other men were fronting, really no more secure in the ability (or desire) to kill another man than he was. 

Needless to say, it's a sad, but effective story.

Monday, January 09, 2023

Reader's Diary #2065- Terry Bisson: They're Made Out of Meat

 Terry Bisson's "They're Made Out of Meat" is a humorous look at an alien life form who discovers, and disgusted by the fact, that humans are entirely made of meat. He is so repulsed by this in fact that he deems the entire human race not worthy of contact.

 Being judged so harshly just for what we are? I don't know, maybe the humans are better off.

Monday, January 02, 2023

Reader's Diary #2064 - Tanvi Ahuja: Kairi’s Sixteenth: An Imaginary Story In Hindu Rashtra

While set in a fictional place, it's not hard to draw parallels with real life places in Tanvi Ahuja's short story "Kairi's Sixteenth." It deals with a young Hindu girl who's facing an arranged marriage.

I don't think it's too big a spoiler to report that it does not present arranged marriage in a positive light. She also offers up some great criticism of some societies that support arrange marriages (patriarchal to the point of misogyny). 

Bleak, but effective story.