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Let others decry the current state of literary affairs, the Franzens and Tim Parkses who either miss the old days or who have gotten so old in their reading lives that they only want something new. I'm with Sam Sacks in his Page-Turner column at The New Yorker: "There is so much passion and wonder in today’s fiction" to be discovered and read and savored and mulled over.

It's not just novels, although my TBR stacks consist of books I've looked forward to for months, from Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch to James Salter's All That Is and Phillip Meyer's The Son.

Short stories also have been a delight to discover. My reading plans include Shawn Vestal's Godforsaken Idaho and Laura van den Berg's The Isle of Youth, as well as this year's Best American Short Stories.

It's not just collected stories or anthologies in book form. Online, short stories can be found in abundance. I need to remember to check Narrative Magazine more often. This past week, there were links to stories by Rick Bass, William Ketteridge and Tess Callahan, among others, on the front page. Callahan's story  is part of a novel in progress, Year of the Snake. But the story, White Moon Rising, holds together on its own.

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A young man with a failed marriage has moved from San Francisco and is en route to Shanghai when the boat encounters a storm at sea. He and a young woman fleetingly connect.

Callahan's story works very well because it is so good at evoking those feelings of having lost what you didn't want to let go of, and of picking up and trying to start over again, and of reaching out to another human being when it wasn't even on your to-do list, let alone on top of it.

Traditional publications also have an online presence, including the venerable The New Yorker. And its editors have been kind enough to put Haruki Murakami's latest story, Samsa in Love, online:

He woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphasis and become Gregor Samsa.
Well, nothing like starting off a story with a narrative challenge. What to write about? Where to go with this? Well, what became of Gregor Samsa?

A young hunchback woman comes to the house in which Samsa awakens, on a service call to fix a broken lock. Her family of men has sent her because soldiers are in the city of Prague and it's not safe out for men. She tells him:

"...Maybe working on the little things as dutifully and honestly as we can is how we stay sane when the world is falling apart.”
There are times in my life when this is a good idea to remember. When trying to do great good things only leads to messiness and goals remain unmet. So perhaps trying to do the little things right is a good way to reset balance to try again for the great good things. And, if those great good things remain out of reach, at least the little things might have been of service to someone. That is an act of fulfillment too. Perhaps fixing a lock could give a man a mission. Even if it's just making him wish to learn to how dress.

Murkami's story brings back to me the idea of Kafka without making me itchy to go back and read Kafka himself. For some readers, this would mean Murakami's story failed. But not for me. Instead, the story added to the depth of my reading life; I didn't need to go back and revisit the foundation to add something to it in this instance. I experienced far more wonder than passion while reading the Murkami story, although it confirmed my passion for reading Murakami's work. And that was enough to fulfill the joy of reading as described by Sam Sacks.

All things considered, the state of the world both large and small, that's not too bad.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:






DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
alternate
Sundays
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
alternate
Sundays
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
alternate
Sundays
4:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

 

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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