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Stories 98-101

Working my way through what I think is the latest issue of Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope: All-Story (the Winter 2007 issue, although I feel like there should be a spring issue out by now ... and according to the website, www.all-story.com, the spring issue IS out).

Story 98: "Those Americans Falling from the Sky," by Fiona McFarlane.  This is what I would descrive as "a nice little memory story."  Narrated from the vantage point of adulthood but describing a very specific summer of childhood in a small town in Australia just after World War Two.  The narrator has that sort of sing-songy voice even when describing some of the darker moments in the tale.  Almost reminded me of Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine."

Story 99: "The Stars Are Bright in Texas," by Amanda Eyre Ward.  This is a tight little piece, with the narrator trying to constrain the emotion that manages to bleed through anyway.  She's trying to describe the process of hunting for a new house in a new city (with the advent of a new job for her husband) without really describing the loss of a baby just days before (that information kicks the story off).  It's a story physically about one thing and emotionally about something else entirely.

Story 100:  "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" by Karen Russell.  This starts out as a cute little exercise in bucking the stereotype:  the narrator is an aged vampire (far older than the little old Italian grandfather he seems to be), living in a small Italian lemon grove while his wife, another vampire, lives in the caves above the town.  It's a story about being who you are, being who you think everyone else thinks you are, and being in control of your urges.  I was a bit unsatisfied with the ending, but the rest of the story was fun.

* * * * * * * * *

I went to dinner one night whilst in Livonia MI and of course, did not bring the magazine above with me (I knew I'd be walking through a mall, you see ...).  Along with a few other purchases, I picked up a short story collection by a local Michigan writer, Christopher Knight.

Story 101: "Missed Appointment" by Christopher Knight, from his collection "Season of the Witch."  The set-up is pretty standard, a reworking of old Appointment In Samara story by Somerset Maugham.  The narrator in Knight's tale is home alone one afternoon and gets a visit from Death to work out the details of the man's death a few weeks later; the man is told he will not remember the conversation once it's over, and is reminded that no-one ever cheats Death.  Through the auspicious accidental recording of the conversation, the author comes to remember the whole thing and decides to try and miss his appointment.  The ending is somewhat foreseeable, but the tone and voice of the story make up for any slight predictability.

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