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2009 Stories 259 - 277

The last book I haven't reviewed from October is There Once Was A Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, selected and translated by Keith Gessen & Anna Summers.  Not all of these stories really qualify as fairy tales, although several of them do start with "there once was ..." which is as close to "once upon a time" as Petrushevskaya gets to the classic fairy tale opening.  Most of these stories walk that border between real and imagined peril.  They may be somewhat horrific but most of them are not classic "horror." Quick thoughts on each:

259. The Arm.  A military officer learns of his wife's death and goes to visit her grave.  Does he dream his encounter with her?

260. Revenge.  The titular story.  Jealous flatmate attempts to kill her friend's child,  the source of the jealousy. One of the more disturbing, and more effective, stories in the collection.

261. Incident at Sokolniki.  One of Petrushevskaya's favorite topics seems to be encounters with the recently dead, and are they really dead or not.  This is one of those stories.  Not as effective as some in the book.

262. A Mother's Farewell.  A young man distances himself from his sister and father because he believes his father is not his father. Things get a little weird as he loses touch with reality.

263. Hygiene.  Plague comes to a city, and the members of a family turn on each other with tragic results.

264. A New Soul.  An interesting reincarnation story that circles on itself.

265. The New Robinson Crusoes: A Chronicle of the End of the Twentieth Century.  Part adventure story, part political commentary.  A family gets out of the city before things truly get bad, but find that even as far as they run they cannot escape the end of civilization.

266. The Miracle.   A woman's son attempts suicide, or perhaps pretends to, and she goes on a quest to fix his path.  She may or may not encounter Jesus, or someone very much like him, in search of a miracle.

267. The God Poseidon.  A woman encounters a childhood friend and visits her new mansion by the sea.  Or does she?  I liked the feel of this story -- not horrific, but still fantastical.

268. My Love.  One of the more conventional stories in the lot, about a man stuck between his wife and his mistress.  Family illnesses and various trials and tribulations help him sort out his priorities.

269. The Shadow Life. An orphan girl wonders what happened to her mother.  I didn't particularly like this one, felt it was a little off somehow.

270. Two Kingdoms.  Another of Petrushevskaya's favorite topics seems to be "what happens as we transition from this life to the next." This one works very well because of the dream-like quality of the prose.

271. There's Someone in the House.  I'm still not convinced the problem is a poltergeist.  I think it could all be in the main character's head.  Your mileage may vary.

The next batch are the stories that start with "There once was ...."

272. The Father.  A man seems to have lost his children, and he finds himself directed to a well-appointed but empty house, where he may be able to build a new family.

273. The Cabbage-Patch Mother.  A woman finds a baby in a cabbage pod, and must raise her to be her own daughter.

274. Marilena's Secret.  One of my favorite stories in the book.  Thanks to a petulant magician, twin sisters are merged into an obese woman who becomes a famous circus act.  There are twists and turns and an interesting ending.

275. The Old Monk's Testament.  One selfless man in a selfish small town makes a difference.

276. The Black Coat.  A girl with amnesia finds herself in an unusual world and tries to figure out not only who she is but how to get home.  Another of my favorite stories in the collection, and one that makes you work for the ending.


I also just read:

277. Premium Harmony by Stephen King, in the November 09, 2009 issue of The New Yorker.  I can't say I especially liked or disliked this story.  It felt too short to be a full story, and none of the characters were very likeable.  At the same time, the characters and situation were very real, as mundane as they all are.  I suppose any mention of Castle Rock is a good one these days, but it felt like a tease.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 10th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
you have less than 100
ss to go to meet the challenge. Me I am lucky if I am at 100. LOL
Nov. 11th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
Re: you have less than 100
I might actually meet my own challenge this year! I've got a few more Stephen King short stories to add that I've listened to on cd the past few days, too.

My opinion, as you know, is if attempting to meet your personal challenge gets you to read even one more short story than you would have otherwise, then we've accomplished something!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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