Thursday, March 31, 2011

"The Piano Lesson," by Andrew Wallace Chamings

In the voice of a child, some breathtaking short stories have been written. One collection that comes to mind is Steven Millhauser’s In the Penny Arcade. Chamings, in this story, captivates the reader with an intriguing first paragraph that begins: “It was the start of the year and the end of the day.” The story sweeps through past time and near past never leaving the deepening moment of the piano lesson as Dale, the imaginative boy, ploughs through “Moonlight Sonata” under his teacher’s guidance. The story offers many moments of concrete detail such as biting into holly berries that result in “A dry and cold bitter juice soaked into the back of my tongue.” The effect is a story implanted in the reader’s mind. For a magical read, try it here at Prick of the Spindle.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Fresh Eggs," by Jeffrey N. Johnson

Johnson’s beautifully written story takes place in contemporary time and owes a nod to the Southern Agrarian tradition. When H.L. Mencken wrote his 1920 essay, “The Sahara of the Bozeart,” he chastised the South for its poverty of intellectual and cultural contributions. In response, twelve eminent Southerners wrote I’ll Take My Stand: Southern Agrarian Tradition (1930) which help foster a formidable Southern Literary Renaissance. In Johnson’s story, the reader feels the loss of culture through the protagonist who laments that his young son will only experience a weekly visit for fresh eggs as “a childhood novelty, a petting zoo at best.” The heart of the story is not ideological but the deeper theme that the boy is unaware of, how people are more important than the competitive price of eggs. Read it here at Night Train.