Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Seeing is Believing," by Doris Betts

What I like most about short stories is the ability more so than in novel, to lift the story beyond reality, to go beyond the grounded details of life and find a surprise, a mystery, within.  Doris Betts is one of those writers.  Here’s a story that really makes me believe in the character’s ability to recall faces in detail based only on hearing their voices.  It’s plausible, at least in this story.  The title is perfect and the ending illuminates the raison d’etre for the story, echoing a Latin phrase mentioned in the story, ‘to be rather than be seen’.  Read it here in Carolina Quarterly.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Keynote," by J. David Bell

This is a story about impending retirement.  But more moving is the way Bell portrays the mind’s ability to shift perceptions.  During this sensitive time when the elder faculty member is asked to give a keynote, he reflects on his contributions, his later years, and the rising younger stars in the department.  Shifting paradigms, once this academic’s prize possession ironically presents a felt threat.  Or does it?  In this story the main character experiences something much more than regrets or threats from the next generation of faculty.  For a moving story told with depth of internal thought, read it here in Summerset Review.