When I bought my copy of this collection, its spine was impeccable. After a month or so of reading, there were around six to seven creases.
There are a lot of stories compiled in this book. I think it is a rather comprehensive anthology and a truly deserving winner of the Pulitzer. I made it a point to read one story a day, but I ended up reading two or three because each story is just amazing.
The stories were written from various times in the duration of the author’s career. And the magic of storytelling never once faded. I remember the thrill of reading each story and that was years ago. What are the stories that I remember then?
I remember two. That is not to say that the stories are lame; it’s just me and my waning memory. So one story that I remember is the first one. I think it’s entitled The Harleys, or The Hartleys, or The Hartfords. Anyway, it’s about this family who went on a skiing vacation. The mom and dad were having a rough time in smoothing out their marriage so they decided to take a break, taking their young daughter along.
The family went around the resort. They decided to ride one of those lifts. The mom and dad were having a little argument about something insignificant, maybe about something that forgot in their hotel room. They didn’t notice that their daughter’s sleeve was caught in one of the motors of the lift. She struggled and screamed, but it was too late. She was already caught way up in the air, and the parents watched helplessly, waiting for the worst sort of gory accident that would befall their innocent daughter just because of that little tiff.
Another story is The Enormous Radio. A man lived in an apartment with an old, decrepit radio. He tried to use it once. It worked well, but instead of getting music from different radio stations, the radio intercepted the conversations that took place in the various rooms of the apartment building. The man thus got an insight on the secret, inner lives of the people that he was sharing the building with.
He got so engrossed with his co-dweller’s problems, trifles, affairs, and eccentrities that he listened to the radio every day, every night. He kept track of the lives of these people. It was not so long that he dragged himself in their lives to the point of meddling with them. I think he threw the radio out of the window lest he would lost his sanity.
There are other remarkable stories, and I will make it a point to scan and reread this book to refresh my memory. Most of the stories were set in New York. The stories almost made me feel like I’ve been to that city myself.
There may be a lot of books written about New York, and sometimes, it can get exasperating. Aren’t there any places other than New York? But the author saw that this city is teeming with life and that there is always something fresh to be written about it. This book might even qualify as a travelogue for the detailed descriptions it has of every nook and cranny of the city.
The books that I always wish to reread are collections of short stories, like Lahiri’s and of course, Cheever’s. They are always delightful. If I could just catch up on my backlog, I’ll definitely give these books a second or even a third reading.
It is my dream to publish a collection of short stories. I would have pushed myself for a novel, but I don’t think I have what it takes to be a novelist for the moment. Besides, I haven’t mastered the art of short fiction yet, so I might as well focus on this first before anything else. That is, if I can make myself believe that I can be a writer and if I can use whatever potential that I have to the fullest.
This collection, I must say, should be read by every aspiring short story writer. The themes vary a lot, like family, marriages, relationships, life, death. I know these are general themes, but the author gave a new light on these with his stories.
Sometimes, I could only marvel at the skill and talent of such writers. I would often find myself dreaming that I could write something just like one of those stories, something that would transcend time, something that would be hailed as a classic.
But you can’t just dream of such things. They don’t materialize overnight. You have to work on it. I should tell that myself more often. But it is a long tough road. This book must have trudged the same path.