The Red-Haired Girl by Penelope Fitzgerald (2000)

impress

A sketch of some annoying little people doing nothing and having nothing happen to them. Unremarkable. That these people exist, fictionally, is of no account. It’s hard to see the point of such a story over and above: oh, look at them. How they do go on. But there you go. More insight than a tabloid article, but less humour. More knowing, but with so little to know. Perhaps this is the point.
Utility 6/10  
Plausibility 7/10  
Credibility 8/10  
Depth 7/10  
Subtlety 7/10  
Engagement 7/10  
Cogency / Structure / Coherence 7/10  
Affective / Empathy / Evocative 7/10  
Novelty / Surprise / Fun 7/10  
Defamiliarisation 7/10  
Total/100 70/100  
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Parson’s Pleasure by Roald Dahl (1960)

kiss kiss.jpg

https://onehundredpages.wordpress.com/2018/11/20/parsons-pleasure-by%E2%80%A8roald-dahl/

Great literature doesn’t come to an end. This story does – the satisfaction is acute, but ultimately shallow. No sustenance.”

Utility 4/10  
Plausibility 7/10  
Credibility 7/10  
Depth 6/10  
Subtlety 6/10  
Engagement 8/10  
Cogency / Structure / Coherence 8/10  
Affective / Empathy / Evocative 6/10  
Novelty / Surprise / Fun 6/10  
Defamiliarisation 5/10  
Total/100 63/100  

The Last Mohican by Bernard Malamud (1954)

Bernard Malamud

Just don’t get this guy. Much feted short story writer. This one is awkward in places. Its arrival / end is a little flat. There’s a lot of good writing too, but this story is never really doing much of anything: though there’s a great sense of foreboding built up. The big reveal, however, in the end is not at all revelatory.
Utility 7/10  
Plausibility 8/10  
Credibility 8/10  
Depth 7/10  
Subtlety 7/10  
Engagement 8/10  
Cogency / Structure / Coherence 7/10  
Affective / Empathy / Evocative 7/10  
Novelty / Surprise / Fun 7/10  
Defamiliarisation 7/10  
Total/100 73/100  

Raspberry Jam by Angus Wilson (1949)

rasp

This one gets rolled out all too frequently. But is it great? No. the fundamental problem at the heart of this story is one which the reader really cannot blink: the contradiction between he boy’s naiveté and the sophistication of his insight. It just doesn’t make sense. And could such a young child love Austen and Dickens? Yes, but it’s implausible. And to make this plausible the work just isn’t done by the narrative. So there’s a lot that’s unconvincing about this.
Utility 6/10  
Plausibility 5/10  
Credibility 5/10  
Depth 6/10  
Subtlety 7/10  
Engagement 8/10  
Cogency / Structure / Coherence 8/10  
Affective / Empathy / Evocative 6/10  
Novelty / Surprise / Fun 6/10  
Defamiliarisation 6/10  
Total/100 63/100  

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities by Delmore Schwartz (1937)

fortune

Seething with potential. Don’t think it quite comes off. But quite a ride: full of a kind of precipitous prose. There’s danger around every corner. Alas, the iceberg it hits is rather warm. “Everything you do matters so much”? Not quite.
Utility 8/10  
Plausibility 8/10  
Credibility 8/10  
Depth 8/10  
Subtlety 8/10  
Engagement 10/10  
Cogency / Structure / Coherence 10/10  
Affective / Empathy / Evocative 8/10  
Novelty / Surprise / Fun 8/10  
Defamiliarisation 9/10  
Total/100 85/100  

The Blush by Elizabeth Taylor (1957)

housewife

Said to be “one of the forgotten geniuses of the form”, this story is very good at balancing the reader on the tightrope that is most people’s conception of what a short story should be: a kind of game that leads you, gently, to the big reveal. You’re surprised, but not too surprised. Of course, you say. How clever, you marvel. There is though, more to this sotry, and perhaps to Taylor that this. But not, I’d argue, a lot more.

According to Taylor “The while point is that writing has a patt4ern and life hasn’t. Life is so untidy. Art is so short and life is long. It is not possible to have perfection in life but it is possible to have perfection in a novel.” This seems a rather shabby view of both life and art; its reductive-ness is telling.

However, this is a very well-crafted story. But not “perfectly” crafted, a story in which the vaguely clichéd and slightly tortured can coexist: “She was at sea herself now, but felt perilously near a barbarous, unknown shore and was afraid to make any movement towards it.”

Utility 7/10  
Plausibility 7/10  
Credibility 7/10  
Depth 7/10  
Subtlety 8/10  
Engagement 7/10  
Cogency / Structure / Coherence 8/10  
Affective / Empathy / Evocative 8/10  
Novelty / Surprise / Fun 7/10  
Defamiliarisation 6/10  
Total/100 72/100  

The Swimmer by John Cheever (1964)

the-swimmer

A glimpse of truth? Yes indeed. What a great short story. Though the 1968 film staring Burt Lancaster, written by Eleanor Perry (screenplay adaptation) and Directed by her husband Frank Perry (director), which I had seen some time ago is also great, and may be biasing me somewhat. But this story works. It’s well judged, artfully constructed, and brilliantly conceived. And what does it do for the reader? It stops you in your tracks: What is happening? What is it? Is life like this?

Almost perfect. A little too strong on the backstory in places, which never needs more than a subtle suggestion. Or nothing at all.

Utility 10/10  
Plausibility 10/10  
Credibility 10/10  
Depth 10/10  
Subtlety 9/10  
Engagement 10/10  
Cogency / Structure / Coherence 10/10  
Affective / Empathy / Evocative 10/10  
Novelty / Surprise / Fun 10/10  
Defamiliarisation 10/10  
Total/100 99/100