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Tag Archives: short-stories

Soft Come the Dragons (1970): Feel My Homicidal Breath

Dean R. Koontz, Soft Come the Dragons (Ace, 1970)

[originally posted 17Sep2001]

Psychedelically-colored dragons fly lazily on the book's cover.

The psychedelia theme continues.
photo credit:

The other side of the Ace Double that included Dark of the Woods is a small collection of short stories, probably most notable for containing the short story “A Darkness in My Soul,” which later became one of Koontz’ finest early novels. The story itself is rather disjointed, but I say that having read the novel more than enough times to have all the rest of what’s in it deeply ingrained, and I miss the other stuff.
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Head of a Sad Angel (1990): Last Will and Testament

Alfred Chester, Head of a Sad Angel: Stories 1953-1966, edited by Edward Field (Black Sparrow, 1990)

[originally posted 11Jul2001]

An artist's rendition of the head of a sad angel adorns the book's cover.

One of those rare books where the cover is just plain informative.
photo credit: Amacon

Alfred Chester is something along the lines of the godfather of what we now know as eighties literature. Warmer than Bukowski, more detached than Faulkner, closer to the point than Sherwood Anderson ever got, the novels pumped out thirty years later by such authors as Ellis and McInerney could have been tarred by the same brush, though Chester mixed a kind of hard-boiled romance with his stark realism. And yet, as Edward Field reminds us in his introduction to the book’s nonfiction appendix, Chester was almost totally forgotten by the time of his death in 1971, at the age of forty-three. The fact that an obscure, unknown, then-out-of-print writer could have still influenced a whole (albeit a bad) genre should tell us something: specifically, that Chester is possibly the most neglected important American writer of the twentieth century.
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Winner Take Nothing (1933): Some Clean, Well-Lighted Stories

Ernest Hemingway, Winner Take Nothing (Scribner’s, 1933)

[originally posted 27Mar2001]

Two people, backs to the camera, carry off an animal they have hunted (I believe it is a deer but can't quite tell) on this book cover.

Certainly a better cover than the boring Modern Library one I have.
photo credit:

Arguably Hemingway’s finest book of short stories, Winner Take Nothing contains fourteen relatively short and always spare looks at various stages of life. What seem, upon first reading, to be nothing more than frameworks or outlines take on more meat upon reflection. Hemingway lets the reader fill in the small details, guiding his imagination rather than manipulating it. This does mean that the onus is on the reader more than usual with this book; Hemingway’s work is meant to be thought-provoking rather than escapist. If you can make it to the end of “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” the second story in the book, and reflect on it without feeling anything, then the book’s probably not for you. Those who approach it with the proper mindset, however, will find it to be full of opportunities to plumb one’s own imagination. ****

Snoozers (1997): The Owl Is Whispering Moo.

Sandra Boynton, Snoozers (Simon and Schuster, 1997)


A sleeping elephant and a tired chicken decorate the book's cover.

Anything that will help the kid sleep.
photo credit: ABE Books

Seven very short tales from the magical Boynton camp, some of them just four lines long, others straining to fit on two pages (especially with the prolific illustrations involved, as in “Six Sleepy Sheep”). In general I find them quite charming, though the bean isn’t quite sold yet; I assume with this one, like most of Boynton’s books, he’ll eventually come around. Some of these are better than others (my personal favorite is “Silly Lullaby”, which closes out the collection; this will not surprise anyone who knows me IRL), but all of them are up to the usual Boynton standard. You may want to start with other books, but you will eventually want to come around and get this one. *** ½

V/H/S 2 (2013): More Fun than Programming a Clock

V/H/S 2 (Simon Barrett et al., 2013)


The poster for the film.

Be kind, rewind.
photo credit: Wikipedia

I went into V/H/S 2 with no small amount of trepidation, given how much the first had been talked up and how mediocre it ended up being. This was reinforced when I saw that some of the usual suspects were back, but Adam Wingard turned in his best film in six years with You’re Next, and one of the new guys who signed on is the inimitable Jason Eisener, who helmed the mighty Treevenge before gaining fame and fortune with Hobo with a Shotgun, so I figured maybe it would be better this time around. And it is; lessons were learned from the first flick, and as a result, the editors had much freer reign in the cutting room; the film weighs in at a trim ninety-five minutes.

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On Writing/Secret Windows (2000): Theory and Practice

Stephen King, On Writing/Secret Windows (Scribner’s, 2000 and BOMC, 2000)

[originally posted 6Nov2000]

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“Most of the things you find in books on writing are bullshit.” How can you not like a book on writing that begins so endearingly? Shortly after, King makes a promise to keep the book as short as possible, and for King, he does an admirable job (it weighs in under 300 pages, a short story for this guy). Capitalizing on the publication of On Writing, Book of the Month Club (who are the behind-the-scenes orchestrators of the Stephen King Book Club) contracted with the man to release a companion volume to it called Secret Windows as well.
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Destiny News (1977): Closed Due to Lack of Circulation

Robert Fox, Destiny News (December Press, 1977)

photo credit:

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us (and I got rid of it days after defenestrating it).

While it is undeniable that I have become a much more efficient reader since I have embraced the fifty-page rule (if a book still sucks by page fifty, abandon it and move onto something else), I still feel guilty whenever I abandon a book, and I do it with no more than a handful of books per year. It is an even rarer thing for me to invest in fifty pages of a book that goes less than one hundred pages and still end up abandoning it; in fact, I can think of only two instances in the ten years since I embraced the rule. (Both were books of poetry.) Until, that is, last night, when the ninety-six page Destiny News got kicked to the curb at the beginning of page forty-nine (where a new story started, so it seemed a logical place of abandonment).

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