RIP Short Stories: Nabokov and Borges, Elizabeth Bowen, Eudora Welty, and Elizabeth Taylor

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  • RIP Short Stories: Nabokov and Borges, Elizabeth Bowen, Eudora Welty, and Elizabeth Taylor

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Although October is over, I still have a few more RIP short stories to share about. I really put off writing today’s post simply because of the five stories I read, I didn’t really enjoy three of them and the other two (both rereads) are ones I like but still didn’t completely understand. I bet you can guess which ones fit in that category.

I’ll begin with the two that I really like, despite the confusion I felt as I reread them. The first is Vladimir Nabokov’s “The Visit to the Museum.” In this story, a man goes to a museum on the request of a friend to purchase one of it’s paintings. When he meets with the museum director, however, he in essence is taken into his worst nightmare. This story seems pretty straight forward, and it is wonderfully written. The narrator’s confusion and frustration is magnified as I read, since I deal with claustrophobia myself. At any rate, it’s a frustrating story to read, but as with most of Nabokov’s stories (I haven’t read his novels yet), it is a masterpiece. I do recommend it.

The next story is Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Circular Ruins.” A man approaches some ancient ruins with one goal in mind: to dream a person into creation. If that sounds like an odd premise, trust me, it is. As when I read Borges the last time, this story was marvelously confusing, and yet, I enjoyed reading it more than I did last time. As I read great literature, I am impressed by the author’s ability to capture a confusing premise in mere words: words which I struggle to grasp control over. Reading great literature is a challenge: I need to reread Borges more often to better appreciate it.

The other three stories were less engaging for me. Maybe I’m getting tired of reading short stories? I’ve found I go through phases and every time I try to do a short story reading project I tire of it by the end. Nevertheless, my first works by these authors were still good.

Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Happy Autumn Fields” took one woman named Mary into a dream or ghost-like experience with her predecessors Sarah and Henrietta. It’s a strange take on the term “ghost story” and because the scene starts in the middle, I was quite confused for the beginning of the story. In Eudora Welty’s “Clytie,” the titular character was haunted by faces. She intrigued me, but I never felt completely connected to Clytie. Her life story was a sad one, and I wanted to better understand her. Finally, Elizabeth Taylor’s “Poor Girl” focused on a haunted governess, over which her young seven-year-old charge seemed to have power. I am drawn to stories of governesses (as I read this story, I remembered that I need to reread The Turn of the Screw) and this was an interesting take. As I ended, I wondered as I often have on reading these ghost stories just what happened. This was another creepy tale of a haunted life.

(These stories are not in the public domain).

I have one more week (four more stories) of RIP short stories from my Everyman’s Ghost Stories volume. It’s been fun to see how classic authors and the editor of this volume have interpreted “ghost stories.” It goes to show that although I am a “please don’t scary me” person, there are plenty of spooky-ish stories that work just fine in bring the season to life.

I’m not sure which volume of stories, essays, or poems I’ll tackle after this one, but I like having something a little different to report on each week.

Reviewed on November 1, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Quite the lineup in this post, lady! Nabokov, Borges, Bowen, Welty…some real heavy-hitters.

    I read the Borges story a few months ago, as part of my attempt to bone up on my extremely rusty Spanish. I remember it going pretty well, although I was focused so much on the language issues that I think I was just happy to understand the surface level of what he was describing. Still, the conceptual quality of his writing is good for language study, I think (the ideas are complex but the language isn’t).

    Love Welty’s short stories, although I don’t remember this particular one. Everyone always recommend “Why I Live at the PO,” but my favorite is “The Winds.” 🙂

    • Emily » yes, it’s a FANTASTIC short story volume becasue there is such a variety of authors. I do think I need to read Borges more frequently and more carefully. There is so much in the ideas, as you say. I haven’t read any other Welty stories. I’ll have to find more.

  • Yeah, quite a lineup. I find that I have to read a Borges piece several times to fully comprehend it. I will go looking for the Nabokov. I love short stories and never seem to tire of them. Thanks for the review.

    • Kinna » I really enjoyed reading Nabokov’s short stories a few years ago. I need to give his novels a try. (PALE FIRE is the only one I’ve read and it was a very difficult read for me, but another fantastic volume of writing.)

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