Friday, September 23, 2011

"A Winter's Night Story"

JM Scott

An explorer in the bitter cold of the northwind. He said he was a scientist, always making measurements. And then he decided to go up the icy mountain to confront the weather and measure it.

The winter storm was too much for him and his equipment, his tent and his sleeping bag and his cooking utensils and his stove were torn from his grasp. And he was freezing, dying.

Then the Storm spoke to him. What if the snow felt warm, if you were the temperature of the snow? What would you do with that gift? He returned to the village, but now to be indoors made him hot since he was the temperature of snow and ice. So he returned to the mountain.

A winter’s night story.

(As is always true with storytelling, some of the incidental details caused the story teller’s listeners not to believe the story. Who ever heard of houses piled on top of each other as the explorer had described where he came from?)

About the Author: “JM Scott, OBE 1945, has succeeded as writer and explorer. He was secretary to the 1933 Everest Expedition and has published many books, including Gino Watkins and Icebound. For recreation he sails and goes mountain walking. His home is in Cambridgeshire.”

 Short Story International #14. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. June 1979, pp. 23-39.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"The Rescue"

Daniel Moyano

It had been a year since her 21-year-old son Carlos had been murdered. The murderer, the police said, was still hiding in the hills. The police continued to look for him.

And then, the murderer appeared at her door. He was desperate.  He was emaciated and his clothes were ragged and torn. For some reason, she hid him from the police. He explained that he did not mean to kill her son.

He stayed in the cabin--in Carlos’s room. When Carlos had died, she had covered the mirror in Carlos’s room with a black cloth. She would not let the man sleep in Carlos’s bed. She made him sleep on the floor.

 Then the transformation. She repaired his ragged clothes. She took the black cloth from the mirror. She allowed him to sleep in Carlos’s bed. He had now become her son.

Editor’s note: “Caught suddenly in an extraordinarily tight spot, the woman’s innate humanity surfaces.”

About the Author: “Born 1930 in Buenos Aires, Daniel Mohyano went to live in Cordoba at six, first with relatives, then in a reformatory. He was provincial correspondent for the province of La Rioja, on the daily Clarin of Buenos Aires, before going into self-exile to Madrid. Author of several prize-winning stories, Mr. Moyano is now at work on a fictional-historical fusion about the many Facundos in Argentine history. HE Francis, a recognized short story writer, is the talented translator. Mr. Francis has had four Fulbright fellowships, three to Argentina, a country with which he has had fourteen years of intimate relationship.”

Short Story International #14. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. June 1979, pp. 9-22.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Question from the Reviewer

My short story reviews are averaging about 160 hits a day. I enjoy reviewing short stories because they are different, on different topics and always surprise me in some way. Sometimes they are filled with information about unfamiliar topics. Sometimes they have ironic twists in plots. Sometimes they have fascinating characters. They are some of the reasons that I enjoy reviewing short stories, especially those in Short Story International, edited by Sylvia Tankel. Mostly I review short stories because I enjoy reading them and also appreciate the challenge of summarizing them. That’s my reason for this blog.

However, I am amazed that there is so much interest in these reviews or summaries. And I would like to know why. There are some critics who have said that the short story is a dead art form. I will appreciate some of my readers telling me why they are so interested in these short story reviews. Please write to RayS. at  Thanks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Anna Lupan

 A teacher at a boarding school. A little boy who is liked by no one. He keeps running away. Why? No one knows. After his latest runaway, she finds him and he confesses his reason for running away. He wants to see an elm tree. All this for an elm tree?

He runs away again—while he is sleeping with his teacher in the room. She seeks the help of a forester. They search everywhere, but cannot find him.

After a week, he returns. Bedraggled and wet with dew. She asks him if he has seen the elm tree. He says he has not because it has been cut down. Then why did you come back? ”I missed--you.”

About the Author: “Anna P. Lupan was born in 1922 in the village of Mikhuleny, Rezinsky district, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. She graduated from Agricultural College and then the High Literary Courses of the Soviet Writers’ Union. Her works began appearing in the middle 50’s. Several books of short stories and novels have been published. Her plays have been a great success in Moldavian theaters. The writer is fond of depicting life in a modern village.”

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 95-102.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Far Bella Figura"

Carolynne Scott

A poor peanut vendor. Every week he bets on the lottery, after his wife screams at him for spending his profits on the lottery, and flirts with the seller of the lottery ticket. He wins the lottery. And then he loses most of it to pickpockets and two little boys on bikes who swipe his hat that has all the liré from his winnings under it.

He has to return to his wife—broke again. So he tries to commit suicide by jumping in the river. Two police officers save him and return him to his wife.

Strangely, she does not yell at him. She has heard that he is now famous for winning the lottery. She is glad to have him back, instead of being a lonely widow of a famous lottery winner.

About the Author: “Lively and creative, Carolynne Scott has been writing for newspapers and magazines for about 20 years. In 1978, she enjoyed a writing fellowship for fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts. She writes short stories and poetry, and has won several literary awards. She has also won an Alabama regional award for photography. In addition to her writing and job commitments as public relations director and magazine editor, she is the mother of a three-year-old.

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 143-156.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"My Apples"

Robert Granat

A refugee from the city to farm country in New Mexico. Apple orchard owned by Mr. Sprouse who knows a city slicker when he sees one. Mr. Sprouse includes an apple tree with the farm he is renting to the narrator. Mr. Sprose’s wife and surviving son [lost his first son to the war] are mean people, although the narrator’s relationship to Mr. Sprouse is good. Treats the narrator like his son.

Then came the harvest of the apples. Mrs. Sprouse had planted the narrator’s apple tree and she insists on harvesting the apples as if they were hers. The narrator tries to stop her and her son Dan from picking them. Tries to do this as a pacifist would, only he finally punches out Dan. And then he walks away.

Now, if he’s going to stay on the land, the narrator insists in a written contract. And then his relationship with Mr. Sprouse becomes more formal, not as friendly. The story ends with the apple tree in question ruined by an early frost.

Comment: The narrator has come to the country to escape the meanness of people in the city. He discovers the meanness of the people in the country. RayS.

About the Author: “Born in 1925 in Cuba, Robert Granat was educated at Yale University. He is the author of numerous short stories and essays, two novels and a non-fiction work. For many ears he has been ‘reducing financial pressures by subsistence farming in Spanish-American villages in Northern New Mexico.’ “

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 95-102.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"The Smell of a Baby"

Asōka Colombagē

The mother has two sons. One is at college. The other has committed a treasonous act--he has impregnated his girl friend. “Bitch,” the mother calls her. “I’ll kill her.” They view the girl as having entrapped her son., although he says he brought it on himself.

Fast forward. The baby and Rani, the girl friend, have arrived. Everyone is enamored of the baby and Rani has fit perfectly into the household. The whole house smells of the baby.

About the Author: Asōka Colombagē is a Sri Lankan who writes shorts stories and plays in Sinhala only. His characteristic work offers perceptive glimpses of Sinhala social, and especially domestic, life. The translation is by Hema Gunatilaka.

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 113-120.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"The Promise"

Nancy Okes

Lame Johnny had lost his leg to a Jersey Bull. His house contained a gable [attached to the roof] that was famous and falling apart. When it came down, Lame Johnny, he of the amputated leg, rebuilt and restored it to his house, with all of the trimmings. He was now known in the town, not as Lame Johnny, but as Johnny van der Gewel, “Johnny of the Gable.”

Comment: The technical architectural terms were difficult, and I had a hard time visualizing a gable, but the character of Johnny is memorable. RayS.

About the Author: “Born in Cape Town in 1920, Nancy Okes was educated at the University of Cape Town. She writes short stories and articles for magazines, newspapers and the radio and has completed two novels. Her hobbies are painting, swimming and ‘walking in the veld with the dogs.’

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 103-111.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"The Snack"

Jurgis Jankus

A concentration camp in the closing days of WWII. The prisoners are starving. The German guards are mean. The meanest is Wagner who had lost three fingers in WWI. As the Russians come closer, he relaxes a little. Kazys secures a frying pan and some strips of bacon. The men salivate as they smell the cooking meat.

Now Wagner seizes the frying pan and begins to eat while the prisoners salivate, enviously. He enjoys the food tremendously. Turns out, he was eating rat and he is shown the dead animal from which the meat came.

Kazys, the cook, disappears. The narrator joins a group of passing refugees the following day and escapes.

 About the Author: “Born and educated in Lithuania, Jurgis Jankus was acclaimed by critics and the public early in his career. He has been awarded prizes for his short stories, novels and dramas. Some of his work has been translated into English, German, Italian and other languages. Mr. Jankus is presently residing in Rochester, New York. His translator is Joseph A. Bulsys.

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 95-102.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"The History of the Sea Journey to the Isle of Hodaraku"

Inoue Yasushi

“Hodaraku is the legendary island paradise in the South Seas where Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, dwells. A legend grew up n Japan in the ninth century that those worshippers of Kannon who set sail from the southernmost tip of Japan’s main island, which lies in the province of Kumano, would be carried by the currents to this “Pure Land” island paradise and live there with Kannon in eternal joy. Over the course of the centuries a number of people made this sea pilgrimage from which there could be no return, and by the sixteenth century, the sea crossing had hardened into a ritual.” P. 71.

A number of religious leaders had set off alive to the Isle of Hodaraku. Their moves were various. Some knew they were going to die. Many had faith that they would be gathered up by Kannon  to live in eternal joy. Some expressed a sense of peace in anticipation of the trip. Konkobo was reluctant to make the journey. Public opinion forced him to. After he made the voyage—however it ended—most following monks made the voyage after they were dead.

This story is emblematic of what it is like to prepare to die with its variety of motives.

Rating: **** out of *****.

About the Author: “Born in 1907, Inoue Yasushi has been writing fiction almost continuously since graduating from Kyoto University in 1036. His early work dealt with psychological realities behind shifting appearances in human relationships; one of these early stories, “The Hunting Gun,” is often compared to the Akutagawa story on which the film Rashomon was based. More recently, he has been concentrating on semi-documentary historical works, based on thorough scholarly research. Inoue has won five major literary prizes and has lectured at the University of Hawaii. The story was translated by Jeanette Robinson.”

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 71-93.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Dina Mehta

Cheating husband. Faithful wife. He suddenly decides he can’t live without her. He has a habit after his infidelity of ordering flowers that are neatly arranged in a bowl on the breakfast table. When he experiences his transformation, his newly recovered love for his wife, he enters the breakfast room and discovers a fresh bowl of flowers he did not order. Full of jealousy, he demands, “Who ordered those flowers.” And she answers, “I did, for you.”

A delightful ambiguity.

Rating: **** out of *****.

About the Author: “Dina Mehta, who holds a degree in English literature from Bombay University, is fiction editor at The Illustrated Weekly of India. Her short stories appear in various magazines in several countries. Her plays won Sultan Padamsee Playwriting awards in 1968 and 1976. In 1979 her radio play Brides Are Not for Burning won BBC’s first worldwide playwriting competition. Out of 500 entries received from dozens of countries, her play was unanimously selected by the panel of judges which included the acclaimed Tom Stoppard.”

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 61-69.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Man or Dolphins"

Georges Friedenkraft

The future. The 1145th century. A man named Bastardus urged everyone to kill dolphins. He foresaw that the dolphins were about to become men and would take over the earth. Suddenly the earth doubled in population and the dolphins disappeared from the sea. A famine occurred, but certain young biologists averted it by brilliant experiments. The story concludes: “…isn’t it possible that we, my friends, are the dolphins?’”

Rating: ***** out of *****.

 About the Author: “Born in 1945 in France, Georges Friedenkraft is a writer and research scientist married to a Malaysian-born artist. He writes mainly in French, occasionally in English. He has degrees in science and arts and uses this background in his short stories combining both ecological concerns and philosophical aspects of science-fiction. His translator is Brian Fergusson.

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 55-60.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Lorogai's Day"

Richard Hennings

The bulls vs. the lions. A blow-by-blow description. 9-year-old Lorogai was too young to tickle the underside of an elephant in the boys’ play, but when the lions attacked the cows, he helped his favorite bull, Naibor, withstand the lioness’s attack by darting his spear into the lioness’s heart. Quite a day.

Rating: **** out of *****.

About the Author: “Richard Hennings went to Kenya in 1935 as a cadet in the Colonial Administrative Service and rose to become the first Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture. He has published articles on African themes and is the author of short stories and two books about Kenya. His hobbies include reefing and skiing. He recently edited a British ski magazine. Mr. Hennings now lives near Cambridge.”

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 45-54.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"A Protest"

Yehia Hakki

Bumba the servant girl had always treated Hasan as somebody special. No one suspected that she was in love with him. When he finally chose to wed, Bumba was distraught. The family teased her and she fell into her usual obsequious manner.

Rating: *** out of *****.

About the Author: “One of the most distinguished literary figures in Egypt, Yehia  Hakki was born into a literary family in Cairo in 1905. He graduated from law school, worked as a lawyer, civil servant and diplomat in the Middle East and Western Europe before retiring to devote full time to writing. He was editor-in-chief of a monthly literary magazine for aout 10 years and is presently a member of the High Council of Literature and Art…. His translator Miriam Cooke, from Colorado, is a student of Arabic literature”

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 33-44.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"The Package"

Ye Dengtao

Another story in which the protagonist’s suspicious behavior almost leads to conviction—because he acts guilty and shows it.

A friend has asked him to take a package with him to his home on the train. The friend is an enemy of the government. Naturally, the protagonist suspects that the package contains material of an incriminating nature.

And now an agent of the government is checking packages. When the train reaches its destination, the protagonist leaps into a rickshaw and directs the attendant to take devious ways to his home. Once there he runs inside, waiting for the agent to follow with a pistol in his hands.

The “incriminating” material is an obituary of the friend’s grandmother, signed by her grandson.

Rating: *** out of *****.

About the Author: “One of the major story writers in modern China, Ye Shengtao was born in 1894 in the province of Jiangsu. He completed high school but his family could not afford to send him to college and he started working as a teacher. He taught on the elementary, high school and college levels, and after establishing a connection with a publishing house, a new career blossomed. He has edited several magazines including Short Story Monthly. As editor, he gave many now famous writers their first break. His own works are well-received, several collections of short stories have been published. (His books were banned by the ‘gang of four’ but are now again available.” Ye Shengtao is a modest, kindly person who freely praises other writers’ work. He writes in the vernacular, not in classical Chinese; his work is fluent.”

Short Story International #30. Ed. Sylvia Tankel. February 1982. Pp.25-31. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

"No Flour in the Barrel"

Beatrice Fines

Homesteaders. Pioneers. The mood of complete discouragement. Here is a paragraph that captures the mood of the immigrants as they arrive in the wilderness:

“We closed the old world behind us like a book, and came to the raw, new country called Manitoba when I was twelve, and I had no idea that either my father or my mother suffered homesickness, or regret, or any fear, until that day when there was finally no flour at all in the barrel. I was a big boy, almost grown, but still young enough that I believed my parents moved along a path already fully known to them, and considered them indomitable.”

The father travels to distant farms to make money from harvesting, leaving the mother and children alone. And then Annie, the baby, wanders away. The search for her is heartbreaking. The following quote captures the mood:  ”It cannot be. We cannot survive it. Every day it rains till nothing remains dry. The roof leaks in a new place every day and there is no straw or hay for thatching. We are so alone, so alone. There is no church, no priest, no school for the children.  There is no meat, and no flour in the barrel. And now what happens? The baby is lost, lost.”

But the baby is found. She has been eating raspberries. They take the raspberries to town, they sell them and success follows: “Everything came about in time: first, flour in the barrel, then Father, home with cash money; before fall a cow and a good thatch for the roof; a lime wash for our mud-chinked walls, and even, as the years passed, a church, a priest and a school. One thing I feel, once we had filled the flour barrel, my mother knew all things would be accomplished.”

Comment: Of course, this story reminds me of Giants in the Earth, the unforgettable novel by Rolvaag that vividly dramatizes the challenges of living on the frontier. RayS.

Note: My summaries can never convey the moods, settings and ideas developed in these short stories. My summaries are pale imitations of the real thing. I don’t know if my readers can find the short story collections in their libraries, but they should at least ask. RayS.

Rating: ***** out of *****.

About the Author: “Cheerful and energetic, Beatrice Fines has been a free lance writer about 20 years with stories and articles in Canadian, American and Scottish magazines and newspapers. She does public relations work for the Health Sciences Centre of Winnipeg and teaches creative writing in continuation classes.”

Short Story International #30. Ed. Sylvia Tankel. February 1982. Pp.17-24. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Marot Ticher

An only child as she grew up. Her husband gone. Her child an only child. On the beach.

And now she realizes that she is old. “She was old! Worse, she was no longer a woman—she was a discard, a provider-of-meals, a scrubber-of-floors.”

“Clair tugged the hat over her eyes as if by this one violent gesture, she could obliterate everything and everybody around her.”

Her mind goes back to when she was sixteen and she met a young man on the beach. They had a wonderful camaraderie. Until a frumpy, gray-haired  woman called him from the shore: “Harrrollld!” “Is that your name?” “That’s my wife.”

She wakes from her day dream, crying. Crying for that frumpy woman who must have panicked when she saw her husband frolicking with her, at sixteen.

Rating: **** out of *****.

About the Author: “Margot Ticher, born in Victoria, taught primary school until her marriage. For the last ten years she has been writing and publishing short stories which are also broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting C omission. Her interests include genealogical research, photography, sketching and competitive swimming.”

Short Story International #30. Ed. Sylvia Tankel. February 1982. Pp.8-16.