Death in Venice

Thomas Mann

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I confess I’m obsessed with Venice. I have been ever since watching a movie called Dangerous Beauty, set in the beautiful city in the 16th century. Ever since then, I have read everything I could get my hands on, fiction and non-fiction, about the city. If this book were called Death in Marseilles I wouldn’t have been interested.

There is enough of Venice to make it interesting, and it was a good movie. Unfortunately, on the page it loses it’s attraction. Add in the boring short stories that lead up to the final climax, and you have a lot of slog to get to the payoff. I simply don’t like Thomas Mann. I read Buddenbrooks and found it tolerable. Magic Mountain I abandoned about half-way through. I gave him his final chance in these short stories. It’s my failing, I’m sure, as Mann is considered one of the great writers, but he completely fails to speak to me.

 

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A Glimpse of Scarlet

Roxane Robinson

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This is a hard book for me to review. I shouldn’t have bought it, but I’ve read three novels by Robinson and loved each one. I cried when I read Sparta, it was so moving. Ms Robinson is an acute observer and write with delicate precision. The problem is with me. I don’t particularly like short stories. I want to be immersed in a world and develop a long-term relationship with the characters.

Just as I was getting interested in the characters, the story ended. I wanted more. I think I’ll stick to her novels from now on.

The Toughest Indian in the World

Sherman Alexie

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From Assimilation, the story of Mary Lynn, a Coeur d’Alene Indian married to a white man, to One Good Man, the story of a good son trying to save the life his diabetic father, Sherman Alexie tells the stories of American Indians of all types. Whether they are trying to do the impossible or simply trying to make it through the day, they speak to us.

I prefer novels, but can’t resist these little gems of short stories by a master storyteller.

Ten Little Indians

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Sherman Alexie

I confess I don’t like short stories very much. I prefer long novels I can get lost in for days or weeks. Sherman Alexie is one exception. His short stories are so insightful, funny, or sad, that they contain worlds. This collection is no exception. From the political lawyer who yearns for his glory days as a basketball player to the broke, homeless wanderer who sees his grandmother’s dance regalia in a pawnshop, these stories take you far away into a world you can get lost in.

Reader, I Married Him

Tracy Chevalier

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I’ve been reading and re-reading Jane Eyre since high school, 50+ years ago, so my eye was caught by the title of this book. In it are 21 short stories by women inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel. Sometimes the connection is very tenuous, almost indecipherable, sometimes overt, as in the short story Grace Pool Her Testimony. My favorite was The Self-Seeding Sycamore by Lionel Shriver. It doesn’t have a close connection to Jane Eyre, but Shriver’s writing is so delicious. it enjoyable on its own. It’s the only story I flipped back to find out who had written it, and I was please to find the name of one of my favorite authors.