“The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;”
From “Ulalume” by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
I took a walk around to see if there were any photos to be had. And there were a few. Mostly trees holding onto a precious few dead leaves. And the sky and the leaves reminded me of those lines from Poe. And looking it up I noted that Poe was only forty years old when he died. Well, he was a very strange man with many problems. But he did capture some very vivid imagery in some of his work. And late fall is his special time of year. October, November and December seem to be the time and mood of his prose and poetry. Maybe Poe could qualify as one of Ray Bradbury’s “October People.”
Autumn is a very good time of the year to be in a warm house and sharing good food and good talk with friends and family. And Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us so I checked up on Camera Girl’s holiday planning and indeed she assures me that a twenty five pound turkey will be included and that ample and various pies and other desserts will appear on the menu, so everything seems to be in order.
She informed me that Walmart has begun playing Christmas music outside the building. Apparently broadcasting it will attract holiday shoppers by some sort of sympathetic vibration. I asked her if the music put her in the holiday spirit and she rolled her eyes at me. Despite her clear lack of spirit I will be starting my annual Christmas music marathon very soon. The centerpiece of this program is the album that my parents used to play when I was about ten, “The Little Drummer Boy” by the Harry Simeone Chorale. When I hear those versions sung I might as well be ten years old again. For a little while I can forget the horrors of the world around us and bask in the old remembered warmth of being a kid in Real America.
Warning: What follows is profound. Extinguish all smiles and assume an air of philosophical introspection. It will probably help to slightly furrow your brow.
Polonius said that “brevity is the soul of wit.” And since Polonius was a windbag I feel that I am in good company praising it. Maybe it’s because of Amazon and the payouts on Kindle reads. But for whatever the reason we live in the age of the mega-novel. More than that, we live in the age of the endless book series. Sometimes that’s a not a terrible thing. I’ve been enjoying the Galaxy’s Edge series. They’re a lot of fun. But hand in hand with this emphasis on long novels, short stories have sort of disappeared. I freely admit that statement is an exaggeration. I’m currently reading a collection of short stories taking place in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter universe. There are short stories to be found. But I can only imagine the meager income an author would earn if he limited his efforts to short stories. I mean, what does Amazon pay an author if someone reads a ten-page short story? Five cents? You could see how that would limit grocery purchases. So, I do not fault the authors who need to eat for gearing their output to the five hundred-page novel. And the same goes for the series. Characters that have proven popular are the obvious candidate for more success for an author.
But I want to throw my weight behind short stories. A good short story is like a good poem. It is concentrated creativity. Without a doubt, Dickens or Tolstoy can create an epic creation of many hundreds of pages with a huge cast of characters that are lovingly depicted in amazing detail. Reading this work is a feast of literary pleasures. Without a doubt. But if a master craftsman writes a short story barely two dozen pages long it can be a revelation. Like some kind of minimalist sketch, he can use a few brush strokes to bring life to a story or a character. And the effect can actually be more vivid than the grand epic. Carefully done, the few words can resonate with the soul where the hundreds of thousands merely numb.
I love short stories. Let me clarify. I love really well written short stories. Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, Jack London, Kipling. And in science fiction, Sturgeon, Ellison, Dick, Aldiss. These authors have produced short stories that stand out as original and memorable. They leave an impression on the mind that can be indelible. And of course, not every short story they did is in that category. But that’s okay. It’s the exception that proves the rule. After all it was Sturgeon’s Law that says that “90% of everything is crud.”
I’ll list a few of my favorite short stories. If you feel like playing leave a few of yours in the comments.
Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays as a kid and in my heart of hearts I haven’t really progressed far from that. I guess I’m not a progressive. So here is the advantage to being in business for more than a year. The calendar allows you to recycle stuff you did last year. I did movie reviews of the Universal Classic Monster Movies and a few other related films last year and I’ll recycle them around for the Halloween season. And I’ll add some additional films to avoid the label of laziness. I’ll also try to find some other Halloween content. I guess Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is sort of the quintessential American story for this time of year. But there are all kinds of other stuff out there from Poe to (yikes) Lovecraft to even that lefty doofus Stephen King. So stay tuned and I’ll start cycling those in.
“When, indeed, men speak of Beauty, they mean, precisely, not a quality, as is supposed, but an effect – they refer, in short, just to that intense and pure elevation of soul – not of intellect, or of heart.”
Edgar Allan Poe
Egads, another poet. But I love Poe for his short stories too. He was a master and I would learn from him.