Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Shorts #1

Sunday Shorts is a new feature that I am adding to The Little Reading Nook.  I have seen on several other blogs where reviewers feature short stories.

Sunday Shorts is my version. Where I review short stories that I have read.  I had originally intended to start this in 2013 but I started reading shorts from a collection and wanted to share.

For the next couple of Sunday's I will be featuring shorts from 16 Bars:  A Short Story Mixtape by Ran Walker.

Description (GoodReads):

Ran Walker's first "short story mixtape" pulls together a varied collection of stories about black men and how they are shaped by the relationships they enter. With topics ranging from break-ups to awkward first dates, 16 Bars is a bold, unflinching, and even humorous take on what goes on in the minds of black men when romance enters the picture.

A Night with Nina Simone:  

In "A Night with Nina Simone," Jasper hopes to find one last connection with his ex-girlfriend.
Part of me wants to say that I really enjoyed this story.  I am not a huge Nina Simone fan but I have recently started listening to her music.   Which had me excited to read this short story.  Nina Simone's music is deep and soul.  When I sat down on the bus and opened this story to read, I sort of wished that I had brought my iPod along to set the mood.  Honestly, when I was finished it didn't think listening to Nina Simone would have helped any.

This story just fell flat to me.  Jasper came off emotional discontented and I don't think this was Walker's intent.  The story is all about a guy searching the house to find the prized CD collection of a woman that left him and then trying to find some connection by listening to her favorite artist.  The only thought that ran through my mind when I read the last page was "I would have left him to".  Not because he did anything wrong but because Jasper was so flat.

While I didn't care for Jasper I did like Walker's description of Simone's music. This passage jumped out at me and it was prefect.
Her voice was heavy and intoxicating, like a cognac swirling restlessly around an empty belly.  For a moment, I imagined a woman standing in the back of an old church house nestled in the woods off of some gravel road, her voice like warm molasses blanketing the starving souls of the congregation.

Discovering Charles Buckner:

Charles, a guy with low self-esteem, learns that there is more to him than meets the eye.
It is important to point out that all the character of 16 Bars are male and the stories are in first person.  The male first person perspective has always been hard for me to connect to.   I don't know why, but it has always been a challenge for me to connect to male characters.  I first noticed it with Catcher in the Rye and then later with The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Which made me feel that it would be a challenge for me to truly enjoy the stories in this collection.

I did not have this problem with Charles Buckner.  I enjoyed his character a lot.  In fact, I found him adorable in that awkward, nice guy kind of way.  Part of the reason was because there was that Charles provided a little bit of background about himself and his life situation.  It provided a simple connection and allowed for me to see where he was going and his motivation.

My favorite quote came at the end when Charles said:
I have never heard those words before, but now I find myself wanting to expand to fit them. The funny thing is that I feel the process has already begun.

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