December 5, 2007

Victoria's Presentation - Kincaid's "Girl"

Victoria will present Jamaica Kincaid's excellent and multilayered short-short story "Girl."

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December 4, 2007

Nai's Presentation, "The Crimson Candle"

Fables: The Crimson Candle
By Ambrose Bierce

A man lying at the point of death called his wife to his bedside and said:

"I am about to leave you forever; give me, therefore, one last proof of your affection and fidelity, for, according to our holy religion, a married man seeking admittance at the gate of Heaven is required to swear that he has never defiled himself with an unworthy woman. In my desk you will find a crimson candle, which has been blessed by the High Priest and has a peculiar mystical significance. Swear to me that while it is in existence you will not remarry."

The Woman swore and the Man died. At the funeral the Woman stood at the head of the bier, holding a lighted crimson candle till it was wasted entirely away.

November 29, 2007

OPTIONAL: "The Dead"

  • Re-read the first paragraph. Whose voice is this? Whose point of view? Why does he open it like this? Where does the initial movement come from? What’s the hook?
  • Lily is not just herself, but also an echo of other characters from earlier stories. Remind you? Also, other characters reappear...Kathleen Kearney, for example. To what effect?
  • We sit in expectation of Gabriel, and then—-almost forgotten—-Freddy arrives. Then, instead of seeing Freddy, we move to Mr. Browne. Why? What effect?
  • Why so much description of Freddy? Why a “young man of 40?? Why don’t we hear any of Freddy’s words here in direct speech? Why is there so much and so little of Freddy Malins? To what effect? Does he counterpoint Gabriel? Or does it seem so for part of the story?
  • What’s the effect of the conversation with Miss Ivors? How is Gabriel continually thrown off his balance? Why might that be?
  • How does Gabriel’s speech function dramatically (to move the plot)? To echo themes?
  • What is the role of nostalgia? Why so much?
  • What is the function of the last part, after Gabriel understands about his wife's love for Michael Furey? How does our understanding of Gabriel grow/change? How do we feel about him at the end?
  • Does Gabriel fall under authorial criticism in the way that other characters in Dubliners seem to? If there's a change, what is it?
  • What is the function of the final image? What does it leave you with?
  • Who are "The Dead"?

November 28, 2007

Tony's Presentation - Kafka

Tony will present a short-short story from the man who inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Read it below.

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Justin's Presentation - For You Eggers Fans

Justin will present an Eggers story you can read below.

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November 27, 2007

Nick's Presentation - "Untitled (Gum)"

Nick's presentation is on "Untitled (Gum)."

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November 25, 2007

Publication suggestions for emerging writers

Good publications for "emerging" writers are in the "extended entry" below.

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Dubliners: Public Life

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

This story, in many ways, resembles a play. It is very dialogue-centric, and people's comings and goings are often indicated abruptly, with something like stage directions. How does it change the story to have so much dialogue? What are the characters "saying without saying"? Do we look beyond their words? Are there things they say on the surface, and then a more "real" content to their debate? What are the benefits and risks of having so much in dialogue?

"A Mother"

  • Why is this in the section called "public life"?
  • In the end, is there a character who is the “bad guy? and one who is the “good guy? here? What do you think of Mrs. Kearney? How is her character balanced (if it is) so she is not insufferable nor the victim?
  • The perspective shifts frequently here. How does he shift fluidly (for example, the first paragraph is about Mr. Holohan, the second about Mrs. Kearney)?
  • Does it trouble you, as a reader, that a sister is mentioned and then disappears? What do you think this achieves, if anything?
  • What are YOUR questions about it?


  • Why is it titled “Grace?? (Note that we begin the story with a "Fall,? down the stairs of the pub.)
  • Why in these three sections? The Fall, Purgatory, and ...?
  • Why does it end as it does? What is the effect? How would you describe the ending? Does the story achieve a “wholeness?? Why might you (or mightn't you) structure a story this way?
  • What is its most interesting aspect?
  • What are YOUR questions about it?

November 18, 2007

OPTIONAL - Setting

How do you make decisions about setting? Does it need to be integral to the story? Can your stories take place "anywhere," or are they rooted in a particular place?

Do you want "setting for setting's sake," and beautiful descriptions? What is the role of setting in the stories and books you like best? How much is too much? How much is too little?

How do you know if there's too much or too little? What problems might either extreme pose to your story and, by extension, your reader?

November 15, 2007

Jamie's Presentation - "How to Set a House on Fire"

Jamie's going to teach us "How to Set a House on Fire."

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November 12, 2007

Zoe Wicomb Stories

“A Clearing in the Bush?

  • How does she create setting? Is setting important? Why/how? When do you notice it? When is it there, but you don't notice it?
  • Where does the motion come from?
  • Why do we switch perspectives to Tamieta? Why not just make it Frida’s story? Are they counterpointed or compared? Or both?
  • Why Tess of the d’Urbervilles? What does this bring to the narrative, whether or not (assuming not) you've read it?
  • Why “A Clearing in the Bush?? Why does it end with Tamieta and not Frida? (Note that the whole book is a collection of connected stories narrated, in large part, by the writer-character Frida Shenton.)

“Behind the Bougainvillea?

  • In "Behind the Bougainvillea," there is a lot of setting vs. "action"; especially in the first half of the story. What effect does this have on the story? Why might she make this choice, rather than just get into it with Henry right away?
  • How do we move between past and present? Is there a narrative mechanism, such as a line break or cue like, "Ten years ago"? If not, what effect does it have? How does she jump between times?
  • What is the function repeated images, such as various kinds of flowers, and rain?
  • Why does she end with her father, on his ridiculous, naive statement?

"Ash on My Sleeve"

    Note: This is the same Moira from "A Clearing in the Bush."
  • What is the effect of beginning with the pimple?
  • What are the advantages of having a narratror who's out of touch, unfamiliar with what's changed?
  • In the conversations between Frieda and Moira, does either one of them hold all the power, or is it balanced? What would be the effect if one of them held all the cards? What's the effect of a debate/discussion where no one wins?
  • Why end in the "chaste little bed" after all this talk about sex and virginity? What's the effect of landing on this image?

November 11, 2007

Ronnie's Presentation - The Orange

Ronnie will present on Benjamin Rosenbaum's "The Orange."

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November 5, 2007

Dubliners: Mature Life

“A Little Cloud?

  • How would you describe the structure of "A Little Cloud"? How is it put together? What are the larger and smaller chunks, and how do they work? For instance, how many scenes? How many major characters? Are they similar or different (or both)?


  • What are the difficulties of creating a character who doesn’t know (or barely knows) what’s going on around her? How does Joyce try to ensure that you won’t just see the world in the rose-colored-glassees-ified way Maria does? To what extent does it work? What are the pitfalls of trying something like this?

“A Painful Case?

  • How is Duffy’s portrait constructed? In what ways do we learn about him? What is the effect of the long reaction scene at the end? Why does that have so much weight?

Kara's Presentation - "Important Things"

Kara will be presenting Barbara Greenburg's "Important Things."

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October 28, 2007

OPTIONAL: Grace Paley stories

  • If you were trying to describe Grace Paley’s stories, or Paley's "voice," how would you?
  • How is sense of place important in her stories? Is this a particular place? How does she create depth/setting?
  • If she puts politics into the story, how? Does it overwhelm the story?
  • In the story "Living," the narrator keeps coming back to, “I was dying.? How does that affect the story? How would you describe the distance between the narrator and the events of the story? How does that change/affect your view of things?
  • What questions would you ask about these stories, if you were presenting them?