Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

So, I got up this morning and in a fit of being inbetween six books and being bored with them all, I decided to peruse the book collection that sits on top of the dresser. There's a lot of books there. About a sixth of them got too high and too precarious and fell over one night. However, there's still a lot left. I'm afraid to think that they are mostly now books of my own choice that I've convinced Jeff to buy here and there at book sales and markdown shops and expensive retail stores. And as he's very bent on spoiling me, I've managed to gather many little books to our home.

Today I got up and after spending a grueling hour looking for a place to rent on the internet, I shambled over and picked up Saki.
Saki is someone I've being dying to read for years. He's very famous for his stories from the view point of a cat (since there's so many writers I've been dying to read for years, it takes me years to get around to picking them up. I have a very long list). The book I have are short stories picked out by Graham Greene- on more stories than just the cat one.
Here's a quote from the first short story:
Duchess: “When I was younger, boys of your age used to be nice and innocent.”
Reginald: “Now we are only nice. One must specialize in these days.”
Saki is something of a Wilde but there's something craftier going on with his words. He's very sneaky- it seems like a fierce intelligence is laying under a lazy exterior.
“Not that I ever indulge in despair about the Future; there always have been men who have gone about despairing of the Future, and when the Future arrives it says nice, superior things about their having acted according to their lights. It is dreadful to think that other people's grandchildren may one day rise and up and call one amiable.
There are moments when one sympathizes with Herod.”
I burst out laughing at that though I'm still confused on what he's exactly saying.
His last known words before blown up in a trench in France? “Put out that bloody cigarette.”

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.