How I Reclaimed My Love For Reading Fiction Stories

Books were my best friends in childhood. I loved snuggling up to a classic fiction book after coming back from school and getting lost in between its pages. But someway down the line, as I metamorphosed into adulthood, I ditched fiction books. Maybe I had too much of it! I don’t have a definite answer. 

There was a phase when I thought I’d outgrown fiction completely and preferred to read a handy nonfiction book or magazine instead. I’d read fiction sporadically. But all that’s changed this year as I’ve vowed to read fiction with regularity, and openness.

My biggest investment this year has been in books – fiction and nonfiction. To give you a sneak peek, some of my recent book investments include HBR on People Management, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. I buy the paperback version if the books seem to be a keeper and the Kindle version if I don’t want to clutter my home. 

Like my childhood, books have proved to be my most loyal friends in this pandemic, helping me to cope with it one day at a time. I’ve found joy and solace in poetry, particularly lately, and more so during the pandemic. Music, movies, and TV shows come a close second.

#BlogchatterA2Z Challenge 2021 boosted my reading goals

One way I reclaimed my love for reading fiction this year was to participate in the #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge. I tied the theme to my reading goals and decided to read and analyze one short story every day.

This year’s challenge was hectic considering that the news of the pandemic affecting loved ones and beyond took a mental toll on me. Also, the fact that reading was a fraction of my challenge. The other parts were writing the story analysis and designing the blog creatives. A single post took nothing less than two hours to an entire day. Sometimes it spilled over to the next day with my juggling work commitments.

But it was well worth it! It introduced me to even more eclectic reading recommendations to keep me busy for a long time. I’ve also realized that I’m not the slow reader that I thought I was. When you read consistently every day, your reading speed improves drastically. What’s more? I’ve got my childhood days back again. 

Let’s do a quick recap of my short story reading collection last month. 

I started with Sticks by George Saunders that makes you explore the complexity of the human psyche and empathize with its flawed (almost bordering on mental instability) characters. 

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is a feminist story of a daughter and mother wrangled in a patriarchal society. 

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway offers a lesson on using the Iceberg technique for writers and a substantial and thought-provoking story for the readers. 

The Girls In Their Summer Dresses by Irwin Shaw is a thoroughly entertaining story about the male gaze and pretension in some marriages. 

If you’re too scared to read horror, then maybe The Haunted House by Virginia Woolf can make you change your mind. It’s a story that’ll make you fall in love with ghosts and literature. Be warned that this horror story reads less like one and more like literary prose. It’s Virginia Woolf that we are talking about here! Hello! 

Want to know how to throw a solid punch into your story? Read The Story Of An Hour by Kate Chopin, where the author makes every single word count. If brevity is the sign of wit, then this story makes a fine case example. 

An Astrologer’s Day by R. K. Narayan takes you to a bygone era in a fictional Indian town. Narayan has a knack for weaving absorbing stories that leave an indelible impression in his readers’ minds. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this utterly crazy and ingenious story titled Sredni Vashtar by H. H. Munro (Saki.) Saki subverts childhood and all the attributes attached to it like simplicity, innocence, or goodness in this fun, satisfyingly devious read. 

The Falling Girl by Dino Buzzati is a whacky, light, and lingering short story. What Buzzati does in The Fallen Girl is extraordinary, and how he makes a social commentary via the course of Marta’s life. 

Eveline by James Joyce plays upon the dichotomy of fear and hope among women in toxic relationships. Which emotion wins? You’ll have to read this well-crafted story to find out. 

Julian Barnes uses the techniques of literary minimalism and symbolism in Marriage Lines, a sweet, tender, poignant love story. The irony is that the author talks about everything in the story but love. Yet, what a great tribute it is to love and the institution that is marriage!

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel García Márquez is a straightforward story narrated with a detailed description in chronological order. It takes an anti-establishment stance with elements of magical realism and satire. 

There’s nothing like a good old classic tale like The Last Leaf by O. Henry in the current direst pandemic times. The Last Leaf is the kind of story that you will keep coming back to from time to time for hope, strength, and love.

Bharati Mukherjee has written The Management of Grief with admirable sensitivity and empathy. I highly recommend this outstanding story despite it being a discomforting read.

The Smallest Woman In The World by Clarice Lispector is a beautiful, fantastical story about diversity, inclusiveness, humanity, and the art of living.

In A Hunger Artist, Franz Kafka explores the theme of hunger as it takes on different meanings and interpretations, delving into metaphysical realms. It’s written in a style that’s reminiscent of the biblical parables. 

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is an atmospheric horror story that portrays the dark side of tradition, the isolation of its women, and their continued persecution for society’s well-being and honour.

God Sees The Truth, But Waits by Leo Tolstoy is a deep, philosophically rich story that reminds you of the mortality and futility of life and the preparation for the real journey thereafter.

The Swimmer by John Cheever is a brilliant satire on the great American dream, the privilege and facade of the upper-middle class and the elite, the crumbling of the family system, and the moral degradation of American society. 

The Velds by Ray Bradbury is a dystopian science fiction story that makes a surreal read in 2021. It shatters the notion that humans are the most superior beings on earth. 

Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain is a futuristic sci-fi feminist story far ahead of its time, a progressive story that deals with the subjects of feminism, education, and environmentalism.

Counted among his greatest short stories, Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story of lofty ambitions and unbridled passion. It’s storytelling at its best. Highly recommend it! 

The Lady With The Dog by Anton Chekhov is a story about a clandestine love relationship between Dimitri Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna, who are unhappy with their marriage partners. Gurov and Anna’s love story is messy, complicated, beautiful, and defies all logic. 

One of his earlier stories, A Thousand Deaths by Jack London, is a bizarre Frankenstein-style science fiction story. 

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman is a chilling retelling of the old German fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. A must-read for all Gaiman fans and definitely not for children!

The Signalman by Charles Dickens is a psychological horror story that will stay eerily in your mind and haunt you forever.

With that, I’ve completed my third A2ZChallenge with Blogchatter this year. I feel so accomplished already and cannot wait to participate again.

Third time, baby!

What’s next?

I will continue to read short stories and poems and mix that up with novels and thought-provoking and relevant nonfiction. 

It’s a whole new exciting world out there that beckons. Stay safe and happy reading, folks! Until next time! 

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Story Analysis of ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens

I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read The Signalman by Charles Dickens. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

Charles Dickens was an English author and social critic. Considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era and literary genius, he wrote hundreds of short stories, fifteen novels, five novellas, and several essays without formal education. Some of Dicken’s famous writings include Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and A Christmas Carol.

Story Analysis 

The Signalman by Charles Dickens is a psychological horror story first published in the Christmas edition of All the Year Round (1866). 

The story begins with the hook line by the narrator, a traveller at the railway signalman below. 

‘Halloa! Below there!’

But the signalman doesn’t respond as expected by the narrator, who prods on with another call. 

‘Is there any path by which I can come down and speak to you?’

This time, the signalman responds reluctantly, and the two soon befriend each other. The signalman takes the traveller into his box, where the traveller learns more about him. The signalman seems far more intelligent than his job role and admits having wasted his youth years. However, he has no regrets, or so he says to that effect. 

When the traveller lays the bait that the signalman seemed content, that’s when the latter confides in his new friend that it was the opposite case. The signalman was very troubled. But he asks the traveller to visit him tomorrow night when he would reveal the reason. Before parting, the signalman asks the traveller, 

What made you cry ‘Halloa! Below there!’ to-night?’

‘Heaven knows,’ said I. ‘I cried something to that effect—-’

‘Not to that effect, sir. Those were the very words. I know them well.’

‘Admit those were the very words. I said them, no doubt, because I saw you below.’

‘For no other reason?’

‘What other reason could I possibly have!’

‘You had no feeling that they were conveyed to you in any supernatural way?’

‘No.’

He wished me good night, and held up his light. I walked by the side of the down Line of rails (with a very disagreeable sensation of a train coming behind me), until I found the path.

At this point, the story takes supernatural turns with an ending that leaves more questions in the reader’s mind than answers. It’s a story that you can dissect and interpret in various ways. The signalman is wise, and when he talks in an otherworldly zone, you can choose to take him at face value or, well, not.. The story could also serve as a metaphor for the helplessness of individuals when they are unable to save not just others but also themselves. 

Whatever be your interpretation of The Signalman by Charles Dickens, the story will stay eerily in your mind and haunt you forever. How did you like the story?

Story Analysis of ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ by Neil Gaiman

It’s Day 25 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

Neil Gaiman is an award-winning English author. He’s won numerous awards for his writings, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards. He’s also the first author to win the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same book, The Graveyard Book. His other notable work includes The Sandman comic book series, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 

Story Analysis 

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman was written in 1994, and since then, has been adapted into various mediums. The graphic novels by Dark Horse Comics won the 2020 Eisner Award for Best Adaptation from Another Medium, and The Horror Writers Association’s Snow, Glass, Apples graphic novel, which bagged the Bram Stoker Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel Award.

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman is a chilling retelling of the old German fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. The story became a worldwide phenomenon after the Walt Disney animated movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. 

But unlike the Grimm Brothers version, the Disney adaptation was heavily whitewashed. Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of Snow White is in line with the Grimm brothers’ version; it’s as dark, or if not more dark than the original version. The Grimm brothers’ version had themes of revenge, murder, and sexual jealousy. Neil Gaiman’s version has all these and more, including pedophilia, incest, filicide, necrophilia, vampirism, and cannabilism. 

What’s interesting is that Neil Gaiman doesn’t touch or alter the story structure. You have the same characters: the king, stepmother, Snow White or the stepdaughter, dwarfs, and the prince. The same passionate courtship of the king and the stepmother, or the stepmother’s magical mirror and powers. 

As in the original story, the Queen orders Snow White’s heart to be cut out. 

“And some say (but it is her lie, not mine) that I was given the heart, and that I ate it. Lies and half-truths fall like snow, covering the things that I remember, the things I saw. A landscape, unrecognisable after a snowfall; that is what she has made of my life.”

Snow White survives in the forest with the dwarfs. The iconic poisoning of the apple by the Queen to kill Snow White is still there in Gaiman’s version. The prince finds the dead Snow White and revives her to life. In the end, the Queen is executed, and the Prince and Snow White live happily ever after. 

But what makes Neil Gaiman’s story starkly different is the subversion of the characters and their motivations. The story then becomes brand new, even with familiar characters and story plot. 

Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples is retold from the stepmother’s perspective, who is also the story’s narrator. The stepmother who becomes the Queen looks back in hindsight and muses over the past. 

“I did not do this thing, and we pay for our mistakes.”

Gaiman’s description of Snow White is in line with the Grimm Brothers’ version of the fairy tale and yet takes on a wholly different meaning. 

“I shall think instead of the snowflake on her cheek.

I think of her hair as black as coal, her lips as red as blood, her skin, snow-white.”

Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples is so evil that it’s good with its deviant characters and explicit, perverse happenings. 

“You can ride through the forest for a dozen days and never see a soul; but there are eyes upon you the entire time.”

He implored me to say nothing. He spread my legs apart… “Please,” he said, softly. “You must neither move, nor speak. Just lie there on the stones, so cold and so fair.”

Gaiman likened the desired effect of his twisted retelling in Snow, Glass, Apples to that of a virus when he said,

“There are definitely stories where I just wanted to try to essentially do a magic trick – it’s ‘Snow White’, but I’m going to show it to you in a mirror so you’ve never seen it like this before. And you’ll never be able to think of it in the same way ever again”. 

Snow, Glass, Apples is a must-read for all Neil Gaiman fans for its brilliant retelling of a popular children’s story in a whole new dark. And oh, this version is definitely not for children.  

What are your thoughts on Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman? 

*I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

Story Analysis of ‘A Thousand Deaths’ by Jack London

It’s Day 24 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read A Thousand Deaths by Jack London. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

More popularly known as Jack London, John Griffith London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He broke the ‘starved writer’ perception by becoming an international celebrity and earning a fortune from his writing. He is considered a pioneer of commercial fiction and American magazine and an innovator in the science fiction genre. Some of his famous works include The Call of the Wild, White Fang, To Build a Fire, The Iron Heel, An Odyssey of the North, Love of Life, The Pearls of Parlay, and The Heathen.

Story Analysis 

A Thousand Deaths by Jack London is a bizarre Frankenstein-style science fiction story written and first published in The Black Cat Magazine 1899.  

It’s a story about a man born and raised in a dysfunctional wealthy nuclear family. His socialite mother is too busy with the vanities of the world, while his scientist father is too engrossed in his research work. The man moves away from his family when he reaches adulthood and goes about his life travelling the world as a sailor.

Until one day, he drowns in the San Francisco Bay during one of his adventurous explorations. When he wakes up, he can see his dead body in an uncomfortable posture and being attended to by two dark-skinned aboriginal men. 

The science fiction story moves into a paranormal space from this juncture and gets into disturbing territories, as it gets more cold and brutal by the end of it. 

 A Thousand Deaths is one of Jack London’s earliest stories, and it explores the dark side of science and technology and the human psyche. 

* I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

Story Analysis of ‘The Lady With A Dog’ by Anton Chekhov

It’s Day 23 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read The Lady With The Dog by Anton Chekhov. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

Anton Chekhov was a Russian playwright, short-story writer, and physician. Considered by some to be the founder and master of the short story form, Chekhov first started writing short stories to earn money. Gradually, he improved upon the form, and his short stories and plays are known to have a simple plot with no resolution. Chekhov opined that life has no easy solutions, and as an artist, it was his job to ask questions and not offer answers in his stories.

Chekhov is a literary master in the Realism genre, and he liked to probe what lay underneath the obvious.  By the age of twenty-six, he had over four hundred short stories, vignettes, and sketches to his credit. Some of his popular work includes Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, Vanka, The Steppe, Sleepy, Ward No. 6, The Darling and Gusev, The Hunstman, The Lady with A Dog, The Student, A Dreary Story or A Boring Story, and The Little Trilogy.

Along with Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, he is one of the three seminal figures in the birth of early modernism in the theatre. Chekhov’s influence can be seen in a diverse group of writers from William Somerset Maugham to Flannery O’Connor to Raymond Carver to Tennessee Williams and John Cheever. 

Story Analysis 

The Lady With The Dog by Anton Chekhov is a story about a clandestine love relationship between Dimitri Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna, who are unhappy with their marriage partners. 

The author doesn’t give us too many details about their respective marriages to form any opinion. All we know is the dissatisfaction that Gurov and Anna feel towards their spouses. Gurov is a wanderer and has been cheating on his wife for years without anyone’s knowledge. Anna is a twenty-year-old woman who is much younger than Gurov and his previous pursuits. 

We see Gurov’s condemnation for the female gender he calls the ‘lower race’, and yet he cannot live without them. Anna, who looks like a naive and easy conquest at the start, proves to be the opposite when she has much- older Gurov fall madly in love with her. 

Gurov shows no remorse about his string of extra-marital affairs, and in fact, feels he’s entitled to it. The only time he shows some doubt is towards the end of the story when he sees his grey hair in the mirror and looks at a much younger Anna who loves him. 

His hair was already beginning to turn grey. And it seemed strange to him that he had grown so much older, so much plainer during the last few years. The shoulders on which his hands rested were warm and quivering. He felt compassion for this life, still so warm and lovely, but probably already not far from beginning to fade and wither like his own. Why did she love him so much?

The Lady With The Dog by Anton Chekhov is an unconventional romantic story that explores the themes of love, purity, passion, and taboo in relationships. Gurov and Anna’s love story is messy, complicated, beautiful, and defies all logic. Chekhov doesn’t attach any moral attributes or judgement to their extra-marital affair and chronicles the gamut of emotions that a couple who finds love in such an affair goes through.

Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave everything in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.

What are your thoughts on The Lady With The Dog by Anton Chekhov? 

* I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

Story Analysis of ‘Winter Dreams’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s Day 22 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an Irish American author and screenwriter. Often hailed as the leading voice of a “Lost Generation” of the 1920s and the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald is counted among the greatest authors of the 20th century. He wrote four novels, four collections of short stories, and 164 short stories in his lifetime. Some of his famous works include The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, and This Side Of Paradise. 

Story Analysis 

Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald is counted among his greatest short stories. The story is a thematic precursor to his famous novel, The Great Gatsby, as admitted by Fitzgerald, who described Winter Dreams as “a sort of first draft of the Gatsby idea.” 

The story is about Dexter Green, a fourteen-year-old boy who works as a caddy for pocket money until he meets Judy Jones, a wealthy eleven-year-old girl. She looks down upon him for doing menial work, leaving him feeling inferior. The story chronicles Green’s ambitions which he calls his ‘winter dreams,’ and his struggles to attain social prestige, wealth, love, and respect. 

Judy Jones arouses all the materialistic desires in Dexter Green, who yearns to live up to her ideal. He keeps chasing one goal after the other to get closer to her ranks of the powerful elite. She takes notice of him when he tastes success and courts him.

Fitzgerald paints a picturesque story where you can vividly visualize the characters in motion against the scenic backdrops. 

There was a fish jumping and a star shining and the lights around the lake were gleaming.

Dexter realizes the truth about Judy Jones soon enough and gets engaged to Irene Scheerer, who’s wife-material. However, his passion for Judy Jones gets the better of him. 

He sat perfectly quiet, his nerves in wild clamor, afraid that if he moved he would find her irresistibly in his arms. Two tears had rolled down her wet face and trembled on her upper lip.

“I’m more beautiful than anybody else,” she said brokenly, “why can’t I be happy?” Her moist eyes tore at his stability–her mouth turned slowly downward with an exquisite sadness: “I’d

like to marry you if you’ll have me, Dexter. I suppose you think I’m not worth having, but I’ll be so beautiful for you, Dexter.” 

A million phrases of anger, pride, passion, hatred, tenderness fought on his lips. Then a perfect wave of emotion washed over him, carrying off with it a sediment of wisdom, of convention, of doubt, of honor. This was his girl who was speaking, his own, his beautiful, his pride.

Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story of lofty ambitions and unbridled passion. Life’s not as simple as it seems as Dexter realizes the bitter truth at the end. He realizes all that he was chasing was an ephemeral dream. 

How did you find Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald? 

* I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.