Half Wild: Love, Love, Love Short Stories
Two years out of college, English majors go into catch-up mode, attempting to read all the books not assigned in college. We spend a lifetime on this quest, and people are shocked when we say, “No, I haven’t read Ulysses,” even if we’ve read Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Finnegans Wake.
Former English majors get jobs and second jobs and start grad school and time compresses. They finish grad school and start an enjoyable day job, and begin teaching freshman comp and creative writing at the local community college in the evening, naturally modifying their reading to the stories, poems, plays, and essays that they’re teaching, sometimes reading the same work twenty times.
In my case, the most surprising reading came in brown packages from publishers addressed to the Reno News & Review. Though I was paid to be the office manager, some freelance writing for the paper made its way onto my plate.
The allure of a new book fresh off the press sent randomly to us mesmerized my senses! So much so that I found pockets of time to devour many of these books despite my full plate.
When a book of short stories arrived, a jump for joy would follow; however, I quickly discovered that short stories had somehow changed.
This wasn’t the stuff of my English major days: Nathanial Hawthorn or Langston Hughes or Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Flannery O’Connor or Eudora Welty or Shirley Jackson or Alice Walker. Nowhere close.
No, these stories were peacocks strutting their wanna-be iridescent feathers in the form of flashy words and turns of phrases that caused me to re-read sentences sometimes two or three times to get the meaning.
Yuck! Pretentious writing sucks more than anything. I’d rather wait for Godot over twenty lifetimes than suffer through self-congratulatory bombast. Such was the state of affairs.
Until last night! My guru plowed through Half Wild by Robin MacArthur, and handed it to me, saying, “You gotta…”
Without even reading the back or the jacket flap or really even glancing at the cover, I started in on the first story, “Half Wild.”
I gotta say, WOW. Real words. Simple sentences. Beautiful adjectives. Not a single extraneous word or phrase screaming, “Look at me!” Just an unassuming, lovely story about a pretty complicated subject: a mother-daughter relationship.
Standby… I’m going to read another one tonight.
©2017 Catherine M. Greenspan