REVIEW: My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

my life and hard timesFormat:  Paperback
Genre:  Short Stories
ISBN:  9780060933081
Published:  1933

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

Widely hailed as one of the finest humorist of the twentieth century, James Thurber looks back at his own life growing up in Columbus, Ohio, with the same humor and sharp wit that defined his famous sketches and writings. In My Life and Hard Times, first published in 1933, he recounts the delightful chaos and frustrations of family, boyhood, youth odd dogs, recalcitrant machinery, and the foibles of human nature.

My Thoughts:

I love James Thurber, and I especially love that this book is autobiographical. His stories are hilarious, partly because they are so absurd, but perhaps more so because of Thurber’s exquisite command of the language. He tells the stories perfectly, with no extraneous words, and it is as though you are a fly on the wall watching an utterly unbelievable event.

What is also great about this collection is the essay that precedes it. Certainly written by a literaty critic who has accurately assessed Thurber’s body of work, he is also an unabashed fan of Thurber – the man and the writer – which makes it the perfect preface for this book.

If your only experience with Thurber is “The Night the Bed Fell,” as mine was, you will not be disappointed.


Review: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

interpreter of maladiesFormat:  Audio CD
Genre:  Short Stories
ISBN:  9781565119321
Published:  1994 (book) / 2004 (audio)

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of cultures and generations. In “A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth, while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession.

Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love anything that is set entirely or partially in India, and this was no exception. Lahiri is a gifted writer, and she is good both as a novelist and a short story writer. In this collection, she very effectively told stories of misfits (or characters who felt like misfits), who through choices or reasons beyond their control, experienced profound sadness, loneliness or disappointment in their lives. Her title was well chosen as a result, and though it was the title of one story in the collection – a story of a man who interpreted the maladies of patients in a doctor’s office – it was appropriate on a larger scale as well, since Lahiri herself was “interpreting maladies” in a way.

My favorite story of the collection was the final story, entitled “The Third Continent.” This one, ironically, didn’t seem to be in the same vein of the others for two reasons: 1) it was less about the malady than about the loneliness of living in a place where you know no one, and 2) it has a happy ending. In some ways it doesn’t necessarily “fit” with the rest, as the tone throughout is entirely different from the rest of the collection, but for whatever reason Lahiri included it, and its placement at the end of the book is ideal.

A Bookish Bucket List – Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. They love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of their bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It’s a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

So, without further ado…My Bookish Bucket List!

  1. Read Les Miserables…one of these days, when my kiddos are grown.
  2. Finally read Anna Karenina.
  3. Finish The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor.
  4. Read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
  5. Read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis with my sons.  My first time through will be when I read them with my oldest son.
  6. Read everything by Willa Cather, Cormac McCarthy and Kent Haruf.
  7. Have over 300 classics on my finished list.  I’m currently at 186.
  8. Buy no new books for an entire year…including Kindle books.  Limit my reading during that year to my personal library and our local public libraries.  (I’ve tried this before and failed magnificently.)
  9. Get back to reviewing books on this blog.
  10. Own my own used (and loved) book store…perhaps with a reading nook complete with coffee and comfy chairs.


Alibi Ike by Ring Lardner @ Classic Reader



HIS right name was Frank X. Farrell, and I guess the X stood for “Excuse me.” Because he never pulled a play, good or bad, on or off the field, without apologizin’ for it.

“Alibi Ike” was the name Carey wished on him the first day he reported down South. O’ course we all cut out the “Alibi” part of it right away for the fear he would overhear it and bust somebody. But we called him “Ike” right to his face and the rest of it was understood by everybody on the club except Ike himself.

He ast me one time, he says:

“What do you all call me Ike for? I ain’t no Yid.”

“Carey give you the name,” I says. “It’s his nickname for everybody he takes a likin’ to.”

“He mustn’t have only a few friends then,” says Ike. “I never heard him say ‘Ike’ to nobody else.”

But I was goin’ to tell you about Carey namin’ him. We’d been workin’ out two weeks and the pitchers was showin’ somethin’ when this bird joined us. His first day out he stood up there so good and took such a reef at the old pill that he had everyone lookin’. Then him and Carey was together in left field, catchin’ fungoes, and it was after we was through for the day that Carey told me about him.

“What do you think of Alibi Ike?” ast Carey.

“Who’s that? ” I says.

“This here Farrell in the outfield,” says Carey.

“He looks like he could hit,” I says.

“Yes,” says Carey, “but he can’t hit near as good as he can apologize.”

Then Carey went on to tell me what Ike had been pullin’ out there. He’d dropped the first fly ball that was hit to him and told Carey his glove wasn’t broke in good yet, and Carey says the glove could easy of been Kid Gleason’s gran’father. He made a whale of a catch out o’ the next one and Carey says “Nice work!” or somethin’ like that, but Ike says he could of caught the ball with his back turned only he slipped when he started after it and, besides that, the air currents fooled him.

“I thought you done well to get to the ball,” says Carey.

“I ought to been settin’ under it,” says Ike.

“What did you hit last year?” Carey ast him.

“I had malaria most o’ the season,” says Ike. “I wound up with .356.”

“Where would I have to go to get malaria?” says Carey, but Ike didn’t wise up.

I and Carey and him set at the same table together for supper. It took him half an hour longer’n us to eat because he had to excuse himself every time he lifted his fork.

“Doctor told me I needed starch,” he’d say, and then toss a shoveful o’ potatoes into him. Or, “They ain’t much meat on one o’ these chops,” he’d tell us, and grab another one. Or he’d say: “Nothin’ like onions for a cold,” and then he’d dip into the perfumery.

“Better try that apple sauce,” says Carey. “It’ll help your malaria.”

“Whose malaria?” says Ike. He’d forgot already why he didn’t only hit .356 last year.

I and Carey begin to lead him on.

“Whereabouts did you say your home was?” I ast him. “I live with my folks,” he says. “We live in Kansas City–not right down in the business part–outside a ways.”

“How’s that come?” says Carey. “I should think you’d get rooms in the post office.”

But Ike was too busy curin’ his cold to get that one.

“Are you married?” I ast him.

“No,” he says. “I never run round much with girls, except to shows onct in a wile and parties and dances and roller skatin’.”

“Never take ’em to the prize fights, eh?” says Carey.

“We don’t have no real good bouts,” says Ike. “Just bush stuff. And I never figured a boxin’ match was a place for the ladies.”

Well, after supper he pulled a cigar out and lit it. I was just goin’ to ask him what he done it for, but he beat me to it.

“Kind o’ rests a man to smoke after a good work-out,” he says. “Kind o’ settles a man’s supper, too.”

“Looks like a pretty good cigar,” says Carey.

“Yes,” says Ike. “A friend o’ mine give it to me–a fella in Kansas City that runs a billiard room.”

“Do you play billiards?” I ast him.

“I used to play a fair game,” he says. “I’m all out o’ practice now–can’t hardly make a shot.”

We coaxed him into a four-handed battle, him and Carey against Jack Mack and I. Say, he couldn’t play billiards as good as Willie Hoppe; not quite. But to hear him tell it, he didn’t make a good shot all evenin’. I’d leave him an awful-lookin’ layout and he’d gather ’em up in one try and then run a couple o’ hundred, and between every carom he’d say he’d put too much stuff on the ball, or the English didn’t take, or the table wasn’t true, or his stick was crooked, or somethin’. And all the time he had the balls actin’ like they was Dutch soldiers and him Kaiser William. We started out to play fifty points, but we had to make it a thousand so as I and Jack and Carey could try the table.

The four of us set round the lobby a wile after we was through playin’, and when it got along toward bedtime Carey whispered to me and says:

“Ike’d like to go to bed, but he can’t think up no excuse.”

Carey hadn’t hardly finished whisperin’ when Ike got up and pulled it:

“Well, good night, boys,” he says. “I ain’t sleepy, but I got some gravel in my shoes and it’s killin’ my feet.”

We knowed he hadn’t never left the hotel since we’d came in from the grounds and changed our clo’es. So Carey says:

“I should think they’d take them gravel pits out o’ the billiard room.”

But Ike was already on his way to the elevator, limpin’.

“He’s got the world beat,” says Carey to Jack and I. “I’ve knew lots o’ guys that had an alibi for every mistake they made; I’ve heard pitchers say that the ball slipped when somebody cracked one off’n ’em; I’ve heard infielders complain of a sore arm after heavin’ one into the stand, and I’ve saw outfielders tooken sick with a dizzy spell when they’ve misjudged a fly ball. But this baby can’t even go to bed without apologizin’, and I bet he excuses himself to the razor when he gets ready to shave.”

“And at that,” says Jack, “he’s goin’ to make us a good man.”

“Yes,” says Carey, “unless rheumatism keeps his battin’ average down to .400.”

Well, sir, Ike kept whalin’ away at the ball all through the trip till everybody knowed he’d won a job. Cap had him in there regular the last few exhibition games and told the newspaper boys a week before the season opened that he was goin’ to start him in Kane’s place.

“You’re there, kid,” says Carey to Ike, the night Cap made the ‘nnouncement. “They ain’t many boys that wins a big league berth their third year out.”

“I’d of been up here a year ago,” says Ike, “only I was bent over all season with lumbago.”

continue reading at Alibi Ike by Ring Lardner

The Chili-Cookoff by W. Bruce Cameron

The Chili-Cookoff
By W. Bruce Cameron
Apr 25, 2008, 09:23 PST

For those of you who have lived in Texas, you know how true this scenario can be. There is actually a Chili Cook Off in Texas about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the San Antonio City Park. In this little story, Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chili Taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield, IL.

Frank: “Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking for directions to the Coors

Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted.”

Here are the scorecard notes from the event:


Judge # 1 — A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.

Judge # 2 – Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.

Judge # 3 (Frank) – Holy smokes, what is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway with it. Took me two beers to put the flames out. Hope that’s the worst one. These people are crazy.

continue reading… The Chili-Cookoff.

You Don’t Like Short Stories? Let Me Recommend…

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Everyone is welcome to join.

Just link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out your list! If you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It’s a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday Topic:
You Don’t Like Short Stories?  Let Me Recommend…

1.  Why I Live at the P. O. by Eudora Welty
This is perhaps one of the funniest short stories I have ever read, and each & every time I reread it, I’m amused all over again.  It is a classic southern short story, full of family dysfunction, righteous indignation, ridiculous misunderstandings, and competitive one-upmanship.  Though easy enough to relate to if you hail from The South, it is truly a universal story of crazy family relations.

2.  A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor was an astute observer of human nature and a harsh critic of hypocrisy, particularly that of overtly & publicly pious “Christians” who continually cast judgment on others, but could not see the deceitfulness of their own hearts.   O’Connor’s short stories are beautifully crafted & exquisitely worded expositions on society…nearly perfect in their construction, and with themes as applicable today as the time she wrote them.

3.  Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
In my humble opinion, this is perhaps the best of King’s short stories.  He is a master craftsman, especially of matters dark and horrific, and while this story departs to some degree from his typical fair, it is tightly crafted as his best novels.  And though the movie on which it was based is excellent, the story is (as is almost always the case) better, and therefore worth the read.

4.  The Body by Stephen King
Again, an exceptionally good story by the master of the horror genre.  If you remember the movie Stand By Me, then you know the plot, as this was the story on which the movie was based.  And again, as mentioned above, the movie is wonderful, but the story is better.

5.  The Dead by James Joyce
It is a psychological study if ever there was one, set in the familiar setting of the annual dinner and dance party hosted by some friends.  Throughout the evening, the socially awkward and uncomfortable protagonist undergoes an epiphany as he struggles through the evening, learning along the way how little he knows of his own spouse.  For those with a taste for heavier fair, this is Joyce at his best, but without the overwhelming difficulty (and length) of his more daunting works.

6.  The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
A truly beautiful story of love, and how true love puts the needs and desires of others before the needs and desires of oneself.  It is the Christmas spirit at it’s best, and while not an annual tradition at Christmas, it should be because of its flawless illustration of what Christmas spirit really is, and as such what (and who) the season is really about.

7.  The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
A well known and favorite short story by Mark Twain, an author known for both his humor and his harsh social commentary, this story does indeed deliver on both counts.  It’s a humorous tale of a man given to betting on anything, and a short commentary on cheating.  It is not didactic or boring, and will leave you with a chuckle, but it is also a reminder to watch the eggs in your basket (to borrow another Twainism).

8.  The Night the Bed Fell by James Thurber
When a humorist writes a story of calamity and a hysterical woman, this is the story that results.  It is hilarious, truly hilarious!

9.  The Beard by Fred Chappell
Fred Chappell is known for his short stories, and the collect in which “The Beard” is published (I Am One of You Forever) is good as a whole.  The Beard, however, is my favorite of this collection.  It is riotously funny, metaphorical in its construction, and has perhaps one of the most perfectly worded and memorable lines in all of reading:  “I have had an elegant sufficiency.  Any more would be a superfluity.”  It is memorable not only because it is hilariously poetic, but also because it is the only utterance of the otherwise silent Uncle Gurton.

10.  The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
An easy read linguistically, but a tough subject.  This story is set toward the end of WWII, and it is the story of a woman and her baby living in one of the Nazi concentrations camps.  It is brutal, but no more brutal than its subject matter.  Having read a number of books & stories set during the Holocaust, I can say that this is as good a place to start as any, due to its brevity.  It also provides a great lead-in to Ozick’s novella Rosa, which I ultimately liked better.

REVIEW: The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

Audio CD, 1 disk (1 hours)
Published February 1st 2008 by Caedmon (first published 1939)
ISBN:  0061457841
2 stars overall / 4 stars audio narration
Goodreads Synopsis:
It came with a rush; not as a rush of water nor of wind; but of a sudden evil-smelling emptiness. . .  A flamboyant, hard-drinking, ruthless and womanizing world adventurer comes face-to-face with the one antagonist he cannot conquer: his own ignoble and imminent death. . . .Written in 1938, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a classic distillation of the themes Ernest Hemingway obsessively explored throughout his writing career.  When Harry, the central character, goes on safari to  work the fat off his mind,  his ambitions are cut short when a terrible accident leaves him facing his ultimate death and weighing the meaning of his life.  Hemingway’s brilliant prose is given a penetrating and moving reading by Charlton Heston in an audio that only deepens in meaning with each listening.
My Thoughts:
I have to say that I didn’t love it.  Perhaps I’m missing the point, perhaps not.  After four atempts to get through it – and the audio version at that – I finally did.  Charlton Heston, while wonderful as a narrator, could not revive what was an irretrievably dull story for me.  Oh well…