story: Wild Horses
author: Rick Bass
where: office, desk–finally, my Rick Bass ‘old and new’ collection arrives! A parcel from America!
note: originally published in The Paris Review around the time of my birth
a line: “He wanted to know what was owed, so he could go on.’”
story: St. Clair Flats
author: Constance Fenimore Woolson
where: Dubai and Abu Dhabi
note: For half the story I thought the main characters were a woman and a man, and I considered this extraordinary for its time (late 19th century) since the characters seemed to be unmarried and not the least perturbed to ‘Lewis and Clark’ around the American Great Lakes, but alas, I learned the characters were two male companions!
a line: “How boundless is looks! One hill in the distance, one dark line of forest, even one tree, would break its charm. I have seen the ocean, I have seen the prairies, I have seen the great desert, but this is like a mixture of the three. It is an ocean full of land, –a prairie full of water, –a desert full of verdure.’”
author: Lara Prescott
where: poolside, Reem Island–too cold to swim
note: a crazyhorse read, a bit Mad Men meets international espionage, fun fun
a line: “Doctor Zhivago reached its author two weeks before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.'”
story: Come Running
author: Tim Raymond
where: Al Reem, post-bath
note: a Glimmer Train read
a line: “It’s like God took a big ice cream scoop and scooped out the place in my stomach where all the invisible butterflies live. Then God said, ‘You don’t even know what butterflies are. That’s my point.'”
story: Train to Harbin
author: Asako Serizawa
where: Abu Dhabi, my gold chaise lounge
note: This is a story both epic and intimately personal about a Japanese doctor stationed in Pingfang (now Northern China, then the Japanese puppet-state Manchukuo) during WWII, where terrible war crimes, including human experimentation, were committed.
a line: “Perhaps it is simply the mind, which, in its inability to accept a fact, returns to it, sharpening the details, resolving the image, searching for an explanation that the mind, with its slippery grasp on causality, will never be able to find. Most days I am spared by the habits of routine. But when the air darkens like this, turning the windows inward, truncating the afternoon, the present recedes, its thin hold on consciousness no match for the eighty-two years that have already claimed it.”
*If you want, follow me on Instagram (samantha.neugebauer) for more on what I am reading and doing.
author: Margaret Atwood (pre-The Handmaid’s Tale)
where: london, black coffee
note: this story is featured in the phenomenal collection, Bluebeard’s Egg. It also has an intriguing POV swap near the end.
a line: “Tonight, she feels dingy, old. Soon she will start getting into the firming cream; she will start worrying about her eyelids. Beginning again is supposed to be exciting, a challenge. Beginning again is fine as an idea, but what with? She’d used it all up; she’s used up.”
story: The Burglar’s Christmas
author: Willa Cather (published under the nom de plume Elizabeth L. Seymour)
where: philadelphia, living room on Christmas night
note: new year, new goal…200 short stories for 2018! The first story for the new year.
a line: “O, my poor boy, much or little, what does it matter? Have you wandered so far and paid such a bitter price for knowledge and not yet learned that love has nothing to do with pardon or forgiveness, that it only loves, and loves—and loves? They have not taught you well, the women of your world.”