Tuesday Turmoil…

…or why there’s no short story review…

 

The thing is, I’d just like to say I tried – I really tried – to find a story for the Tuesday slot this week. But sometimes things just don’t work out.

the walk up nameless ridgeI started with Hugh Howey’s sci-fi story about people climbing a mountain on another, almost entirely undescribed, world – The Walk Up Nameless Ridge. Howey had one of these sudden self-publishing runaway successes a couple of years back with Wool – 576 5-star reviews on Amazon UK. This fooled me into thinking he could probably write. But the story is littered with basic grammatical errors that make it about as pleasurable as eating the silver paper instead of the chocolate bar…

.

“It lent Hanson and I the illusion that our guess was far more refined than the others.”

The story is short… though not short enough. It does however have the distinction of containing the only sentence I have ever read that manages to be optionally grammatically incorrect or mathematically impossible…

“And of the several hundred who have reached the top – Hanson and I among them – thousands have perished.”

* * * * * *

So I moved swiftly on…

The Dover anthology of cat storiesThe Dover Anthology of Cat Stories (courtesy of NetGalley) promises that “Cat fanciers will want to curl up with this collection of tales about felines of many temperaments…” – just the thing!

Picking at random a story by Bram Stoker – The Watchers – I settled down to have my spine tingled. And it was good! A man lies in a stupor with mysterious scratches on his arm. He has left written instructions that if such a thing happened he is to be watched at all times. His room is filled with mummies from ancient Egypt and as his friends and family watch over him they become aware of a miasma that seems to be sending them into a sleep-like trance. There is a cat in the house and whenever it comes into the room it tries to attack a mummified cat that sits on a table. Our narrator is watching one night when he is overcome by the miasma. Suddenly aroused by a shriek and some pistol shots he awakes. The final line is…

“When my waking eyes regained their power, I could have shrieked with horror myself at what I saw before me.”

What? What did he see?? I have no idea! Turns out, after much research (‘cos the anthology doesn’t mention it), this is not a short story at all – it is chapter 3 of the novel The Jewel of Seven Stars! Bet it’s good…

* * * * * * *

Never mind! Still sticking with the Dover Anthology, I turned to the first story in the book – Tobermory by Saki. This should be fun, I thought!

A group of people are gathered together at a house party. One of them announces that he has achieved the remarkable feat of teaching Tobermory, the household cat, to talk. At first the others don’t believe him, but it turns out to be true. And once Tobermory starts talking, he also starts revealing things the guests would rather he didn’t…

“When your inclusion in this house party was suggested, Sir Wilfred protested that you were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that there was a wide distinction between hospitality and care of the feeble-minded.”

When the assembled company realise that the cat has been wandering around freely listening to their conversations and seeing what they get up to when they think they’re unobserved, panic sets in, lest he reveal their secrets to the world.

So far, so good – lots of fun! That is, until they decide to kill Tobermory and his friend, the stable cat.

Breakfast was, if anything, a more unpleasant function than dinner had been, but before its conclusion the situation was relieved. Tobermory’s corpse was brought in from the shrubbery…

“Cat fanciers will want to curl up with this collection of tales about felines of many temperaments…” – hmm! Yes! There’s nothing I enjoy more than stories about killing cats! If I’m really lucky, maybe one of the other stories will tell me how to skin them and make gloves…

(Stop Press – By the time I’d read five of the stories in this anthology, the feline death count had reached seven – Tommy and Tuppence insisted I abandon it before I got any ideas. I suggested in my feedback to the publisher that they may want to consider marketing it to dog fanciers instead… or dogs!)

* * * * * * *

By that stage, I was frankly too traumatised to want to read any more short stories for a while. And that is why there’s no short story review this week. I am now off to lie in a darkened room for a while… have a great Tuesday! 😉

45 thoughts on “Tuesday Turmoil…

  1. Wow! The first offering sounds delightfully bad… it sounds like the author wrote it whilst drunk! And never got round to the editing stage, clearly. I am not happy at all about the killing of so many cats. It starts off quite well – a talking cat is always a delight – but who really wants to read about feline murder? Pah. And look at the cover! It looks so charming. Double pah. I shall shake my fist at this book, I think.

    • Haha! It’s good, isn’t it? I know I’m picky, but really! I know – the cover is lovely. I thought I was in for a cosy treat – hah! I couldn’t quite believe it when every story seemed to end in a kitty demise. Glad I didn’t buy up half a dozen copies for cat-loving friends’ Christmas presents…

  2. Oh, FictionFan, you have been through it! Me and you should really have a cup tea and talk about it… 😉

    Seriously, I am sorry to hear about all of this, although I do appreciate your cherry-picking on this one.

    • Haha! I actually thought it was good too – except for the end! My Tommy would tell me how much he adores me, but little Tuppence would prove to be a more critical friend, I suspect… 😉

  3. Ouch! Although, my visiting cat stole my chair this morning and hissed at me when I went to pat his head. Later, I heard a crash and discovered that he had climbed the bookcase (knocking down everything in his path) to steal the cat treats, so maybe……..

    • Haha! Well, I think it was your fault for putting them up there! Though I must say it’s a bit rude of him to hiss while sitting on your chair – you should have just sat on top of him…

  4. Ha ha ha ha ha! Oops. I didn’t mean to laugh, sorry. I feel your pain, I really do,especially regards the thousands who have perished and Tobermory the very dead talking cat. Oh dear! Have these writers no friends? Not one person to give them a little kind guidance or gentle nudge in the direction of Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for writing great fiction? I am more of a dog lover ( *hangs head in shame*) but I know my cat loving sisters would be appalled at these tales and I will steer them away from them. Fingers crossed the darkened room has helped 😉

    • Haha! I admit – it did all become quite funny by the end! I had to wonder what the editor had been thinking – I suspect s/he must have been recently assaulted by a particularly vicious moggie! And the cover looks as if it’s going to be full of cute fluffy little kittens too. I love dogs too – but whatever you do, don’t tell my cats I said so!! Oh well, no doubt I shall recover after I’ve had enough medicinal chocolate…

  5. Eeee, that does sound traumatizing. Ever since adopting a cat last year, I’ve become hyper sensitive about cats. I watched a movie some time ago where I spent the whole time worrying about the cat and it was very nearly ruined for me when he didn’t make it. I don’t mind if the people die….but the cat should have lived!

    • Haha! I’m exactly the same! Serial killer books don’t bother me in the slightest, but one piece of kitten cruelty and I’m devastated – not sure what that says about me, really! I usually avoid animal stories at all cost – I don’t know what I was thinking! I was wickedly fooled by the cover and the blurb – I shall send them the bill for my therapy… 😉

  6. No, No, NO I feel incredibly traumatised (I have read Tobermory before, but still) The book should have come with a warning ‘Unsuitable for cat lovers’ I don’t know when i will stop shuddering. Though i do like the idea of talking, secrets revealing cats VERY much, and cheered myself up by re-reading your opening dismissal of the mathematically, grammatically challenged author.

    I’m currently on a fairly dreadful Irish crime Vine book which apparently won awards. However, the author clearly bought a job lot of clichés at a reduced price from 99p stores just before the Poundland takeover. What with an Inspector who roars, barks, and a room full of detectives whose eyes fly around the room my critical red pen has run out of ink. I’m waiting for someone else to whinny, chirrup and gibber. Perhaps its a subtle version of Animal Farm, and the reveal will be at the end, to explain this.

    It’s a real problem, after reading ‘a classic’ to return to the world of poorly written long winded fiction.

    Says she, for whom succinctness is always a challenge. Just put it down to a broken heart for poor Tobermory

    • Haha! I quite enjoyed Tobermory too – at least until the end! Isn’t the sci-fi story great? Just goes to show that the ability to write is no longer a requirement for the job of novelist… how reassuring! They could do the same with doctors – it’s so unfair expecting them to understand biology…

      Yep, it’s always a problem returning from a great book to a … less great one, and that one sounds very less great! *chuckles* I shall look out for your review on Az – my psychic powers tell me it might not make the blog…

      Poor Tobermory! I have found chocolate helps…

  7. Oh, my. No wonder you had trouble! I can’t bring myself to read stories of dogs dying (nor can I write them!). While I might not be much of a cat fancier, I certainly don’t want to spend time reading about folks killing — and skinning — them. Rest well, my friend. Sometimes it’s good to take a little break, you know!

    • I know! I normally avoid animal stories like the plague, but they fooled me with the pretty cover and the misleading blurb! I suspect it’s a conspiracy by cat-haters – or maybe mice! Haha! I feel much better after a wee lie-down and some medicinal chocolate!

  8. *laughing* I love that sentence about reaching the top and all that. Amazing he didn’t catch that! Or maybe he did. Which is even scarier.

    Miasma is a very interesting word. I’m not sure what it’s about. But I bet it’s an Asian name, the sudden.

    Yes, I don’t think cat people would like that at all! Though, a cat that was being that rude, should at least not get dinner.

    • It’s great, isn’t it? Poor man – can’t write, can’t count. I hope he can cook! *chuckles wickedly*

      It means… well… er… like a… sort of… *hurriedly googles*… it means an oppressive or unpleasant atmosphere which surrounds or emanates from something. Phew! I knew that!

      *fearful face* Can you imagine what Tuppence might have to say? She’d probably never get dinner again…

  9. That’s horrible!!!!! (The cat book). Crikey! And what a shame about the first one – really stamps on the idea that self-publishers need editors and book designers and all the other stuff just like published authors – and he’s so well known and such an advocate for self-publishing. Grrr.

    Can’t say you didn’t try, though!

    • I know! It was the oddest thing – the cover and blurb makes it sound as if it would be lovely too! Haha! I should sue them…

      Yep, I’m afraid it’s things like this that make me so wary of reading self-published books. I know there’s good stuff out there, but there’s also a lot of really badly written rubbish. What I don’t understand is, did their teachers never point out that their grammar was awful? Or do they know they’re not very good but still go ahead anyway? Baffling…

      • I’m not sure it’s always that – I’m an editor, and I should know the rules, but I always still get my own work edited, because you can lose sight of your own errors a) in the white heat of creation and b) once you’ve read it over a certain number of times. All these people need is an editor!

        • Ah, you’re kinder than me! I can forgive punctuation errors and even odd sentence structures, or using the wrong word occasionally, but my teeth hurt when I read things like ‘It lent Hanson and I the illusion…’ But then my school was ferocious about grammar, so I know I’m exceptionally picky. But so should writers be!! 😉

          • Oh, no, I don’t forgive them for it, I’m just trying to think about why they might make the mistakes and I know I do in my own writing … BUT I have them corrected before it makes it to the public eye.

            • Yes, I think even if they can’t afford a professional edit, they should make sure they get a really critical and honest friend to read it for them before they publish. I know myself I can read my own blog posts several times and not notice a mistake, and then weeks later, if I have to go back to it for some reason, I’ll spot some horrible howler and not be able to understand how I could have missed it!

  10. The short stories may have been terrible, but Tuesday Turmoil is a ‘must read.’ I bet plenty of parents have thought about gagging children who have repeated overheard conversations too!

    • Haha! Go on – laugh at my pain! Yes – some of our most-told family stories centre on things one or other of us blurted out in public when we shouldn’t have – especially my brother! 😉

        • Haha! Yes, these proverb things are sometimes too confusing. It’s like “You can have your cake and eat it” – that one baffled me for years, though as you know cake is one of my specialist subjects…

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