Peril of the Short Story


Thought I ought to post even though no entire books have been read.  This is due to the fact I have once again chosen two large 19th century books to read.   No, I never learn.  But I realized that because one of the books I’ve started is Edgar Allan Poe, and he wrote short stories mostly, I’ve done this peril.   I’ve read maybe 6 of the complete tales and so far, meh.   The collection I chose is in chronological order, so I’ve only read his earliest stuff and there is, of course, a leaning to the fantastic and infernal and rather more French than I possess.  Some of it critical to the story.   Thank goodness for the Google.

The story I found exceptional was called A Loss of Breath and it is bizarre.  Surrealism about 75? years before Surrealism started.   It is about a man called Lackobreath who loses his breath while hollering at his new wife.   For a moment you think this is a story of someone abusive getting his comeuppance, but that doesn’t seem to be the idea.

Altering my countenance, therefore, in a moment, from its bepuffed and distorted appearance, to an expression of arch and coquettish benignity, I gave my lady a pat on the one cheek, and a kiss on the other, and without saying one syllable, (Furies! I could not), left her astonished at my drollery, as I pirouetted out of the room in a Pas de Zéphyr.

Lackobreath is not dead because he can no longer breathe.  In fact he starts an intense search for his breath just as though it were his handkerchief or a watch that had gone missing.

Long and earnestly did I continue the investigation: but the contemptible reward of my industry and perseverance proved to be only a set of false teeth, two pair of hips, an eye, and a bundle of billets-doux from Mr. Windenough to my wife.

He can’t speak except a very deep rumble and so he studies a play with a character in it who always speaks in a deep rumble and uses lines from that play to cover up the fact he cannot otherwise talk.  Once he’s done this he essentially runs away, but is sat upon in the carriage by a huge man and cannot move when the carriage stops.   As he has no breath, they determine he is dead.    It just gets odder from there.   Or perhaps I should say maintains its pitch of oddity until the end.   I am astonished it got published back then and I wonder what people made of it.



In other news, I have started The Woman in White and am enjoying it very much.  I am glad to finally be reading it, but I think it is longer than my Kindle indicates.  Kindle says 449 pages and the paperbacks I look at say 640-720 pages.   I realize a page varies considerably based on typesize, it’s not a proper length at all, but for someone who reads slowly putting more words on each ‘page’ is just plain mean.  In other words, it’s slow-going.   But Collins was a lively writer and so far it’s very entertaining.  Enjoying friends’ visits, but glad to be alone again.   She has fights with her husband occasionally, but doesn’t report what about.  I enjoy reading diaries, but I think there is such a dichotomy between Woolf’s inner person and outer that I don’t know her at all from reading it.


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