Mondays with Mike: Long story short

February 17, 2014 • Posted in Beth Finke, guest blog, Mike Knezovich, Uncategorized, writing by

Beth’s a voracious reader of fiction…me, not so much. Some of it is lack of patience—I tend toward small non-fiction bites—newspapers, magazines, essays and the like. Novels are an investment of time that I’m rarely willing to make. Which may be why short stories comprise a lot of the small body of fiction I have read.

I am awed by the best short stories—a great short is a concentrated, perfectly executed and polished gem. Beth’s written about one of our favorite writers (and a great friend) Jean Thompson. And I can’t recommend her enough—if you were looking for a short story starting point, try “Who Do You Love.” (BTW, Jean’s a terrific novelist, too.)

In the same stratosphere, in my humble opinion, is Richard Ford, who turned 70 years old yesterday. (I know this thanks to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.)

A great collection of short stories.

A great collection of short stories.

Ford has won a Pulitzer for “Independence Day“, one of his three novels that follow a character named Frank Bascombe. I’ve liked all three of them, and loved his most recent novel—”Canada“—but am partial to his short stories. If you want a taste, I’d recommend “A Multitude of Sins” as a starting point.

I could go on about Ford, but I’ll save the effort and save you the trouble and just give you a taste. This passage is from “Calling,” one of Ford’s shorts from “A multitude of Sins” about a man’s complicated relationship with his complicated father. Thanks to Beth, who has a knack for finding the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts–it hangs on our living room wall. She bought the framed, signed passage from “Calling” at  the Faulkner House book store in the French Quarter. Ford lived in the Quarter part-time years back, and was friends with the store owners. He signed it after a reading at the store back in 2002.

Bad photo doesn't do it justice, but this is one of the best gifts ever.

Bad photo doesn’t do it justice, but this is one of the best gifts ever.

When I get wound up with anger and resentment, as those of you who’ve followed my posts know I am wont to do, I try to remember to read this before reaching a popping point. (I don’t always remember, but I try.) Anyway, here it is:

Like my father, I am a lawyer. And the law is a calling which teaches you that most of life is about adjustments, the seatings and re-seatings we perform to accommodate events outside our control and over which we might not have sought control in the first place. So that when we are tempted, as I was for an instant in the duck blind, or as I was through all those thirty years, to let myself become preoccupied and angry with my father, or when I even see a man who reminds me of him, stepping into some building in a seersucker suit and a bright bow tie, I try to realize again that it is best to just offer myself release and to realize I am feeling anger all alone, and that there is no redress. We want it. Life can be seen to be about almost nothing else sometimes than our wish for redress. As a lawyer who was the son of a lawyer and the grandson of another. I know this. And I also know not to expect it.

Jean Thompson On February 17, 2014 at 7:27 am

Thanks for the day brightened, loyal readers! And Happy Birthday to Mr. Ford.

mknezo2014 On February 17, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Jean, when the snow clears, let’s get together. See you in August or so.

glivingston On February 17, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Loved Ford’s Canada, and that quote on relationships with fathers is so apt. I will check out the short stories. But given the approach of women’s history month, I must also give a shout out to a female short story author: Edith Perlman. Here’s what the NYT had to say:

Why in the world had I never heard of Edith Pearlman? And why, if you hadn’t, hadn’t you? It certainly isn’t the fault of her writing, which is intelligent, perceptive, funny and quite beautiful, as demonstrated in “Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories.”

mknezo2014 On February 17, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for the recommendation Gretchen.

james On February 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm

> On February 17, 2014 at 7:18 AM Safe & Sound blog

Linda Miller On February 20, 2014 at 9:57 am

Hooray for short stories and great recommendations!

karatbars 12 week plan On August 31, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this web site needs a lot
more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the info!

Modesto On October 4, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures
on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if
its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

ดูดไขมันต้นขา On December 19, 2014 at 12:15 pm

My family always say that I am killing my time
here at net, except I know I am getting experience everyday by reading thes
good articles.

She poured out her heart | Safe & Sound blog On June 17, 2016 at 9:56 am

[…] herself to me decades ago from the barstool next to mine at Champaign’s Esquire Lounge to the one Mike wrote after Who Do You Love? (One of her collections of short stories) was nominated for a National Book […]

Leave a Response