Short Story Review: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart was first published in 1843 and is a short story by the American writer Edgar Allen Poe. It was then subsequently published as part of Poe’s Book – Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

The story is told by an unnamed narrator that tries to convince the reader that he is not mad but provoked and haunted by the ‘evil’ eye of the old man, taunted almost, and to rid himself of the eye, he must murder the old man that he loved very much. It follows him as he walks us through his calculated and cunning plan to commit the murder, all while declaring his sanity.

What I really like about Poe’s works, is that you can expect his narrators to be unreliable, making the reader unable to really know whether to trust him or not. In this case, the narrator is trying to mask his true intentions and feelings by his attempt to prove his sanity by exercising dissimulation. What’s to say he isn’t using dissimulation on us too?

What I think is both a strength and weakness of The Tell-Tale Heart is Poe’s style of writing, it can be quite maddening, with his short sentences leave me with questions as to the meaning, and his longer sentences are precisely worded and descriptive. It is so carefully worded, which highlights Poe’s exquisite talent as a writer, that it highlights the angle of the narrator’s chaotic mind.

I really like Poe’s work, and I have a copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination. What I will take forth with me from this piece was his narrators’ deception and use of dissimulation, I like that the reader doesn’t know whether to trust what he says as truth or not.

Poe, E.A. (1843). The tell-tale heart. Retrieved from

https://www.poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart

Deadly Bedfellow (A Short Fiction written from the POV of a snake)

As the earth starts to cool, and darkness falls across the veld, I make my way out from my
hidey-hole. The heat to hot and the cold too cold. It is in the shadows of summer night’s that is my place of delight. Along the dry, blades of grass, I go at fair pace. A great mountain ahead, with holes plenty. Vibrations felt across the earth, I follow with eager.

From memory before my slumber, a number of prey were at my pickings. Caged, unable to escape, just room for me to enter and eat.

Into the mountain I go. Beneath the bristles, a gap just my size. Undetected in the
pitch black. On my stomach I slide along the smooth, cool surface. From side to side I cast
my eyes. Not a single rodent does scurry; no fluffy big one, nor a predator in sight. Without a sound, silent, and deadly in the night, I slide on.

Weaving around and beneath strange rocks, a sudden vibration stops me in my tracks. My eyes dart from side to side, and under on large mound I hide. A large predatory creature walks past. Not a hiss I did sound, but as my tongue flickered out and retracted just as fast my mind registers the molecules of a scent. Picked up by my tines, it is sweet, familiar, delicious. I flick my tongue back out to confirm and in less than a second, I am sure. It is not in the direction of the animal that just past. I wait curled in defence hoping to remain undetected. It has been months of torpor, and now that I’ve rested, it was time to rise.

Sidewinding, flicking my tongue, eyes honed, I follow the aroma. Rounding the
corner, I twist and bend and with a twinge of glee, my hunger may come to an end. In sight,
some small animal, but bigger than me. Confused for a moment, I paused, for this smells like those prey that were once cooped around here. Such delicacy, my tummy grumbles. My mind does not wish to reason as to why this one looks different. Smells like food, must be food. Focused with eyes opened wide, raising my head, stealthily I wriggle closer.

Round and round I turn; up and up I go. My salivary glands tap into the alveoli, where my stored reserves are kept. So potent is that first strike, after such rested inactivity, it will only take one bite. Head weaving from side to side, trying to decide where I shall strike. Inch by inch, sneaking closer, now a mere metre. It twitches as it sleeps so unaware.

Near it heads the scent is stronger. Perhaps this end is tastier. My stomach growls at me to hurry up already, such predatory impatience. There is no rush, this animal will not run or fight.

Rising. Head upright, back arched straight, no need for my beautiful hood. Such a shame I won’t get to flan it. With clear concise, my eyes narrowed. I lunge forward, striking hard, my fangs sink in with a ripping sound. I retract and pull back as the animal jumps, but not to their feet. I strike again and again, my weapon released. The animal’s makes a loud noise, the vibrations are strong, and jumps over top of me. Before I can strike again, they run out of sight.

My stomach rumbles in defeat, no meal for me, but a small satisfaction as my work
cannot be undone. I scorn myself with grim dismay, one shot, blown. The animal’s blood
lingers in my mouth, my tines detecting its mistake. This was not like the prey I once fed on here, no, it was different, not so sweet. How could I have been so wrong? But there was no
time to wallow in defeat. Vibrations thudded across the land.

Down I slid, not bothering to wind or zigzag. Along the cool, smooth floor I go, and through the gap of bristles that scratch. A large predator vibrating near my back. I hurry into the shadows, not slowing, not one bit. No trepidation felt, just a will to live and eat.

Any lingering warmth from the day’s warmth long gone, I slide between the blades. I raise my head to check my eyes are not wrong. Another mountain, full of holes. I do not dare
enter this one. I am not designed to strike every probable food that crosses my path. One meal is all I need for now. Large prey is not ideal. If attacked that is different, my predatory instincts take over and rather than end up dead, it is a fight to the death and with my toxin, it wouldn’t be mine. That was the one resolve I found comfort in. It had seen me right in all my years, even as a young, smaller, version of myself, my fight had be wicked and my bite fatal. Sure I had scars, but then who didn’t. Even the best fighter at the top of the predatory chain had to have some.

It’s on to the next house where the same fate awaits, but this time, let’s hope the animal does not wake.

Short Story Review: Arrangement in Black and White by Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is an American short-story writer and poet and became one of the greatest humourists of her generation. Arrangement in Black and White was published in 1927.

This short story follows the story of the main character – a woman, and her dialogue with the host of the party, and an African-American musician. The dialogue between the characters is how the author helps reveal the woman’s character as she socialises at a predominately white party. It raises the issue of racial discrimination that African-American people suffered in the first half of the twentieth century in America.

I think this short story is brilliant, and its use of dialogue to show the undertones of the self-appointed racial superiority is brilliant. It is what is meant by her twisted words that is more revealing than her waffling on contradicting herself every few sentences. I like how the author lets the woman talk way too much, and through conversation her gossipy and white judgemental side is apparent, allowing for the realism of racism between whites and coloured people to shine through. It is a clever use of words and tone that helps sets this story.

What I didn’t like about this story, to be honest, was the main character. I just wanted to tell her to shut up, so it was humorous to me that she sabotaged herself.

This was one of my favourites to review because I learnt that allowing a character to unapologetically be themselves, and not holding their tongue, it makes for a rather wicked way of telling a story and shows the readers her true nature and story by her actions and dialogue. Parker, D. (1927). Arrangement in black and white. New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1927/10/08/arrangement-in-black-and-white

Flash Fiction Exercise: Wildest Dream Phone Call

Outside, grey blankets overhead act as a net, but one without holes, preventing the rain from falling any longer. A tree that stands crooked outside the window, groans. A glistening cobweb, decorated with caught raindrops, and the busy red-striped, black spider, with legs spindlier than knitting needles, plucks at the reforming of broken strings. Trees shadowing the window mirror upside down in the puddles. The residual drip drops of lingering catchment hit the puddles, causing them to ripple in circular waves. My old ticker clocks into rapid action at the erupting noise from my phone on the coffee table beside my old, tangerine armchair. Walking as urgent as I can with a bad hip, I answer the incoming call. “Hello.”
“Hello, is this Mr. Forrester?” a male voice asks.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“This is Doctor Nobi up at Taupo Hospital.”
“Ah, right. Is everything alright with Daisy?” I ask.
“Yes, yes, your wife’s episode was only minor. In fact, you can pick her up this afternoon, around three.”
I drop to my knees. My heart explodes as a wave of relief and happiness fills me. Tears roll down my cheek.
My wife, my Daisy is coming home.

Flash Fiction Exercise: Stuck on an Island – Day 52 Diary Entry

Day 52
The flames from the fire have begun to dwindle for yet another night. It’s a romantic notion. Penning my deepest thoughts by candlelight of sorts. The gentle caress of the ocean lapping at the shore, like a lullaby gentling me to slumber.
The stars dazzle like twinkling diamonds. I can’t help but stare. Only a quarter moon tonight.
The sand beneath me is cool. It’s the only place to sit where the large green ants won’t attack and bite me. Little buggers.
There is no breeze. No rustling in the tree canopy. No haunting whistles of wind whipping through the forest. Every footfall of wild animals draws my attention. I never know if one will become curious enough to approach me.
I heard them again today. The voices. Carried along the with wind as whispers. The island
isn’t inhabited but I still won’t step foot in the caves at the base of the waterfall.
I must head inland tomorrow to retrieve fresh water again. It’s a tedious trek, back and
forth, carrying small amounts in my makeshift bucket.
Oh, and my lips cracked again today and bled. The residual salt from the ocean spray made
them sting

The Man in the Painting

Available in English, Korean, and Chinese.

Life as Gabrielle knew it is no more. Thrust into a world she never knew existed, she is captivated by the face of a man in an animated painting. Then she finds herself being hunted, and the more she learns, the more her life is in danger. She is protected by a powerful immortal, but is it more than just protection? Could the man in the painting be her destiny? Only time will tell who will be able to save her. Enjoy the first episode of The Man in the Painting Series.

English version available on Amazon Kindle and Apple Books (iTunes).

Korean version available on Google Play Bookstore and Apple Books (iTunes).

Chinese version available on Google Play Bookstore.

Short Story Review: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

O. Henry is the pen name for the American short story writer, William Sydney Porter, who was born in 1862.  His stories are well known for their surprise endings. This short story was originally published n Dec 10, 905 in The New York Sunday World, and was subsequently published in O. Henry’s 1906 short story collection The Four Million.

It falls into the genre of fictional short story as well as the sub-genre of dramatic irony.

Jim and Della Dillingham are a poor, young married couple who don’t have enough money to buy Christmas presents for each other. Both sell their prized possessions to pay for a gift for the other at Christmas time.

I like how O. Henry uses similes throughout the short story like when he compares Della’s hair to ‘rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters’. He does the same when he describes Jim as well, ‘as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail’. While some use of the language is hard to grasp understanding, I am sure for the places and time period it was written, it made perfect sense.

I liked how the reader learns a secret that the main characters are unaware of yet, it creates a unique personability towards the story, as a reader, I just wanted to tell them. I will be reading more of his works as to see how his famous pattern of surprise endings are worded and use that to help my own surprise endings.

Henry, O. (1906). The gift of the magi. Retrieved from https://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/GifMag.shtml

Flash Fiction Review: Chapter V – by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway sets the scene immediately with the first sentence being direct and descriptive – it sets the initial tone and feeling of the story. He then continues with four short sentences to really convey a sense of setting and the mood: “It was a glum day, dead leaves, puddles and rain, windows nailed shut, it’s all reiterating the feeling of gloom and despair.” – there is a coldness, lack of empathy or emotion.

For the flash fiction it has not been over described but rather exactly described without using too many words. I found that reading this it is clear that Hemingway wanted to convey a sense of gloom for the reader and focuses it around that. I feel a slight lift in the mood part way through, but that reaffirms the setting as described.  

Referencing:

Hemingway, E. (1925). Chapter V, in our time. Retrieved from https://biblioklept.org/2012/08/12/chapter-v-in-our-time-ernest-hemingway/

The Man in the Painting

Available in English, Korean, and Chinese.

Life as Gabrielle knew it is no more. Thrust into a world she never knew existed, she is captivated by the face of a man in an animated painting. Then she finds herself being hunted, and the more she learns, the more her life is in danger. She is protected by a powerful immortal, but is it more than just protection? Could the man in the painting be her destiny? Only time will tell who will be able to save her. Enjoy the first episode of The Man in the Painting Series.

English version available on Amazon Kindle and Apple Books (iTunes).

Korean version available on Google Play Bookstore and Apple Books (iTunes).

Chinese version available on Google Play Bookstore.

Short Story Review: The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen

The Little Match Girl, also known as, The Little Matchstick Girl was published by Hans Christen Andersen in 1845, and it is a testament to his broad literary talent and ability. It is one of the most beautiful and saddest stories about loneliness and the magic of memories.

The story features Isabella, who is a poor, sick Danish girl who has left home and is alone in the dark, cold alley on New Year’s Eve. She is afraid to go home because her father will beat her for not selling matches. In attempt to keep warm she lights the matches and sees comforting visions. Isabella looks to the sky and sees a shooting star, a premonition that someone is dying and going to heaven, according to her dead grandmother.

While I could say that it falls into the genre of fairy tales because of the use of an urchin which steals her slipper, it is a short story that shares some of the fairy tale characteristics.

What I liked about this was his use of contrasting themes, and how he balanced them, for example on one hand you have loneliness, cold, dark, hunger, which are contrasted with comfort, light, warmth, and heaven. It brings an ideal of acception versus rejection as an undertone.

I learnt how he invoked empathy for the girl, and how he balanced her miserable life in contrast with her belief in the hope of heaven. How her death, despite being sad, is better in a way, because she is carried away to a place where there is no more cold, hunger, or fear.

Andersen, H.C. (1845). The little match girl. Retrieved from http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/vaerkhersholt/TheLittleMatchGirl_e.html