Sunday, May 23, 2010

Three Shots by Ernest Hemingway

Nick Adams realizes his mortality when singing a hymn in church. While camping with his uncle and father, he is left alone and told to fire three shots if he feels threatened. Alone in a tent and afraid of the dark, Nick sticks his gun out and fires three shots, causing his father and uncle to return from their fishing prematurely.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Devil Takes a Wife by Niccolo Machiavelli

The princes of Hell plan to send Belfagor, an archdevil to earth to find why all men state women as the cause of their damnation. Belfagor takes the human name Roderigo and weds Onesta, who he actually falls in love with. But his wife brings misfortunes and dept and Roderigo is chased from town by a mob, only to be saved by Gianmatteo, who Roderigo promises great riches. Roderigo says he will possess a woman and Gianmatteo will pretend to exorcise her. Gianmatteo learns of a girl possessed and exorcises Roderigo from her, but Roderigo says that the payment will not make him rich enough, so he possess the daughter of King Charles. Gianmatteo is called upon to take the demon from the daughter of King Charles. He leans over to whisper in her hear and tells Roderigo to leave. Roderigo agrees, but says he is no longer bound to Gianmatteo and for him to stay out of his way from now on. Gianmatteo is rewarded and before long he is called upon to help the daughter of the King of France, who shows signs of being possessed. Gianmatteo reluctantly goes to perform the exorcism. Roderigo is stubborn and will not leave the girl and Gianmatteo tells the King that he will try one last ceremony on Sunday. That Sunday, crowds, the clergy, and instrumentalist gather in the town with the possessed girl high on a scaffold above them. Gianmatteo asks for Roderigo to leave one last time and Roderigo mocks him. Gianmatteo cues the band to play and Roderigo asks what the horrible sound is. Gianmatteo tells him it is his wife, coming to fetch him back. Roderigo panics and flees at the mention of his wife and returns to Hell to report the “troubles, humiliations, and hazards of the matrimonial yoke.”

Crafty story. Satire that doesn’t lose a inch of cleverness throughout thousands of years.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Horn of Time the Hunter by Poul Anderson

A science fiction story that follows Jong Errifrans and others as they search the remains of a lost civilization on a strange and haunting world. Jong sometimes hears a horn blow in the distance that may or may not be real. When a man from the search party is killed and drug into the water by strange beings, Jong decides to go in after his body to give him a proper burial. Jong runs into on of the creatures in the water and has a strange, yet peaceful encounter with it. The creature hands Jong its trident and swims off. He finds what remains of Mons, his dead comrade, and returns to the surface. The others find that all that Jong has retrieved was Mons’ head; the creatures have eaten the rest. When the men determine to go after the creatures to kill them, Jong talks them out of it, saying he feels like their brother. He thinks the creatures have evolved from the human civilization and were only protected their breeding grounds. They turn and head back to base; Jong thinks he hears the horn sound for a brief moment.

Interesting Sci-fi tale. Haunting and thought provoking.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Killers by Ernest Hemingway

Two men, Al and Max, dressed in trench coats and derby hats enter Henry’s Diner and sit at the counter. They banter back and forth in vaudeville style with the owner, George, as the young Nick Adams wipes the counter. The two gangsters talk down to George, Nick, and the black cook, Sam, and eventually tie Sam and Nick up in the back. Max reveals that they are there to kill Ole Anderson, a Swedish ex-boxer. They wait, and Ole never shows, so Al and Max leave. George unties Nick and Sam. Nick runs to Ole’s room at the boarding house to warn him. He finds Ole in bed, fully dressed, staring at the. Nick tells him about the gangsters, and Ole has little reaction. He has accepted his fate and tells Nick he just can’t bring himself to go outside. Nick returns to the diner and says he is going to leave town. He can’t stand the thought of someone just sitting there waiting to die.

One of my favorite short stories of all-time. Masterfully told in Hemingway’s simplistic, dialogue-heavy style. Flawless infusion of funny and suspense-filled conversation. Fantastic character arc with a no-nonsense ending. Love it.

Adapted into two feature length films.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Episode of War by Stephen Crane

An Army lieutenant divides coffee amongst his troops when he is shot in the arm. He walks through the camp as sympathetic soldiers stare at him. One soldier dresses the wound with a handkerchief. The doctor promises him he will not have to amputate the arm. The story concludes as the soldier returns home and his family is shocked by his flat sleeve.

Sad and touching. Wonderfully tragic account of the Civil War by Crane.

Hail to the Chief by Ray Bradbury

A government official is awoken in the middle of the night and told that thirteen senators have lost the entire U.S. at the Pocahontas Big Red Indian Casino to Chief Iron Cloud. The President of the United States arrives at the casino and scolds the senators. Chief Iron Cloud enters the room and through an interpreter offers the President one last game of chance to win back the U.S. His terms: Lose, Iron Cloud keeps the U.S. and the President must build casinos, schools, and colleges in all fifty states throughout the Indian Territories. Win, and the president gets back the states, but must still build on the Territories. They play blackjack and the President wins, although he never sees the Chief’s cards. The Chief asks for $26.97 for Manhattan and tells the President that he hopes he will build many ships for his journey to wherever he came from. When the President says that we are not going anywhere, the Chief replies, “Oh no?” The President and his senators sneak out, tales between their legs.

Great satire. I love this story. Smart, funny, and piercing critique of the harsh treatment of Native Americans. Expertly titled as well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Icarus Montgolfier Wright by Ray Bradbury

This is a story about the first man to fly a rocket ship. He figuratively gives up his real name (Jedediah Prentiss) for the name Icarus Montgolfier Wright. Icarus is a character in Greek mythology known for his attempt to escape Crete by flight. The Montgolfier brothers were the inventors of the montgolfière style hot air balloon. And we all know the Wright Brothers contribution to flight. The story concerns his dreaming of, and preparation for the first rocket flight in history.

Tough read if you don’t know the history, but made me go and fetch it. Thanks Ray.

Adapted into a short animated film in 1962. Nominated for an Oscar. Recently restored.

The Trolley by Ray Bradbury

This story is about a Trolley's last ride in a small town. Mr. Tridden gives all of the children, including Charlie and Douglas, one last free ride out to the country for a picnic. After a fun day, Tridden tells the children it is time to go home. He drops them off and Charlie and Douglas are saddened by the fact that the trolley will be replaced by the more “efficient” bus. They decide to play kick the can after supper.

Another great ode to the past by Bradbury. Touches upon one of his favorite themes: the fear of progressiveness that will take away the ability to love the little things, the nostalgic things, and the innocent things.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed by Ray Bradbury

The Bittering family lands on Mars. Earth is being ravaged by war and soon they get word that all the rockets on earth are destroyed. They are stuck there forever. Soon the Bitterings and the rest of the inhabitants notice changes. They are getting thinner, taller, darkened skin, and yellowish eyes. Mr. Bittering’s family begins to use Martian words and don Martian names. He attempts to build a rocket to return to earth, but soon gives it up. The inhabitants of the small town all decide to move amongst the old Martian villas and leave the humanized town. Five years later, a rocket arrives from earth. They are surprised to find no humans, only dark, golden-eyed Martians that live amongst the villas.

Fantastic sci-fi story. Subtly creepy.

Adapted into a radio drama for The Twilight Zone Radio.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Flying Machine by Ray Bradbury

The story takes place in 400 A.D. where the Emperor Yuan rules near the Great Wall of China. When a servant tells Yuan that a man has invented a “flying machine,” he goes to see it for himself. Sure enough, from atop a hill, the emperor and servant observe a man flying in a machine made of paper and bamboo. Yuan asks the flier to come down and speak with him. He then orders that the machine be destroyed and the flier executed. Yuan explains that it is not necessarily the flier who he fears but another man that will have evil in his heart and will drop huge stones on the Great Wall. The emperor concludes by saying “What is the life of one man against those of a million others. I must take solace from that thought.”

Deep story. Thought provoking. Good tale. Not your average Bradbury yarn.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Smile by Ray Bradbury

A line of people forms in the town square of a future dystopian society for a chance to spit on an old painting. Young Tom waits in line listening to the elders. When his time comes, Tom can not bring himself to spit on the painting because he finds the woman beautiful. He asks a man the name of the painting and the man tells him it is the Mona Lisa. The law announces that the painting is to be turned over to the citizens and destroyed, so the crowd begins to rip the painting to shreds, much to Tom’s horror. He tries to grab at the painting but only rips off a portion of the canvas. He runs home and is scolded by his mother and father. He goes to bed and while lying there looks at the portion of the canvas he holds in his palm: the Smile.

Good story. Great tribute to art.

The Million-Year Picnic by Ray Bradbury

A sci-fi story about a family vacationing on Mars. Eventually the father reveals that they are not just vacationing, but there to colonize Mars because earth is war-torn and uncivilized. The children ask all day to see the Martians, so finally, at the end of the story, the father takes them to see. The family walks down to the canal and looks at their reflections in the water.

Imaginative and touching. Smart, yet piercing in its implications.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar! (Come into My Cellar) by Ray Bradbury

Fortnum believes that the mushrooms his son is growing in the cellar may be part of a well strategized invasion by intelligent beings that infiltrate earth through bacteria that grows into mushrooms. Humans who consume the mushrooms are taken over by the Martians. Fortnum’s own son has eaten some and planted a plate of the mushrooms in the refrigerator to be consumed by mom and dad.

Great original Martian story. Bradbury is always finding clever ways to make his reader uneasy or chill them to the bone. Clever and imaginative; Taunt and suspenseful.

Ray Bradbury Theater

Monday, March 29, 2010

Invisible Boy by Ray Bradbury

Charlie befriends Old Lady while his parents are away. With the prospect of Charlie leaving her, Old Lady convinces him that she has turned him invisible, so he can not return home. Angry, Charlie plays tricks on her so that she can not call her own bluff. Finally, Old Lady gives in and convinces Charlie he is visible again. He returns home, and the story ends with Old Lady and the truly "invisible" Charlie, together, in her mind.

Touching, heartfelt, and comical. Fun read.

The story was adapted into a play.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Time in Thy Flight by Ray Bradbury

Students from the future take a field trip through time to 1928. It is apparent they are from a very strict society where they work and are forced to grow up much too quickly. Mr. Fields tries to conjure disgust in his students at the barbaric circus, the moronic Fourth of July celebration, and the horrible Halloween rituals. Janet decides she wants to be apart of this world and runs off with Robert. The story ends with Mr. Fields threatening to fail those children remaining behind, but they don’t hear because they are being served warm cider inside.

Classic Bradbury theme: fear of the loss of childlike innocence. Good story.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Man by Ray Bradbury

A captain of a rocket from earth becomes irate when he finds that his arrival on a new planet has been upstaged by a man who is described as a prophet who visited a day earlier. Rocket-man Martin believes the townspeople are telling the truth, which makes the captain angrier, and insist that it is a joke being played on the town by a fellow rocket captain. When the other rockets arrive, damaged, and captains dead, the captain begins to believe that Christ may have visited the planet. He threatens the townspeople to give up the prophet, whom they say has moved on. The captain sets out to find the prophet on another planet, hoping to catch up to Him some day. Martin stays behind, watches the rocket leave, and is then told by the Mayor that he will now be allowed to go see the prophet, who remains on the planet.

Touching. Another thoughtful, soul-searching sci-fi tale from Bradbury.

Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury

Mink’s mother discusses blissfully Mink’s new game “alien invasion” she is playing with the other neighborhood children. When “zero hour” comes, Mother realizes what sounded like a harmless and imaginative children’s game is a real invasion by aliens from another dimension who befriend earth children to get information. For mother and father hiding in the attic, the realization comes too late…

Starts off with childlike bliss and ends creepier than you could ever imagine. Great story.


Radio Drama

Ray Bradbury Theater (TV)

Pillar of Fire by Ray Bradbury

William Lantry emerges from his grave in the year 2349. He finds a utopian society where crime, murder, and fear doesn’t exhist. On top of that, all forms of horror literature have been lost. Corpses are burnt in incinerators instead of buried. Lantry launches a vendetta to destroy the incinerators, murder, and bring fear back to the world. After killing many, he is found out, and taken to the incinerator to be burnt, reciting lines from Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.

Classic Bradbury! Terrifying, smart, and heartfelt. Great tribute to Poe and other writers who obviously influenced Bradbury in a great way.

Chrysalis by Ray Bradbury

Scientists anxiously watch over their fellow scientist, Smith, who is enclosed in a mysterious green chrysalis. Rockwell hypothesizes that Smith is undergoing a metamorphosis and will emerge a superhuman. Hartley is doubtful and wants to destroy the cocoon. Finally, Smith emerges without any superpowers, much to the chagrin of Rockwell. Disappointed the scientists disperse. Alone, on the top of a hill, Smith flies away towards the stars.

Mysterious, imaginative, and surprising. Ending really pays off.

Made into a movie in 2008: Chrysalis Movie