Short Stuff


I just read a post by 101 Books about the epigraph in The Great Gatsby, in which Fitzgerald quotes himself. Robert Bruce says, “Such an awesome opener. And, yet, it’s fake.” And I thought to myself, just like Gatsby. He is undoubtedly a fascinating character, but Gatsby is a persona that Gatz assumes.

Fitzgerald continues to blow my mind. I have been reading lots of his short stories and am constantly amazed by him. As Julio Cortázar puts it, short stories have to be a “knockout.” They have to get to the point immediately because there simply isn’t the space that there is in a novel to develop the characters and the plot.

Cortázar’s own “La Noche Boca Arriba,” (which I actually read in Spanish, which was cool), is about six pages. It is possibly the most mind-boggling thing that I have ever read (click the link to the english translation!). I had to take a test on it for spanish class, and so had a lot of time to analyze it. It was on my mind pretty constantly for a couple of days, and I am still thinking about it. First, you should read the story. *SPOILERS* So, the story starts out when a man gets into a motorcycle accident and ends up in the hospital with a fever. While there, he has a dream that he is being hunted by the Aztecs to be a sacrifice. He flits between reality and the dream until he realizes that the Aztec world is his reality and the hospital is a dream. His inability to distinguish between the two is haunting me. Was his reality really the hospital and he dies and the Aztec world becomes his reality? How can he dream about the future? Is it really just that he didn’t know he was dreaming? Is the hospital his reality and then he somehow makes the Aztec world into his reality? What if both scenarios were dreams? (Whovians–“Amy’s Choice”…) I don’t know. I have been thinking about this for a week. It really just tells us that we can’t really be sure of what is real and what isn’t. What if we are all in a dream right now? I don’t know. But look what Cortázar has done to me! He has made me think, he has left a huge impression upon me.

The same thing has happened with Salinger’s story “Just Before the War with the Eskimos.” The last sentence blew my mind completely. Salinger tends to have a good right hook at the end. But, getting back to Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald tends to slowly build the impact throughout. Let’s just say that my puzzler is puzzled and will be as long as I am reading short stories…

write, read and puzzle on.


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