Short Story Of The Month: Cat in the Rain

Welcome to the eighth short story of the month!

Books, cats, rain, and a steaming hot cup of tea are a few of my favourite things.

Come July, it is also Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. It falls on 21st July and one of his short stories beautifully combines two of my favourite things: rain and cats.

Cat in the Rain is a perfect, short read for a rainy day.

What is the story about?

Oh where do I even begin summarising this story? Hemingway’s use of the iceberg theory is well known and perhaps the most widely taught writing theory in creative writing classes.  So, it is hard to summarise or pin point what any of Hemingway’s story is about since there can be infinite interpretations.  Layers and layers are stitched together in all his stories’ clipped and succinct sentences.

But essentially the story is about an American couple staying in a hotel somewhere in Italy. One day, it begins to rain and the wife, who is simply known as ‘American wife’ spots a cat trying to hide from the rain under a green table.

The woman is then seized with a sudden need to save the cat and also own one. She expresses her desire to get a kitty so that she can have one sitting on her lap purring while she strokes its fur.
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Short Story of the Month: Lavanya and Deepika

Welcome to the seventh short story of the month!

June is Global Pride Month. In 2020, owing to social distancing norms in place across the world, Pride month will be a little different. It will be less parade, and more virtual. Several initiatives have taken up this challenge and tried to create solidarity through various means. 

At The Book Cafe, the short story, Lavanya and Deepika, in focus also has a portrayal of queer characters along with many cool twists!

What is the story about? 

Lavanya and Deepika is written by Shveta Thakrar. It is about the two titular princesses living in a fairy tale kingdom, with their mother, Gulabi.

Their kingdom is attacked and the two princesses must fight to save it. They join forces and their strength: Deepika’s skills with archery and embroidery and Lavanya’s with her spears.

Analysis

The story, like many of Shveta’s other YA writing, has a fairy tale atmosphere. But it has an Indian touch rather than a Grimms’ fairy tale touch.

The story also rejects all kinds of fairy tale conventions such as the damsel in distress trope, beauty as being fair or women characters being witches. It shows sisterly love and bonding between the two protagonists unlike conventional fairy tales that depict the female characters as only scheming against each other. The story portrays that femininity and strength can go together like Deepika’s two skills of embroidery and archery. It also shows a Rani or queen, Gulabi, at the helm of her kingdom managing it with great skill and efficiency, with no need for a king whatsoever.
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Short Story of the Month: The Night We All Had Grippe

Welcome to the sixth Short Story of the Month

Lock down in certain parts of India is likely to continue, given that the numbers in a few cities and states are continuing their steady ascent.

For many people, this might beckon another frustrating period of being cooped up inside the the home, having to juggle many things in almost claustrophobic conditions.

Reading Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Night We All Had Grippe,” feels like our current cooped up situation is being reflected there.

Shirley Jackson is a well known American short story writer who is most famous for her dystopian short story, The Lottery.

What is the story about?

It is a non fiction story depicting her own struggles as a mother of three children. And on this particular day, the entire family has the grippe or the flu as it known today.

The story begins with the description of the family as one that is fond of puzzles. Then, comes the description of the house, the lie of the land so to say.

Following that is the members trying to adjust to each other being home and trying to sleep and trying to get by with the flu upon them.

Now imagine this for extended period of time? Scary right?

But there is indeed a puzzle for the reader to solve while navigating the story which is the fun aspect of the story.

Analysis

While the story does bring out the sense of suffocation one can feel by the packed descriptions in the story, one must also remember that this is also the state of mothers who are juggling work and home. Because this story was published in 1952, it depicts how in the post WWII era, and even today, women are forced to prioritise and have to find tiny spaces of time to squeeze in any other work they would want to do, like writing for instance.

Where to read it? 

The story is available at Library of America’s website. Click here to read the PDF. The PDF is only 6 pages long and is quite engaging and you get to try your hands at solving a puzzle, while reading it!


This is part of the series called, Short Story of the Month. Click here to find out more!

Short Story of the Month: Dilli Ki Sair by Rashid Jahan

Welcome to the fourth Short Story of the Month!

This is quite a late post! But, just in time to celebrate international women’s day. Me being my skeptical self am a little wary of celebrating such days where celebrating women is reduced to having ridiculous sales or discounts rather than having any constructive discussions on women empowerment or equality.

Leaving that aside, this short story of the month is all about smashing the male gaze. This month let us read, Rashid Jahan’s Dilli Ki Sair or A Trip to Delhi. It was written originally in Urdu around 1932.

What is the story about?

Dilli Ki Sair was published in the anthology, Angaarey. The story is about Malka Begum who had taken an adventurous trip from Faridabad to Delhi. In the story, she is recounting this adventure to her female friends.

Analysis

Today, travelling from Faridabad to Delhi is a daily routine for lakhs of people, including women. But back then when the story was penned it was in all probably a rarity for a woman to travel. In the story, she does not travel alone. She had traveled to Delhi with her husband but was left alone with the luggage at the large Delhi Railway Station while her husband went to pay a visit to the station master. It is then that Malka Begum talks about what she has seen. She talks about how the men react to her, the woman sitting alone on the station. This is painfully real even today. A woman sitting alone on train stations will be seen suspiciously and she will be eyed by countless men.

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Short Story of the Month: Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Welcome to the third Short Story of the Month!

The winters may be now saying their slow goodbye as they leave; leaving the air slightly chilly.

That kind of rosy, crisp coolness is what still makes you want to cosy up in a blanket or have a cuppa as you snuggle in your quilt.

Alice Walker’s short story, Everyday Use, would make for a beautiful read in this weather.

Yes, it is about quilts but that’s not that only thing that makes your heart feel warm. 

What is the story about?

The story is about two sisters, Maggie and Dee, who are very different from each other in their thoughts and physique. Nonetheless, they both value their family heirlooms and heritage. However, they value the same things for entirely different reasons. Dee comes to visit her mother and sister, Maggie, with her husband. It is then that she asks to take certain things such as the dasher and the churn top. She even asks for the quilts that were stitched by hand out of old scraps of her grandmother’s dresses. 

Dee’s mother however refuses to give her the quilts saying that she has promised them to Maggie.

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Short Story of the Month: The New Year’s Tree by Mikhail Zoshchenko

Welcome to the second Short Story of the Month!

It is a brand new year! 2020! Love the sound of it and it makes me think that something wonderful is going to happen to one and all this lovely year.

Since it is new year, the short story The Book Cafe is going to be reading is related to both Christmas and New Year. The short story is titled The New Year’s Tree by Mikhail Zoshchenko.

What is the short story about?

In The New Year’s Tree by Mikhail Zoshchenko, the protagonist, Minka, is recalling his first memory of the Christmas Tree or the New Year Tree (yolka) as it is known in the story. The story is set in the Soviet Union where it was forbidden to celebrate Christmas and hence this name was adopted. Minka speaks of a specific incident which had a long lasting impact on his behaviour.

He was five. He clearly remembers the New Year Tree and how it was then filled with presents and candies that Minka and his sister, Lyolya, were competing over. The presents and candies were meant to be given to other needy children as a gesture of kindness but childish quarreling of the siblings, children and the mothers led to the guests leaving until the father put an end to such ungracious behavior from his kids and decided to give the presents to the needy children as had been agreed upon before.

Analysis:

Since the story centres on a childhood memory, the tone has a touch of naivete and innocence while at the same time showing covetous behaviour among children. The sense of playfulness is clear in bickering over eating Christmas sweets between Minka and Lyolya. The story has a definite moral lesson about the benefits of being kind and sharing with others. Michka at the end states that it was because of that day 35 years ago that made him more considerate and selfless. He also attributes his happiness and good health to those characteristics as well. That lesson in itself is an important manifestation of the Christmas spirit and the joy of giving.

Where to read it?

The story is translated from Russian by Ross Ufberg and is part of the anthology, A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time.

You can read the short story here. Read and enjoy! I promise it will not take more than 15 minutes to read and in that 15 minutes you can relive the warmth and joyousness associated with Christmas and New Year.

 

Let us know in the comments below what you thought about the short story!

Happy Reading!


This is part of the series called, Short Story of the Month. Click here to find out more!

Short Story of the Month: Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

Welcome to the first Short Story of the Month!

This month we will look at the short story, Girl by Jamaica Kincaid!

What is the short story about?

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is so many things rolled in one, actually two pages. In essence, it is a bunch of instructions unloaded by a mother onto her daughter. The story begins with instructions on how to wash white clothes. They then talk about how the mother is teaching her skills such as sewing a button or growing okra. The instructions also cover a set of behaviours that a girl would be expected to follow such as how to eat and walk like a lady or even how to smile. We hear the daughter’s voice only twice. Once she is meekly contradicting her mothers assumption that she sings benna on Sunday and the second time, at the end, when she is posing a question to her mother.

Analysis:

Girl takes a good hard look at a mother and daughter relationship. There are a several specific references to Antiguan culture and as with Kincaid’s other work, critics have pointed out the autobiographical elements in this story too, yet the story does resonate with the idea of how mothers impose on their daughters the patriarchal expectations of society. Daughters thus grow up to be passive and unquestioning just as patriarchy would like them too!

It is also an indictment of mothers who perpetuate this cycle (in the story we do see how the mother carries assumptions that her daughter will surely become a slut). Yet at the same time, it also goes to show how the society traps mothers in this role of brainwashing their own daughters and by extension playing a major part in their dis-empowerment. Mothers know what society holds for their daughters when they grow up and they believe that the easiest way to fit in and be accepted into society is to follow their discriminatory norms. Thus, though the mother comes across as an overbearing figure in this story, one can also interpret the mother herself as a victim trapped in the vicious cycle of gender expectations. She does not know any other world and so passes on her own knowledge of how to be a woman to her own daughter.

Where to read it?

Find the short story here or here. Read and enjoy! I promise it will not take more than 15 minutes to read and process this short story.

Let us know in the comments below what you thought about the short story!

Happy Reading!


This is part of the series called, Short Story of the Month. Click here to find out more!

Short Story of the Month

Let’s face it, we have huge TBR piles and we are never able to resist buying more books!

“What! It is a sale, how can I miss it?”

“I can always make room for more books.”

“There is always space for books!”

“I can donate my older books!”

These are just some of the excuses we often make and justify our not putting a stop to buying books!

And let’s face the reality and admit that reading and buying books are completely different hobbies!

So one possible solution to reduce our constant buying of books is to READ ONLINE!

The best thing to read online are short stories.

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Let’s not add more to our TBR piles!

I personally do not prefer reading novels online (unless I absolutely must!) as I spend way too much time on the computer (or rather this godforsaken addictive smartphone) anyway! Reading my old fashioned paperback is one way I can detach from technology!

Short stories however are fun and short to read and give less strain to the eyes!

So we at The Book Cafe have decided to introduce you to a short story available online. It will be posted on the first of every month so that you get a whole month to read the short story!

The logic behind Short Story of the Month is three fold:

  1. To introduce you to newer writers.
  2. To make sure people do not think any less about short stories
  3. To help you read, even without shelling out tons of money and then stacking on your long TBR piles!

What say? Is it a deal?

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So come join us to read one short story per month online!

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for the short story reveal!


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