Weekly Short Stories

Each week The Literary Roadhouse podcast hosts deeply read and discuss one short story.

Constance’s Law – Bridget Hardy – Literary Roadhouse Ep 13

Next week’s story The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

There are few things as wonderful as discovering a fabulous new author. Who would have thought this weeks episode would turn into a love fest but Bridget Hardy charmed us all. Constance’s Law is a story with many themes as we explore a young woman’s life in a small town after a brutal assault, and the qualities of victimhood and survival. Join us as we discuss just what it was about Constance’s Law that works for all three of us.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami, 4.25 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate ‘Constance’s Law‘? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week we are reading The Veldt by Ray Bradbury.

Tony Takitani – Haruki Murakami – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 12

Next week’s story Constance’s Law by Bridget Hardy

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

This week both Gerald and Maya both found the story difficult to enjoy, while Anais loved the story enough to give it 5 Bradberries. Despite Kenechi’s absence due to exams, this weeks podcast prompted a great discussion about what it is that lets a reader to get close to a story. You can find the Author Spotlight for Haruki Murakami.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor, 3.75 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate ‘Tony Takitani‘? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week we are reading Constance’s Law by Bridget Hardy.

Author Spotlight: Haruki Murakami

Photo by Eamonn McCabe Photo by Eamonn McCabe

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Haruki Murakami, like his protagonists, is not drawn to crowds or fame. When asked by the Paris Review if he has any literary friends, he responded with “No, I don’t think so.” When pressed, he elaborated

I’m a loner. I don’t like groups, schools, literary circles. At Princeton, there was a luncheonette, or something like that, and I was invited to eat there. Joyce Carol Oates was there and Toni Morrison was there and I was so afraid, I couldn’t eat anything at all! […] I just want to have . . . distance.

Murakami’s preference for distance has left an impression on his writing, which features recurring themes of alienation and loneliness. His work is frequently melancholy, marked by fatalism, and tends to the surreal. His fiction is heavily influenced by Kafka, but it is not bereft of humor. Quite on the contrary, Murakami’s dry humor shines through the melancholia, in part due to his admiration of the American satirist Richard Brautigan.

In addition to Kafka and Brautigan, Murakami names Chandler, Vonnegut, Salinger, and Kerouac as early influencers, as well as Western classical and jazz music. His taste for Western culture falls out of step with his parents’ profession. He was born in 1949 to two professors of traditional Japanese literature.

Their love of both traditional culture and writing did not immediately pass down to their son. Murakami began writing fairly late, at the age of 29, but his appreciation of the arts was fostered early. He studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife Yoko whom he married at age 23. Although Murakami does not claim any writers in his social circle, he compares Yoko as the Zelda to his F. Scott Fitzgerald — his first reader, trusted advisor, and confidante.

By age 29 he was running a jazz club in Tokyo named Peter Cat, much like the protagonist of his later novel South of the Border, West of the Sun. According to an oft-repeated story, he was inspired to write his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing (1979) in 1978 while watching a baseball game in Jingu Stadium between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp.  When American Dave Hilton hit a double, Murakami suddenly realized that he could write a novel. He went home and began writing that night, and completed Hear the Wind Sing in ten months. He sent it off to the only literary contest that accepted a work of that length, the Gunzo Award, and, naturally, won Best First Novel.

Since then Murakami’s novels and short stories have won numerous awards. His most notable works include Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985) A Wild Sheep Chase (1982), Norwegian Wood (1987), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994-1995), Kafka on the Shore (2002), and 1Q84 (2009–2010).

Several of his works have been adapted for film or stage, including a 75 minute film adaptation of this week’s story “Tony Takitani”. The film played at various film festivals and was released in New York and Los Angeles on July 29, 2005.

As Murakami tells it, he was intrigued by the name Tony Takitani when at a garage sale in Hawaii he found a yellow T-shirt that said, “Tony Takitani, House (D).” At the time, Takitani was running for office. Murakami decided to write the man’s life story.

Early in his career, Murakami maintained a position of social detachment, refraining from commenting on social or political issues. But he credits a stay in the United States in 1991 as changing his position from one of detachment to commitment. His early books, he said, originated in an individual darkness, while his later works tap into the darkness found in society and history.

This shift is reflected in both his work and his public life. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995) is considered his first socially conscious book, dealing in part with war crimes committed by the Japanese in Manchuria. This is a topic which stays with Murakami to this day, as evidenced by his April 2015 call for Japan to apologize for the atrocities committed against China, Korea, and other countries during WWII.

His social consciousness extends beyond socio-political awareness to individual intimacy and care. In interviews, Murakami stresses the importance of being kind to his readers and serving their needs in his writing. In 2014 he launched an advice column where he personally answers fans questions about their everyday lives, from how to navigate sticky social situations to, of course, love.

Image taken from Mr. Murakami's Place. Image taken from Mr. Murakami’s Place.

“I can’t think of another writer alive today with the kind of intimacy he has with his readers — and he takes it very very seriously,” says Roland Kelts, a journalist who has previously written about Murakami for The New Yorker.

Although his advice column is written exclusively in Japanese, the Washington Post has written a piece with translated excerpts that capture the quaintness and sincerity well.

His commitment to people has made him a natural choice for Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015. Writing for Time, Yoko Ono states

He is a writer of great imagination and human sympathy, one who has enthralled millions of readers by building fictional worlds that are uniquely his. Murakami-san has a singular vision, as informed by pop culture as it is by deep channels of Japanese tradition.

A list of short stories by Murakami and published by the New York can be found here.

Everything That Rises Must Converge – Flannery O’Connor – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 11

Discussion Notes: Everything That Rises Must Converge

Next week’s story Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

I am glad we had Jocelyn Johnson as our first guest. The sound quality is lower than usual, but she was a wonderful guest and added a lot to the discussion. Jocelyn and Maya found the story well crafted with a few key places where something felt off. Gerald enjoyed it as well and we had an interesting exchange on Class in the US verses the UK. As usual, Kenechi did not disappoint with a strong divergence of opinion. I hope you enjoy the episode. You can find the Author Spotlight for Flannery O’Connor here.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World” by Gabriel García Márquez, 5.5 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge‘? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week we are reading be reading Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami. I hope you enjoy it!

Author Spotlight: Mary Flannery O’Connor

Between Mary Flannery O’Connor’s diagnosis with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in 1951 and her eventual death in 1964, Flannery O’Connor wrote more than two dozen short stories and two novels. Born on March 25th, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia (USA), she died on August 3rd, 1964 (aged 39) in Milledgeville, Georgia, from complications of the disease, which had also killed her father.

After a strange episode when she was a young girl, being featured on Pathé News for having a trained chicken that could walk backwards, she graduated from Peabody Laboratory School and Georgia State College for Women with a social sciences degree. Whilst she attended GSCW, she served as editor for the college literary magazine, The Corinthian, and contributed many cartoons and written pieces including essays, fiction and occasional poems.

She won a scholarship to the State University of Iowa to study journalism, but after one term she decided that journalism wasn’t for her, and asked to be transferred to the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop to study for a masters in Creative Writing.

Her style has been described as ‘Southern Gothic’, filled with black humour and her characters are often morally flawed. Despite being a devout Catholic, her stories often feature fundamental Protestants. The writing is underpinned by her characters’ struggle with human sinfulness and a desire for divine grace. She wrote: “Grace changes us and change is painful.”

She also weaves dark humour through her stories, often based on the disparity between her characters’ limited perceptions and the awesome fate awaiting them. Another source of humour is frequently found in her portrayal of well-meaning liberals trying to cope with the rural South.

O’Connor was hard-working, spending each morning writing even as she struggled in her later years with lupus. She never married, relying for companionship on her close relationship with her mother and her vast correspondence. Writer Betty Hester received a weekly letter from O’Connor for over nine years.

For her work, she received many honours, including an O. Henry Award in 1957 and the National Book Award in 1972, and she was the first fiction writer born in the twentieth century to have her works collected and published by the Library of America.

The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World – Gabriel García Márquez – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 10

Discussion Notes: The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

Next week’s story is Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

Wow, we found a Magical realism story Gerald liked! I was over the moon with excitement and the podcast doth bubble over. The messy video is on our Youtube page, and the glistening audio podcast is above. Check out the great article Kenechi wrote for the Author Spotlight on Gabriel García Márquez. You can feel the passion he has for this author and it’s a wonderful read.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Old Man at the Bridge” by Ernest Hemingway, 4 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Our Special Guest Host for next week, Jocelyn Johnson chose the next story! We’ll be reading Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor. I hope you enjoy it!

Author Spotlight: Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez (Ulf Andersen/Getty Images) Gabriel García Márquez (Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

Gabriel García Márquez, who doesn’t know Gabriel García Márquez? Affectionately known as Gabo throughout South America, Márquez is widely renowned as one of the most significant authors of the 20th century.

García Márquez was a Colombian author, known for works such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. During a career that spanned several decades, his work earned him many accolades including the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1972 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. He is considered an early pioneer of magical realism.

García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia in 1927 and raised by his maternal grandparents, whose ideological and political beliefs would heavily influence his later work. One Hundred Years of Solitude was the culmination of his desire to write a novel based on his grandparents house where he grew up. He struggled with the idea of this novel initially, but once he broke through his writer’s block, he worked on the novel every day for eighteen months. Cien Años de Soledad, the novel’s Spanish title, was released in 1967 and was critically and commercially popular, with William Kennedy calling it, “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” Carlos Fuentes, fellow novelist, called him the “most popular and perhaps the best Spanish writer since Cervantes.”

Some recurring themes and elements present in his work include solitude, armed conflict, and the setting of a fictional village called Macondo. Magic realism is a staple, with many of his stories featuring events that are seemingly impossible, yet often treated as mundane, commonplace and even expected by the characters within them. Between 1962 and 2004, García Márquez published many novels, short stories and short story collections. He died of pneumonia at age 87 in April 2014.

After his death, then-president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, described him as the greatest Colombian that ever lived. Such a description is typical of the respect that Márquez commanded, a result of his respectable body of work. If you haven’t read any of his work, I suggest you do so now. Seriously, stop right now and check this week’s short story “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”. That should get you started. After that, I personally recommend One Hundred Years of Solitude, or Love in the Time of Cholera.

Kenechi

The Old Man at the Bridge – Ernest Hemingway – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 9

Discussion Notes: The Old Man at the Bridge

Next week’s story is The Most Handsome Drowned Man in the World by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

This week’s story was divisive with both Kenechi and Gerald enjoying it a lot more than either Maya or Anais. That said, Maya was the most disappointed and the conversation was interesting, as Gerald and Anais tried to pinpoint the problem. The messy video is on our Youtube page, and the glistening audio podcast is above. Check out the great article on Ernest Hemingway Gerald wrote. It was a wonderful read and full of information I didn’t know.

Here is the video I promised on where to start with several authors, including Hemingway by Ashley Riordon.

And here are the links for Kenechi’s Hemingway pick, For Whom The Bell Tolls and for Anais’ book recommendation of Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Magic Chalk” by Kobo Abe, 5 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Old Man at the Bridge“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week’s story is  by The Most Handsome Drowned Man In the World by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I hope you enjoy it!

Author Spotlight: Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway working at his book For Whom the Bell Tolls at Sun Valley, Idaho in December 1939 Ernest Hemingway working at his book For Whom the Bell Tolls at Sun Valley, Idaho in December 1939

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21st 1899, to Grace Hall-Hemingway, a musician, and Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, a physician.

In his  early years, he developed a taste for outdoor adventure in the family’s summer home on Walloon Lake in Michigan, which would come to influence his writing.

On leaving high school in 1917, he joined the Kansas City Star as a cub reporter, and he later took their style guide to heart for his fiction writing: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.”

Early in 1918, he volunteered to help the war effort in Europe, signing on to be an ambulance driver in Italy. Those familiar with Hemingway’s work will know that an experience in Italy was described later in a non-fiction book, Death in the Afternoon.

His gallantry in assisting Italian soldiers won him the Italian Silver Medal for Bravery, but a bad injury resulting from mortar fire took him off the battlefield. Whilst recuperating, he fell in love with a Red Cross nurse, but she left him for an Italian officer. This experience affected his relationships thereon after, and he abandoned wives before they could abandon him.

After returning from Europe, he became staff writer and foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star Weekly in 1919. In September 1921 he married his first wife, Hadley Richardson,  and two months later, the couple moved to Paris with Hemingway working for the Toronto Star as their foreign correspondent. It was this period that inspired the fictional account of their lives in Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. Hemingway’s first book, an anthology of short stories and poems called, to-the-point true to Hemingway fashion, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published in 1923. It was quickly followed by In Our Time, another collection of vignettes and stories.

He also worked on The Transatlantic Review with Ford Madox Ford, which featured some of his short stories. Around this time, he began to earn the praise of critics, who credited him for reinvigorating the short story genre.

Hemingway began work on his first novel on his birthday, 21st of July, 1925. In October 1926, The Sun Also Rises was published.

There followed a glittering career as a writer, including such major works as A Farewell To Arms, To Have and Have Not, For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and many of his novels, short stories and non-fiction works have been made into major films. The Old Man and the Sea, which was published in 1951 after Across the River and Into the Trees garnered bad reviews, won him a Pulitzer Prize the following year. In 1954 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

During his life, Hemingway travelled extensively, covering the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance. During the Second World War, he covered the hostilities for Collier’s Magazine, and was present at the Normandy Landings, and at the liberation of Paris in August 1945. He was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery in WWII by the United States Military, having been “under fire in combat areas in order to obtain an accurate picture of conditions”.

But not everything in Hemingway’s life was positive. His father committed suicide in the winter of 1928, just minutes before a letter had arrived from Ernest telling him to not worry about money troubles. He commented, “I’ll probably go the same way.” During his life, he was beset by injuries from accidents and war coverage. Apart from the injury sustained in Italy in 1918, he was concussed in London in a car accident; another car accident in 1945 smashed his knee and caused a deep forehead wound; in 1944 in Africa, he nearly died after being involved in two successive plane crashes; and in 1955 on a fishing expedition in Africa, a bush fire caused him second degree burns. In Venice in 1955 his fourth wife, Mary, reported his injuries consisted of two cracked discs, a kidney and liver rupture, a dislocated shoulder and a broken skull.

When he was in Paris, he became friends with Irish writer James Joyce, and spent many evenings in heavy drinking sessions. His obsession with drink stayed with him. The uncle of his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, bought the couple a house in Key West. It is said the location, opposite the lighthouse, made it easy for Hemingway to find it on his way home from drinking sessions at a local bar, Sloppy Joe’s.

He suffered from severe headaches, high blood pressure, weight problems, and diabetes. His drinking increased partly to mask the pain from his injuries. He began to sink into depression as, one after another, his great literary friends began to die.

In his final years, his mental state deteriorated, and he became confused, disorganised and irritable. His brother and his sister, as well as his father, all committed suicide. On July 2nd, 1961, Hemingway unlocked the basement storeroom in his house in Idaho, removed his favourite Boss shotgun, pushed two shells into it, put the end of the barrel in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. His complicated history as war hero, writer, womanizer and alcoholic, polarized is reception. To some he was an inscrutable enigma, to others a hero, and to others still a villain.

Regardless of one’s opinion on his character, he is sparse writing irrefutably changed the world of literature.  Hemingway referred to his style as the Iceberg Theory: the facts float above the water, the supporting structure and symbolism operate out of sight. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the short novel The Old Man and The Sea, where the simple tale of an old fisherman parallels on many levels with religious texts.

This week we’ll be discussing “The Old Man at the Bridge”.

The Magic Chalk – Kobo Abe – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 8

Discussion Notes: The Magic Chalk

Next Week’s Story is The Old

Man at the Bridge By Ernest Hemingway.

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( For Spreaker follow/heart us). It helps us immensely.

This week’s story was an interesting one that prompted discussion on the difference between magical realism and fantasy, and why a reader might like one and not the other. When Anais made a point about fantasy having rules within the world and magical realism breaking rules all my brain tingles went on high alert. Great conversation, interesting story and deeply varying experiences as readers. The messy video is on our Youtube page, and the glistening audio podcast is above. Anais also wrote an excellent post on Kobo Abe that included an enlightening interview with a PhD student of Japanese Literature.

Our rating scale just got a lot more epic. Listener, Todd Williams, sent us a lovely email with a bradberry designed just for us! Thank you Tom, we love it. For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a bradberry, Anais has the sudden urge to create a bradberry collage… Imagine, bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Laughing Man” by J.D Salinger, 4.5 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Magic Chalk“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

After Anais’ quiz, we selected “The Old Man at the Bridge” by Ernest Hemingway as next week’s story. I hope you enjoy it, I’m sure Gerald will.