About quirknjive

Writer, Professor, Mother

Clarice Lispector’s The Fifth Story

On this episode of Strange & Scary Story Talk I discuss Clarice Lispector’s The Fifth Story. Although Lispector, one of Brazil’s most famous twentieth century literary figures, wrote mainly short fiction and novels, her work is deeply poetic, her manipulation of language and form a testament to her ingenuity and brilliance. Lispector’s work is dark and disconcerting. Most of her stories are about women engaged in mundane daily tasks; however, her writing is not about plot but the internal worlds of her characters – worlds that, when exposed by Lispector, reveal disturbing truths. The Fifth Story is no different. Ostensibly, it is about a woman killing cockroaches in her apartment, but it is so much more. Within the frame of seven paragraphs, Lispector retells the same story five times, ending  in two sentences and the understanding that the story could continue. As for Lispector herself, she is as fascinating as her writing. Her brilliance, her glamour, her enigmatic personality created a mystique which endures today.

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One final note: Towards the end of the video I say that Gottfried Leibniz  was a mathematician and philosopher of the eighteen hundreds. I meant to say sixteen hundreds (sixteen and seventeen hundreds to be precise). It was out of my mouth before I realized and there was no going back! The perils of recording! Wondering what Leibniz has to do with Lispector’s story? You’ll have to read it to find out!

April 24, 2020-Distance

 

brown and orange bird on green tree branch

Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

There is a fine distance between myself and the robin.

There are seven yards.

There is the height of the branch.

There is the wall, and the window of my kitchen, the plate glass, the plaster, the brick.

There is my chair

And myself, perched upon it.

Me, still as the robin, enjoying this perfect, soft space

Where I can watch, unheard, unseen

Content with companionship from afar;

Content to observe, to know

Something other than myself, without myself being known;

Content to make this something part of me,

To live within my mind, my fantasies,

Allowing me to increase the distance

With a steady, slow retreat

Into a world away from this noise and hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

April 4, 2020-For my Husband on his Birthday

Just for today, let’s pretend all is well;

that once was, still is;

that a breeze blown from the right direction

can lift mountains

and carry shadows away into the night of another day.

 

Because, my love,

some things still are.

Some things still quiver under aging flesh.

Desire, though obscured by the burdens of time, still pulses.

Hope still begs to be seen

and light still shines

when your hand takes mine.

 

The Altar of the Dead by Henry James

Tonight on Strange & Scary Story Talk I discuss Henry James’s exquisite short story, The Altar of the Dead. This beautiful and haunting tale is not only a meditation on death, betrayal, forgiveness and unconditional love, it is also a reflection of what haunted James himself at the time he wrote it. The Altar of the Dead demands careful reading, not because it is unnecessarily complex but because James was so generous in his crafting of the tale that you do not want to miss all he offers.

*Please note that James’s 1904 masterpiece was The Golden Bowl, not The Glass Bowl. Unfortunately by the time “glass” stumbled out of my mouth, it was too late to turn back.

Would It All Be Mine?

sky space telescope universe

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If the ocean turned pink,

then it would be mine.

If the earth changed rotation,

it would be mine.

If the sparrows barked,

they would be mine.

And if the mice spoke,

they would be mine too.

If up became down and down up,

they would be mine.

And if sound became silence

and sight the blackness of night,

they would be mine.

 

If only I stayed silent.

If I had stayed silent

and the ocean turned pink

and the earth changed rotation

the sparrows barked

the mice spoke

and the universe turned itself inside out

and sound and sight disappeared

into the black void of an ancient catacomb

…if I stayed silent,

would it all be mine?

Surely, it would never be yours.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story

Are you tired of saccharin-sweet made-for-TV Christmas movies? If so, do as the Victorians did and invite a few ghosts to your next holiday gathering, or at least fix yourself a cocktail or cup of tea and read a classic ghost tale where winter is bleak and death is serious business. This week on Strange & Scary Story Talk I discuss Elizabeth Gaskell’s THE OLD NURSE’S STORY, a gothic tale of jealousy, betrayal and terror.