professornana (professornana) wrote,

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some thoughts on story collections

I have always loved short stories. As a veteran of the middle school English classroom, it was the first unit I taught each year. Fortunately, Don Gallo and others came along during my career and provided collections of short stories that my students actually ENJOYED reading rather than yet another year of the same old same olds in the literature textbook. Being the anal retentive person I am, I read a story collection from page 1 to the end, something that most folks do not do, thankfully. However, in an attempt to loosen up a bit, I approached this new collection with a different tactic.

In DREAMS AND VISIONS, Jerry and Helen Weiss draw together some of the finest YA authors available for a collection of fantasy/science fiction stories. I did begin at the beginning with this collection as the first story was by the incredible Joan Bauer. In "Blocked," Bauer explores what happens when a young author cannot breathe enough life into her characters to suit her. Instead, some of the characters take over her computer and direct her attempts to create lifelike characters in an interesting story. Full of her typical humor, Bauer takes this flight of fantasy into WINDOWS and flings open some windows in the process, setting the fantasy genre a bit on its ear.

I paged back in the collection to read John H. Ritter's powerful BASEBALL IN IRAQ (BEING THE TRUE STORY OF THE GHOST OF GUNNERY SERGEANT T. J. MCVEIGH). This politically charged story proves that fantasy can probe contemporary situations and problems with unnerving accuracy and offer up some solutions for the real world, too. Powerful reading that would make great fodder for the Problems of Democracy classes once prevalent in high schools.

There are other standouts in this collection as well. David Lubar charms with "Abra-Ca-Deborah," with its lovely little ironic twist as a young girl proves her mettle as an aspiring magician by calling upon some even more mystical powers she possesses. Patrice Kindl (she the wonderful author of OWL IN LOVE) offers a take on the story of Hansel and Gretel in "Depressing Acres." Rich Wallace returns to Sturbridge and athletics for his take on flights of fantasy in "Allegro." Finally, Mel Glenn offers some poetic ruminations on end-of-life issues in his "Ryan and Angel in the Green Room, a Heavenly Fantasy; Or, the Ultimate in High Stakes Testing."

I even managed to leave a few stories for future reading as time permits. Perhaps one can change even in her (ahem) later years.


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