||November 8, 2011
Eleven short stories of varying genres - from fantasy to romance - from psychological drama to social injustice.
The Man Who Lost His Genius & Other Stories
An anthology of eleven short stories, including:
The Man Who Lost His Genius
The Sponge - a fantasy
House of my Dreams
Blindsided by Love
Lola - a Story of the West
Prelude to Life
The Ghost Club
The Copper Coal Scuttle
From "The Cedars"
Vague, resentful thoughts battered Stephen Houghton's mind as he watched his wife eating her breakfast. Tension and exasperation mounted inside him, flushing his face until he could feel the blood pounding in his temples. I'm past fifty. Worked like a slave all my life. Successful, damned successful, plenty of money now. What do I get for it all? A man wants companionship, a bit of fun before it's too late. Someone who'd appreciate what was given to them. Some attractive woman, young, lively, experienced, who'd play my game the way I want it played. Instead, I . . .
She cut the toast up into small pieces, spreading each with the minimum of butter. She scraped the butter well into the toast and the knife's rasping noise grated in his ears, yet he could not take away his attention. Each time she took any butter up on her knife, she made a multitude of pecking motions with the end of the knife on her plate. Scrape, scrape, scratch, scratch – ten or fifteen scrapes on her plate where the butter had been. The same with her marmalade. She drank her coffee with exaggerated delicacy. Long before her cup touched her lips, her mouth was pursed up, ready to receive the liquid with the utmost refinement, her pinky finger raised. Her tidiness of dress only emphasized her complete lack of all physical attraction.
She wiped her mouth carefully before speaking. "I'm having lunch with Sheila Kenyon today. We're going to meet at Rochester's and have lunch in their restaurant. So cosy there, and the girls are always so attentive. I wonder what I ought to wear. I think my brown coat would be best, don't you? It's just come back from the cleaners. Or do you think my blue one would be better? Then I could wear my new hat with it. Except, of course, I don't want to appear too smart. I don’t think Sheila's husband has very much money, do you? She never seems to have any new clothes. What would you do, Stephen?"
Stephen Houghton looked at his wife with cold eyes and said nothing, for he did not trust himself to speak. The faint presence of a phantom suggestion flickered in the recesses of his mind, and was gone. Day after day, year after year, fatuous banalities poured from her lips. What did he think? What should she do? Should she walk or take a cab? Was it going to rain? Where had she left her scarf? Would it be dark? He knew how frightened she was of the dark. And so on and so forth. This was his life.
Stories for everyone
Story telling is a talent that some are born with, some learn it as others learn how to walk or read, and you have perfected this gift. In the first story, "The Man Who Lost His Genius" you have surpassed yourself. This is a fast-moving, witty and intelligent piece. You described the music perfectly, I could almost hear the notes as I imagined the pianist at his piano. I had expected a "Faust" type ending, and you really had me fooled with the doctor's comment on about the story "making no sense" (or something similar) and I didn't expect the delightful and surprising ending you presented us with.
All of the stories are unique but beautifully told. My favorites were "Lola" and "No Choice" - vastly different, but expertly written. The "Copper Coal Scuttle" is an old-fashioned delight - for parents and children alike. And "The Lover" - well, that is your own story, and an amazing one at that.
I highly recommend this collection of stories as a "must read".
Writer, Reader, Pumpkin Eater
This is a cleverly written, carefully told tale that has pitch-perfect setting and language. The reader is carefully set onto a quickly building path that has an unexpected end - but is quite satisfying.
I highly recommend this little piece and stand ready for anything else Ms. Byron may choose to pen.
Not since reading The Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin in 2007 have I been so charmed and captivated by the breadth of subject matter and the unique power of an author's voice. Ms. Byron sits the reader down in a comfortable chair and then begins her magic. Bolstered by the surety of a seasoned storyteller, we begin a trip around the world, covering a vast range of territory and as many eras as the reader could ask for. Each of these little masterpieces is absolutely authentic in its narrative and dialogue...not an easy task, even for the best short story writer. Had I to pick a favorite--what a choice to have to make--I would have to give a nod to "Lola", a story that astounded me by its sheer excellence. But they are each and every one jewels in the crown of an emerging master. On a scale of one to ten, I give this collection a fifteen.
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