Podcast (July): Guy de Maupassant

In 2020 The Catholic Reading Challenge is reading 24 different short stories by 12 different authors. Each month we will focus on one author, reading two stories by that author. During each of our bi-weekly podcast episodes we will discuss the stories in turn.

Perhaps some of you noticed, but we inadvertently switched our June and July authors. Oh well. We enjoyed Edward P. Jones’s stories in June, and now we are going to be spending July with Guy de Maupassant. If you have never read him you are in for a treat. He is undoubtably considered the best French short story author, and he is prolific—about 300 stories to his name!

He is a master at plot twists that seem to be accomplished with ease of style and economy of words; and for that his writing has been extremely influential for many other authors. We are reading two of his most famous stories: “The Necklace” (also titled “The Diamond Necklace”) and “Ball-of-Fat”, which is his first published short story and thought to be his best.

Themes of human vice and hypocrisy and the interaction of social classes are common in his stories. His criticisms of religion certainly come through as well. For these and many other reasons, not the least of which is the sheer enjoyment of his stories’s plots and his writing style, he is an important short story author to include on our list.

We recommend downloading this $0.99 Kindle version of his short stories (which includes both of the ones we are reading). We can’t wait to talk about these stories. Many of our listeners may find in him a new favorite author!

Podcast (June): Edward P. Jones

In 2020 The Catholic Reading Challenge is reading 24 different short stories by 12 different authors. Each month we will focus on one author, reading two stories by that author. During each of our bi-weekly podcast episodes we will discuss the stories in turn.

When we were making the selections for this year several months ago, we came across a connection between Edward P. Jones and James Joyce. We had already decided to include Joyce, as we wanted to read selections from The Dubliners. Apparently, Jones was inspired by Joyce when writing his own collection of stories, Lost in the City, set in his own hometown city of Washington D.C. Our selections for this month are taken from this volume. Here’s an excerpt from the Amazon description:

A magnificent collection of short fiction focusing on the lives of African-American men and women in Washington, D.C., Lost in the City is the book that first brought author Edward P. Jones to national attention. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and numerous other honors for his novel The Known World, Jones made his literary debut with these powerful tales of ordinary people who live in the shadows in this metropolis of great monuments and rich history.

Theses tales are quite powerful, and the characters in them could be people you pass every day on the streets of D.C. We’re looking forward to discussing the two stories listed above, but you may very well be compelled to read the whole collection. And don’t miss the author’s introduction (from the anniversary edition); it gives an important glimpse of him in his own words and an understanding of his motivations and feelings in writing this compilation.

Copyright 2020 Jessica Ptomey

Podcast (May): Eudora Welty

In 2020 The Catholic Reading Challenge is reading 24 different short stories by 12 different authors. Each month we will focus on one author, reading two stories by that author. During each of our bi-weekly podcast episodes we will discuss the stories in turn.

We are reading another American Southern author this month — Eudora Welty. I recently read her memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings, and found parts of her life quite interesting. For example, her father was from Ohio and her mother from West Virginia, but when they married they settled and raised their family in Jackson, Mississippi. Welty recalls the family’s annual trips north to visit family in their automobile. Her mother monitored the map, and her father kept his pistol in the side of the driver’s side door–just in case. (Indeed… remember O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”? If only that family had had a pistol in their car door.)

I really cannot imagine what it would have been like for a family in the early 1900s with three young children (one a baby at the time riding on his mother’s lap in the front!) to make such a long trip every year. Even with iPads, unlimited snacks, GPS directions, iPhones, and numerous pit stop options, my husband and I get a little nervous about traveling with our kids for more than six hours! So those kinds of stories of her life provided some insight of Welty’s parents’ influence on her scope and view of the world.

She also worked as a journalist for a time, writing and taking photographs; and I came away having the sense that she was someone who watched and listened to the people around her, perhaps people that others overlooked. I think that such habits of life may be evidenced in the stories that we read by her this month. As we have discussed on the podcast many times, good novelists and short story masters are able to help us see what is real–real people, real places–the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is certainly no different with Welty and the characters of her stories.

I will be reading both stories from this little collection I picked up at a local book sale. I absolutely love the picture on the cover. But there are many other compilations available online or through your library. I hope you read along and listen in to our discussions!

Copyright 2020 Jessica Ptomey