Speaking of rarely recurring features, it's time for the bi-yearly return of "Megan Vs. Short Story" the origins of which you can read about here. In a nutshell, it's me, the self-confessed non-lover of short stories, occasionally attempting to read and review short stories to see if I can "beat" them...AKA like them.
Needing a break from the densely packed parts of Updike's chunkster, In the Beauty of the Lilies and a break from the far-fetched ramblings of Bob Moore in Don't Call Me a Crook!, I picked up the New Yorker's fiction issue (June 8 & 15, of this year, no less), and delved into the first story I happened upon therein. The story is "The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht, and I'm happy to report that I actually liked it. The story begins with a caged tiger near death during the chaos of a World War II bombing. Instead of dying however, the tiger is loosed upon the countryside of some unnamed Eastern European country (the former Yugoslavia, perhaps?) where he soon becomes an object of myth and superstition as well as some unfortunate realities among the local villagers.
Now, this, in my humble opinion was a good short story. Starting off with the thoughts of the tiger rendered starkly against the destroyed city as seen through his eyes, the story progresses to a village where the tiger serves as the centerpiece of a puzzle. In only a few pages, Obreht introduces a full cast of characters and gives us a tantalizing little taste of each one's nature. Obreht skillfully uses the tiger to reveal the heart of the village with its gossip and its social outcasts, with its superstitions, struggles, and dreams. The writing has a strikingly vivid quality, and Obreht skillfully weaves together several important themes.
Now, I was all set to award myself a point in the Megan vs. Short Story game, but my curiosity about this author who, I think, must have a promising future prompted me to seek out some further information about her. Imagine my excitement, mixed with disappointment when it comes to the game, to visit Tea Obreht's website to find that what I've read is but an excerpt of her debut novel of the same name, to be published in 2010. Methinks this may call into question my point considering this isn't quite a short story after all, but I'll give myself a 1/2 point because it could be and console myself with thoughts of this future novel which I am already looking forward to reading.
Oh, by the way, I did look to see if this was available among the New Yorker's many free online options, and it does not appear to be. Just so you don't think I'm holding out on you - I totally wish I could link it for all five of you loyal readers of my blog and further share my joy at having enjoyed short fiction for a change. ;-)
Short Stories: 1, Megan: .5