Last night, in view of my Short Story Monday post, I picked up an collection called Twelve Very Short Stories by Modern Authors. I do not know where I got that book; I guess it used to belong to my mother as it is obviously a little book for students in English, which contains a separate booklet with introduction, notes and exercises, and was published in 1967 by The Rainbow Library in Paris. The stories are written by authors born from 1835 (R. Garnett) to 1890 (K. Mansfield). I chose to read “The Luncheon” by W. Somerset Maugham.
I have now discovered that he wrote this story as part of a series of sketches for Cosmopolitan magazine as its editors were looking for stories that would fit on two pages to avoid them to be interrupted by advertisements.
I found this story to be quite funny. The flashback that constitutes most of the story is prompted by the narrator seeing some old acquaintance at the theatre: “Do you remember the first time I saw you? You asked me to luncheon”.
At the time (twenty years earlier), the narrator is a young writer living in Paris, who, despite the publication of his first novel, has very little money to live on. Yet, because he is gratified by the compliments of a fan (and perhaps the hope to meet a beautiful young woman), he accepts to bring her to an expensive restaurant in Paris. However, the woman is far removed from his expectations and through the meal she appears as hypocritical and self-indulgent. As the meal goes along, we see the guest ordering the most expensive dishes on the menu, while the narrator realises his budget for the month is quickly reducing.
It is a simple, but pleasant story. Its success relies mainly on its irony as the guest keeps repeating “I never eat more than one thing”, while ordering the most succulent (and expensive) dishes from the menu, from starter to dessert. However, twenty years later, the wheel of fortune seems to have turned as the concluding sentence reveals.
You can read this story here.
Now, I need short story inspiration (and maybe links)! Here is the reason why:
I have decided to add my own little twist to the Canadian Book challenge. John explains that the reason why he chose a number of 13 books is because there are 13 provinces in Canada and it thus leaves the opportunity to review a book from each. I am quite aware I won’t manage to do the challenge that way (you can see my progress for the challenge on the page dedicated to it). However, I find the idea great and I have decided to follow this principle by reviewing short stories instead. Thus, in the next six months, I intend to review at least one story from each province.
Now, I need ideas! I already have some, but not for every province (I am giving myself a bit of flexibility by allowing the stories to be either set there or written by an author born or having lived there).
- Newfoundland and Labrador:
- Nova Scotia: Alistair MacLeod
- Prince Edward Island
- New Brunswick
- Quebec: Clark Blaise (one of the Montreal Stories) & Mavis Gallant
- Ontario: Morley Callaghan & Timothy Findley
- Manitoba: Margaret Laurence & Carol Shields
- Saskatchewan: Rudy Wiebe & Sinclair Ross
- Alberta: Thomas King
- Northwest Territories
- British Columbia: Audrey Thomas
- Yukon Territory
Any suggestion will be appreciated!