A brief comment on Kate Chopin’s short stories

I was so happy when I got my Kindle recently, that I went on a free book downloading spree, to reaquaint myself with old favorites or to introduce myself to new ones.

Of the many thousands of free books (published prior to 1923) available to Kindle owners, one of them is The Awakening and Selected Short Stories. I remember reading The Awakening in college, and how much I loved it, so I skipped over that novella length piece to jump into shorter stories I hadn’t read before.

Ms. Chopin instantly transports the reader to New Orleans and/or the Louisiana countryside of old, and engages us with stories that are charming and engaging. She is a writer of an old-fashioned type, that uses dainty description to help bring her scene to life, but it is effective.

Beyond the Bayou

The bayou curved like a crescent around the point of land on which La Folle’s cabin stood.  Between the stream and the hut lay a big abandoned field, where cattle were pastured when the bayou supplied them with water enough. Through the woods that spread back into unknown regions the woman had drawn an imaginary line, and past this circle she never stepped. This was the form of her only mania.

The stories are brief but alive with a vibrancy that I was happy to reconnect with after so many years had passed since my first reading of her work.

On a personal tangent, I continue to wonder about the current state of short story writing.  When I return to such beautiful classic tales such as Ms. Chopin’s, I feel a bit sad to think that the works of many writers are, perhaps, mouldering on the shelf if they are not being taught in university classrooms.

In turn, it makes me seriously consider the fate of current short story writers too.  I recently read a piece in The Missouri Review that suggested writers have submitted work to them for fifteen years but eventually, they published them.  Here is the excerpt:

For at least six years I’ve been reading work by Anna Solomon, our fiction winner, inviting her to send revisions in a couple of instances—and yet we’ve finally said no, until now. John Hales, the nonfiction winner, has been faithfully sending us near misses for probably fifteen years, perhaps more.

All I can say is: Are you f*ing kidding me? I don’t know Mr. Hales but what I can say is that he must be a serious masochist. How do you take 15 years of repeated rejection while still thinking, “they may not have liked anything I sent in the last 15 years, but THIS one is the winner!” Also, who has 15 years to sit around waiting for someone to like their work enough to publish it.  I seriously question why The Missouri Review would put out that kind of information about itself.

Finally, if Ms. Chopin had been writing today, I have no doubt her work would have also been repeatedly rejected.  She would have been told, “too much description” or “nice story, not in our style” or “Dear Ms. Chopin, the Blank Review has decided not to use this story at this time.”

So my advice is go back and re-read the classics, and marvel at how they ever got published. Perseverence may pay off, but it could take you decades to get there, according to the Missouri Review.

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4 Responses

  1. Now the question is, will the Missouri Review make their faithful man wait ANOTHER fifteen years?

  2. I know, it’s unbelievable isn’t it? I’ve never submitted to them, and those comments don’t incline me in that direction! Frankly, it shouldn’t be something for them to brag about – it seems really pompous to me.

  3. Kate Chopin has had a profound affect on me as a woman, a writer, and as someone who lives among the same bayous and oak trees. I’ll never forget the first time I read “The Story of an Hour ” and audibly gasped.

    Enjoyed your piece.

    • Thanks Darrelyn. And I agree about Chopin’s influence. I remember when I read The Awakening it resonated deeply. I want to re-read it, but I thought it would be good to start off with other short stories I hadn’t read to reaquaint me with her style.

      I appreciate your visit to my blog, thanks!

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