Thursday, October 04, 2007

Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star"

One of my college professors told us that one should be able to begin and finish a really good short story while sitting on the toilet. I think I agree. Sometimes there's a fine line between a novella and a few paragraphs, but the right length of a proper short story is somewhere in between: just the right length for a beginning, middle, and ending, giving you plenty of time to finish your business without getting hemorhoids from sitting too long. We keep a lot of our books in the big bathroom and many of them are collections of short stories.

I'm reminded of the scene in "The Big Chill" wherein Jeff Goldblum laments that most of his writing is read on the toilet, and when someone comments that one can read "War and Peace" on the toilet, Goldblum counters with "Yes, but you can't finish it."

But with a short story, you can.

Stop laughing. Where else, and when else, in our busy lives do we have a few minutes to ourselves?

Occasionally, I come across a short story that haunts me, makes me obsessed, changes me, affects me, and not always in a positive way. When I say, 'not positive' I don't mean 'negative.' I really don't know how to explain what I mean, either. That doesn't mean I don't know, it just means there are no words for it. I don't count short stories that were poorly written or that I personally just simply disliked for whatever reason. I mean, a well-written short story that knocked me flat on the ground. Right flat, on my back gazing up at the ceiling with a look of dumbstruck amazement, or joy, or sadness, or whatever as long as it was well-thought-out and beautifully written.

Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Star" is one that knocked me flat and wouldn't let me back up again for a long, long time.

How long? I'm still on the ground from it.

I first read it when I was in the fifth grade and it fascinated me, and frightened me, and made me ask questions that were not always appreciated by my elders, but isn't that what a good story is supposed to do to us? I came to the conclusion back then, and I still hold to it, that elders who are suspicious of, and do not encourage, sincere questions about any subject, are themselves not secure in their beliefs and are, on some occasions, downright ignorant.

This story absolutely blew me away. I adore it. I am afraid of it. I always approach the ending with trepidation, hoping somehow that it has changed from the last time I read it. It never does.

It will make you think. It will make you question. It will make you glad to be alive. It will make you wonder about the future, and about the past.

Many pastors have forbidden their congregations to read it. It's been removed from most textbooks for fear of offending someone. But it still exists. And since this is Banned Books Week, what better time to read it?

See what you think.

Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star."

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:18 PM | |


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