This one should have been more of a challenge.
For the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge I’ve been selecting two stories each round by drawing two cards from my deck and reading the stories assigned to each card. Afterwards, I try to link the two somehow in my review. It’s been fun. Sometimes it’s been impossible, but this time it was a cinch.
I selected the eight of clubs–“A Canary for One” by Ernest Hemingway and the ace of clubs–“A Tangle of Green Men” by Charles de Lint from the Welcome to Borderland collection. So, try to match up Hemingway’s meaningful scenes from a marriage with a novelette about a how a man ends up in the strange borderlands between our world and the Faerie realm.
Turns out both stories center on meeting a stranger on a train.
In “A Canary for One” a married couple share a compartment with a woman who is going to visit her daughter. The woman worries that no American can find happiness by marrying a European man like her daughter has done. She talks about various things with the narrator’s wife. Mentions how much she liked her canary. Then the train arrives and we learn that the couple is going to be setting up separate households.
To be honest, I rolled my eyes a little at this ending. I was impressed by this sort of thing at one time, reading about an ordinary day in the life only to learn in the end that all was not as well as it seemed. Writers of Hemingway’s generation did this a lot, and I often enjoy it, but the ending felt very gimmicky this time around.
Charles de Lint, who does not appear to have the more literary goals Hemingway did, tells a story about a young man who finds love of his life at a convention of people who dress up like faeries, loses her in a freak accident, then travels aimlessly on freight trains across America until he meets someone who can tell him how to enter Borderland. I thought it was odd to put a story about how to get to Bordertown at the end of a collection of stories about life in Bordertown.
If you’re wondering, here is how you get to Bordertown:
Bordertown has always been a paradox. You can get there if you really need to be there—or you can’t. You can stumble into it by chance–or you don’t….It could be right there just past our reflection. Or it isn’t. The truth is, the city’s always followed its own rules, and they can change with a shift in the wind..
The old wisdom tells us that ancient power spots and sacred sites are gateways. I believe that the true openings lie inside us. In our own hearts, minds, and lives.
Perhaps all you need to do is set out on a journey in search of it, believing that when the journey ends you will be there. Not perhaps. Not maybe. Leave no room for doubt. Go with the understanding that the path you take will bring you there. And if it feels like you need a ritual, then make one up. But don’t make it easy. Easy doesn’t earn you anything.
So Hemingway’s prose is better, Hemingway’s prose is brilliant. You will not get me to cast aspersions on Hemingway though I did not like “A Canary for One.” Maybe its the season, the summer, the time on my hands–but I preferred the stranger stranger on the train over Hemingway’s prose this time.
Charles de Lint wins this round.