A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 30
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
I know, I know, we’re only supposed to burden you with a single story recommendation a week. But these two stories are actually the same story, and together they only add up to four pages anyway.
You see, they come from Raymond Queneau’s book Exercises in Style, in which the same short story is told 99 times, each in a different way. It’s the simple tale of a man who is roughly jostled on a public bus until he finally finds a seat. Later in the day, this same man is told by a friend that his overcoat needs a new button sewed onto it. That’s it. But Queneau puts the story through some hilarious and truly inventive stylistic variations, from “Free Verse” to “Rhyming Slang” and from “Onomatopoeia” to “Official Letter.”
“The Subjective Side” and “Another Subjectivity” appear one after another, versions 14 and 15 respectively. The first tells the story from the perspective of the man who is jostled and needs a button, the second from the point of view of his fellow bus rider and prime jostler. As you might expect they see things quite differently.
It sounds silly. And, well, it kind of is. But it’s also truly compelling reading. Not all 99 versions are as successful as “The Subjective Side” and “Another Subjectivity” but they are all fascinating. Stop by the fiction section and give Exercises in Style a chance next time you’re in the library.
Review by Matthew