Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Salon: Short Story Sunday & Reading Challenge Wrap Up

It is after midnight, and, therefore, technically Sunday. I was searching through my TBR collection for a particular book, which, unfortunately, I was unable to find. I am sure it is there, hiding somewhere among the masses. Meanwhile, my oldest cat has crawled under the guest bed for a little nap. This is not odd behavior at all for a cat, and it is probably all the more appealing because the room is generally off limits to the animals. Coaxing him out will take longer than if I let him be. So, in the meantime I have come across Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I think we have time for one story. And a fitting title it is!

"A Temporary Matter," short story by Jhumpa Lahiri
from The Interpreter of Maladies
Mariner Books, 1999

They were happy once, before their child was born dead. After that, it was as if Shoba and Shukumar lived completely separate lives, only under the same roof. Shoba would spend her days at the office, often working late into the night, while Shukumar stayed at home, working on his dissertation. They both suffer through their loss in their own ways. Alone. When their electricity is shut off several nights in a row for repairs to be completed in the neighborhood, Shoba and Shukumar find themselves spending the time together, swapping confessions.

"A Temporary Matter" is a sad story about how grief and loss can create a rift between two people. Instead of coming together in their sorrow, the couple drifted apart. Shoba spent most of her time working and keeping busy, trying to forget. Shukumar, on the other hand, rarely wanted to leave the house, sleeping late and hardly studying. I fell instantly into the story, Jhumpa Lahiri's writing full of the underlying emotions of her characters. My heart ached for both Shoba and Shukumar.

It is late. I want to read on, but I know I should stop now and go to sleep. Parker has found his way out from under the guest bed, and it is safe to close the door. The TBR room is animal free once again.

Oh, what the hey. I will read one more story in bed. Just one more.

Have you read a short story lately? I'd love to hear about it! Be sure and drop by Ready When You Are, C.B. for Short Story Sunday & The Book Mine Set for Short Story Monday, the hosts for this event.

I completed three challenges, went above and beyond in two really. I decided against doing proper summaries this time around. Call me lazy or a curmudgeon, if you like. My enthusiasm for reading challenges has waned considerably. I have been pondering this for awhile, even tried wringing out some small bit of that excitement I had when I joined them all. Nothing. Not a speck. Oh, wait! I think I felt a little spark. It's very weak, but it is there. Considering I am still actively involved in a few challenges, I had better nurse that little guy back to full flame--maybe half a flame will do.

I love the idea of challenges: the camaraderie among participants (and all the cheerleaders who offer encouragement along the way), the list making and the, well, challenge. I have great admiration for those who host the challenges. It takes a lot of work and organization. It must be hard to keep up with all the participants--and the bigger the challenge is, I imagine it can become impossible. Many thanks to all of you who dare to host reading challenges!

Challenge Status:

Host: Teddy Rose from So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Goal: Level 1: Read 12 Advanced Reader’s Copies (ARC) or review books; Level 2, Overachiever: Read 24 ARC or review books; and Level 3, ARC Obsessed: Read 25+ ARC or review books.
Time Frame: January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009

I read 28 at last count. When I first began reviewing books for outside sources, I was not so good at saying no. I ended up reading a few books I would rather have not read once all was said and done. I quickly learned to be pickier, only choosing books I really wanted to read, might buy myself if given the chance and, of course, thought I would enjoy reading. The problem is that I have eclectic taste and much appeals to me. As often as I told myself at the beginning of the year I would not over commit myself like I had the year before, I still did, just at a slower rate. This summer I re-adjusted again. I am still playing catch-up and will be for awhile, but I am now smarter about my choices and realistic in my goals. Mostly.

Host: Jackie from Literary Escapism
Goal: Read books by 20 new authors. Books/Authors may be listed anytime during the year.
Time Frame: January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009

So far this year, I have read 28 books by new to me authors. I have discovered many new authors this year and will continue to do so before the year is out. Some of the books I read were by first time published authors and others have been publishing books for years. I love the thrill of being at the beginning of a new author's career. And there's nothing that beats falling in love with a book and realizing that the author has an entire blacklist of books to explore.

(refer to the sidebar for a list of the books I read for this challenge)
Host: Michelle from 1 More Chapter
Goal: Read a minimum of 9 books first published in 2009. Books can be listed anytime during the year.
Restrictions: No children’s/YA titles allowed and at least 5 of the titles must be fiction.
Time Frame: January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009

I have read 19 so far that were all published this year. Before I began blogging, I happily read books from years past. I did not pay much attention to the bestsellers' lists and much less to the various book award nominees and winners. Besides, I didn't (and still do not) like paying full price for a hardcover. As many books as I buy, I have to draw the line somewhere. I still enjoy reading older books, but I find it impossible not to be drawn to the new releases, especially with all the excitement surrounding each one. These are often not bestsellers, although you wouldn't know it by the amount of enthusiasm around the blogosphere. I catch myself being surprised when one of my offline reader buddies hasn't heard of a book that is the talk of the town online.

I have noticed too that I tend to receive more comments and hits on posts about newer books than I do older ones. More people read the newer books, or have at least heard about them, and so there seems to be more interest in those. The only exception to that rule is if it is a classic.

Continuing Challenges:
War Through the Generations: WWII Challenge - 3/5
Chunkster Challenge - 2/3
50 Books of Our Time Project - 0/1

Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge - Technically completed; still open in case new book released before deadline.
Herding Cats II - Met the minimum requirement

This Week In Reading Mews:

Reviews Posted:
De Marco Empire by J Lou McCartney
Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal

Currently Reading:
The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

New Additions to my TBR collection:
The Man of My Life by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (review book from publicist)

Posts of Interest This Week:
Monday At the Movies: Good ol' Dad
Giving Voice to the Past: A Guest Post by Shilpa Agarwal
TGIF: Wishlists & a Nearly Endless List of Questions for My Dear Readers

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Oohhh, I *heart* Lahiri. I read Interpreter of Maladies several years ago, and in many ways it endeared me to the short story again (a continuing love affair to this day). I loved "A Temporary Matter" for its great characters, and I was sad right along with them. I hope you enjoy the rest of this collection, Wendy!

  2. I just counted, and I have 53 so far for the ARC challenge. Just a little less than half my books read...

  3. Great work on the challenges. I think that if I were organized and at ll good at completing challenges that I would have finished these as well. Somehow I can read the books but never mange to bring all that other stuff together.

  4. Congrats on completing your challenges. I've got to take a look and see where I am on mine. Enjoy your Sunday.

  5. Congrats on finishing your challenges! Happy Sunday!

  6. Andi - I'm really enjoying the book, Andi. I can see why it renewed your love for the short story.

    Lenore - Just for the ARC Challenge, you've read more books than I have this year all together. LOL I'm not nearly as fast a reader as you are.

    Nicole - Thank you! I think part of my problem this year was that I wasn't organized enough. I might have completed more of the challenges I signed up for in the beginning.

    Nise' - Thanks! I thought about just continuing on with them for the rest of the year but decided I needed some closure.

    Kelly - Thank you, Kelly! Happy Sunday to you too.

  7. You're definitely more involved in the reading challenges than I am - of course, most people are :-). The few that I do are usually related to digging through the endless, ever-growing TBR pile! But I have a curmudgeonly streak myself, I guess, and most of the time I figure that keeping up with that pile is enough of a challenge as it is :-).

    I don't read a lot of short stories, but Lahiri's are amazing. I read Interpreter of Maladies several years ago, and Unaccustomed Earth is somewhere in TBR Purgatory.

    I've noticed the same thing about getting more comments on reviews of newer books, and that definitely is a draw!

    Have a great week, Wendy!

  8. I loved Interpreter of Maladies, and "A Temporary Matter" was one of my favorites in the collection. If you haven't read Unaccustomed Earth, I highly recommend it. Good job with all the challenges!

  9. You've done a great job with those challenges. Have a great week.

  10. I do know how you feel about challenges. When I joined them, I was excited and loved making out my lists. I joined so many, now they are just becoming more of a chore than anything else. I hate when that happens. I'm hoping I'll still get the excitement back before they are over.

  11. Yes, we see more comments on new releases, those that have a lot of buzz.

    But, I love discovering a backlist book by reading a review on a blog. Just today I read a review of MAKING IT UP (Penelope Lively) over at Fizzy Thoughts, and added it to my wishlist. It was pub'd in 2006 I think.

    The mix of old/new titles is great!

  12. This time of year always seems to bring out the "challenge curmudgeon" in even those who love them. You've done a great job! Maybe if you give yourself a break from them next year you'll get excited about them again.


  13. Congrats on finishing your challenges, Wendy!

    I didn't participate in a lot this year but still I'm having fun! :)

  14. Florinda - I seem to be good at biting off more than I can chew. I did much better with the challenges when I took them more seriously and was more focused. And you're definitely right. Working through that TBR pile is challenge enough.

    I read The Namesake a couple of years ago and liked it, but have heard this collection of stories is even better. Like you, I have Unaccustomed Earth around here somewhere.

    JoAnn - I have Unaccustomed Earth here to read too. :-) I'm looking forward to it. And thanks!

    Gavin - Thanks, Gavin! I hope you have a great week too.

    Yvonne - I really do love making the lists. :-) I think that's my favorite part. Good luck with your challenges, Yvonne. Hopefully you'll get back your enthusiasm.

    Dawn - I enjoy discovering an author with a backlist too, especially when it's an author whose book I read I loved.

    Lezlie - It's good to know I'm not alone. I wonder if it's because the end is in sight and for some, it just doesn't look that bright. ;-) I think the break will do me good.

    Melody - Thank you! I hope you continue to have fun with your challenges. :-)

  15. Wow, you are doing well on the challenges! I joined two and one is completed but there is no way I'll reach 100 books. I'll end up reading a little over 50 so, basically, I read about a book a week. I'm cool with that.

    Have a good week!

  16. Linda - What you don't see are all the challenges I dropped out of last month. I only stayed in the ones I was sure I could finish. :-) I won't reach 100 this year by any stretch, but I didn't really expect to so I'm okay with that. It sounds like you and I read at about the same pace. :-)

  17. Congrats on finishing these! If you are pining for more challenges, I just posted about the one I'm hosting today! :)

  18. I love how you share your thoughts on the reading challenges. I totally enjoy reading them.

    I find it really hard to stop reading too and keep telling myself, just one more chapter... just one more... (I seldom read short stories).

  19. I love reading challenges too...sometimes I'm very good at finishing while others just seem to languish...oh well...enjoy the Interpreter of Maladies. I loved it!

  20. That particular story was, I think, my favorite in the collection. It made my heart ache so much for that couple.

    I'm curious.. how many kitties do you have??

  21. Oy, all those challenges! :-) I love short stories, they're like potato chips. you can never have just one! and they are perfect for lunch breaks and bus rides and commercials. :-)

  22. J.T. - Thank you! No more challenges for me for a long while. I wish you luck with yours though--it sounds like it will be a lot of fun.

    Alice - Thanks, Alice. I'm the same way. It can be hard to stop at the end of a chapter. I often find myself reading "just one more" and then it's five or six chapters later. :-)

    Staci - Some do seem to be easier than others--plus a lot depends on our reading mood. Challenges are all about fun and reading good books, that's for sure.

    LisaMM - It really was a good story. It's one of my favorite so far too.

    I have two cats. And a dog. :-)

    Marie - I'm not sure about fitting a short story in during a commercial break, but definitely during my lunch half hour. :-)

  23. Interpreter of Maladies is one of my fav books, you have made me want to read it again :)

    Congrats on completing 3 challenges!!!

  24. Lahiri's book is an excellent one to read and savor slowly. It is not one I would have picked up on my own, but my book club chose it so I read it. It led to one of our best discussions. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book!

  25. Can I just say that I love the fact that I am not the only one who loses books in her tbr stacks? I know perfectly well they are there and since the stacks are alphabetized, you'd think I wouldn't lose anything. But I do.

  26. That short story sounds very powerful!

    Congrats on finishing some challenges! I'm really scrambling to get some of them finished this year.

  27. Frankly I didn't like The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri. But her short story collection is good.

  28. I listened to Interpreter of Maladies and enjoyed it. A Temporary Matter was one of my favorites.

    You know with challenges, I love to join but I never seem to do very good at finishing them. I think the only one I will succeed in this year is the 100+ reading challenge. Will that stop me from joining more next year-I doubt it. lol.

    Hope you have a great week Wendy!

  29. It does make sense that you'd get more comments on new books out rather than old - for one thing, our culture celebrates "new" far more and more to the point, the latest outing is what most people are going to see & respond to, especially with the aggressive book marketing.

  30. Violet - It really is good. I can see why the book won the Pulitzer for Fiction for it.

    Heather - I'm definitely taking my time with it. It's so good!

    Kristen - You too? I'm so glad I'm not alone! Haha My husband just laughs when I can't find a book. Like yours, mine are alphabetized. Sometimes it's right in front of me and I still miss it.

    Alyce - Thank you! It's good to have some under my belt. :-)

    Gautami - I am enjoying the short stories more than I did The Namesake. While I liked The Namesake, it wasn't my favorite book. I actually liked the movie better and think I appreciated the book more after seeing it, odd as that may sound.

    Dar - I'm really beginning to think that joining them and coming up with what I want to read for the challenges are my favorite parts.

    I hope you are having a good week too!

    Carrie (Patience) - Very true.

  31. Congrats on finishing several challenges, Wendy! I love reading challenges and find it hard not to join but it can get a bit overwhelming can't it? I go back and forth on if I want to continue with them or not.

  32. Iliana - Thank you! Yes, they can be a bit much if I over commit myself. :-) I think a break from them this next year will do me good.

  33. I got a little carried away with challeges too...I did a good job keeping track of the ARC challenge, but have slacked off now. It's just not as much fun. I've read more than the challenge calls for so maybe I should just call it complete and move on.

  34. Melissa - I definitely lost much of my enthusiasm for challenges this year. I am glad now that I decided to just sum up the challenges I had completed. It's a relief to say I completed something. :-)


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