Monthly Archives: July 2011

Why I live at the PO — Eudora Welty

Story Title: Why I live at the PO – Eudora Welty

Originally published: 1941

Collected In: A Curtain of Green and Other Stories

Brief Story Description: A young southern woman comes into conflict with her pernicious sister when the girl comes home after the collapse of her marriage. Deciding that she can’t stand being at home any longer, the young woman gathers all her things (even digging up some plants she’d planted in the garden) and moves into the small local post office where she is post mistress.

Why it works humour wise: This is a good story, as well as a funny story. The characters of the family seem to be real hicks, but in a Beverly hillbillies type way. The father hasn’t cut his beard since he was fifteen years old. The Uncle who is a pharmacist, drinks patent medicine of the 4th of July and gets himself into a state. The sister has come home with a child, who she is claiming is adopted for some reason. It’s an eccentric cast of characters, all bickering and over reacting to a situation. The action is not overblown, but the squabbles of the family are funny. The whole town winds up divided, and only some of the residents continue going to the post office to buy stamps and post items.

Further Comments: A funny story, in a real southern style. Southern writers are something all to themselves, there seems to be a great pride in allowing the south to speak for itself, particularly in terms of dialogue. But with Southern humorists, there is also the double edge of them mocking the residents of the south as uneducated. It is a real blending of love, but a tempered love, and one where the foibles of such people are also pointed out.

US post office in Lehigh Kansas by Steve Meirowsky

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Humour


A new semester begins

What a great six months it’s been for this blog (well, a university semester’s worth, considering the posts started late February). I’ve presented a selection of short stories which would serve as a good introduction to the form, but the stories presented are only a brief sprinkling of the possibilities to the form. I’ve read some wonderful stories though, and have come across some new favourites. If this is to be a substitute for university however, I thought it’s time for a new semester. Lets pretend I’ve sat some exams (exams are always easier if one can pretend them and not actually have to sit them). Let’s pretend afterwards on went on holidays somewhere, surfing in Baja California, or whatever the cool kids get up to on their summer breaks (probably not answering calls at a call centre, which was always much closer to the truth for me).

Now that my virtual, pretend university is back however, I have to pick a whole new subject. This semester, I’ve elected a favourite area of mine to investigate, that is, the humorous short story. Sure, humour is highly subjective, but there is such a thing as a story whose main purpose is to entertain through comedy. I want to delve into such works, and try to dissect why they work, and what mechanics they use. The whole genre may seem out of date at the moment, but I will be trying to find modern examples as well as historic examples.  I will adopt a template style for summarising the stories I read, but I hope the content I provide will be worth reading. One can only hope. Hooray for the new semester.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Humour


Henry Lawson – The Drover’s Wife – originally published in The Bulletin, July 1892

Collinton Hut by Jema Smith

Collinton Hut by Jema Smith

Lawson is quintessential reading for anyone wanting to talk about the Australian bush. The ‘bush’ that he talks about doesn’t exist in quite the same way as it once was, but there are still examples of it, depending on how far out you travel. Lawson gained fame from some of his early sketches, as he called them. His sketches are basically character profiles, detailing a particular day in the life of an individual. In the story, The Drover’s Wife, the titular character is a woman who is left to raise four children, while her husband has gone off droving. They once lived together, but drought has ruined their small farm, and the husband now goes off for periods of six months or more to earn money for them.

The wife is the only adult around. The omniscient narrator advises that at one stage the woman had five children, but the child died while she was there alone. ‘She rode nineteen miles for assistance, carrying the dead child,’ the narrator advises.

She is alone in the lonely countryside. She has battled floods and a bush fire to protect her house. “She loves her children, but has no time to show it. She seems harsh on them.’ The woman cries at times and laughs at others. But she continues on. The sketch contains a story, that of a snake that has made its way into the wood heap. The children are excited and try to kill it, along with the dog but it remains inside the heap. Later the woman is trying to get some wood but the heap collapses on her. She is injured. The snake emerges but the dog manages to kill it.

The story, The Drover’s Wife is extremely interesting. It reads like a piece of journalism, yet it contains a restrained emotion that goes further than objective fact. The loneliness and hardship of isolation are ever present.  Most Australian’s already know the divide between Henry Lawson’s and Banjo Patterson’s portrayal of the bush, but it is worth noting again. Patterson tends to give a fun, sentimentalised version, while Lawson portrayed the difficulty of life. Lawson’s view is of course much bleaker.  At the time, it was not near as popular. A century later however, it has become regarded as just as valuable a contribution to Australian literature.


Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized