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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Hannah Pittard
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Robertson Davies
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Memory Wall: Stories

Memory Wall: Stories - Anthony Doerr *Received from Goodreads' First Reads program*In its short existence, there have been many masters of the short story. Flannery O'Connor. Anton Chekhov. Raymond Carver. Jorge Luis Borges. Some of them were writers of larger works, but we tend to remember them best for their short pieces. Ambrose Bierce. Stephen Crane. Zora Neale Hurston. Eudora Welty. John Cheever. Many of these writers belonged to a different era, a time when short stories were appreciated, even revered. Guy de Maupassant. Edgar Allan Poe. O. Henry. But some have continued to captivate our interests in recent years. Alice Munro. Amy Hempel. Anthony Doerr.Is it perhaps a bit premature to add Anthony Doerr's name to this list of greats? Perhaps. But I have little doubt that given a little perseverance by the author, and time, Doerr will be one of those writers we think of when we consider the short story. He is a true talent, with writing that is natural and a voice that is rich.Each story in Memory Wall is unique. Doerr is able to transport the reader from a semi-dystopian South Africa to an aquarium in 1914 Detroit without a hiccup in skill. Along the way, the reader visits contemporary China, a magical, yet dilapidated village in Lithuania, WWII era Germany, as well as Wyoming and Korea. No matter the setting, it is as if Doerr has entered his story and walked around in it, observing every important detail. He has such a great sense of space that the settings come to life.Fortunately, Doerr's talent does not end with place. His stories and characters are just as vibrant as the worlds they are dropped into. Every one of these stories is tangible, empathetic, and moving—almost literally moving; often it felt as though the page had a rhythm, in and out, swaying gently in the fabric of the author's carefully woven tales.Anthony Doerr's Memory Wall is nearly a perfect collection. It is a real spectacle and well worth the time it takes to read, not just once, but over and again.Favorites: “Procreate, Generate”, “Afterworld”, “Memory Wall”, “The Deep”Note: The paperback edition includes a seventh story not included in the original publication. While in many short story collections, stories that are added in later editions are often “throw aways”, this is not the case with this one. “The Deep” is wonderful and worth owning. It felt as if it belonged in this collection; it was just a little late showing up.