Friday, July 19, 2019

Dahl Study: The Umbrella Man

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

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"The Umbrella Man" from Collected Stories (read 7/5/19)

A young girl and her mother are in town when they get caught in a rainstorm. They were trying to flag down a taxi when an old man came up to them. He was well-dressed with a nice umbrella. He told them that he didn't have his wallet, but needed money for a taxi fare. He had walked to town, but was now too tired to walk back home. He wasn't begging for money, but rather wanted to sell them his umbrella. He told them it was silk and cost him twenty pounds, but he'd sell it for one pound, just to get taxi fare. The mother bought the umbrella and she and her daughter huddled beneath it to stay dry. The daughter noticed the old man practically running down the street, and commented that he didn't seem as tired as he claimed he was. The mother is suspicious, and they follow the man down the road. He disappears into a pub, so they stand in the window and watch him. He orders a drink at the bar, pays with the mother's pound, and downs the drink. As he leaves, he snags an umbrella from the stand near the door. The girl and her mother watch him walk down the street to sell that umbrella to another unsuspecting stranger, then head towards another pub to do the same thing again.

"The Umbrella Man" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 7/12/19)

I like the show version of this story better than the written one. It starts from the Umbrella Man's point of view, though of course we don't know him as such at this point. He is just checking into an inn, asking where he might find a list of the nearby pubs. He goes up to his room and marks a map of pubs, then listens to the radio, getting frustrated to hear it's supposed to be a beautiful day. The next day, we are shown a man and his wife waiting for a train. Another man walks in and purposefully puts his umbrella on the table and settles next to the couple. They all know each other, but when the husband leaves to check on the train, it is revealed that the wife is having an affair with the other man. The man wonders if the husband suspects anything, but the wife assures him her husband is oblivious. They all get ready to get on the train and the man makes a point of coming back to grab his nice umbrella.
     The woman gets her hair done and it starts pouring as soon as she leaves the salon. The Umbrella Man finds her huddled under and overhang and offers to sell his umbrella to her. She takes him up on it. Later the husband and the man having an affair with his wife meet while waiting for the train home. The man is soaking wet and the husband asks what happened to his umbrella, since he was so smart to bring one that morning. The man said it got stolen at a pub. He then mentions something about the wife getting her hair done, and the husband laughs that she will look like a drowned rat since she thought it was going to be a beautiful day. The wife comes up at that moment, looking wonderful and holding the umbrella. She tells her husband to not get mad because she didn't buy a new one at full cost, and starts to tell him the story. He cuts her off and gets angry because he has suspected an affair, and now this is proof to him. He thinks she and the man met at lunchtime and he let her use his umbrella that afternoon. He starts a fight and the wife insists a man sold it to her and tells her husband what the Umbrella Man's game was. She drags him to the police station to prove it.
     While at the police station, the man insists his umbrella was stolen and he would never have an affair with the man's wife because he loved his own, etc. It hurt the woman's feelings, so when the Umbrella Man is brought into the station, she says it wasn't him. She lets her husband leave talking about a divorce, and the man she was having an affair with is mad she denied it and got him in trouble, too. She realized neither man cares about her.

Monday, July 15, 2019

My Writing Life

It's been seven and a half months since I challenged myself to write every day.

In January, the goal was to write two pages a day. I wrote one short story, started two others, and wrote really bad, long poetry. I wrote 28 out of 31 days.

In February, I wanted to wake up a little earlier every morning to write, in hopes of not missing those three days. I did wake up earlier, but I still missed three days, writing 25 out of 28 days.

March got off to a strange start, because I somehow missed the first day. Then I wrote every day of my Spring Break vacation (literally out-of-town vacation, and I still wrote), but then stopped once I returned home. Go figure! I only wrote 16 out of 31 days.

April was the A to Z Blogging Challenge, so I had 26 posts to write for Allison and Her Camera, plus my weekly Sunday posts - so I blogged every day that month...  But I only wrote 24 out of 31 days.

May was my game-changer. I started reading The Artist's Way, which recommended using morning pages as a brain dump. You wake up and write three pages of anything that's on your mind. I recapped the day before, wrote down strange dreams, plotted out the hours the stretched before me - anything and everything. I wrote 29 out of 31 days!

Which ramps up nicely to June - I wrote every day! I wrote morning pages of brain dump and then spent evenings starting short stories and scheduling blog posts. I thought writing every day would monopolize my time, but it actually made me feel even more ready to write other productive things. 30 out of 30 days!

That means for the first six months of writing daily, I wrote 152 out of 182 days. Not too shabby!

For July, I decided to participate in Camp Nanowrimo for the first time. I try to compete in National Novel Writing Month every year (to varying degrees of success), but with my writing finally getting on track to a daily habit, I wanted a new challenge. My Camp goal was to write a 20,000 word short story - one that's been kicking around in my brain for awhile. I started it, and I've been doing a lot of work on it, but some days I just could not handle working on that. My brain melted just thinking about it. So I'd start something new. Then something else. Then something else. Until I had five short stories making up my Camp word count.

That's fine with me. I know pushing myself to work on something I'm not feeling just means I'll make the choice to not write instead. So my "secret" goal was to write 1,000 words a day (which, if you can math, adds up to more than 20,000 words). I wanted to complete the story I've been thinking about for so long, but also start another. I want to start the submission process again soon, so I need to have some work for that. So far, only one of the five stories is finished, and it's not the one I really wanted to finish, but there's still time! And now that I've stuck with this habit for two months, I'm hoping it will only get more ingrained.

What have you been writing lately?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Dahl Study: Nunc Dimittis/Depart in Peace

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

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"Nunc Dimittis" from Collected Stories (read 1/13/19)

A man who has been seeing a woman for a long time finds out that she has been telling people in their circle that he is boring. It embarrasses him and makes him so mad, he decides he wants revenge. He secretly commissions a painter to paint his girlfriend's portrait. The painter is known for painting in layers - as in, he paints a woman nude, then adds her undergarments, then adds her dress. Once the painting of the girlfriend is complete, the man, an art collector, carefully uses turpentine to remove the top layer of paint. He hangs the portrait of the woman in her undergarments in his dining room and invites all of their rich friends over for a dinner party. He slips away from the party right after the painting is unveiled. He later finds out that his revenge backfires - everyone hates him. The girlfriend forgives him, though, and sends some of his favorite caviar, which he eats - then feels ill.

"Depart in Peace" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 7/4/19)

The episode is called "Depart in Peace" even though the short story was titled Nunc Dimittis, which means "Now you dismiss." I like that the new title is a variation of the same sentiment, and I like how both versions of the title add meaning to the end of the story. The short story was originally published as "The Devious Bachelor", which also applies to the story, but isn't as clever as the two later titles.
          The show is the same as the story, but with a bit more clarity. The man doesn't leave when the paint is unveiled, but rather makes eye contact with the girlfriend and watches as she faints. Later, she comes to him in person to forgive him and say she loves him and always will, and he must not listen to gossip from people in their circle. She gives him the caviar and he makes a cracker for her and then eats his own. He starts to feel strange, looks at her, and she puts her uneaten cracker back on the tray with a smile. She leaves and he walks away, towards the painting of her (for reasons I didn't understand, if there are any). He's basically hiding behind a curtain without really hiding when the butler comes in to clean up the tray. The butler looks around, sees no one, and sneaks a bite of the caviar. He is walking to the door when the man falls from behind the curtain. The butler drops his tray and falls into a chair, as if he is also feeling ill. The woman comes back into the room, looks at both men, and smiles at what she's done.