Enchantment Short Story Discussion of ‘Night Visions’ by Thaisa Frank

Welcome to today’s discussion of “Night Visions” from Thaisa Frank’s collection of short stories in Enchantment.

After the last discussion in October for “The Mapmaker,” Thaisa Frank mentioned that a companion set of stories was “Night Visions.”  As a group, we decided to visit again with Frank’s family of characters.

This short story is broken down into several sections as well:

“Afternoon in Kansas”
“My Face”
“The Kiss”
“The Enchanted Man”
“The Store”
“My Mother’s Voice”
“Door into Dark”
“Country Boy”

I hope everyone has had a chance to read all of the sections for today’s discussion. I wanted to start everyone off with a few things to talk about.  Please be aware there could be spoilers.

1.  Night is referenced in “Night Visions” in reference to the mother and the night’s inability to recapture her.  Does this reference to night say something in particular about the narrator’s feelings toward her mother or more about the mother’s personality and behavior.

2.  In “Origins,” how does the absence of a past for the family present itself in the narrative and what impact does this have on the narrator?  Why do you think the past is so absent from the present?

3.  Brueghel’s picture is mentioned several times — a reference to a family of Flemish renaissance painters — one is of a wedding feast and another seems to be of a snowy landscape.  What theories do you have about their significance?

OK, that’s enough from me.  Let’s get this discussion started…

Also, if you want to discuss another short story in November, let’s pick a date that we’re all available and see what story we all want to discuss.

Enchantment by Thaisa Frank Short Story Discussion

enchantment button Welcome to today’s discussion of “The Mapmaker” from Thaisa Frank’s collection of short stories in Enchantment.

I selected “The Mapmaker” because its one of the longer stories in the collection and follows the passage of a “map” throughout the hands of a family.  The story is broken down into different parts:

“Dime Store”
“Sandra Greenaway”
“A Hidden City”
“The Journey of the Map”
“My Father’s Study”
“The Antique Writing Chest”
“A Walk in the Snow”
“A Visit to Ninevah”
“The Post Box”
“The Magician’s Eye”
“The Tibetan Book of the Dead”
“The Map”

I hope everyone has had a chance to read all of the sections for today’s discussion. I wanted to start everyone off with a few things to talk about.  Please be aware there could be spoilers.

1.  There seems to be a line drawn in this story between myth and reality, where the enchantment of the “fairy tale” is cracked or shattered.

2.   At the same time that the masks are taken down and reality reveals itself, the narrator sometimes continues to believe in a better place, a shining world where dreams are reality.

3.  Do you think that families are like countries, in that each person has their own boundaries and their own cultures that can sometimes clash and more?

OK, that’s enough from me.  Let’s get this discussion started…

Also, if you want to discuss another short story in October, let’s pick a date that we’re all available and see what story we all want to discuss.

Winners and September Event Announcement


Some very special winners of Enchantment by Thaisa Frank are:

Audra of Unabridged Chick

Beth Hoffman


Jessie of Ageless Pages Reviews

These winners, myself, Anna from Diary of an Eccentric, and Janel of Janel’s Jumble welcome you to join us in a special September 18th event!

We’ll be gathering here all day to discuss the short story “The Mapmaker” from Enchantment, and our special guest will be Thaisa Frank herself!

We hope that you’ll grab a copy of the book and come join us!

Some Local and Not So Local Events…

Washington, D.C., is a thriving literary community of poets, journalists, and authors, and there is never a dearth of writing events or readings for those looking for the next big book.  With that in mind, two great translated thrillers are coming out this month and both are translated by none other than K.E. Semmel, formerly the communications guru at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md.

One More Page Bookstore in Arlington, Va., will be hosting him for a night of Scandinavian Noir in Translation on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.

He’ll talk about his two translations and be interviewed by Art Taylor, who said The Caller was “chilling” and that it provided “a provocative portrait of a troubled mind.”  Between The Caller and The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, readers will be on the edges of their seats with excitement.

About The Caller:

One mild summer evening, a young couple are enjoying dinner while their daughter sleeps peacefully in her stroller under a tree. When her mother steps outside she is stunned: The child is covered in blood.  Inspector Sejer is called to the hospital to meet the family. Mercifully, the child is unharmed, but the parents are deeply shaken, and Sejer spends the evening trying to understand why anyone would carry out such a sinister prank. Then, just before midnight, somebody rings his doorbell.  No one is at the door, but the caller has left a small gray envelope on Sejer’s mat. From his living room window, the inspector watches a figure disappear into the darkness. Inside the envelope Sejer finds a postcard bearing a short message: Hell begins now.

About The Absent One:

Carl Mørck used to be one of Copenhagen’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl—who didn’t draw his weapon—blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of Copenhagen’s coldest cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician vanished five years earlier and is presumed dead. But she isn’t dead … yet.

For those of you outside the D.C. area, Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker’s Daughter, and Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, will be engaged in an Aug. 23 jamboree at the Crown Publishing Facebook page at 7 p.m.

Many of you have likely read Sarah’s book (check out my review) and loved it, so here’s your chance to chat with her for an hour. For those of you reading or hearing the buzz about Gillian’s book, this is a great opportunity to pick her brain.

For those of you that cannot get enough of short stories and reading, check out the third issue of The Coffin Factory, which is chock full of stories from greats like Joyce Carol Oates and James Franco. Oates has said the magazine is “a brilliantly imagined, highly readable, and important new literary magazine with the most incongruous title.”

The magazine has not only short stories, but also illustrations, and considers itself a “magazine for people who love books.” What more could book bloggers and readers ask for?

The first and second issues are available for PDF download, but why not check out a subscription or pick up a copy in your local indie bookstore?

Also, there’s going to be a great short story discussion on Savvy Verse & Wit in September of “The Mapmaker” by Thaisa Frank, which is from her collection Enchantment.  If you haven’t entered to win one of 4 copies, you better get a move on.  Time is running out.

Enchantment Giveaway Extended

As summer has kept the heat upon us and many of us are busy with family events and other things, I’ve noticed a decline in readers and comments.  This is good news for me because I’ve been able to take Fridays off from blogging in addition to taking off Sundays during the week.

But what has been disheartening is the response to my giveaway of a really great short story collection, Enchantment by Thaisa Frank.

However, what is good about this is that its given me the impetus to extend the giveaway through Aug. 31.

There are 4 copies up for grabs for US/Canada residents who will participate in a short story discussion on Sept. 18 of “The Mapmaker” with the author!

Short Story Discussion & Enchantment by Thaisa Frank Giveaway

On Friday, July 20, I reviewed a short story collection from Thaisa Frank of Heidegger’s Glasses-fame, and the collection entitled Enchantment was by turns fanciful and dark.  Check out my review.

These stories made me think, and when I was contacted by the author about doing a discussion on the blog of a short story, I was excited to offer Savvy Verse & Wit as a forum for that discussion.

In September, I’ll be holding a discussion of “The Mapmaker” story in the collection, which is actually a series of stories.  I’m hoping that the 4 of you who win a copy of the book will join us.

I’ll post the discussion post Tuesday, Sept. 18, which should provide others with enough time to get their own copy of the book and for those of you that win it to at least read the one short story.

To enter the giveaway, you must be willing to participate in the September 18th discussion of “The Mapmaker.”  And, in September, we’ll let one lucky discussion group member pick the October story for discussion.

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment on this post by Aug. 31.  US/Canada residents, who are age 18+ only.

Enchantment: New and Selected Stories by Thaisa Frank

Enchantment by Thaisa Frank, author of Heidegger’s Glasses (my review),  is a collection of short stories that offers a variety of perspectives on the real and imagined, and some stories have a more other-worldly feel to them than others.  Each story wears a mask of beauty and fantasy in which characters themselves take journeys or dream of traveling to cover up the heartbreak and dissatisfaction with their lives.

Frank’s prose is beautiful and mysterious, and her characters are genuine and real, even the vampire from “The Loneliness of the Midwestern Vampire.”  Each story has an undercurrent of longing as each character searches for a connection to something or someone, and in some cases, there is a longing to repair even broken connections as a means of regaining some of that lost sense of wonder that most of us feel when a connection is first made.

From “The White Coat” (page 147 ARC)

“She remembered almost nothing of her life back home–the cramped little alcove where she did translations, their sprawling city apartment–everything vanished in this air of limitless depth.”

Starting out the collection are some more fanciful stories, like “Thread,” “Enchantment,” and The Girl with Feet That Could See,” but further into the collection the stories are less fanciful and less playful and more realistic, like “Henna” and “Postcards.”  However, the real gem of the collection is the collection of stories within the collection — a series of stories — that make up “The Mapmaker.”  These stories or vignettes told from a single point of view focus on one family and its most intimate secrets, like who made the map that hangs in the father’s study and was it really the narrator’s grandfather.  There is even a story that touches on the manipulative nature of children when adults have a secret they don’t want others to know and of course, there is the overarching story of families and communication and how broken it all becomes.  In this section of the collection, it is clear that Frank is a novelist and in many ways, these stories could become their own full fledged novel.

Enchantment by Thaisa Frank straddles the world between the real and the imagined as her characters try to capture some of that awe that we often feel as children about life and to connect with others in the deepest way possible.  Frank is a talented writer with a firm grasp of characterization and storytelling, and while not all of the stories feel complete, they all will transport readers to another world, another time, and another place in the hope that they will once again become captivated with their own lives.

About the Author:

Thaisa Frank grew up in the Midwest and the Bronx, the granddaughter of a Presbyterian theologian and a Rumanian Chassid, who consulted each other about Aramaic texts. Her father was a professor of medieval English and her mother a director of small theater groups.  She earned an honors degree in philosophy of science and logic from Oberlin College, studied graduate linguistics and philosophy at Columbia and worked as a psychotherapist before becoming a fulltime writer. She has traveled extensively in France and England, and currently lives in Oakland, California.

Mailbox Monday #183

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Mrs. Q Book Addict.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Enchantment by Thaisa Frank for review in July.

The short fiction of Thaisa Frank has captivated readers for two decades, and now many of those pieces are collected in one volume, along with several new stories. In the title story, a lonely mother and housewife orders an enchanted man from a website called The Wondrous Traveler, who arrives with instructions for use and a list of frequently asked questions about enchantment. In “Thread,” two circus performers who pass through the eye of a needle become undone by a complicated love triangle. In “Henna,” a young writing teacher must contend with an exotic student who will not write, her hands covered in dye and her fingers “sprouting innumerable gardens.” And in “The Loneliness of the Midwestern Vampire,” the undead descend upon the heartland of the country and become accustomed to its friendlier way of life, attending barn raisings and feasting on cattle in an attempt to normalize their darker passions.

These are vibrant, compelling stories that examine the distance between imagination and reality, and how characters bridge that gap in their attempt to reach one another.

What did you receive?

Heidegger’s Glasses by Thaisa Frank

Thaisa Frank’s WWII novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, combines philosophy, mystery, war, and more, woven with crisp, no-nonsense dialogue and just enough detailed description to tantalize the reader to continue the journey.  The story centers on Operation Mail, Briefaktion, a Nazi program to entice Jews to volunteer for relocation by sending letters from their taken relatives.  The letters are actually written by a group of Scribes pulled from the lines of people being relocated, who have special language skills.  A special set of orders, possibly from Goebbels, are sent to the Compound for a philosopher to answer Heidigger‘s letter to his Jewish optometrist Asher Englehardt, who was sent to Auschwitz and is probably dead.

“Hans Ewigkeit had originally planned to line the mine with thick brick walls.  But even before losing Stalingrad, the Reich was pinched for money.  So instead of brick walls, the Compound had thin pine walls covered with a single layer of plaster.  Workers had added five coats of paint.  But the Compound was a flimsy shell:  Scribes put their hands on their ears when they wanted to think.  Mueller had worn earmuffs.”  (page 81)

Enter Elie Schacten, a woman with two lives and names.  She writes some of the letters, but most importantly has permission to be outside after curfew and uses that to her advantage to save those she can from the oppressive Nazi regime.  She is caught between her lies and the ambitious Stumpf who considers himself in charge of the Compound as well as her affection for Lodenstein, the leader of the Compound.  Will the orders to write a response to Hiedigger’s letter expose the Compound for its lackadaisical work and Elie’s operations to rescue Jews, or will the orders be another means of saving helpless souls?

“Light snow began to fall — swirls of white on grey.  The streets widened, narrowed, widened again, expanding and contracting, as though they were breathing.  Nothing felt quite real to Elie — not the sky, or the air, or a coffeehouse where customers drank from incongruously large cups of ersatz coffee.  People hurried by, surrounded by pale grey air — the only thing that seemed to hold them together.  Elie passed a muddy street with a chain-link fence followed by a row of prosperous houses.  The town was breaking up, and she felt she was breaking up with it.  It began to snow thickly, surrounding everyone in white.  We’re bound by veils, Elie thought, fragile accidents of cohesion.” (page 95)

Heidigger’s Glasses is more than a philosophical journey, it takes a look at how the ordinary can become extraordinary.  Each object can have a hidden meaning or take on the life of a memory that will have to serve as a lifeline in the most dire of moments.  Like Hiedigger’s glasses help the philosopher “fall out of the world,” each character must find that moment in time when they fall out of the reality they fear and into the reality that they create.  Frank has taken the time to weave a complex story during a tumultuous time in history, and her novel accomplishes that goal and more.  Her characterizations are unique and dynamic, and the plot is unraveled slowly by the reader who takes an unexpected journey to discover the mettle of even the most ordinary individual.

About the Author:

Photo by Chris Hardy; www.chrishardyphoto.com

Thaisa Frank has written three books of fiction, including A Brief History of Camouflage and Sleeping in Velvet (both with Black Sparrow Press, now acquired by David Godine). She has co-authored a work of nonfiction, Finding Your Writers Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction, which is used in MFA programs.  Her forthcoming novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, is coming out this fall with Counterpoint Press.  Foreign rights have already been sold to ten countries.

***Thanks to the author, TLC Book Tours, and Counterpoint for sending me a review copy. ***

Please check out the other stops on the tour.

Giveaway information:  1 Copy for 1 lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada

1.  Leave a comment about what historical period you love to read about most.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc., for a second entry and leave a link in the comments.

Deadline Dec. 3, 2010, 11:59PM EST.

This is my 57th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.