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AT THE LIBRARY: Short story, storytelling and discussion groups

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Short Story Reading Club will Zoom meet to discuss one of the quirkiest and most delightful short stories of the 20th century, “Mrs. Fay Dines on Zebra” by Hortense Calisher.

It concerns the predicament of Arietta Minot Fay. She is the last of the Minots, a line of men who from the Colonial Period to the stock market crash of 1929, made their fortunes through perquisites and benefices passed to them by wealthy patrons who were delighted and cultured by their company, sagacity and honesty. 

Changing times brought down the opportunities and the fortunes of the Minot men, and now, with the death of her father and her husband, Arietta, the last daughter, is 37 years old, widowed with a 9-year-old son and living frugally on her family’s estate.

She is on the verge of bankruptcy with only $136.25 in the bank.

Arietta has been invited to her neighbors’ home, the Lampeys, to meet Miss Bissel, an heiress and philanthropist who might offer her a job as secretary. Arietta’s fortunes change because of her ability to tell a great story.

Calisher was an excellent prose stylist with sharp ear for dialog and dialect and a precise eye for detail and character.

“Mrs. Fay Dines on Zebra,” is perspicacious and funny. If you need a good story for a pandemic pick-you-up, give it a read.

Read “Mrs. Fay Dines on Zebra” even if you don’t want to join in the Zoom discussion. (I know that is not everyone’s cup of tea, but don’t let it stop you from reading a great story.)

To get a copy of the story, email john.clarkbooks@gmail.com. I will send you a PDF. If you want to attend, email the same address and you’ll get a Zoom invitation.

If you’d like a hard copy of the story, you can find it in Lily Golden’s gourmet anthology, “A Literary Feast” (call No. 641.013 Gold). Check it out.

At 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27, I’ll be hosting a special Zoom discussion group, The Winchesteron: Stories about Life in Clark County During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In the 14th-century, Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio wrote “The Decameron” about a group of 10 people sheltering in a secluded villa just outside Florence to escape the Black Death. The stories are about love, tragedy, humor, practical jokes and life lessons. It provides a document of life at the time.

The Aug. 27 Winchesteron will be a Zoom meeting at which 10 Clark County residents will have a chance to tell their own stories about how they’ve coped with the pandemic and provide a document of our time.

Each participant will have five to 10 minutes to talk, there will be a general discussion afterward and the whole meeting will be recorded and made available to watch on the library’s Facebook page.

If you’d like to share a moving, funny or thoughtful story about your experience over the past six months, email john.clarkbooks@gmail.com. Invitations will be sent on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

If you have any questions about this meeting, please email me.

The Clark County Public Library’s monthly discussion group, Meeting of Minds, will still meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25. We discuss prearranged topics, sometimes with readings or to freestyle and see where the conversation leads. There is no agenda. We discuss topics; we do not argue.

All viewpoints are welcome, in fact, encouraged. Join your friends and neighbors for lively, congenial discussions about current events, scientific ideas, philosophy or good jokes. Laughter is encouraged. To get a Zoom invitation, email me.

Have a wonderful week. Stay safe and stay healthy.

John Maruskin is director of adult services at the Clark County Public Library. He can be reached at john.clarkbooks@gmail.com.