Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Best American Mystery Stories - Mist by James Lee Burke

The Best American Mystery Stories - Mist by James Lee Burke

The story was about a drug addict trying to clean herself up. She didn't seem that dedicated to drying it, it was more her sponsor pushing her. Then the roles reversed.

1. Compare and contrast the short story you choose in a given week to the novel we are reading that week. Consider differences in character development, plots, settings and themes. Consider how the length of the form, i.e. short story vs. novel, impacts the story. Which did you prefer in a given week and why.

I did not find either of these to by my style of book. I like books that put everything out there. I found the Maltese Falcon a bit confusing in the beginning. I do prefer the Maltese Falcon over Mist. The differences in the character development is you felt like you got to know Sam Spade better even though he was a mysterious character. The difference of the plots were murder verse someone trying to get clean from drugs. The difference in the settings was the Maltese was set in the 30's and Mist was set in present time. The Maltese Falcon was set in San Francisco and Mist was set somewhere in Louisiana. The Maltese Falcon was much more suspenseful and Mist was much more narrative.

I much prefer the Maltese Falcon to Mist. I felt much more attached to the characters in Maltese Falcon because I felt that I knew them better. Mist was too short so I never really felt like I was "into" the story. Maltese Falcon kept me guessing and even thinking about it when I wasn't reading it (while I was at work), trying to understand some of the details. I felt that Mist was just a quick read and it was over before it even really got started. I was not wondering what would happen next in this story.

I definitely think that a novel leaves a much bigger impact because the story and characters have more time to develop. When I read a novel, I am filled with questions until the end.

2. Do you attribute any differences between the short stories based on the gender of the author? If so, explain what differences you observed.

Both authors this week were men. I thought they both did not include very much emotion in their stories. It was much more cut and dry. I feel that a woman would have given you more details of how they were feeling at the time. I thought that a woman might run a little more with the romance with Brigid in Maltese Falcon instead of making her out to be a damsel in distress.

In Mist, I think the author needed to spend more time making you side with the main character. It just seemed that she had so many problems and never even tried to help herself. I never felt sorry for her. He needed to spend more time getting the reader attached because I felt like she kind of brought everything on herself because of her poor choices. I also found it a little unlikely that a woman that lost her lover and child would turn to drugs. In the story, she turned to drugs and alcohol. I would have found it more believable if she were just an alcoholic.

3. Review each short story. What did you like or dislike and why? Did the mystery in the short story work for you, i.e., were you challenged, surprised, satisfied or unsatisfied by what happened in the end.

Mist left me very unsatisfied because it never felt like a mystery. Nothing was stolen and no one was murdered. The end of the story was was the worst part because it left the reader hanging. I guess prefer a story that spells out the ending. I do not like stories that leaving you wondering after you finish which is what Mist did.

4. Reflect on the rest of the course, including your thoughts, reactions, observations, etc about the online discussion, the novels and anything else that strikes you as relevant to the course and your experience. DO NOT REPEAT WHAT YOU HAVE POSTED IN THE ONLINE DISCUSSIONS.

I am enjoying this course because I love mysteries. CSI and Law & Order are my favorite shows.

Mist left me "reactionless." (I made up a new word) :) It was one of those stories that you read and never thinking about again after you finish. I am looking forward to reading a different short story to see if I will like it. I wonder if all short stories will bother me because I never feel like I can get into them or if it was just that story.

5. Add anything else that you think is relevant to the course and your experience. I'm not looking for anything specific here, only what may be important to you. If you don't have anything to add in this category, that's okay. I won't deduct points and it won't hurt your grade. However, interesting, compelling thoughts or observations can enhance your grade.

I am taking this course plus another online course for Spring 1. I am wondering what in the world I was thinking because I am suppose to be reading 2 novels and a short story every week. Then I also have to watch 1 movie a week. I am dyslexic which makes me the slowest reader of all time, therefore I am spending every free minute reading! I am not complaining, I just wish the course was a little longer so we had more time to enjoy the stories instead of feeling so rushed.


  1. I understand what you are saying about the rushed schedule. I'm planning on revisiting each of these novels in the future, as luxury reading.

    I'm very interested in Mist, now that you've given a little info about it. Although you didn't seem to enjoy it much, I'm now curious about the character development and plan to read with a mental magnifying glass to see if I can get into it deeper. Thanks for your comments!

  2. I think it takes a skilled author to write a short story, and leave you guessing at the end, but interested enough to keep thinking about what happened after you put the book down. I also feel disappointed when the ending is up in the air, but I am left with a "who cares" feeling. I am taking two courses this session also. It has been difficult for me because this is my first time back to school in 30 years. I am having to learn how to do it all over again, only with technology. I have been sick this week and keep falling asleep when reading. I feel like you...What was I thinking? Good luck, like your post.

  3. I was not interested in reading "Mist" and probably won't now that I know the reader is left hanging. I'm not fond of short stories anyway and this is a great way to see if I will read any of the stories after someone else has given their impression.
    I think I like novels better because there is more time to develop the plot and characters.

  4. I had passed on Mist, it didn't seem to be a story that would interest me. Your write up sounds like it failed to emotionally engage the reader compared to if a woman wrote it - I think that is a fair assessment based on your write up. Nice job :)