Short Story Review – Pop Art

Pop Art
Who wrote it?
Joseph Hillstrom King, better known by the pen name Joe Hill, is an American author and comic book writer. His work includes the novels Heart-Shaped Box (2007), Horns (2010), NOS4A2 (2013), and The Fireman(2016); and the short story collections 20th Century Ghosts (2005) and Strange Weather (2017).
What’s it about?
Image result for pop art joe hill‘Pop Art’ is one of my favourite short stories from Joe Hill’s collection 20th Century Ghosts. The story introduces us to the character of Arthur Roth, a young boy who has been born inflatable. This is a surreal concept that is shared with the reader in a prosaic fashion.
Why is it worth reading?
This story surprised me on an emotional level. I suppose, reading Joe Hill’s short stories, when I know he’s an author with a well-earned reputation in the horror genre, I was primed to be surprised because I wasn’t expecting something that was going to have sufficient sensitivity to make an emotional impact. But this was eloquent, powerful, witty and heart-breaking.
What’s so special about it?
These are the opening lines from the story:
My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable. His name was Arthur Roth, which also made him an inflatable Hebrew, although in our now-and-then talks about the afterlife, I don’t remember that he took an especially Jewish perspective. Talk was mostly what we did – in his condition rough-house was out of the question – and the subject of death, and what might follow it, came up more than once. I think Arthur knew he would be lucky to survive high school. When I met him, he had already almost been killed a dozen times, once for every year he had been alive. The afterlife was always on his mind; also the possible lack of one.
What I love about this is that it works on so many different levels. Hill introduces us to a character who is described as ‘inflatable’, and whilst we’re thinking that’s probably quite a remarkable feature – and we’re trying to work out whether ‘inflatable’ in this sense is literal or figurative – the narrator is digressing to talk about something as mundane as Arthur’s religion.
I think I was particularly moved by this story because it has a surreal premise that is supported by a very real-world context of bullying, friendship, compassion and salvation. The juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous give the story a devastating power.

This is a link to a short film that has been made of the story:  It’s a faithful adaptation but the short story has far more depth.

And, if you have dreams to write to this standard, please take a look at my book, How To Write Short Stories and Get Them Published:

Short Story Review – Episode of the Dog McIntosh

Episode of the Dog McIntosh
Who wrote it?
P G Wodehouse was one of the greatest comic writers of the Twentieth Century. He became a master of farce, creating a wonderful array of characters and imaginary fairyland based in the Edwardian British upper class. His 100 books have been translated into countless languages and remain an important part of popular culture. For the full biography on Wodehouse, follow this link:
What’s it about?
‘Episode of the Dog McIntosh’ begins when Bertie Wooster is looking after his Aunt Agatha’s Aberdeen terrier. Complications set in with the appearance of Roberta (Bobbie) Wickham, and they start to become hilariously more troubled when Bertie tries to help Bobbie.
Why is it worth reading?
P G Wodehouse is a talented writer, and I believe that any talented writer is worth looking at. He has an ability to surprise the reader and he repeatedly uses this to good comic effect.
What’s so special about it?
This is an exchange from early on in the story between Jeeves, speaking first here, and his employer, Bertie Wooster. The third person in the conversation is Roberta (Bobbie) Wickham:
“Indeed, sir?”
“I’m glad you can speak in that light, careless way.  I only met the young stoup of arsenic for a few brief minutes, but I don’t mind telling you the prospect of hob-nobbing with him again makes me tremble like a leaf.”
“Indeed, sir?”
                “Don’t keep saying ‘Indeed, sir?’ You have seen this kid in action and you know what he’s like. He told Cyril Bassington-Bassington, a fellow to whom he had never been formally introduced, that he had a face like a fish. And this not thirty seconds after their initial meeting. I give you fair warning that, if he tells me I have a face like a fish, I shall clump his head.”
“Bertie!” cried the Wickham, contorted with anguish and apprehension and what not.
“Yes, I shall.”
“Then you’ll simply ruin the whole thing.”
                “I don’t care. We Woosters have our pride.”
“Perhaps the young gentleman will not notice that you have a face like a fish, sir,” suggested
“Ah! There’s that, of course.”
“But we can’t just trust to luck,” said Bobbie. “It’s probably the first thing he will notice.”
                “In that case, miss,” said Jeeves, “it might be the best plan if Mr. Wooster did not attend the
I beamed on the man. As always, he had found the way.
I listened to this conversation on audio book recently whilst I was at the gym and almost fell off the treadmill laughing when Jeeves made the suggestion: “Perhaps the young gentleman will not notice that you have a face like a fish, sir.” Wodehouse’s work is rich with humour like this and he knows how to craft a conversation between characters so that their distinctive voices and personalities shine from the page. If you’re looking to emulate a true master of dialogue writing, you can’t fair much better than looking at the communication between Jeeves and Wooster.
If you want to buy your own copy, this is the Amazon Link:
And, if you have dreams to write to this standard, please take a look at my book, How To Write Short Stories and Get Them Published:

And, if you have dreams to write to this standard, please
take a look at my book, How To Write Short Stories and Get Them Published