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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday Topic:
You Don’t Like Short Stories? Let Me Recommend…
1. Why I Live at the P. O. by Eudora Welty
This is perhaps one of the funniest short stories I have ever read, and each & every time I reread it, I’m amused all over again. It is a classic southern short story, full of family dysfunction, righteous indignation, ridiculous misunderstandings, and competitive one-upmanship. Though easy enough to relate to if you hail from The South, it is truly a universal story of crazy family relations.
2. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor was an astute observer of human nature and a harsh critic of hypocrisy, particularly that of overtly & publicly pious “Christians” who continually cast judgment on others, but could not see the deceitfulness of their own hearts. O’Connor’s short stories are beautifully crafted & exquisitely worded expositions on society…nearly perfect in their construction, and with themes as applicable today as the time she wrote them.
3. Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
In my humble opinion, this is perhaps the best of King’s short stories. He is a master craftsman, especially of matters dark and horrific, and while this story departs to some degree from his typical fair, it is tightly crafted as his best novels. And though the movie on which it was based is excellent, the story is (as is almost always the case) better, and therefore worth the read.
4. The Body by Stephen King
Again, an exceptionally good story by the master of the horror genre. If you remember the movie Stand By Me, then you know the plot, as this was the story on which the movie was based. And again, as mentioned above, the movie is wonderful, but the story is better.
5. The Dead by James Joyce
It is a psychological study if ever there was one, set in the familiar setting of the annual dinner and dance party hosted by some friends. Throughout the evening, the socially awkward and uncomfortable protagonist undergoes an epiphany as he struggles through the evening, learning along the way how little he knows of his own spouse. For those with a taste for heavier fair, this is Joyce at his best, but without the overwhelming difficulty (and length) of his more daunting works.
6. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
A truly beautiful story of love, and how true love puts the needs and desires of others before the needs and desires of oneself. It is the Christmas spirit at it’s best, and while not an annual tradition at Christmas, it should be because of its flawless illustration of what Christmas spirit really is, and as such what (and who) the season is really about.
7. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
A well known and favorite short story by Mark Twain, an author known for both his humor and his harsh social commentary, this story does indeed deliver on both counts. It’s a humorous tale of a man given to betting on anything, and a short commentary on cheating. It is not didactic or boring, and will leave you with a chuckle, but it is also a reminder to watch the eggs in your basket (to borrow another Twainism).
8. The Night the Bed Fell by James Thurber
When a humorist writes a story of calamity and a hysterical woman, this is the story that results. It is hilarious, truly hilarious!
9. The Beard by Fred Chappell
Fred Chappell is known for his short stories, and the collect in which “The Beard” is published (I Am One of You Forever) is good as a whole. The Beard, however, is my favorite of this collection. It is riotously funny, metaphorical in its construction, and has perhaps one of the most perfectly worded and memorable lines in all of reading: “I have had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be a superfluity.” It is memorable not only because it is hilariously poetic, but also because it is the only utterance of the otherwise silent Uncle Gurton.
10. The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
An easy read linguistically, but a tough subject. This story is set toward the end of WWII, and it is the story of a woman and her baby living in one of the Nazi concentrations camps. It is brutal, but no more brutal than its subject matter. Having read a number of books & stories set during the Holocaust, I can say that this is as good a place to start as any, due to its brevity. It also provides a great lead-in to Ozick’s novella Rosa, which I ultimately liked better.