Welcome to Notes from a Far-Flung Correspondent, which features the weekly interests and musings of Bossy’s Son, who is currently enjoying his sophomore year at Columbia University in the City of New York.
This week: Short Stories.
Recently a lot of commentors were sippin’ that Haterade about The New Yorker and the frequency in which it arrives on the doorstep. I got to thinking about my favorite part of that magazine – the pieces of short fiction. (I also got to thinking about how wonderful it would be to have a subscription to The New Yorker, especially considering I, you know, go to school in New York. Just sayin’, Bossy.)
Some people treat the short story like the novel’s less attractive friend — sure, you’ll take one for the team every once in a while if you’re a good literary wingman, and maybe you’ll even enjoy your conversation with the sexy novel’s friend, but all you’re actually thinking about is slipping into bed with a handful of real novel.
Short stories fight an uphill battle, since there’s a certain undeniable gravitas to a thick piece of literature. Plus, these don’t exactly give short-story writers a sterling reputation.
Gentlemen and gentlewomen of Bossy’s Literary Council, I am here to submit the short story for fresh consideration.
OK, I admit it – I prefer novels. But that’s not the question here. While it’s a noble (also occasionally known as self-punishing) task to take on War and Peace or Infinite Jest, it can also be a great thing to take advantage of those long lunch breaks, that I-can’t-fall-asleep-yet time, that how-am-I-still-waiting-in-this-doctor’s office period to get your short story on.
Here are eight of my favorites for your consideration (in no particular order).
- “Master and Man” by Leo Tolstoy. As poignant as anything Tolstoy ever wrote. The greatest instance of literary role reversal I’ve read.
- “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce. I first read this in sixth grade, and I distinctly remember my words upon finishing it – ‘Holy shit.’
- “Midnight in Dostoevsky” by Don DeLillo. My unabashed adoration for DeLillo knows no bounds, and this story might just begin to explain why.
- “Victory Lap” by George Saunders. Nobody does personal, internal narration with more biting accuracy than Saunders.
- “The Word” by Vladimir Nabokov. Just a taste of what Nabokov can do in a short story. Poetry in prose form.
- “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury. Nuclear families, modern technology, and the wickedness of children – a classic, chilling story.
- “Puppy” by George Saunders. A story that is both curiously funny and a little haunting as well. Exposes the fragile psychosis of a doting mother. EDITOR’S NOTE: Bossy sure knows you aren’t talking about her, kid.
- “El Avión de la Bella Durmiente” por Gabriel García Márquez. Esta versión es solamente para los hispanohablantes, but translations of it might be OK. Made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion.
Let those comments fly!