[ Content | Sidebar ]

short story

040A & P by John Updike

john updike

A & P has divided readers for decades. A Holden Caulfield type checkout boy becomes distracted by three girls who walk into the supermarket in bathing suits. When the protagonist tries to stick up for them, is it as an attack on hypocrisy and a defender of reason, or is he just smitten because they’re semi naked?

The ambiguity is what makes this story great, simply because, life is rarely that clear cut.

John Updike was one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century. In a career spanning over 50 years, he wrote dozens of novels, short story and poetry collections.

A & P, collected in Pigeon Feathers, is one of the hundreds of Updike stories published in the New Yorker.

A & P continued »

037All That by David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace

All That was posthumoursly published by the New Yorker in 2009. It reflects on the ironies of childhood belief and understanding with typically brilliant humour, honesty and intelligence.

This is labelled as fiction with all the high definition of non-fiction. My sense is that it could be at least a blend. David Foster Wallace was profilic and acclaimed in both genres. His opus Infinite Jest was listed in Time’s All Time 100 Novels and leads a host of short story and essay collections.

The title essay to A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is often sighted as one of the funniest pieces of writing of all time.

In 2008, he died aged 46.

All That continued »

034Della by Anne Enright

Della is a touching story about the strange attraction that blossoms between two old neighbours who never previously got along. Enright handles the situation and characters with wonderful subtly, maturity and understanding.

Enright shot to international fame in 2007 when she won the Man Booker Prize for her fifth novel, The Gathering. This followed the Davy Byrne Award in 2004. Since then she has published two collections of short stories, Taking Pictures, from which Della is taken and Yesterday’s Weather.

Other available stories on the web include Natalie and In the Bed Department

Della continued »

031A Good Man… by Flannery O'Connor

A Good Man is Hard to Find is the title story of O’Connor’s first collection. She published 32 stories and two novels in her short life and is considered one of the foremost Southern writers. Her stories often rely on rural settings and ugly characters.

She has many other famous stories including Good Country People and The Life You Save May Be Your Own

A Good Man… continued »

028Araby by James Joyce

Although best known for the experimental Finnegans Wake and the intimidating Ulysses, Joyce is also famous for his collection of short stories. They are far more accessible than his novels and probably a better place to start.

With , Dubliners, Joyce wanted to betray the “…paralysis which many consider a city” and that theme is consistent with each story. In Araby, a boy struggles with his own shyness which disrupt and delay his pursuit of a girl. With the degree of religious reference, you could also argue the boy is confused between his beliefs, the pressures from the church and his own feelings.

The Dead is the most famous story from the collection, but it is also the longest, at over 15,000 words.

Araby continued »

025Stickfighting Days by Olufemi Terry

Olufemi Terry

Stickfighting Days took the literary world by storm in mid-2010 when it won the Caine Prize for African Writing. It is about glue-sniffing street kids who pass the time duelling with sticks. The young Sierra Leonean writer claimed this to be only his second short story.

Terry published another story, Digitalis Lust in Jambula Tree, the Caine Prize’s 8th annual collection. He is currently working on his debut novel The Sum of All Losses.

Stickfighting Days continued »

022Water Liars by Barry Hannah

Barry Hannah

Water Liars is the first story from Hannah’s classic dark comic collection, Airships. Despite writing eight novels, including the critical success Ray, he was mostly celebrated for his short stories. This continued with the collections Bats Out of Hell and the Pulitzer Prize nominated High Lonesome.

As further reading, I’d also recommend the powerful Testimony of Pilot (also from Airships) and the creepy Evening of the Yarp: A Report by Roonswent Dover, from his final collection Long, Last, Happy.

Hannah died of a heart attack in Oxford, Mississippi, March 2010, just days before his hometown was to have his work as the focus of an annual literary conference.

Water Liars continued »

019Beginners by Raymond Carver

raymond carver

Beginners is the original version of the title story from What We Talk About When We Talk About Love before over half it was controversially cut and changed by his editor Gordan Lish.

Carver is considered one of the most important short story writers of the 20th century. He employs a concise, minimalist style similar to Hemingway and Chekhov; and is associated with the Dirty Realism movement of the 70s/80s with the likes of Charles Bukowski, Tobias Wolff, Richard Ford and Cormac McCarthy.

Cathedral and Chef’s House (podcast read by David Means) are two more important Carver stories. If you like them, I’d recommend The Library of America’s Carver: Collected Stories. It contains both versions of the Beginners collection as well as his short story collections Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, Cathedral and other stories and essays.

There have been several movie adaptations of Carver’s stories. The latest is Everything Must Go based on the story Why Don’t You Dance?

Beginners continued »

016Childcare by Lorrie Moore

Lorrie Moore

Lorrie Moore is a great contemporary writer. Her stories are witty, poignant and delivered with very little fuss. Like everything I’ve read of hers, Childcare is a pleasure to read.

If you want to read more, I recommend her short story collections Birds of America and Like Life. I also enjoyed her short novel, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Her latest novel is called A Gate at the Stairs.
Childcare continued »

013The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol

Nikolai Gogol

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “We all come out from Gogol’s Overcoat.” The Ukrainian’s is one of the most influential figures in world literature and The Overcoat (also translated as The Cloak), one of his most significant works.

Amongst many others, he is also famous for The Nose, the novel Dead Souls and the play, The Inspector General

The Overcoat continued »