Faulkner, Jackson, Poe and Moore…
In honor of Arlington Reads 2014, we asked Arlington readers to tell us their all-time favorite short stories. Should we be worried that so many are horror?
“The Dead” from The Dubliners
by James Joyce
An annual family party results in a man’s dawning self-awareness of his insecurities and failings, and the question of whether it is better to die young, and the desire to be remembered.
Mehvish says, “It was hard to forget Gabriel, with all his flaws and insecurities; who hasn’t felt insecure and who doesn’t want to be remembered long after they’re gone?”
“You’re Ugly, Too” from The Granta Book of the American Short Story, Vol. 1
by Lorrie Moore
A brief encounter between Earl and Zoe highlights both of their failings in looking for a relationship.
Beth says, “Incredibly poignant, dark humor with a perfect twist at the end. Moore is a master of the short story”
“The Lottery” from The Lottery and Other Stories
by Shirley Jackson
One of the most terrifying stories written in this century, The Lottery created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948.
Jennifer says, “It belongs in any primer on narrative style, and still stands as a concise (and devastating) assessment of social behavior. The plot continues to influence all sorts of fiction (see “The Hunger Games”); and unfortunately Jackson’s keen insight comes to mind all to often when reading the news of the day.”
“Snow” from The American Story: Short Stories from the Rea Award
by Ann Beattie
An unnamed female narrator who recounts the story of the time she spent in the country with her former lover.
Jeff says, “I fell in love with this during my first fiction class. It’s only 1.5 pages long, yet still dynamic and very intimate. Written in the 2nd person.”
“The Necklace” from The Necklace and Other Tales
by Guy de Maupassant
After devoting their energy and income for ten years to replacing a borrowed diamond necklace that they lost, a woman and her husband learn the irony of their efforts.
Anthony says, “Crafted as if a fable, Maupassant weaves the story of a woman addicted to lifestyle of status and the resulting downfall that comes with her hubris and greed. I read the story so many years ago but it has stuck with me ever since.”
“Reports of Certain Events in London” from Looking for Jake
by China Miéville
This short story, in the form of a collection of fictional documents supposedly “received” by the author, presents the idea that there exist certain autonomous streets which phase in and out of existence, living complex and mysterious lives of their own, and even having romances and violent feuds amongst their alley selves. The street that is the focus of the story (Varmin Way) is also mentioned in Un Lun Dun briefly.
Alex says, “The idea that the streets have their own agenda is both fascinating and addictive.”
“The Pit and the Pendulum” from Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
by Edgar Allan Poe
The story of a man’s attempt to survive in a torture chamber during the Spanish Inquisition, one of the most deadly inquisitions in history.
Henry says, “It’s a classic of built-up fears and you can’t beat the opening line: “I was sick-sick unto death with that long agony…” Has anyone really improved on horror writing since Mr. Poe? Good luck trying.”
“The Awakening” from The Awakening and Other Stories
by Kate Chopin
When a Louisiana woman meets a young resort owner while on vacation, she begins to fall in love with him despite her own marriage.
Kimberley says, “I first read it when I in high school, and thought it really captured the feeling of disconnectedness. It resonated with me at the time, and it is one of the few works that I still keep in hard copy.”
“The Monkey’s Paw” from The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time
by W.W. Jacobs
The paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate…
Christina says, “My heart still pounds whenever I read it. It is true mastery to present a complete story in just a few words.”
“Barn Burning” from Collected Stories of William Faulkner
by William Faulkner
The prequel to Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy, “Barn Burning” deals with class conflicts, the influence of fathers, and vengeance as viewed through the third-person perspective of a young, impressionable child.
Ellen says, “One of the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever read. The weight of having to choose between loyalty to family and what’s right is depicted with force and intelligence.
“We Have a Pope!” from The Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2004
by Christopher Buckley
Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, a comic tale of campaigning for the first American Pope.
Joanne says, “The funniest short story I have ever read. I laughed all the way through! I read this in Borders during a quick break for studying for the bar and that moment of fun was much needed.”
“Tenth of December” from Tenth of December: Stories
by George Saunders
In which a suicidal cancer patient save the life of a young misfit.
Lisa says, “I love this man’s work. He always has a compelling story to tell. After reading this story (it is the last one in the collection), I read three of his other collections too!”