If you ask me now when it was that I started to read and love short stories, I cannot tell you. I cannot, because I can no longer recall; all I know is that I’ve been reading them – on magazines, digests, online, in collected works – and I’ve been in love with this form of fiction for the longest time. So the idea of reviewing and blogging about short stories together with some book club (and real life) friends was, indeed, the perfect way to celebrate and champion short fiction.
In celebration of our collaborative blog’s first anniversary last month – forgive the belated post – we have decided to come up with our top five favorite short stories. No easy feat, true, considering the vast richness of the world of short fiction. Perhaps that’s why a couple of my co-contributors have decided to qualify their lists to their top five stories for the year. As for me, I’m going to qualify my list as well but not to my top five favorites only for the past year, but my top five favorite stories so far.
Without further ado, here are my top five favorite short stories, so far:
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman will always be one of my favorite fantasy writers, and his retelling of Snow White’s story in this dark and haunting piece has already earned its place as one of my favorite short stories of all time. The change in perspective is refreshing, and I think that no matter how many times I read this story, it will always have that same effect on me as when I first read it.
“I love this story because Neil Gaiman was able to take a traditional fairytale and cleverly twist it to create a perverted, haunting tale, one that will stay with you for a long time after reading it.” – From my original review
Read Snow, Glass, Apples.
A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri
This story is the opening salvo in Jhumpa Lahiri’s award-winning debut work, Interpreter of Maladies, and every time I am asked to describe it, I always say, the story hurt so good. It is the story of a young couple’s marriage, narrating how they first met, fell in love, got married, and thereafter, dealt – or tried to deal – with the problems that came with the territory. It’s a sad story, this one, and the atmosphere, the tone, and the beautiful narrative through which it was told have always stayed with me.
Each day, Shukumar noticed, her beauty, which had once overwhelmed him, seemed to fade. The cosmetics that had seemed superfluous were necessary now, not to improve her but to define her somehow.
Read A Temporary Matter.
Tenth of December by George Saunders
Tenth of December is the closing story in the short story collection of the same title, and is one of the stories there which I truly loved. The story of the man who wanted to escape, to put an end to his life, and the ending at which he found himself resonated with me.
Because, okay, the thing was–he saw it now, was starting to see it–if some guy, at the end, fell apart, and said or did bad things, or had to be helped, helped to quite a considerable extent? So what? What of it? Why should he not do or say weird things or look strange or disgusting? Why should the shit not run down his legs? Why should those he loved not lift and bend and feed and wipe him, when he would gladly do the same for them? He’d been afraid to be lessened by the lifting and bending and feeding and wiping, and was still afraid of that, and yet, at the same time, now saw that there could still be many–many drops of goodness, is how it came to him–many drops of happy–of good fellowship–ahead, and those drops of fellowship were not–had never been–his to withheld.
Read Tenth of December.
Everything Stuck To Him by Raymond Carver
This story is included in his collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories. It is the story of a young family – parents barely out of their teens and a baby – confronted with choices. It is one of the rather mundane ones and I know that many would pick other stories from the collection as their favorites, but this is the one that resonated with me and touched my heart – the honesty of it, the sincerity and the love.
Edgemont Drive by E.L. Doctorow
One of my more recent reads, Edgemont Drive surprised me with its purely dialogue structure without sacrificing clarity and sowing confusion. It is the story of an apparently homeless old man who sits in his parked car all day every day, staring at an old Victorian house which turned out to be his old home. It’s my first time to read any work written by E.L. Doctorow, and I hope it isn’t too late to catch up.
It’s as if I were squared off, dimensionalized in these rooms, as if I were the space contained by these walls, the passageways, the fixed routes of going to and fro, from one room to another, and everything lit predictably by the times of day and the different seasons. It is all and indistinguishably . . . me.
Read Edgemont Drive.
So those are my top five favorite short stories, so far. Who knows if after reading more short stories this year, the lineup will suddenly change next year?
Keep reading and cheers to more years of reading short fiction!