The short end of the stick

This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.

In prepping to teach again in a few weeks, and working on my own short work lately, I’m thinking a lot about the short story. In a moment of procrastination, I compiled this hurried selection of favorite and admired short fiction. This is a late-at-night, bourbon-influenced, purely from memory selection, so I’m sure I’ve left much out that I’ve forgotten I adore, but this is what occurs to me now. I share this to engender complaints, dissent and suggestions from you, dear reader:

  • “Say Yes” by Tobias Wolff. This isn’t normally the kind of lit that turns my crank, but he does so much in such a small space. I’m in awe. People wash dishes.
  • “A Small Good Thing” by Raymond Carver. I know, I know – one of the usual suspects. But when I first read this story in 1991, I closed the book, set it on my tiny, dumpster-rescued coffee table, and wept for the next twenty minutes. No story I’ve ever read in my life has ever created such a stir.
  • “Our Lady of Peace” by ZZ Packer. This story is truly fucking brilliant, but I must confess I prefer the version published originally in (the sadly now defunct) STORY magazine, to the version in her collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. The ending is much more brutal and subtle, just the way I like it.
  • “The Stone Inscription of Caleb Pellor” by Rand Burkert. What the hell happened to this guy? This is the only story I’ve ever been able to find by this guy, and only in this one anthology, 20 Under 30, published in 1986 for god’s sake.
  • “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Leo Tolstoy. So sue me.
  • “A Mother’s Tale” by James Agee. Wierdest, most chilling shit in the universe. POV: cow. But about Jesus.
  • “Sister Godzilla” by Louise Erdrich. A love story. A hate story.
  • “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid.
  • Pretty much anything by George Saunders. But I must confess, as much as I love “Sea Oak” and especially “Pastoralia”, my favorite Saunders story is “The Falls”.
  • Much of Jayne Anne Phillips’ Black Tickets.
  • All of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.
  • “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien. Give this guy a medal, for god’s sake. He’s a genius.
  • “Emergency” by Denis Johnson
  • I’d love to know what your favorite short stories are, or hear any dissent or assent to those listed here. Send complaints, suggestions, and elaborate curses to annie at maud newton dot com.


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