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Short Recommendations

July 20, 2010

A few days ago, a group of us got into a lively debate about short stories vs. novels. My friends rarely read short stories. Some of them admitting they haven’t read a single one since their last English class. None of them were surprised that writers, especially amateur ones, write significantly more short fiction than novel-length. But they seemed quite surprised when I said that read a good bit of short fiction as well.

I explained that not only does crafting a tightly-worded, interesting short story (often within a given word count) in extraordinarily challenging, but that the short format lends itself toward far more experimentation than longer works. In the end I made a few converts—who then immediately asked me for a list of recommended short stories.

Now I have quite a few favorites that I can pass along, but it got me wondering. What stories you all would recommend to people trying to reacquaint themselves with short fiction?

If you’d like to play along, leave two recommendations. The first should be a “classic”, a time-tested short story. The second can be anything you want, but try to recommend something you love that the rest of us won’t know about.

Here are mine:

  1. The Cask of Amantillado, by Edgar Allen Poe. I’ve loved this story since I first read it in Elementary School. To my mind it has one of the all-time great first lines. Even today, if I read the first line, I wind up reading the whole thing.
  2. The Minch Maneuver, by Fiona Curnow.
  3. This story appeared in in the first edition of Future Orbits, a short lived e-zine of science fiction and scientific essay. It’s the story of smugglers, set in a world of solar-systemwide travel, but like all the best sci-fi, the world is just the backdrop for a the personal story of the ship’s captain.

Next week Dale will be examining the nature of writers and our routines.
  1. July 20, 2010 8:46 pm

    Little else could be more classic and time-tested than Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers. It’s a great study for narrative technique. I’m left awestruck at how he managed to accomplish that much in a story where chunks of description were left out and everything was determined by the sparse but very effective narration.

    For the second option, I’d go with Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples. It’s a re-telling of the classic fairy tale Snow White, told in the point of view of the new Queen. It’s a great read, primarily because it stays true to its aim of giving the audience a new way of seeing an old story. It’s part of Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors short story collection, along with the novella-turned-graphic-novel Murder Mysteries and a cutesy Arthurianesque story, Chivalry. 🙂

  2. July 22, 2010 1:30 am

    One of my favourite short story writers is the Russian author Anton Chekhov and I recently managed to get hold of a collection of his “Selected Stories” published by Wordsworth Classics. The first title in the collection “Overseasoned” is my favourite. I love the way Chekhov builds up the atmosphere in this story, creating suspense and a sense of mystery before… but I’ll let you read that for yourself.

    My second, you may consider cheating. It’s not really a short story. I’ve seen it billed as a short novel, a series of letters and even a cautionary tale. But I’m recommending it because it’s a masterpiece in plotting and pacing a story. It’s Katherine Kressman Taylor’s: Address Unknown. And don’t worry, it won’t take you long to read. Probably not much over an hour.

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