Saturday, April 02, 2011
My Favorite Short Stories
Sean Cloran asked me to recommend some short stories which I think are great.
My all time favorite short story is "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs. Working off of the old "be careful what you wish for premise" this eerie story remains the pinnacle example of what one should expect when making wishes. It was also inspiration for Stephen King's Pet Sematary.
My second favorite short story is "The Lady, or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton. It's appeal to me lies less in the body of the story and almost entirely on the open ending, where what happens is left for the reader to decide. I don't think the answer really matters. Some people find this sort of ending (such as with the movie "Inception" aggravating. Unfortunately, among those people have been some of my editors.
I'd also highly recommend the collection 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. There are two stories in this volume in particular (one about flying and one about cardboard boxes) that are among the best short stories I've read in some time and well worth the purchase of the book just for themselves.
Magic for Beginners, Pretty Monsters: Stories, Stranger Things Happen: Stories, all by Kelly Link are absolute gems. She's my favorite short story writer and has never disappointed me. I highly recommend her strange, sometimes funny, almost always unsettling, stories to anyone looking for quality reading.
Stephen Millhauser is another favorite short story writer of mine. I recommend The Barnum Museum as a great starting point and moving on to any of his other works from there.
I also heartily recommend anything by George Saunders, including In Persuasion Nation, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia.
Aimee Bender has two collections that I really liked, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories and Willful Creatures.
Finally I'd like to recommend the short stories of Kevin Brockmeier, especially the collection, The View from the Seventh Layer. His writing style may be too precise for some, but there's an almost self conscious quirkiness to them that I enjoyed.
Almost all of these in some way could be considered dark fantasy, but all have a penetrating ability to find the magic that lies just hidden in our own world and to expose it for good or ill.