Short Story

Although I still read more novels by far, I have found myself increasingly drawn to the medium of the short story. This evening, I decided to take a quick look at my reading long during the past twelve years. As the period progressed, I noticed myself reading more and more short story collections.

I was surprised to find that there were relatively few women writers whom I thought had mastered the genre. In fact, the only ones who impressed me were Virginia Woolf (no surprise there!), the Argentinian Silvina Ocampo, and—closer to home—Joyce Carol Oates and Shirley Jackson. Why this is I do not know. It could be that they are out there, but to date I am not familiar with their work.

Another surprise was that the United States was well represented, what with writers like Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Stephen Crane, Henry James, J. D. Salinger, Barry Gifford, Philip K. Dick, and Ray Bradbury.

Latin America has some outstanding representatives. Topping the list are Argentina’s Jorge Luis Borges and Mexico’s Juan Rulfo. Not far behind are Roberto Bolaño and Francisco Coloane from Chile, Gabriel García Márquez from Colombia, Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo (who were married to each other) from Argentina.

Britain gave us Somerset Maugham, George Mackay Brown, G. K. Chesterton, and Graham Greene. In France, there was Guy de Maupassant. From Central Europe there was Franz Kafka and Bohumil Hrabal (Czechoslovakia) and Bruno Schulz (Poland).

The greatest Russian short story writer was Anton Chekhov, but there was also Leo Tolstoy, Varlam Shalamov, and Andrei Platanov.

I have just finished Barry Gifford’s The Cuban Club: Stories, and I find several other story collections in my TBR (To Be Read) pile. I guess I’m hooked.

Ten Short Horrors

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Think of this as my Halloween contribution. For the last several years, I have celebrated Halloween not by Trick-or-Treating, not by gorging myself with candy, but by reading collections of horror stories, mostly those published by Dover Publications. I find that the best works of horror fiction are usually not the longest (sorry, Stephen King), but either short stories or novellas.

Here is a list of ten of my favorites, in order of publication:

  • Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the red Death” (1842)
  • J S Le Fanu, “Carmilla” (1871)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Body Snatcher” (1884)
  • Henry James, “The Turn of the Screw” (1898)
  • Bernard Capes, “An Eddy on the Floor” (1899)
  • W W Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw” (1902)
  • Arthur Machen, “The White People” (1904)
  • Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows” (1907)
  • M R James, “Casting the Runes” (1911)
  • H P Lovecraft, “The Colour Out of Space” (1927)

Happy Halloween, and Boo!