Thursday, March 19, 2009

The one you could talk to all night

Novels are the sexy blond surrounded by admirers in the center of the room. Short stories are the interesting girl sitting in the corner by herself, the one you could talk to all night.

And do, providing you notice her.

Okay, clunky metaphor. Sue me. It's been a long week.

I been kicking around this idea for a blog post since I started a blog. My five favorite short stories. Not the best five. My favorite five. The list changes every time I think it over. The list, today:

The Lottery. Shirley Jackson. My sister read this in school and got home and pushed it in my face and said "read this." Savage. I think this is the first story I spent a lot of time thinking about. Made me realize writing was a craft, that a story was something somebody actually made, as opposed to something that just magically appeared in the pages of a book.

Silver Water. Amy Bloom. I've read it four or five times, and it makes me cry every time. Put the phrase "warrior queen" in my head forevermore, meant to describe a very specific kind of woman. Oddly, I've never read anther thing by her.

Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong. Tim O'Brien. A bit of a cheat since it's more a chapter from a novel than a story. Walks a razor between realism and myth. From The Things They Carried (which is on my five favorite novels list).

Where I'm Calling From. Raymond Carver. His brand of minimalism is responsible for a LOT of bad writing (some of it by me), since he was so widely imitated there for awhile. His voice is so specific. The details are so clear.

Werewolves In Their Youth. Michael Chabon. He'll write a great novel someday, though hasn't yet (Kavaleir and Klay was close). He's written a bunch of great short stories. This is one of them.

I've left out a bunch of heavyweights. Flannery O'Conner, most of all. Hemmingway. Bradbury (sorry Nance, sorry Irr). Annie Proulx. Kafka.

Off to vacation in the Canyonlands of Utah. Camping, hiking, stargazing. Love that place. L-hux and I backpacked down into The Maze on our honeymoon. Got lost nearly every day. Always found our way back.

Haven't made a bid on the house yet. If it's still there on our return, we probably will. If not, scenario one.


Gordo said...

Excellent list! I like too many Bradbury stories to pick just one or two.

I've maintained for years that getting lost is the only proper way to visit somewhere.

meno said...

I've only read one of these. Now i have some more to go!

I saw Tim O'Brien in person last year. he was awesome.

Maggie said...

OK, I have a confession. I had rather bad experiences with short stories in school. I remember so many that horrified me. Now, I have an aversion to the format. I love novels and realize that many a great novel is in fact many short stories strung together coherently. But I'm wondering, if I read these, will I get hooked?

I hope so. Thanks!

Irrelephant said...

I actually think that was a pretty darn good metaphor there, old bean. The list interests me, as I think I've only read one on the list. And no problem on leaving out The Grandmaster and assorted company: I spent one whole day at my father-in-law's reading a mighty tome of Papa's short stories. I never knew I could like him so much.

Mutha said...

Excellent list.
A Good Day for Bananafish by Salinger is way up there for me.

Enjoy what sounds like a vacation full of good medicine.

Noel said...

Great list. As for Chabon, I found that his shorter works are far more successful than his longer work.

And I'll keep my fingers crossed for you in terms of the home. It is a good time to look into setting down roots.

Eric Shonkwiler said...

I guess I'll always be courting that blond. I can't write short stories anymore and I never seem to care to read them. Not entirely sure why that is.

Have fun in Canyonlands.

Clowncar said...

Gordo, lost is my normal state. Knowing exactly where you are is boring. Old news.

Meno, a friend of mine saw Tim O'Brien several years ago. He was drunk. And surly. Helluva writer, though.

Mag, I agree stories are rarely as rewarding as novels. But when they do.... Try The Things They Carried. It got that strung-together-short-stories format you're talking about.

Irr, A Sound of Thunder shoulda made the list. Or Boys, Grow Giant Mushrooms in your Basement!

Great addition, Mutha. See more glass?

Noel, I've been disappointed by Chabon's novels lately. His early ones and his stories are so promising. Thought he'd write his Great Novel by now. He hasn't.

You're a born novelist is why, Eric. I musta writen 100 stories before I even tried a novel.