A Categorical Take on Short Stories

As with other literary genres, short stories have different “categories.” Two of those “categories” include tales that are psychologically insightful but not very plot-oriented, and more “escapist” tales that have a strong, perhaps even exciting story line leading inexorably to a conclusion.

I like many stories from each camp, and also enjoy tales that combine the two styles. As with novels, it’s great to experience reading variety!

Obviously, psychologically insightful tales can offer plenty of food for thought and reflection, even if they’re not purely entertaining. But it’s nice sometimes to just sink one’s teeth into an adventure tale that gets the blood racing.

Thanks to James Joyce, I thought about all this after reading his Dubliners collection of short stories. (Previously, I had only gotten to that collection’s final, sublime, most-famous tale, “The Dead,” by finding it online.) Many of the Dubliners stories are subtle, slice-of-life works; they don’t exactly yank a reader toward Jack Reacher-like thriller endings. Yet they delve deeply into the human psyche and the difficulties and epiphanies of life for everyday people, and also give readers a panoramic view of the Dublin of 100-plus years ago.

Many of Anton Chekhov’s short stories are similar — usually not that plot-driven, but very rich in emotions, nuances, philosophical thoughts, and character delineation. And of course it helps to be a great wordsmith, as Joyce and Chekhov were.

Contrast those kinds of tales — which can often be categorized as literary fiction — with something like Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” or Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” that seem to run on adrenaline as they move readers toward a breathtaking climax. Or with mostly comedic stories — such as Mark Twain’s career-making “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” — that may not have a huge amount of depth but sure are funny.

Then there are stories that seem to have “the best of both worlds” — psychological insight and (perhaps propulsive) drama. They include — among various other tales by various other writers — Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Aleph,” Leo Tolstoy’s “Master and Man,” George Eliot’s “The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton,” Nikolai Gogol’s “The Overcoat,” Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf,” Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” Graham Greene’s “Proof Positive,” Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case,” Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman,” Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost,” John Cheever’s “The Swimmer,” and Margaret Atwood’s more recent “Stone Mattress.”

What are some of your favorite short stories with psychologically insightful or escapist approaches, or a combination of the two?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

93 thoughts on “A Categorical Take on Short Stories

  1. zigzag bill pronzini great hardboiled detective short stories The realistic way he describes dark people/places was fun to get into.

    a few of the girls -maeve binchy any of her short story collections are great they are really fluffy and romantic but witty with a backhanded sense of humour, And full of little tidbits on how to be a better person and what guys find annoying in a relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kristy, for the Bill Pronzini and Maeve Binchy recommendations — and for the GREAT thumbnail descriptions of their work! I haven’t read either writer; I’ll try at least one of them soon. 🙂


  2. Falling mostly under the “psychologically insightful” category, I submit a collection by a master of the form:

    Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons” — a rather good novel — but never his “A Sportsman’s Sketches.” Thanks, jhNY, for mentioning that story collection!


  3. Dave “The Gift of the Magi” and other short stories by O Henry was the first one came to my mind and now I see lulabelleharris have already talked about that.
    Jhumpa Jahiri is another excellent short story writer with “Interpreter of Maladies” and others and justifiably received 1999 O. Henry Award.

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  4. A few lesser-known writers (and representative collections) who have done much with the short story:

    Isak Denisen– Seven Gothic Tales
    Paul Bowles– The Sheltering Sky
    Yasunari Kawabata– Palm of the Hand Stories
    IB Singer– The Spinoza of Market Street
    Ivan Bunin– The Gentleman From San Francisco
    Adolfo Bioy Casares– The Invention of Morel
    Rafael Dieste– Tales and Inventions of Felix Muriel
    ETA Hoffmann– Tales of Hoffmann
    Ring Lardner– Round Up
    Ambrose Bierce– Can Such Things Be?
    Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky– Autobiography of a Corpse
    Algernon Blackwood– Ancient Sorceries and other Stories
    MR James– Ghost Stories of an Antiquary


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      • The Bierce selection is just such a one, though in truth, I prefer the man in his Devil’s Dictionary manifestation. He was also good at writing a pointed fable of a few pages in length, or fewer. Then he wandered away….

        Re Singer– I may have, among all my books, more by him than any single author. A friend had lunch with Singer in the very early ’80’s, a lunch he wangled somehow by being a guy in the neighborhood, Jewish, and a big admirer. Don’t know what they talked about, but I do remember Singer’s lunch (at an UWS cafeteria of a type the author frequented, and now, alas, are no more) : one boiled potato. Makes the Spartans look like gourmands.

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        • Excellent Singer anecdote, with a great last line! Guess that minimalist diet worked — he lived till 88. Interesting that you might have more books by him than any other author!


  5. There are short stories which, by fantastic means, convey psychological and philosophical insight. Bruno Schultz,, a Jewish Pole (also an illustrator of exceptional talent) wrote two collections of such works, The Street of Crocodiles, and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hour Glass before being murdered in the streets of his town by an SS officer.

    Another writer of this fantastic type is Hungarian, Géza Csáth, who wrote just before and during the First World War, before committing suicide after unsuccessful attempts at overcoming a morphine addiction, and the successful murder of his wife. Some of his dark stories are available in English under the title The Magician’s Garden and Other Stories.

    In each of the writer’s tales above, not so much happens as is imagined– but the imagination is a seductive, colorful, rich, dangerous place, where true things are revealed and commingle, even if the world of appearances we know is false.

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    • jhNY, I’m impressed once again with your knowledge of not-well-known and/or underappreciated writers. In this case, your knowledge of one who was ill-fated and another who had some major “issues.”

      Very eloquent final paragraph.


  6. Hi Dave, I’m starting a new thread just because I got to the point on my phone where we were speaking to each other on one letter at a time, and my head was starting to hurt. 🙂
    When we last spoke, you mentioned a book by L.M. Montgomery about a Blue Castle? I must admit that I missed out on her books, and I’m not sure why, other than I was more interested in books about mysteries and animals (dogs and horses, especially). I admit that on one of our auto trips to visit our parents in Atlanta, my sister and I listened to the original “Anne of Green Gables” on audiotape and I really loved it, but I never followed up on buying the rest of the series. Another series I want to read or reread is “The Little House on the Prairie,” which a friend picked up a paperback set of eight for at a Good Will.

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    • I remember some of those one-letter-a-line threads at The Huffington Post! SO hard to read.

      “The Blue Castle” is one of L.M. Montgomery’s “grown-up” (as opposed to YA) novels. I love it. Very clever premise, and very moving. Hilarious at times, too. I like it a little better than the fabulous “Anne of Green Gables.” The many “Anne” sequels are mixed — some great, some merely good. “Rilla of Ingleside” does have a memorable dog!


      • I will have to check that book out about the blue castle, it sounds very interesting. Having mentioned mysteries, there are so many short stories written by mystery writers. I have a book, “Hercule Poirot’s Casebook,” that include 50 of his short stories written by Agatha Christie. I think most, if not all found their way to TV either by PBS, BBC or A&E. Poirot was played by the great David Suchet. There are of course movies of most of the Poirot novels. So much of my book and DVD collection are still boxed up, so I’m a little lacking in details. Dorothy L. Sayers published some short stories as well, and 21 were Lord Peter Wimsey, 11 were Montague Egg, and I think there were another 12 published. One of the masters of this was G.K. Chrsterton, with his Father Brown “detective.” Of course, come to think of it weren’t most of Sherlock Holmes’ work stories? I know there were novels, but I’m sure he did both.

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        • “The Blue Castle” is pretty short, too — 200-250 pages. But it packs a lot into that space. If you do read it, Kat Lib, I’d be very interested to hear what you think!

          I’ve never read any of Agatha Christie’s short stories. You’ve certainly piqued my curiosity.

          Yes, a lot of the Sherlock Holmes works were short stories, with just a handful of novels.

          Come to think of it, P.G. Wodehouse wrote some darn good (and funny) Jeeves stories in addition to the Jeeves novels.


          • “Come to think of it, P.G. Wodehouse wrote some darn good (and funny) Jeeves stories in addition to the Jeeves novels.”

            Also, others, including Mulliner Nights, which is a collection of short stories involving recurring characters in a bar, and the stories they told.

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              • Yes, Woodhouse wrote many wonderful things, and I found his Jeeves and Wooster stories were the best. I read many of the stories before seeing the TV version starring Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Steven Fry as Jeeves. They are perfect in those characters and I can’t imagine anyone else in those roles, such as anyone other than Jeremy Brett being Sherlock Holmes or anyone other than David Suchet being Hercule Poirot.

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              • On my reading pile I have before me a Wodehouse novel titled “Jill the Reckless” which came out in GB in the early 1920’s– I have it in the ‘Herbert Jenkin’s Popular Edition’, undated, a cheap hardback of the period, as were most of Wodehouse’s things that came out of that publishing house. There’s not a Jeeves or a Wooster in it, I don’t believe, though the plot summary certainly looks typically Wodehousian. My guess? Bet he’s written less Jeeves and Bertie stuff than not over his lifetime.

                Has anybody ever read or seen one of his light comedies, written before he found fame as a novelist?

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      • I like to pretend they’re called flutterbys. Which is easier when they’re fluttering by….

        I am fond of collage generally and Joseph Cornell specifically, of which is what Nabakov’s pix reminded me….

        Then there’s this bit o’ the old T Stearns E:

        “And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin…” My guess? In no small degree of pain.

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    • You’re not totally off topic, jhNY — Mell Lazarus wrote two novels in addition to his cartoon work. 🙂

      I knew him well — ran into him at cartoonist meetings at least a couple dozen times, he visited my (former) magazine’s office in Manhattan once for an interview (late 1980s or early ’90s), and I was at his house in California once (in 1998). VERY smart guy, very friendly, and quite “suave.”

      Never forgot a thing, either. I talked to him on the phone two or three years ago, and he brought up the only story — among scores of articles I wrote mentioning him between 1983 and 2008 — that he didn’t like. The piece might have been 20 years old at the time!

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      • Dave I was not famalier with his cartoons and now looking at jhNY`s post they are awesome. I love cartoons and one cartoon speaks volumes and now the political seasons the cartoonists are brilliant in their character studies.

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            • Americans choosing Trump, or Trump choosing himself as VP, reminds me of a Mencken line:

              “Democracy is that system of government under which people, having 60,000,000 native-born adults to choose from, including thousands who are handsome and many who are wise, pick out a Coolidge to be head of state. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies.”

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              • One of many great quotes by the supremely cynical/astute Mencken! Yes, it’s dismaying when major party nominees are mediocre or worse when there are so many better candidates/potential candidates out there. I suppose the reasons include 1) some of those better politicians not wanting any part of America’s dehumanizing presidential-picking process and 2) a portion of the electorate not making smart decisions (partly because of how bad the coverage is by much of America’s corporate media).


          • It doesn’t look much like Dick Cheney, that cartoon… but it could, and then would be, if anything, more accurate. But I can see how the only guy in Trump’s mind to replace Trump in an emergency would have to be: Trump.

            How long will Boehner be able to withhold his love? And Annoying Orange? And Tropic Ana? The orange, I predict, will in the end, stick together….

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            • HA..you are so right..that is Dick Cheney minus the hair piece who was both . then some cartoonists are Hillary and some are for Barney and then Republicans. Here is another..perhaps in a few months all will make sense…

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            • Yes, jhNY, the evil Cheney was essentially president as well as vice president for a number of the Bush II years. And, as you say, most Republicans will probably support Trump eventually. For the GOP, having a Republican in the White House “Trumps” ethics.


              • I was really making a silly comment on the affinity of the orange for others like themselves. Orange juice is thicker than blood, itself thicker than water.

                Also, I refer to the fact that Cheney was tasked by the Shrub team to vet VP’s. Looking all over the USA, he could find only one candidate that impressed him: in the mirror.

                The voters for the GOP are not new to the party, only to voting in the primaries– and their candidate has only shouted what others in the party have dog-whistled for decades. The GOP voters will vote for the GOP in November, or they’ll stay home. I pray for the latter. And if Trump is elected, we’ll all be down a deep hole, at which point I’ll pray for a ladder.

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                • The orange silliness/wordplay was excellent, jhNY!

                  True, Cheney’s vetting led to…himself. I guess he ignored the other 320 million possible Americans. 🙂

                  Trump “has only shouted what others in the party have dog-whistled for decades” — so true. It’s almost/sort of/kind of commendable that at least he’s honest about his racism, etc.

                  If Trump is elected…OMG…hard to fathom. We would partly have the corporate media to thank, among other entities. Giving Trump endless free publicity to boost their ratings, readership, and so on.

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                • Actually orange was not silly makes sense. I just don`t get it…Trump is insulting Latinos and other races plus disgusting comments about Muslims when we have muslim soldiers defending the Country.
                  Actually GOP voters are more organized in a sense they vote, Democrats are not so which is worrisome.
                  Them not going to the poll we had a disastrous results in 2010..don`t know what to say..

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                  • bebe, it IS depressing that someone who insults Latinos, Muslims, women, and just about everyone else except right-wing white males did well enough to be the probable GOP nominee.

                    I hear you about Republicans tending to vote more. A lot of Democratic-leaning groups have more trouble voting — college students who live outside their districts, less-affluent people struggling so much to make ends meet that they don’t follow politics as much as they should, etc. Plus all the voter suppression the GOP engages in to fight non-existent “fraud” — voter-ID requirements, closing down polling stations in Democratic precincts to create impossibly long lines, and so on. 😦

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                    • My fault was I was listening to Rachel Maddow last night it was like a chaotic nightmare I hardly could sleep. Normally I enjoy first part of her show she seems to be one sane reporter speaks alone. This morning beautiful green so peaceful and only the birds talking Dave..love my mornings.Hubby out of town this weekend so I plan to have a TV characterless weekend, just me and my dog.
                      I so love my solitude…it is priceless.

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                    • The weather IS beautiful, bebe, albeit a bit on the warm side. And I know what you mean about how solitude can be wonderful every once in a while (and being with a dog makes it even better 🙂 ).

                      As for watching political shows — sometimes they do get on one’s nerves.

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  7. For a lifetime wasted on words, most readers fall first for this gateway drug, dispensed in schools public and private. From there, it’s but a short slide to novellas, then on to the long stuff, which can keep users in thrall for many days at a time, sometimes missing meals, growing pale away from the sun and real life in the here and now.

    If I hadn’t already said yes, I’d just say no.

    Liked by 1 person

    • VERY nicely stated, jhNY. 🙂

      Yes, short stories can indeed be a gateway to longer lit. I took that approach with Jhumpa Lahiri and Graham Greene, among other authors.

      And, yes again, reading is kind of like an addiction — but a mentally healthy one, as I know you agree. Heck, one can eat or sit in the sun while reading, and even exercise — I always read while on my stationary bike. 🙂


    • Bill, thanks for mentioning Bret Harte, who I’ve had on my to-read list for a while (you might have mentioned him before) and whose stories I would really like to try. Definitely a contemporary of Twain’s — the two were born less than a year apart!

      And I have to confess to never reading a Vonnegut short story. (I’ve read him only in novel form.) Will have to remedy that. 🙂


  8. I remember reading short stories in high school and college courses, having wonderful teachers to help comprehend different messages that may not be so apparent. One that is coming to mind would be D.H. Lawrence and the story called “Rocking Horse Winner.” The story ends tragically with the boy falling off the wooden horse. I also remember frank discussion in class of abuse. This is a dark,disturbing story. You mention Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery” which has an innocent title but is deceptive. I remember reading many years ago. If my memory serves me right,the ending was also tragic,people being stoned to death. This was not a lottery monetary in nature by any means. I also remember seeing a short film based on “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.” The final scene was a lynching at this bridge.

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    • Thanks, Michele! Several excellent observations! The title of “The Lottery” IS deceptive, which adds to the shock at the end. Definitely not a monetary “award.” 😦

      “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” also has a shock ending. Such a well-done story as Bierce sort of navigates between a dream and reality.

      Your mention of D.H. Lawrence reminded me that I’ve never read that author in any form (stories or novels). I must remedy that. (I did see the “Women in Love” movie many years ago.)

      And the first part of your comment brought back memories of how great many teachers were in helping me understand various literary works.


  9. I was fortunate when, at the impressionable age of 14, I had my first encounter with Ray Bradbury. Ray’s stories were literary, disguised as science fiction and the type of paranormal fantasy that ‘The Twilight Zone’ dramatized regularly. Ironically, they only adapted ONE of his stories, despite his repeated submissions of scripts; he took it personally and felt that they were popularizing the type of story that he had already been most responsible for placing in the public consciousness. But that is getting away from the point. He was always, first and foremost, a master of the short story, although he wrote a few excellent longer works (‘Fahrenheit 451’, ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, ‘Dandelion Wine’).

    In my first English course in college we used an anthology that included stories by many great writers including Eudora Welty, Bernard Malamud, John Updike, Stephen Crane as well as my first encounters with Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, Henry James, Herman Melville, William Faulkner and Herman Melville (whose ‘Scarlet Letter’ I had read in high school. I knew most of these authors were great novelists but was unaware that they also produced some great stories as well. This first encounter with classic short stories was a pivotal moment in my life and provided my inner ‘template’ for story writing from then on.

    I will mention one more outstanding short story writer that has made a huge impact on me. I had seen the film version of John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” with Burt Lancaster on TV but had not actually read any of his stories. At the end of the 70’s, ‘The Stories of John Cheever’ (the big book with the red cover) won the Pulitzer Prize and brought much late in life acclaim to Cheever who soaked it up and then promptly died of cancer. Like Bradbury, he also produced some good longer works but he was always primarily a short story writer. ‘The Stories of John Cheever’ includes, besides “The Swimmer”, many other all-time great short stories including “Goodbye, My Brother” and many others whose exact names I can’t recall. This collection is definitely worth the time invested in it (the original hardback edition was around 800 pages, I believe).

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    • Thanks, Brian, for your excellent, wide-ranging comment — including its point (among other points) that some great short-story writers were/are also great novelists. Hawthorne, Melville, Tolstoy, Kingsolver, Atwood, and so many others.

      And, yes, Ray Bradbury! Many of his short stories are terrific, and then there’s his wonderful “The Martian Chronicles,” which is essentially a group of thematically connected stories in novel form (a la Elizabeth Strout’s “Olive Kitteridge” and Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio”).

      To me, the ending of John Cheever’s superb “The Swimmer” is one of the great moments in modern literature.


      • Brian got ahead of me here with his mention of Ray Bradbury, who is one of my favorite writers, even though I haven’t reread all of his works 6 times as I have with Jane Austen. 🙂 I was just reading on Wikipedia that he has written 600 short stories, though many of them were included in a novel form, such as The Martian Chronicles. which I have reread within the last few years and still found so well written and interesting. Of course you know that I’m a huge fan of the late, great David Bowie. One of my favorite works of his is “Is There Life on Mars?” I am not normally a big fan of short stories although there have been so many written, such as the ones written by O Henry, Poe, Sirley Jackson and Bret Harte that most of us probably read in English class.

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          • Yes, Ray Bradbury was a superb writer, Kat Lib — and I didn’t realize he penned THAT many short stories. Impressive.

            Was David Bowie inspired to write that “Mars” song partly by Bradbury’s fiction?

            And I agree that many of us were exposed to various classic short stories in high school English. Back then, I particularly remember reading “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” “The Bet,” and “The Necklace,” though of course the writer of the two latter tales (Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant) were respectively Russian and French. 🙂


            • I don’t know if Bowie was ever aware of Bradbury’s works. I was going to postulate that Bowie seemed to be very much intrigued by space and aliens, from the movie he starred in “The Man Who Fell to Earth” playing an alien. Of course there many songs he wrote, such as “Space Oddity,” “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” “Starman,” “Lady Stardust,” “Ashes to Ashes,” etc. However, the reference on Wikipedia claims that he had written lyrics for a French song, but never released it, and Paul Anka bought the rights to the French song, reworked it into “My Way,” recorded by Frank Sinatra. Supposedly Bowie wrote “Life on Mars” as a parody of that Frankie song. Amazing the things you can find out on the Internet!

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                • Thanks for the link, Dave, that must have been an extremely interesting dinner conversation! I’m sitting here in my new home while there are three men in my basement installing an air conditioning system. It got so warm here the past few days, and I assume it’s the same where you live. I knew one of my main projects was to have A/C installed, though it’s become a huge investment, but with my asthma and allergy problems, there wasn’t a real choice. However I still love my new home. When I was younger, I had this idea that I wanted a small cottage with a white picket fence, and while not exactly close, it’s close enough to make me very happy, including the great number of books I can house here!

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                  • Yes, that must have been some conversation, Kat Lib!

                    Great that you’re getting AC installed! It HAS become a lot warmer this week. We make do with fans in my apartment, but there are some days I wish for AC. And AC is a no-brainer when asthma and allergies are involved.

                    Glad your new house is fairly close to the ideal you pictured! Sort of like Valancy Stirling’s “blue castle” in L.M. Montgomery’s “The Blue Castle”? 🙂


  10. I like Edith Pearlman. I’ve read Binocular Vision, and am currently reading Honeydew. Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank is excellent. Its lead story is based on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. And Etgar Keret is an interesting Israeli short story writer. I’ve read his Suddenly a Knock on the Door.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Linda, for mentioning three writers whose stories I’ve never read! They all sound interesting. (I have read Raymond Carver, whose work is minimalistically memorable!)


  11. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are some of your favorite short stories with psychologically insightful or escapist approaches, or a combination of the two? —

    Bearing in mind their word counts may lead certain people to classify a number of them not as short stories but as novellas, my favorite works employing these approaches include the following, arranged in alphabetical order by the author’s surname (with the listicle limited to the first 10 writers to pop into my head: Ow. Ow. Ow.):

    • Stephen Vincent Benet’s “By the Waters of Babylon” and “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”
    • James Blish’s “A Work of Art.”
    • Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Secret Miracle.”
    • Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
    • Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”
    • John Crowley’s “Great Work of Time.”
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” and “The Lost Decade.”
    • Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “ A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.”
    • Ernest Hemingway’s “The Killers,” “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
    • Wolfgang Jeschke’s “The King and the Dollmaker.”

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

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    • Terrific list, J.J! And it reminded me of some other memorable stories by the authors you mentioned — Borges’ “The Aleph,” Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” etc.

      And, yes, it’s a blurry line between a long short story and a novella. For instance, “Heart of Darkness” is often considered a novella, but…

      Last but not least, some may consider the word “listicle” kind of silly, but I love it. 🙂


    • I’ve always wondered why Wolfgang Jeschke produced such a small body of work. Some say he preferred working as an editor rather than as an author, but I think there’s more to it. I know Jeschke held somewhat questionable beliefs, so maybe that had something to do with why he wasn’t very popular.

      If you enjoy German sci-fi, you might want to check out Robert Kraft. His sea adventures are similar to those written by Jules Verne.

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      • Howdy, Ana!

        — I’ve always wondered why Wolfgang Jeschke produced such a small body of work. Some say he preferred working as an editor rather than as an author, but I think there’s more to it. —

        Based on my assessment of labor conditions in Germany and my own experience in the U.S., I believe it may be possible the big, bad Wolf either needed or wanted the actual compensation he could get working as an editor at Heyne Verlag more than the potential comp he could get working as a science-fiction writer on speculation. (If he had been born not in Europe but in North America a couple of decades earlier than 1936, then he might have chosen differently and given the likes of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and Clifford D. Simak a real run for their money during the Golden Age of Sci-Fi.)

        — I know Jeschke held somewhat questionable beliefs, so maybe that had something to do with why he wasn’t very popular. —

        I am unaware of Jeschke’s beliefs, which may or may not be congruent with those of the characters in his work. However, I know John W. Campbell has been described as holding beliefs well beyond what I would consider questionable, and they did not appear to have much effect on his magazine’s popularity.

        — If you enjoy German sci-fi, you might want to check out Robert Kraft. His sea adventures are similar to those written by Jules Verne. —

        I am unfamiliar with Robert Kraft, but I obviously love Jules Verne, so thanks for mentioning the former! Which Kraft work is your personal favorite?


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        • Your assessment of Jeschke is spot on, and you actually touched on one of the reasons why his popularity in the sci-fi genre was lukewarm.

          Jeschke was a great admirer of the sci-fi heavyweights you mentioned, and he often compared them with their German counterparts. He believed that American and British sci-fi writers had more depth, creativity, and passion than the Germans.

          As a German sci-fi writer himself, his personal views made him seem like a self-loathing individual, someone who despises what he is. Other German sci-fi writers understandably did not appreciate his views, nor did they understand why he wanted to be a writer when he spoke so negatively of them and their profession. Jeschke is more famous for his role as an editor, but the few contributions he did make to sci-fi as a writer were all top-notch IMO.

          As for Robert Kraft, he is the Geddy Lee of German sci-fi…I love everything he’s ever produced and feel that he could do no wrong. Just like I’ve never experienced a bad Rush song, I’ve never read a bad Kraft adventure novel or short story:)

          You might want to try his “Round the World” series. That collection is my favourite. I’m looking here on Amazon and don’t see anything by Robert Kraft. B&N has a Kraft selection, but not the English translations (if you’re fluent in German, then rock on). Project Gutenberg might be an option for you, or my other go-to public domain site, loyalbooks.com

          Liked by 1 person

          • — Jeschke was a great admirer of the sci-fi heavyweights you mentioned, and he often compared them with their German counterparts. He believed that American and British sci-fi writers had more depth, creativity, and passion than the Germans. As a German sci-fi writer himself, his personal views made him seem like a self-loathing individual, someone who despises what he is. Other German sci-fi writers understandably did not appreciate his views, nor did they understand why he wanted to be a writer when he spoke so negatively of them and their profession. —

            Wow! Based on my parochial experience as an American reader of science fiction, I can see why Jeschke came to develop his thesis as you presented it here, although I myself would have complemented the Americans and British with the Canadians, French and Russians: It has been a long time since I read Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle,” but maybe he mentioned in his alternative history that the great sci-fi writers after the Second Not-So-Great War were all Germans. Meanwhile, based on my possibly less parochial experience as a human being, I can see why Jeschke’s contemporaries came to develop their antitheses as you presented them here. Talk about your awkward Gruppe 47 meetings!

            — As for Robert Kraft, he is the Geddy Lee of German sci-fi…I love everything he’s ever produced and feel that he could do no wrong. Just like I’ve never experienced a bad Rush song, I’ve never read a bad Kraft adventure novel or short story:) —

            Wow again!

            — You might want to try his “Round the World” series. That collection is my favourite. —

            Assuming I can find it in an American translation, I will give it a shot. Thanks!

            — B&N has a Kraft selection, but not the English translations (if you’re fluent in German, then rock on). —

            I claim fluency in no language, as I frequently need an online translator to understand certain things even in British!

            Liked by 1 person

  12. Great reading as usual, Dave and once again I have another list of stories to look into. Given the slow rate I am getting through full length novels at this present time, some short story reading has appeal!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Dave … What a great list you’ve compiled. “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” was the one I thought of first. I’m so glad to see Mark Twain mentioned. Two of my favorite Twain stories: “Extracts From Adam’s Diary” and “Eve’s Diary”, both very funny and, at times, very sweet. I’ll be looking forward to reading the comments; I know I’ll learn something new, as I always. Have a wonderful week, Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pat, for the kind words about the column and about the present and future comments — which are and will be great (including yours above).

      The iconic “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” is, in its somewhat understated way, as disturbing as any classic horror story. For anyone who hasn’t read it, a link: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/goodman.html

      And your mention of Twain reminds me that I need to read more of his stories. I’ve gotten to many of his fiction and nonfiction books, but “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is the only short tale of his I’ve read.

      Have a great week, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for providing this link, Dave. As I read through it, I was reminded again why it has always been one of my favorite pieces of literature. You describe it so well: “…as disturbing as any classic horror story”. And so funny.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You’re welcome, Pat!

          And, yes, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” is darkly humorous, too. Sometimes the line between horror and hilarity kind of blurs — and the effect of that is powerful when the writer is as good as Flannery O’Connor.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. You have mentioned so many stories that have stuck with me through the years, Dave! “To Build A Fire”, “The Lottery”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Last Leaf”, and “The Swimmer”. However, you didn’t mention “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant or “The Gift of the Magi” or “The Ransom of Red Chief by O Henry. You also didn’t mention “Flight” by Steinbeck. That story was so disturbing, but the way we read it in our high school class was memorably comical. Our teacher, a dear woman, read parts of it aloud. I can still hear her. Part of the conversation is in Spanish. The mother tells her son “Si, si, Pepe.” She pronounced it SIGH, SIGH, PUH-PAY with the accent on the PAY. I can’t imagine she didn’t know better, but we loved her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lulabelle, glad you’ve read some of the memorable stories I mentioned in the column! And thanks for naming several other tales! I’ve read “The Necklace,” “The Gift of the Magi,” and “The Ransom of Red Chief” — all fantastic in depressing, poignant, and/or (in the case of “Ransom”) hilarious ways.

      I’ve never read “Flight,” but just found it online and will read it tonight or tomorrow. http://www.mrlocke.net/EnglishOne/ShortStories/Flight/flight.htm That’s quite a fun recollection of the way your teacher read it aloud! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • lulabelle, I just read “Flight.” You’re right — very disturbing. And very well done. Thanks again for mentioning it!

        So unfortunate that animals sometimes get hurt because of human folly and misdeeds. The fate of the horse in “Flight” reminded me somewhat of the fate of the horses in Emile Zola’s “Germinal” and Charles Portis’ “True Grit.” 😦


        • Now you know why I had such a hard time warming up to Steinbeck as a writer, Dave. “Flight” is the first thing I ever read and “Of Mice and Men” was the second thing. I’m glad I finally broke down and read “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday”.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, Steinbeck really hits readers with some harsh stuff in some of his work, such as “Flight” and “Of Mice and Men.” “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday” are by no means totally happy, but they are nicely leavened with humor. A lighter touch!


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