I read a lot of short stories. I have been inspired, shocked, warmed, and challenged, but a relative few have stuck with me.
This first-ever attempt to pull together a list of my important stories has been eye-opening. In revisiting these stories, I am reminded of other times, places, and people; with hindsight I see their subtle influences on my own storycraft.
This list comprises ten stories that have latched onto my psyche and refused to let go:
- ‘Lamb to the Slaughter‘ by Roald Dahl – originally published in Harper’s Magazine, 1953. On being introduced to this story in high school, it jarred and delighted me. Though the subject matter is gruesome, Mr Dahl’s treatment of the event is restrained. It’s a delicious tale, apparently written on a dare from Ian Fleming.
- ‘The Necklace‘ by Guy de Maupassant – first published in the newspaper, La Gaulois, 1884. This story made my heart ache.
- ‘Uterus’ by Etgar Keret – first published in Missing Kissinger, 1996. A beautiful uterus is removed and placed on display. My experience of hearing this story sung has brought me to this: I’ll be singing the next story (of mine) that I share on thirtyseven. [Sorry in advance.]
- ‘The Problems of Odessa’ by Shelly Weathers – first published in Reed Magazine, Issue 67, 2014. This is a disturbing story. It wouldn’t leave my brain for weeks after I first waded through its haze, and adding it to this list has opened my brain to its quiet horror again.
- ‘The Fish‘ by Lydia Davis – published in Break It Down, 1996. When I stumbled upon this story, I must have read it ten times back-to-back. It was like I was caught on a line in a loop, its crisp images holding me captive.
- ‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love‘ by Rachel Swirsky – published in Apex Magazine, 2013. The simple language of this story pares away your defences, rendering you prone to its shocking turn. I dare you not to be taken in.
- ‘The Ceiling’ by Kevin Brockmeier – first published in McSweeney’s, 2001. The falling sky is a powerful metaphor for the crushing of a personal world.
- ‘The Drowner‘ by Naomi Eccles-Smith – published by InkTears, 2015. I was swept up in the deft language and pace of this folkloric piece. It chilled me to the bone.
- ‘Consumed’ by Steve Amick – published in New Sudden Fiction, 2007. A quirky tale of pica. I will say no more, for fear of ruining the fun. You should read it.
- ‘The Pedestrian‘ by Ray Bradbury – first published in The Reporter, 1951. This unsettling story was the precursor to the novella, The Fireman, which became the novel, Fahrenheit 451.
This is by no means a complete list, and the stories featured are listed in no special order. There are other stories more deeply buried, some that I thought were wonderful on reading but didn’t speak to me afterwards, and still others I can’t name* but whose dark details revisit me every so often.
I think the reason I love these stories so much is that if I didn’t, I would be consumed by jealous rage: these are all stories I wish I had written.
What are the stories that just won’t leave you alone?
Have an excellent week,
*which prompts me to ask: can you recall a gothic tale c. early 1990s that placed a laminated grandmother in a rocking chair on the front porch?
Addendum of 15 March 2017: Link to ‘The Pedestrian’ changed due to an error with the original link.