‘Master Eustace’ by Henry James

James, Henry 1871

Master Eustace by Henry James, 1871 Read the rest of this entry »


‘The Peasant Marey’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor 1876a

The Peasant Marey by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1876 Read the rest of this entry »

‘Bobok’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor 1873

Bobok by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1873 Read the rest of this entry »

‘A Presidential Candidate’ by Mark Twain


A Presidential Candidate by Mark Twain, 1879 Read the rest of this entry »

‘The Beggar Boy At Christ’s Christmas Tree’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor 1876

The Beggar Boy At Christ’s Christmas Tree by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1876

The magic trick:

The brief, first-person frame narration

It isn’t much. Two sentences at the start. Three sentences at the end. But it’s an interesting technique. Dostoyevsky eschews the standard third-person narration by inserting himself (or some unnamed writer) as the storyteller. This lends the story a bit more authority, a bit more truth somehow. As the story develops and the reader learns of the tragic subject matter, this “real-life” assertion in the frame further emphasizes the piece’s social conscience. And that’s quite a trick on Dostoyevsky’s part.

The selection:

I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.


‘The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut’ by Mark Twain

Twain, Mark 1876

The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut by Mark Twain, 1876

The magic trick:

Making the reader wait a really long time for the titles payoff

Far be it from me to criticize Mark Twain but…. Let’s be honest. This story is pretty dumb. I do like the absurdity of the plot’s imbalance. It opens as a family story, honoring the narrator’s aunt; shifts abruptly into a surrealist comedy pitting the narrator against his own conscience (in the form of a dwarf); and ends with an insane, figurative drop of the cliff. The carnival of crime, alluded to in the title, is never even mentioned until the very end of the story. It’s a very silly way to construct a story, which, I suppose is probably part of the joke. And that’s quite a trick on Twain’s part.

The selection:

With an exultant shout I sprang past my aunt, and in an instant I had my life-long foe by the throat. After so many years of waiting and longing, he was mine at last.