February 2023 favorites

February 2023

The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Dead Men’s Path’ by Chinua Achebe
  2. ‘At The Clinic’ by Sally Rooney
  3. ‘Secret Weapons’ by Julio Cortázar
  4. ‘Bliss’ by Katherine Mansfield
  5. ‘Every Tongue Shall Confess’ by ZZ Packer
  6. ‘In The Name Of Bobby’ by Julio Cortázar
  7. ‘The Cold Boy’ by Benjamin Percy
  8. ‘Ain’t That Good News’ by Brit Bennett
  9. ‘The Pace Of Youth’ by Stephen Crane
  10. ‘I Am Twenty-One’ by Mary Robison
  11. ‘The Daughters’ by Maeve Brennan
  12. ‘Ray-Ray’s Picture Box’ by James McBride
  13. ‘Smart’ by Mary Robison
  14. ‘My Apology’ by Sam Lipsyte
  15. ‘Billboard’ by Richard Bausch
  16. ‘Ozème’s Holiday’ by Kate Chopin
  17. ‘The Waltz’ by Dorothy Parker
  18. ‘The Green Door’ by O. Henry
  19. ‘In The Woods’ by Mary Robison
  20. ‘Sugar Baby’ by Chinua Achebe
  21. ‘Some Like Them Cold’ by Ring Lardner
  22. ‘My Last Story’ by Janet Frame
  23. ‘Haunted’ by Walter Mosley
  24. ‘Yancey’ by Ann Beattie
  25. ‘The Neighbor’ by Russell Banks
  26. ‘A Deserted Street’ by Tawfiq Al-Hakim
  27. ‘Top Of The Food Chain’ by T. Coraghessan Boyle
  28. ‘Miracles’ by Lucy Corin

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

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June 2020 favorites

June 2020

The June stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Like It Or Not’ by Deborah Eisenberg
  2. ‘Across The Lake’ by Deborah Eisenberg
  3. ‘The Rug’ by Edna O’Brien
  4. ‘Mrs. Reinhardt’ by Edna O’Brien
  5. ‘Number Ten’ by Edna O’Brien
  6. ‘The Flaw In The Design’ by Deborah Eisenberg
  7. ‘The Connor Girls’ by Edna O’Brien
  8. ‘Comfort’ by Mary Gaitskill
  9. ‘All The Way In Flagstaff, Arizona’ by Richard Bausch
  10. ‘Fatality’ by Richard Bausch
  11. ‘The Girl On The Plane’ by Mary Gaitskill
  12. ‘In The Hours Of Darkness’ by Edna O’Brien
  13. ‘The Two Davises And The Rug’ by Lydia Davis
  14. ‘Twilight Of The Superheroes’ by Deborah Eisenberg
  15. ‘Aren’t You Happy For Me?’ by Richard Bausch
  16. ‘I Live On Your Visits’ by Dorothy Parker
  17. ‘Wedlock’ by Richard Bausch
  18. ‘Nobody In Hollywood’ by Richard Bausch
  19. ‘The Third Tower’ by Deborah Eisenberg
  20. ‘Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest’ by Sherman Alexie

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.

January 2016 favorites


January 2016

The January stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘In The Garden Of North American Martyrs’ by Tobias Wolff
  2. ‘The Night In Question’ by Tobias Wolff
  3. ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. ‘Goodbye And Good Luck’ by Grace Paley
  5. ‘Break It Down’ by Lydia Davis
  6. ‘The Falls’ by George Saunders
  7. ‘The Sensible Thing’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. ‘Awaiting Orders’ by Tobias Wolff
  9. ‘Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. ‘Next Door’ by Tobias Wolff
  11. ‘The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  12. ‘Financing Finnegan’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  13. ‘New Year’s Night’ by Henry Lawson
  14. ‘When We Were Nearly Young’ by Mavis Gallant
  15. ‘Say Yes’ by Tobias Wolff
  16. ‘Homage To Switzerland’ by Ernest Hemingway
  17. ‘But The One On The Right’ by Dorothy Parker

September 2015 favorites


September 2015

The September stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Doll’s House’ by Katherine Mansfield
  2. ‘Walk In The Moon Shadows’ by Jesse Stuart
  3. ‘The Baby In The Icebox’ by James M. Cain
  4. ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’ by D.H. Lawrence
  5. ‘The Rescue’ by V.S. Pritchett
  6. ‘A Complicated Nature’ by William Trevor
  7. ‘The Standard Of Living’ by Dorothy Parker
  8. ‘Children Of The Sea’ by Edwidge Danticat
  9. ‘The Provincials’ by Daniel Alarcon
  10. ‘Eatonville Anthology’ by Zora Neale Hurston
  11. ‘Birdsong’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  12. ‘The Letter Writers’ by Elizabeth Taylor
  13. ‘The There There’ by Antonya Nelson
  14. ‘Winter In Yalta’ by Antonya Nelson
  15. ‘The Bowl’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  16. ‘Funny Once’ by Antonya Nelson
  17. ‘Literally’ by Antonya Nelson
  18. ‘Death Constant Beyond Love’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  19. ‘A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud’ by Carson McCullers
  20. ‘The Jungle’ by Elizabeth Bowen
  21. ‘Quality Time’ by Richard Ford
  22. ‘The Gully’ by Russell Banks
  23. ‘Inventing Wampanoag, 1672’ by Ben Shattuck


June 2014 favorites


June 2014

The June stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Venus, Cupid, Folly And Time’ by Peter Taylor
  2. ‘Blackberry Winter’ by Robert Penn Warren
  3. ‘Babylon Revisited’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. ‘Upon The Sweeping Flood’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  5. ‘Good Country People’ by Flannery O’Connor
  6. ‘My Old Man’ by Ernest Hemingway
  7. ‘I’m A Fool’ by Sherwood Anderson
  8. ‘Sonny’s Blues’ by James Baldwin
  9. ‘Only The Dead Know Brooklyn’ by Thomas Wolfe
  10. ‘Double Birthday’ by Willa Cather
  11. ‘The View From The Balcony’ by Wallace Stegner
  12. ‘The Magic Barrel’ by Bernard Malamud
  13. ‘No Place For You, My Love’ by Eudora Welty
  14. ‘The Schreuderspitze’ by Mark Helprin
  15. ‘The Hartleys’ by John Cheever
  16. ‘O City Of Broken Dreams’ by John Cheever
  17. ‘A Day In The Open’ by Jane Bowles
  18. ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson
  19. ‘In The Zoo’ by Jean Stafford
  20. ‘The Lost Phoebe’ by Theodore Dreiser
  21. ‘Welcome To The Monkey House’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  22. ‘How Beautiful With Shoes’ by Wilbur Daniel Steele
  23. ‘The Little Wife’ by William March
  24. ‘A Distant Episode’ by Paul Bowles
  25. ‘The Faithful Wife’ by Morley Callaghan
  26. ‘The Golden Honeymoon’ by Ring Lardner
  27. ‘Resurrection Of A Life’ by William Saroyan
  28. ‘The State Of Grace’ by Harold Brodkey
  29. ‘A Telephone Call’ by Dorothy Parker
  30. ‘The Survivors’ by Elsie Singmaster

‘A Telephone Call’ by Dorothy Parker

parker, dorothy 1928

A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker, 1928

The magic trick:

Tucking a dark detail amidst the nervous energy of the narration in order to open the possible backstory up into an entirely new place

It’s not difficult to pick a Dorothy Parker story out of a crowd. Her voice is so specific and dominant, and, if you’re of my opinion, a little overbearing. In this story, though, she does something clever about halfway through. She has her narrator break from her obsessive analysis of her situation for a moment and ask God’s forgiveness. Parker has played the story for laughs up to that point but now suddenly the reader is left to imagine the narrator not as a silly victim of misplaced affections but perhaps as a guilty party who is not worthy of our sympathy. It’s only one paragraph but it casts the story in an entirely different light. And that’s quite a trick on Parker’s part.

The selection:

Are You punishing me, God, because I’ve been bad? Are You angry with me because I did that? Oh, but, God, there are so many bad people – You could not be hard only to me. And it wasn’t very bad; it couldn’t have been bad. We didn’t hurt anybody, God. Things are only bad when they hurt people. We didn’t hurt one single soul; You know that. You know it wasn’t bad, don’t You, God? So won’t You let him telephone me now?