‘At Grandmother’s’ by Isaac Babel

Babel, Isaac 1915

At Grandmother’s by Isaac Babel, 1915 Read the rest of this entry »

Short Story Magic News – November 2016


November 2016 News Read the rest of this entry »

May 2016 favorites


May 2016

The May stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Story Of My Dovecote’ by Isaac Babel
  2. ‘The Swimmer’ by John Cheever
  3. ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  4. ‘The Ransom Of Red Chief’ by O. Henry
  5. ‘The Luck Of Roaring Camp’ by Bret Harte
  6. ‘Drummond & Son’ by Charles D’Ambrosio
  7. ‘Thank You Ma’am’ by Langston Hughes
  8. ‘The Duplicity Of Hargraves’ by O. Henry
  9. ‘A Summer’s Reading’ by Bernard Malamud
  10. ‘The Swimmers’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. ‘Prizes’ by Janet Frame
  12. ‘The Student’s Wife’ by Raymond Carver
  13. ‘My Father Sits In The Dark’ by Jerome Weidman
  14. ‘The Cop And The Anthem’ by O. Henry
  15. ‘Tobin’s Palm’ by O. Henry
  16. ‘The Clarion Call’ by O. Henry

What do you think about this list? As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

‘The Story Of My Dovecote’ by Isaac Babel

Isaac Babel (1933)

The Story Of My Dovecote by Isaac Babel, 1916 Read the rest of this entry »

August 2014 favorites


August 2014

The August stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Bright And Morning Star’ by Richard Wright
  2. ‘Symbols And Signs’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  3. ‘The Chrysanthemums’ by John Steinbeck
  4. ‘Free Fruit For Young Widows’ by Nathan Englander
  5. ‘The School’ by Donald Barthelme
  6. ‘The Night The Bed Fell’ by James Thurber
  7. ‘My First Goose’ by Isaac Babel
  8. ‘The Wood Duck’ by James Thurber
  9. ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’ by James Thurber
  10. ‘The Fireman’s Wife’ by Richard Bausch
  11. ‘The Killers’ by Ernest Hemingway
  12. ‘In The Penal Colony’ by Franz Kafka
  13. ‘He’ by Katherine Anne Porter
  14. ‘The Rich Brother’ by Tobias Wolff
  15. ‘Lovers Of The Lake’ by Sean O’Faolain
  16. ‘First Love’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  17. ‘The Mysterious Kor’ by Elizabeth Bowen
  18. ‘Thirst’ by Ivo Andric
  19. ‘In Another Country’ by Ernest Hemingway
  20. ‘The Iron City’ by Lovell Thompson
  21. ‘Dusky Ruth’ by A.E. Coppard
  22. ‘The Odour Of Chrysanthemums’ by D.H. Lawrence
  23. ‘The Door’ by E.B. White
  24. ‘The Camberwell Beauty’ by V.S. Pritchett
  25. ‘The Fly’ by Katherine Mansfield
  26. ‘Christ In Concrete’ by Pietro di Donato
  27. ‘American Express’ by James Salter
  28. ‘The Piano’ by Anibal Monteiro Machado
  29. ‘The Greatest Man In The World’ by James Thurber
  30. ‘Men’ by Kay Boyle
  31. ‘A Couple Of Hamburgers’ by James Thurber

‘My First Goose’ by Isaac Babel

Babel, Isaac 1926

My First Goose by Isaac Babel, 1926

The magic trick:

Showing the horrors of war without writing about battle

“My First Goose” was published as part of Babel’s collection of stories about his service during the Polish-Soviet War. Such context should prepare the reader for some pretty harrowing material. What surprises here, though, is that the disturbing picture is painted without a mention of battle. This story is set in the relative peace of cavalry camp. The soldiers are doing nothing more violent than eating dinner together.

Nevertheless, it’s a grisly scene. The mob mentality of the army demands that the narrator must prove himself as a man’s man. He has committed the double sin of being educated and wearing glasses. He wins his comrades over by showing no sympathy whatsoever to the landlady and then butchering a goose. It does not take much stretch of the imagination for the reader to interpret these actions as symbols for even more cold-hearted behavior. The effect is chilling. And that’s quite a trick on Babel’s part.

The selection:

“Christ!” I said, digging into the goose with my sword. “Go and cook it for me, landlady.”

Her blind eyes and glasses glistening, the old woman picked up the slaughtered bird, wrapped it in her apron, and started to bear it off toward the kitchen.

“Comrade,” she said to me, after a while, “I want to go and hang myself.” And she closed the door behind me.