August 2022 favorites

August 2022

The August stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Murder’ by John Steinbeck
  2. ‘San Francisco’ by Amy Hempel
  3. ‘Iona Moon’ by Melanie Rae Thon
  4. ‘The Canoeists’ by Rick Bass
  5. ‘The Walk’ by Elizabeth Strout
  6. ‘Snow Blind’ by Elizabeth Strout
  7. ‘The Train’ by Flannery O’Connor
  8. ‘Greyhound People’ by Alice Adams
  9. ‘Elk’ by Rick Bass
  10. ‘The Story Of Keesh’ by Jack London
  11. ‘Fish And Fences’ by Veeda Bybee
  12. ‘Son In The Afternoon’ by John A. Williams
  13. ‘Officer Friendly’ by Lewis Robinson
  14. ‘Going To Shrewsbury’ by Sarah Orne Jewett
  15. ‘The Go-Getter’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  16. ‘The Naked Lady’ by Madison Smartt Bell
  17. ‘The Walled Garden’ by Peter Taylor
  18. ‘The Alaska Of Giants And Gods’ by Dave Eggers
  19. ‘From 100 Elvis Stories’ by Lisa Walker
  20. ‘What I Hear’ by Mary Robison

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

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February 2015 favorites


February 2015

The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Death In The Woods’ by Sherwood Anderson
  2. ‘Cheap In August’ by Graham Greene
  3. ‘Debarking’ by Lorrie Moore
  4. ‘The Juniper Tree’ by Lorrie Moore
  5. ‘Flight’ by John O’Hara
  6. ‘To Build A Fire’ by Jack London
  7. ‘Harvey’s Dream’ by Stephen King
  8. ‘The Keyhole Eye’ by John Stewart Carter
  9. ‘The First Flower’ by Augusta Wallace Lyons
  10. ‘Subject To Search’ by Lorrie Moore
  11. ‘Thank You For Having Me’ by Lorrie Moore
  12. ‘Foes’ by Lorrie Moore
  13. ‘Spring In Fialta’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  14. ‘Talk To The Music’ by Arna Bontemps
  15. ‘The Contest For Aaron Gold’ by Philip Roth
  16. ‘The Old Army Game’ by George Garrett
  17. ‘Alma’ by Junot Diaz
  18. ‘Children Are Bored On Sunday’ by Jean Stafford
  19. ‘A Long Day’s Dying’ by William Eastlake
  20. ‘To The Wilderness I Wander’ by Frank Butler
  21. ‘Mammon And The Archer’ by O. Henry

‘To Build A Fire’ by Jack London

London, Jack 1908

To Build A Fire by Jack London, 1908

The magic trick:

Inclusion of the dog

Evidently, London did not include the dog in the version of this story that was published in 1902. Big mistake. The dog is the key. The dog is the baseline of instinctive wisdom against which the man is judged. The man is brash, bold, and foolish; undone by his own hubris. The dog, meanwhile, is in tune with nature. The dog knows when to bow to the cold and stay resting by a good fire. Without the dog, the story becomes a mere adventure story. With the dog, it’s an adventure story with a memorable moral compass. And that’s quite a trick on London’s part.

The selection:

The dog was disappointed and yearned back toward the fire. This man did not know cold. Possibly all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real cold, of cold one hundred and seven degrees below freezing-point. But the dog knew; all its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge. And it knew that it was not good to walk abroad in such fearful cold. It was the time to lie snug in a hole in the snow and wait for a curtain of cloud to be drawn across the face of outer space whence this cold came. On the other hand, there was no keen intimacy between the dog and the man. The one was the toil-slave of the other, and the only caresses it had ever received were the caresses of the whiplash and of harsh and menacing throat-sounds that threatened the whip-lash. So the dog made no effort to communicate its apprehension to the man. It was not concerned in the welfare of the man; it was for its own sake that it yearned back toward the fire.