April 2016 favorites

April2016

April 2016

The April stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Garden Of The Forking Paths’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  2. ‘Walker Brothers Cowboy’ by Alice Munro
  3. ‘Red Dress – 1946’ by Alice Munro
  4. ‘The Bear Came Over The Mountain’ by Alice Munro
  5. ‘The Gospel According To Mark’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  6. ‘The Office’ by Alice Munro
  7. ‘You Could Look It Up’ by James Thurber
  8. ‘Runaway’ by Alice Munro
  9. ‘Ambush’ by Donna Tartt
  10. ‘Sanity’ by Tobias Wolff
  11. ‘Edison, New Jersey’ by Junot Diaz
  12. ‘The Library Of Babel’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  13. ‘The Approach To Al-Mu’tasim’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  14. ‘Late’ by Steven Millhauser
  15. ‘Serve-And-Volley Near Vichy’ by Greg Jackson
  16. ‘On Exactitude In Science’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  17. ‘Do Stay, Giraffe’ by Wolfgang Borchert

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

December 2015 favorites

December2015

December 2015

The December stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Christmas Morning’ by Frank O’Connor
  2. ‘Drawing Names’ by Bobbie Ann Mason
  3. ‘The Frozen Fields’ by Paul Bowles
  4. ‘Tenth Of December’ by George Saunders
  5. ‘Christmas’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  6. ‘The Birds For Christmas’ by Mark Richard
  7. ‘Every Little Hurricane’ by Sherman Alexie
  8. ‘An Old-Time Christmas’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar
  9. ‘Two Of A Kind’ by Sean O’Faolain
  10. ‘Christmas For Sassafrass, Cypress And Indigo’ by Ntozake Shange
  11. ‘Family Christmas’ by Roxana Robinson
  12. ‘A Visit From Saint Nicholas (In The Ernest Hemingway Manner)’ by James Thurber
  13. ‘Creche’ by Richard Ford
  14. ‘The Christmas Tree’ by Charles Dickens
  15. ‘A Kidnapped Santa Claus’ by L. Frank Baum
  16. ‘Xmas’ by Thomas M. Disch
  17. ‘Christmas Every Day’ by William Dean Howells
  18. ‘Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story’ by Paul Auster
  19. ‘Falalalalalalalala’ by Nikki Giovanni
  20. ‘Old Christmas’ by Stephen Merion

‘A Visit From Saint Nicholas (In The Ernest Hemingway Manner)’ by James Thurber

Thurber, James 1927

A Visit From Saint Nicholas (In The Ernest Hemingway Manner) by James Thurber, 1927 Continue reading

August 2015 favorites

August2015

August 2015

The August stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Reunion’ by John Cheever
  2. ‘The Crime Wave At Blandings’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  3. ‘Love’ by William Maxwell
  4. ‘The Bridal Party’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. ‘The Manhunt’ by Daniel Curley
  6. ‘Jeeves And The Song Of Songs’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  7. ‘Chapter Two’ by Antonya Nelson
  8. ‘Marjorie Daw’ by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  9. ‘Nikishka’s Secrets’ by Yury Kazakov
  10. ‘The Pelican’s Shadow’ by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
  11. ‘Honeysuckle Cottage’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  12. ‘Blowing Shades’ by Stuart Dybek
  13. ‘Roy Spivey’ by Miranda July
  14. ‘Leave It To Jeeves’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  15. ‘Aunt Agatha Takes The Count’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  16. ‘Liquor Makes You Smart’ by Anita Loos
  17. ‘When The Light Gets Green’ by Robert Penn Warren
  18. ‘The Dead Fiddler’ by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  19. ‘La Belle Zoraide’ by Kate Chopin
  20. ‘The Unicorn In The Garden’ by James Thurber
  21. ‘Reeling For The Empire’ by Karen Russell

November 2014 favorites

november2014

November 2014

The November stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Chickamauga’ by Ambrose Bierce
  2. ‘Paul’s Case’ by Willa Cather
  3. ‘The Veldt’ by Ray Bradbury
  4. ‘The Story Of An Hour’ by Kate Chopin
  5. ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’ by Lionel Trilling
  6. ‘The Nose’ by Nikolai Gogol
  7. ‘A White Heron’ by Sarah Orne Jewett
  8. ‘A Circle In The Fire’ by Flannery O’Connor
  9. ‘Going For A Beer’ by Robert Coover
  10. ‘Two Thanksgiving Gentlemen’ by O. Henry
  11. ‘Dawn Of Remembered Spring’ by Jesse Stuart
  12. ‘The Middle Years’ by Henry James
  13. ‘The Catbird Seat’ by James Thurber
  14. ‘The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story’ by Joel Chandler Harris
  15. ‘The Peach Stone’ by Paul Horgan
  16. ‘Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  17. ‘An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving’ by Louisa May Alcott
  18. ‘Who Lived And Died Believing’ by Nancy Hale
  19. ‘The Devil And Tom Walker’ by Washington Irving
  20. ‘The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut’ by Mark Twain

‘The Catbird Seat’ by James Thurber

Thurber, James 1943

The Catbird Seat by James Thurber, 1942

The magic trick:

The phrases used by Ulgine Barrows

We’ve got another brilliantly written, hopelessly mean-spirited, piece from Thurber. (See also: “A Couple Hamburgers,” or “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.”) I’m afraid I don’t find the actual story particularly funny, even as I know “The Catbird Seat” ranks among his most famous pieces. I do, however, love the phrases Ulgine Barrows uses around the office. If you have worked in an office then you’ve almost certainly encountered a co-worker who spews out the same tired catch phrases over and over and over. Here, Mrs. Barrows uses some particularly ridiculous (and annoying) (and hilarious) phrases. And that’s quite a trick on Thurber’s part.

The selection:

In the halls, in the elevator, even in his own office, into which she romped now and then like a circus horse, she was consistently shouting these silly questions at him. “Are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch? Are you tearing up the pea patch? Are you hollering down the rain barrel? Are you scraping the bottom of the pickle barrel? Are sitting in the catbird seat?”

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August 2014 favorites

august2014

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

‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’ by James Thurber

Thurber, James 1939

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty by James Thurber, 1939

The magic trick:

Having a great comedic concept

What needs to be said about “Walter Mitty”? It’s a brilliant concept, probably the best of Thurber’s career. The cold open reads like a great war novel until the concept reveals itself and the reader learns that this adventure has only been the interior monologue of Walter Mitty’s mind. Even after Thurber shows his hand, he continues to pull the same prank on the reader for the rest of the story with great comic results. His writing is every bit as strong as the story’s concept.

Of course, the entire idea is pretty mean-spirited when you really think about it. Walter Mitty’s wife is such a nagging nuisance that his only defense is to disappear from reality into his own imagination. This week we’ve looked at a wide range of Thurber stories from his most playful (“The Night The Bed Fell”) to his most misogynistic (“A Couple Of Hamburgers”). “Walter Mitty,” I think, finds the best balance between the two extremes, and as a result, is probably Thurber’s most representative story. And that’s quite a trick on Thurber’s part.

The selection:

Walter Mitty stopped the car in front of the building where his wife went to have her hair done. “Remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done,” she said. “I don’t need overshoes,” said Mitty. She put her mirror back into her bag. “We’ve been all through that,” she said, getting out of the car. “You’re not a young man any longer.” He raced the engine a little. “Why don’t you wear your gloves? Have you lost your gloves?” Walter Mitty reached in a pocket and brought out the gloves. He put them on, but after she had turned and gone into the building and he had driven on to a red light, he took them off again. “Pick it up, brother!” snapped a cop as the light changed, and Mitty hastily pulled on his gloves and lurched ahead. He drove around the streets aimlessly for a time, and then he drove past the hospital on his way to the parking lot.

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