March 2022 favorites

March 2022

The March stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Foaling Season’ by Aryn Kyle
  2. ‘Something That Needs Nothing’ by Miranda July
  3. ‘The Mountain Day’ by Jean Stafford
  4. ‘Blackie’ by Elizabeth Spencer
  5. ‘Tiny In The Wilderness’ by Tom Drury
  6. ‘Mrs. Box’ by Michael Chabon
  7. ‘Small Avalanches’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  8. ‘My Kinsman, Major Molineaux’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  9. ‘Jacklighting’ by Ann Beattie
  10. ‘The Prospectors’ by Karen Russell
  11. ‘A Wagner Matinée’ by Willa Cather
  12. ‘Nest Egg’ by Jesse Stuart
  13. ‘On The Oregon Trail’ by Caitlin Horrocks
  14. ‘The Sentimentality Of William Tavener’ by Willa Cather
  15. ‘Snakebite’ by Arthur Bradford
  16. ‘Impulse’ by Conrad Aiken
  17. ‘Residents And Transients’ by Bobbie Ann Mason
  18. ‘Giving Blood’ by John Updike
  19. ‘Rain On Tanyard Hollow’ by Jesse Stuart

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

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December 2019 favorites

December 2019

The December stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Bad Characters’ by Jean Stafford
  2. ‘The Possibility Of Evil’ by Shirley Jackson
  3. ‘The Loudest Voice’ by Grace Paley
  4. ‘Encarnación Mendoza’s Christmas Eve’ by Juan Bosch
  5. ‘The Discovery Of Christmas’ by Carson McCullers
  6. ‘The Christmas Turkey’ by Mário de Andrade
  7. ‘The Artist’ by Patricia Highsmith
  8. ‘Mortals’ by Tobias Wolff
  9. ‘Uncles’ by Peter Taylor
  10. ‘Santa Claus Is A White Man’ by John Henrik Clarke
  11. ‘The Cliff’ by Charles Baxter
  12. ‘Two Turtledoves’ by John O’Hara
  13. ‘His Final Mother’ by Reynolds Price
  14. ‘Sleep’ by Haruki Murakami
  15. ‘Rose’ by Mavis Gallant
  16. ‘On The Street Where You Live’ by Yiyun Li
  17. ‘All That’ by David Foster Wallace

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.

May 2015 favorites


May 2015

The May stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Medal From Jerusalem’ by Irwin Shaw
  2. ‘A Silver Dish’ by Saul Bellow
  3. ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway
  4. ‘One Off The Short List’ by Doris Lessing
  5. ‘Neighbors’ by Diane Oliver
  6. ‘Drenched In Light’ by Zora Neale Hurston
  7. ‘The Snows Of Kilimanjaro’ by Ernest Hemingway
  8. ‘Eli, The Fanatic’ by Philip Roth
  9. ‘The Gift Of The Prodigal’ by Peter Taylor
  10. ‘Che Ti Dice La Patria?’ by Ernest Hemingway
  11. ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’ by Ernest Hemingway
  12. ‘The New Order’ by Nancy Hale
  13. ‘Three Million Yen’ by Yukio Mishima
  14. ‘The Supper’ by Tadeusz Borowski
  15. ‘The Interior Castle’ by Jean Stafford
  16. ‘How I Contemplated The World From The Detroit House Of Correction And Began My Life Over Again’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  17. ‘A Simple Enquiry’ by Ernest Hemingway
  18. ‘Janus’ by Ann Beattie
  19. ‘Family Portrait’ by Sherman Alexie
  20. ‘Champion’ by Ring Lardner
  21. ‘The End Of The World’ by Dino Buzzati

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

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

‘In The Zoo’ by Jean Stafford

stafford, jean 1964

In The Zoo by Jean Stafford, 1964

The magic trick:

The opening scene with the sisters in the zoo

I love the framing device Stafford uses for this story. Allowing the reader insight into how the sisters live and interact as adults gives tremendous meaning and tragic context to the childhood flashback that lies at the heart of the story. Additionally, the zoo motif sets up the story’s central – and very sad – themes of restriction and performance. And that’s quite a trick on Stafford’s part.

The selection:

This zoo is in Denver, a city that means nothing to my sister and me except as a place to take or meet trains. Daisy lives two hundred miles farther west, and it is her custom, when my every-other-year visit with her is over, to come across the mountains to see me off on my eastbound train. We know almost no one here, and because our stays are short, we have never bothered to learn the town in more than the most desultory way. We know the Burlington uptown office and the respectable hotels, a restaurant or two, the Union Station, and, beginning today, the zoo in the city park.