November 2014 favorites


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 Wonderful Tar-Baby Story’ by Joel Chandler Harris

Harris, Joel Chandler 1881

The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story by Joel Chandler Harris, 1881

The magic trick:

A very, very clever story

It is difficult to assess the Uncle Remus stories as literature without being overwhelmed by the both the racism of the Disney Song Of The South movie interpretation and the way Harris utterly co-opted these slave stories for the profit of white men. It’s like the white people got together and said, “You know what, wow, as if slavery wasn’t bad enough, let’s go steal all the culture you used to keep your sanity amidst the horror and use it for our own entertainment and profit.”

But if Short Story Magic Tricks could solve the ills of American society, well, this would be a far different (and more successful) blog. Instead, let’s just try to consider the story itself.

Flat out – the “Tar-Baby Story” is very, very clever. It’s smart, funny, memorable, classic. That’s really all there is to say about it. The plot is simple and clever, and its characters and lessons are applicable to pretty much life at any time in any place. And that’s quite a trick on Harris’s part (even if he undoubtedly stole it all from the true storytellers).

The selection:

“’Skin me, Brer Fox,’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, ‘snatch out my eyeballs, t’ar out my years by de roots, en cut off my legs,’ sezee, ‘but do please, Brer Fox, don’t fling me in dat brier-patch,’ sezee.