May 2017 favorites

May 2017

The May stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Axis’ by Alice Munro
  2. ‘Sea Oak’ by George Saunders
  3. ‘Pastoralia’ by George Saunders
  4. ‘Fiction’ by Alice Munro
  5. ‘The Barber’s Unhappiness’ by George Saunders
  6. ‘The Moons Of Jupiter’ by Alice Munro
  7. ‘At Grandmother’s’ by Isaac Babel
  8. ‘Winky’ by George Saunders
  9. ‘The End Of FIRPO In The World’ by George Saunders
  10. ‘Images’ by Alice Munro
  11. ‘City Visit’ by Adam Haslett
  12. ‘The Other Woman’ by Sherwood Anderson
  13. ‘Thanks For The Ride’ by Alice Munro
  14. ‘Girl’ by Jamaica Kincaid
  15. ‘Misery’ by Anton Chekhov
  16. ‘Wingless’ by Jamaica Kincaid
  17. ‘The Letter From Home’ by Jamaica Kincaid
  18. ‘In The Night’ by Jamaica Kincaid
  19. ‘The Drill’ by Breena Clarke
  20. ‘At Last’ by Jamaica Kincaid
  21. ‘Letters From The Samantha‘ by Mark Helprin

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

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June 2014 favorites

june2014

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

‘The Schreuderspitze’ by Mark Helprin

helprin, mark 1977

The Schreuderspitze by Mark Helprin, 1977

The magic trick:

Blending dream and reality to the point where the reader cant differentiate between the two

Call it a copout if you must. But at least grant that Helprin makes this story’s ending a brilliantly conceived copout of tremendous art and craft. The entire story is pointed toward Wallich’s climb of the Schreuderspitze, and by the end, the reader can’t be entirely sure if Wallich did in fact reach the summit or not.

The funny thing is Helprin explains exactly what he is doing before he does it. Setting up the conclusion, he writes of Wallich’s dreams: “Sometimes dreams could be so real that they competed with the world, riding at even balance and calling for a decision. Sometimes, he imagined, when they are so real and so important, they easily tip the scale and the world buckles and dreams become real. Crossing the fragile barricades, one enters his dreams, thinking of his life as imagined.”

Halprin then describes the scenes of Wallich ascending and descending the mountain in self-consciously hazy terms. The details of his trip are specific and realistic but also washed in moments of mysticism and hyper-sensation, where roads of stars lead “into infinity.” Helrpin is also very careful to describe Wallich’s sleeping and waking patterns with enough vagueness to allow the reader to tip the scale in either direction – dream or real.

Personally, I believe Wallich only scaled the mountain in his dreams. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. By the end of his stay in the Alps, Wallich has suffered the punishment he sought, and endured the necessary life cleanse. The blurring of lines between reality and dream make the mountain climbing moot and put the story’s focus on Wallich’s emotional journey. And that’s quite a trick on Helprin’s part.

The selection:

There was Munich, shining and pulsing like a living thing, strung with lines of amber light – light which reverberated as if in crystals, light which played in many dimensions and moved about the course of the city, which was defined by darkness at its edge. He had come above time, above the world. The city of Munich existed before him with all its time compressed. As he watched, its history played out in repeating cycles.