December 2017 favorites

December 2017

The December stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Vanka’ by Anton Chekhov
  2. ‘Master Eustace’ by Henry James
  3. ‘Christmas Poem’ by John O’Hara
  4. ‘Brothers’ by Sherwood Anderson
  5. ‘Cat Person’ by Kristen Roupenian
  6. ‘Christmas Gift’ by Robert Penn Warren
  7. ‘Snow Angel’ by Stephanie Vaughn
  8. ‘The Last Night Of The World’ by Ray Bradbury
  9. ‘Uncle Raymond’ by Nelson Eubanks
  10. ‘Christmas Freud’ by David Rakoff
  11. ‘The Sunday After Christmas’ by Mavis Gallant
  12. ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Ann Beattie
  13. ‘Through The Tunnel’ by Doris Lessing
  14. ‘The Angel Of The Bridge’ by John Cheever
  15. ‘Nobody’s Story’ by Charles Dickens
  16. ‘A Different Kind Of Imperfection’ by Thomas Beller
  17. ‘Christmas By Injunction’ by O. Henry
  18. ‘The Errors Of Santa Claus’ by Stephen Leacock
  19. ‘The Feast Of Nemesis’ by Saki

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

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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

April 2015 favorites

April2015

April 2015

The April stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Bullet In The Brain’ by Tobias Wolff
  2. ‘The Shawl’ by Cynthia Ozick
  3. ‘The Bath’ by Raymond Carver
  4. ‘The Five-Forty-Eight’ by John Cheever
  5. ‘The Living’ by Mary Lavin
  6. ‘Why Don’t You Dance?’ by Raymond Carver
  7. ‘Feathers’ by Raymond Carver
  8. ‘Death Of A Right Fielder’ by Stuart Dybek
  9. ‘Death Of A Traveling Salesman’ by Eudora Welty
  10. ‘Everything Stuck To Him’ by Raymond Carver
  11. ‘The Vertical Ladder’ by William Sansom
  12. ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ by Richard Connell
  13. ‘A Small, Good Thing’ by Raymond Carver
  14. ‘The Patented Gate And The Mean Hamburger’ by Robert Penn Warren
  15. ‘One Throw’ by W.C. Heinz
  16. ‘One Gram Short’ by Etgar Keret
  17. ‘Game’ by Donald Barthelme
  18. ‘Alibi Ike’ by Ring Lardner
  19. ‘Smoke’ by Michael Chabon
  20. ‘The Jewbird’ by Bernard Malamud
  21. ‘The Pitcher And The Plutocrat’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  22. ‘The Hitchhiking Game’ by Milan Kundera
  23. ‘Tony’s Wife’ by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
  24. ‘The Man Who Saw Through Heaven’ by Wilbur Daniel Steele

March 2015 favorites

March2015

March 2015

The March stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’ by George Saunders
  2. ‘Paper Lantern’ by Stuart Dybek
  3. ‘Adams’ by George Saunders
  4. ‘If I Vanish’ by Stuart Dybek
  5. ‘Victory Lap’ by George Saunders
  6. ‘Al Roosten’ by George Saunders
  7. ‘Puppy’ by George Saunders
  8. ‘Home’ by George Saunders
  9. ‘Waiting’ by Stuart Dybek
  10. ‘Seiche’ by Stuart Dybek
  11. ‘The Rookie’ by Eliot Asinof
  12. ‘Goodwood Comes Back’ by Robert Penn Warren
  13. ‘Escape From Spiderhead’ by George Saunders
  14. ‘Brooklyns Lose’ by William Human
  15. ‘Tosca’ by Stuart Dybek
  16. ‘Jon’ by George Saunders
  17. ‘Flight Patterns’ by Sherman Alexie
  18. ‘The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fist Fight In Heaven’ by Sherman Alexie
  19. ‘The Hector Quesadilla Story’ by T. Coraghessan Boyle
  20. ‘Breaking And Entering’ by Sherman Alexie
  21. ‘Exhortation’ by George Saunders
  22. ‘The Fun House’ by Sherman Alexie
  23. ‘Sticks’ by George Saunders
  24. ‘Indian Education’ by Sherman Alexie

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

‘Blackberry Winter’ by Robert Penn Warren

robert penn warren

Blackberry Winter by Robert Penn Warren, 1947

The magic trick:

Connecting the poetic notion of time to the tangible events and characters of the story

This is such a beautiful story, it’s nearly impossible to select only one magic trick to highlight, but the way in which Warren interweaves the time metaphor throughout the characters and plot seems a good place to start.

Warren establishes the time theme in the third paragraph, breaking from the plot to describe quite eloquently how the experiences of a 9-year-old boy stand in one’s memories more than those from other ages. What you remember, Warren writes, “stands up big and full and fills up Time and is so solid that you can walk around and around it like a tree and look at it.” Warren, having set up his main point, can filter the rest of the story through that lens.

The blackberry winter, the tramp and the flood seem to arrive together, connected somehow. The men at the bridge talk of bracing for the hard times in life. Dellie, her home ravaged by the flood, is sick, perhaps realizing that one of those hard times has struck her family. Big Jebb personifies the tree of time, talking of time coming, time going, calmly waiting for the end of time. Warren wraps it all up in the final sentence, as the narrator looks back on the episode and admits that he has for his entire life remembered the day the tramp arrived at the farm.

I am not often a fan of art that requires the artist to break from the piece in order to directly explain what the work of art is trying to say, as Warren does early in this story. But here, the technique works perfectly and the result is a rich, layered, and poetic consideration of time, memory and fate. And that’s quite a magic trick on Warren’s part.

The selection:

You are aware that time passes, that there is a movement in time, but that is not what Time is. Time is not a movement, a flowing, a wind then, but it is, rather, a kind of climate in which things are, and when a thing happens it begins to live and keeps on living and stands solid in Time like the tree that you can walk around. And if there is a movement, the movement is not Time itself, any more than a breeze is climate, and all the breeze does is to shake a little the leaves on the tree which is alive and solid.