June 2019 favorites

June 2019

The June stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Surrogate’ by Tessa Hadley
  2. ‘The Card Trick’ by Tessa Hadley
  3. ‘Silk Brocade’ by Tessa Hadley
  4. ‘A Bundle Of Letters’ by Henry James
  5. ‘Cecilia Awakened’ by Tessa Hadley
  6. ‘The Sound Of Summer Running’ by Ray Bradbury
  7. ‘The Long QT’ by Hilary Mantel
  8. ‘Paste’ by Henry James
  9. ‘Clever Girl’ by Tessa Hadley
  10. ‘Agatha’ by John O’Hara
  11. ‘Greville Fane’ by Henry James
  12. ‘One Saturday Morning’ by Tessa Hadley
  13. ‘Second-Hand Man’ by Rita Dove
  14. ‘The Special Type’ by Henry James
  15. ‘Miss Gunton From Poughkeepsie’ by Henry James
  16. ‘Principal Alpaca’ by Richard Leise
  17. ‘Reading The Paper’ by Ron Carlson
  18. ‘Invasion Of The Martians’ by Robert Coover

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.


December 2014 favorites


December 2014

The December stories organized solely by my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Jeeves And The Yule-Tide Spirit’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  2. ‘The H Street Sledding Record’ by Ron Carlson
  3. ‘A Christmas Memory’ by Truman Capote
  4. ‘A Christmas Tree And A Wedding’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  5. ‘The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle’ by Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. ‘Christmas At Red Butte’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  7. ‘Christmas Eve’ by Maeve Brennan
  8. ‘One Christmas Eve’ by Langston Hughes
  9. ‘The Gift Of The Magi’ by O. Henry
  10. ‘Powder’ by Tobias Wolff
  11. ‘The Ledge’ by Lawrence Sargent Hall
  12. ‘A Child’s Christmas In Wales’ by Dylan Thomas
  13. ‘The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding’ by Agatha Christie
  14. ‘The Christmas Wreck’ by Frank Stockton
  15. ‘At Christmas Time’ by Anton Chekhov
  16. ‘Christmas Day In The Morning’ by Pearl S. Buck
  17. ‘The Little Match Girl’ by Hans Christian Andersen
  18. ‘Markheim’ by Robert Louis Stevenson
  19. ‘Christmas Is A Sad Season For The Poor’ by John Cheever
  20. ‘The Burglar’s Christmas’ by Willa Cather
  21. ‘Papa Panov’s Special Christmas’ by Leo Tolstoy
  22. ‘The Beggar Boy At Christ’s Christmas Tree’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  23. ‘A New Year’s Gift’ by Guy de Maupassant
  24. ‘The Christmas Banquet’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  25. ‘The Best Christmas Ever’ by James Patrick Kelly
  26. ‘Christmas Eve’ by Guy de Maupassant

‘The H Street Sledding Record’ by Ron Carlson

Carlson, Ron 1987

The H Street Sledding Record by Ron Carlson, 1987

The magic trick:

The brief aside about the lonely single mother in the middle of the story

It’s really difficult to write happy. The line between cheerful and nauseating is just so narrow, and Ron Carlson is right on the brink of self-satisfied suburban schlock here in ‘H Street.’ Instead of tumbling into smug abyss, though, he produces what has to be one of the sweetest holiday stories ever written.

Beyond the obvious skills at work here – the detailed characterizations, the realistic dialogue, the wonderful use of humor – Carlson does a really neat trick in the middle of the story. He inserts a brief aside in which the narrator remembers a Christmas season spent delivering trees. He recalls bringing a tree to a young single mother who tries to convince our narrator to stay with her a little bit longer that night. It’s a very small part of the story, but mention of this woman’s holiday loneliness is just enough to provide a nice counterpoint to the overflowing happiness elsewhere. The narrator and reader, both, can return to the action of the main story with a new appreciation for the happy traditions.

Sometimes when you’re unhappy in your own life it’s easy to feel annoyed by someone else’s happiness. This story never irks, though. I’ve read this when I was head over heels in love and thrilled with the world. It made me even happier. I’ve read this when I was lonely and bitter, wrapping presents in a cold apartment with my cat. And it only made me happy. That’s a rare story. And that’s quite a trick on Carlson’s part.

The selection:

By the time she had the tree secured, she had returned again with a box of ornaments, lights, junk like that, and I headed for the door. “Thanks,” I said. “Merry Christmas.”

Her son had caught on by now and was fully involved in unloading the ornaments. The girl looked up at me, and this time I saw it all: her husband coming home in his cap and gown last June, saying, “Thanks for law school, honey, but I met Doris at the Juris-Prudence Ball and I gotta be me. Keep the kid.”