December 2018 favorites

December 2018

The December stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Unlighted Lamps’ by Sherwood Anderson
  2. ‘The Doll’ by Edna O’Brien
  3. ‘Flowers For Algernon’ by Daniel Keyes
  4. ‘Homecoming’ by William Maxwell
  5. ‘Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie’ by Beryl Bainbridge
  6. ‘The Christmas Miracle’ by Rebecca Curtis
  7. ‘Christmas Longings’ by Elizabeth Spencer
  8. ‘The Enchanted Bluff’ by Willa Cather
  9. ‘New York Mining Disaster’ by Haruki Murakami
  10. ‘Christmas Song’ by Langston Hughes
  11. ‘Present For Joyce’ by Langston Hughes
  12. ‘Lost In The City’ by Edward P. Jones
  13. ‘The Cat’ by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
  14. ‘Leg’ by Stephen Polansky
  15. ‘The Cold Outside’ by John Burnside
  16. ‘Stuff’ by Joy Williams
  17. ‘Horatio’s Trick’ by Ann Beattie
  18. ‘The Night Of Chancellorsville’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. ‘Home For Christmas’ by Jeffrey Shaffer

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

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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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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.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.

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

‘Death In The Woods’ by Sherwood Anderson

Anderson, Sherwood 1926

Death In The Woods by Sherwood Anderson, 1926

The magic trick:

Having the narrator explain what the story means to him

Sherwood Anderson famously was an early supporter of both Hemingway and Faulkner. They each looked up to him and drew influence from his work. “Death In The Woods” makes a pretty good case as such source material. It has both the melodramatic melancholy of Faulkner and the sparseness of language of Hemingway.

The most interesting aspect is the way the narrator not only tells the events of the story, he also explains how he came to know about them and what they mean to him. It reminds me a little of historiography – the study not only of history but how that history has changed and been reshaped and written over time.

It gives the reader two different levels to analyze. We can consider the internal story the narrator is telling about the woman who freezes in the woods, and we also can think about his interpretation of the events. And that’s quite a trick on Anderson’s part. No wonder he influenced two of the greatest writers of the century.

The selection:

The scene in the forest had become for me, without my knowing it, the foundation for the real story I am now trying to tell. The fragments, you see, had to be picked up slowly, long afterwards.

Things happened. When I was a young man I worked on the farm of a German. The hired-girl was afraid of her employer. The farmer’s wife hated her.

I saw things at that place. Once later, I had a half-uncanny, mystical adventure with dogs in an Illinois forest on a clear, moon-lit Winter night. When I was a schoolboy, and on a Summer day, I went with a boy friend out along a creek some miles from town and came to the house where the old woman had lived. No one had lived in the house since her death. The doors were broken from the hinges; the window lights were all broken. As the boy and I stood in the road outside, two dogs, just roving farm dogs no doubt, came running around the corner of the house. The dogs were tall, gaunt fellows and came down to the fence and glared through at us, standing in the road.

The whole thing, the story of the old woman’s death, was to me as I grew older like music heard from far off. The notes had to be picked up slowly one at a time. Something had to be understood.


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

‘I’m A Fool’ by Sherwood Anderson

Anderson, Sherwood

I’m A Fool by Sherwood Anderson, 1922

The magic trick:

Using a first-person voice to catch the narrator in contradictions that expose just how big a fool he really is 

This is a brilliant little story. Anderson’s narrator thinks he’s telling a story about how he once lost the chance at the girl of his dreams. He blames himself for getting drunk and lying to the girl about his background. As the title indicates, he considers himself a fool. Amazing thing is Anderson exposes him as a fool but for an entirely different set of reasons.

By telling the story in first person, Anderson allows his narrator’s insecurities and selfishness to shine. Consider that the narrator vehemently criticizes both the educated for looking down on those who work in the horse business, and anyone who “puts on airs” and pretends to be someone of a higher social status, only to wind up looking down (literally from the grandstand) on those in the horse business as he passes out fancy cigars and pretends to be a rich horse-owner from another city. He says he blames himself, but in the telling of the story, it’s clear that he still blames others for his misfortune.

In essence, the narrator is telling a story of humility and contriteness, but winds up only coming off as clueless, immature, and exceedingly egotistical. And that’s quite the trick on Anderson’s part.

The selection:

I’ve always thought to myself, Put up a good front, and so I did it. I had forty dollars in my pocket and so I went into the West House, a big hotel, and walked up to the cigar stand. “Give me three twenty-five cent cigars,” I said. There was a lot of horse men and strangers and dressed-up people from other towns standing around in the lobby and in the bar, and I mingled amongst them. In the bar there was a fellow with a cane and a Windsor tie on, that it make me sick to look at him. I like a man to be a man and dress up, but not to go put on that kind of airs. So I pushed him aside, kind of rough, and had me drink of whiskey.