November 2018 favorites

November 2018

The November stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Then We’ll Set It Right’ by Robert Gorham Davis
  2. ‘Tiny Smiling Daddy’ by Mary Gaitskill
  3. ‘How Old, How Young’ by John O’Hara
  4. ‘The Fight’ by Stephen Crane
  5. ‘The Rain Horse’ by Ted Hughes
  6. ‘Key To The City’ by Diane Oliver
  7. ‘Crusader Rabbit’ by Jess Mowry
  8. ‘His New Mittens’ by Stephen Crane
  9. ‘Mama’s Missionary Money’ by Chester Himes
  10. ‘Four Men In A Cave’ by Stephen Crane
  11. ‘The Snake’ by Stephen Crane
  12. ‘Celebrations Of Thanksgiving: Cuban Seasonings’ by Ana Menéndez
  13. ‘Two Blue Birds’ by D.H. Lawrence
  14. ‘An Experiment In Misery’ by Stephen Crane
  15. ‘Twilight’ by Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont

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

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January 2015 favorites


January 2015

The January stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘How I Met My Husband’ by Alice Munro
  2. ‘Bardon Bus’ by Alice Munro
  3. ‘One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts’ by Shirley Jackson
  4. ‘The Open Boat’ by Stephen Crane
  5. ‘Where I’m Calling From’ by Raymond Carver
  6. ‘The Drunkard’ by Frank O’Connor
  7. ‘The Wind And The Snow Of Winter’ by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  8. ‘Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker
  9. ‘The Enormous Radio’ by John Cheever
  10. ‘The View From Castle Rock’ by Alice Munro
  11. ‘Boys And Girls’ by Alice Munro
  12. ‘The Sun, The Moon, The Stars’ by Junot Diaz
  13. ‘The Skull’ by Philip K. Dick
  14. ‘The NRACP’ by George P. Elliott
  15. ‘Train’ by Alice Munro
  16. ‘The Other Foot’ by Ray Bradbury
  17. ‘Pigeon Feathers’ by John Updike
  18. ‘Jokester’ by Isaac Asimov
  19. ‘Tell Me A Riddle’ by Tillie Olsen
  20. ‘The Speech Of Polly Baker’ by Benjamin Franklin
  21. ‘The Star’ by Arthur C. Clarke

‘The Open Boat’ by Stephen Crane

Crane, Stephen 1897

The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, 1897

The magic trick:

Winning the readers sympathy toward the men in the boat early in the story

I suppose the mere situation – four men stuck in a tiny boat on the sea after a shipwreck – is enough to engender sympathy. However, Crane does a nice job of winning more specific goodwill from the reader for his four castaways early in “The Open Boat.”

He has the oiler still responding to the captain’s orders with the utmost respect. He describes their teamwork, their positive attitude despite a ceaseless physical toll. He describes the bond that has formed between the four men through their shared peril. Interestingly, he never quite gives any of the four particularly individual characteristics. The reader’s sympathies lie with the group as a whole, which, of course, makes their ensuing attempts to survive all the more tense and emotional. And that’s quite a trick on Crane’s part.

The selection:

It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an oiler, a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends – friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common.


October 2014 favorites


October 2014

The October stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’ by Flannery O’Connor
  2. ‘A Good Man Is Hard To Find’ by Flannery O’Connor
  3. ‘The River’ by Flannery O’Connor
  4. ‘A&P’ by John Updike
  5. ‘The Life You Save May Be Your Own’ by Flannery O’Connor
  6. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman
  7. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe
  8. ‘Nilda’ by Junot Diaz
  9. ‘Young Goodman Brown’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  10. ‘The Lady’s Maid’s Bell’ by Edith Wharton
  11. ‘Luella Miller’ by Mary Wilkins Freeman
  12. ‘The Outcasts Of Poker Flat’ by Bret Harte
  13. ‘The Sutton Place Story’ by John Cheever
  14. ‘Premium Harmony’ by Stephen King
  15. ‘Paper Losses’ by Lorrie Moore
  16. ‘This Morning, This Evening, So Soon’ by James Baldwin
  17. ‘Three Players Of A Summer Game’ by Tennessee Williams
  18. ‘A Stroke Of Good Fortune’ by Flannery O’Connor
  19. ‘The Body Snatcher’ by Robert Louis Stevenson
  20. ‘Awake’ by Tobias Wolff
  21. ‘In Greenwich, There Are Many Gravelled Walks’ by Hortense Calisher
  22. ‘A Dark Brown Dog’ by Stephen Crane
  23. ‘Nothing Ever Breaks Except The Heart’ by Kay Boyle

‘A Dark Brown Dog’ by Stephen Crane

Crane, Stephen 1901

A Dark Brown Dog by Stephen Crane, 1901

The magic trick:

Using a metaphor to comment on a major historical time period with a story about a dog

First things first: I don’t like this story. Not a bit. I don’t do well with animals in peril, nor do I like broad, generalized historical comparisons. Ostensibly, the little brown dog in this story is supposed to represent Black America in the Reconstruction South. Whoa, whoa, whoa – you say – what? I know, I know. But I’m not kidding.

Let me stop here, though, and focus on the positives here. The idea that one can write a story about a boy taking in a stray dog and in fact be commenting on a major event or time period in American history is really quite remarkable. I like that idea a lot; the notion that an author can be telling you one thing but really be talking about something entirely different. That’s art, right?

In “A Little Brown Dog,” the metaphor simply doesn’t work for me. The idea that former slaves, as a people, were naive, innocent, eager to please, kind and good and loving, as the dog is in this story? Well, it’s just stupid. I’d argue that such a generalization, no matter the good intentions, is actually just as racist and ignorant as someone who is on a White-Power trip. The metaphor is a dud, and without it, the story has little else on which to prop itself.

Credit Crane at least for attempting such an ambitiously symbolic tale. I suspect his heart was in the right place. And that’s quite a trick on Crane’s part.

The selection:

The affair was quickly ended. The father of the family, it appears, was in a particularly savage temper that evening, and when he perceived that it would amaze and anger everybody if such a dog were allowed to remain, he decided that it should be so. The child, crying softly, took his friend off to a retired part of the room to hobnob with him, while the father quelled a fierce rebellion of his wife. So it came to pass that the dog was a member of the household.