February 2019 favorites

February 2019

The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Ultima Thule’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  2. ‘On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning’ by Haruki Murakami
  3. ‘Silences’ by Helen Elaine Lee
  4. ‘A Losing Game’ by J.F. Powers
  5. ‘Someone Has Been Disarranging These Roses’ by Gabriel García Márquez
  6. ‘City Lovers’ by Nadine Gordimer
  7. ‘Violets’ by Edna O’Brien
  8. ‘The Anatomy Of Desire’ by John L’Heureux
  9. ‘The Actual Thing’ by William Maxwell
  10. ‘Tennessee’s Partner’ by Bret Harte
  11. ‘One Friday Morning’ by Langston Hughes
  12. ‘After Twenty Years’ by O. Henry
  13. ‘In A House Of Wooden Monkeys’ by Shay Youngblood
  14. ‘Jerry And Molly And Sam’ by Raymond Carver
  15. ‘The MYMan Solution’ by Helen Phillips

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

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December 2016 favorites


December 2016

The December stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Final Problem’ by Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. ‘A Worn Path’ by Eudora Welty
  3. ‘Domestic Life In America’ by John Updike
  4. ‘O Tannenbaum’ by Maile Meloy
  5. ‘Ben’ by Kay Boyle
  6. ‘The Poor Relation’s Story’ by Charles Dickens
  7. ‘The Christmas Masquerade’ by Mary Wilkins Freeman
  8. ‘The Centerpiece’ by Peter Matthiessen
  9. ‘Merry Christmas’ by Stephen Leacock
  10. ‘Bertie’s Christmas Eve’ by Saki
  11. ‘Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desire’ by Michael Tournier
  12. ‘The Christmas Story’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  13. ‘Christmas; Or, The Good Fairy’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  14. ‘Grandmother’s Christmas Story’ by Faith Wynne
  15. ‘The World In A Bowl Of Soup: A Christmas Story” by Annie Dillard

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 2015 favorites


December 2015

The December stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Christmas Morning’ by Frank O’Connor
  2. ‘Drawing Names’ by Bobbie Ann Mason
  3. ‘The Frozen Fields’ by Paul Bowles
  4. ‘Tenth Of December’ by George Saunders
  5. ‘Christmas’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  6. ‘The Birds For Christmas’ by Mark Richard
  7. ‘Every Little Hurricane’ by Sherman Alexie
  8. ‘An Old-Time Christmas’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar
  9. ‘Two Of A Kind’ by Sean O’Faolain
  10. ‘Christmas For Sassafrass, Cypress And Indigo’ by Ntozake Shange
  11. ‘Family Christmas’ by Roxana Robinson
  12. ‘A Visit From Saint Nicholas (In The Ernest Hemingway Manner)’ by James Thurber
  13. ‘Creche’ by Richard Ford
  14. ‘The Christmas Tree’ by Charles Dickens
  15. ‘A Kidnapped Santa Claus’ by L. Frank Baum
  16. ‘Xmas’ by Thomas M. Disch
  17. ‘Christmas Every Day’ by William Dean Howells
  18. ‘Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story’ by Paul Auster
  19. ‘Falalalalalalalala’ by Nikki Giovanni
  20. ‘Old Christmas’ by Stephen Merion

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

‘Spring In Fialta’ by Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov, Vladimir 1936

Spring In Fialta by Vladimir Nabokov, 1936

The magic trick:

Creating a romanticized past through lush sentences

Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ve had love stories all week on the SSMT blog, and we wrap up the madness with one of the most lovesick stories ever written.

The moment means everything in this story. The narrator is telling us about a past relationship, so he’s already in the mode of looking back. But within that looking back is a second level of backstory about the relationship he continually skips back to. So we have the present tense of the telling of the story, the present tense of the main action of the story in Fialta, and a whole slew of scenes and memories involving Nina from the years prior to Fialta. Confused yet?

Well, I think that’s kind of the point. Nabokov – as we saw on SSMT last year with his nostalgia trip, “First Love” – revels in looking back. This story is nothing if not romantic. The writing style, I think, is his most important asset. The sentences are complicated and dramatic. Many are downright beautiful. The writing makes for a melodramatic, hyper-romantic tone – a tone that is perfect for a narrator who is looking back to the past. The narrator laments that at every meeting throughout his relationship with Nina, he feared it would be the last time he saw her. He never could appreciate the moment. Back then, he was worried about the future. And now, he’s pining over the past. If that isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is. And that’s quite a trick on Nabokov’s part.

The selection:

And regardless of what happened to me or to her, in between, we never discussed anything, as we never thought of each other during the intervals in our destiny, so that when we met the pace of life altered at once, all its atoms were recombined, and we lived in another, lighter time-medium, which was measured not by the lengthy separations but by those few meetings of which a short, supposedly frivolous life was thus artificially formed. And with each new meeting I grew more and more apprehensive; no – I did not experience any inner emotional collapse, the shadow of tragedy did not haunt our revels, my married life remained unimpaired, while on the other hand her eclectic husband ignored her casual affairs although deriving some profit from them in the way of pleasant and useful connections. I grew apprehensive because something lovely, delicate, and unrepeatable was being wasted: something which I abused by snapping off poor bright bits in gross haste while the neglecting the modest but true core which perhaps it kept offering me in a pitiful whisper.


August 2014 favorites


August 2014

The August stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Bright And Morning Star’ by Richard Wright
  2. ‘Symbols And Signs’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  3. ‘The Chrysanthemums’ by John Steinbeck
  4. ‘Free Fruit For Young Widows’ by Nathan Englander
  5. ‘The School’ by Donald Barthelme
  6. ‘The Night The Bed Fell’ by James Thurber
  7. ‘My First Goose’ by Isaac Babel
  8. ‘The Wood Duck’ by James Thurber
  9. ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’ by James Thurber
  10. ‘The Fireman’s Wife’ by Richard Bausch
  11. ‘The Killers’ by Ernest Hemingway
  12. ‘In The Penal Colony’ by Franz Kafka
  13. ‘He’ by Katherine Anne Porter
  14. ‘The Rich Brother’ by Tobias Wolff
  15. ‘Lovers Of The Lake’ by Sean O’Faolain
  16. ‘First Love’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  17. ‘The Mysterious Kor’ by Elizabeth Bowen
  18. ‘Thirst’ by Ivo Andric
  19. ‘In Another Country’ by Ernest Hemingway
  20. ‘The Iron City’ by Lovell Thompson
  21. ‘Dusky Ruth’ by A.E. Coppard
  22. ‘The Odour Of Chrysanthemums’ by D.H. Lawrence
  23. ‘The Door’ by E.B. White
  24. ‘The Camberwell Beauty’ by V.S. Pritchett
  25. ‘The Fly’ by Katherine Mansfield
  26. ‘Christ In Concrete’ by Pietro di Donato
  27. ‘American Express’ by James Salter
  28. ‘The Piano’ by Anibal Monteiro Machado
  29. ‘The Greatest Man In The World’ by James Thurber
  30. ‘Men’ by Kay Boyle
  31. ‘A Couple Of Hamburgers’ by James Thurber