March 2020 favorites

March 2020

The March stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. ‘Wakefield’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  3. ‘The Death Of A Government Clerk’ by Anton Chekhov
  4. ‘A Dead Woman’s Secrets’ by Guy de Maupassant
  5. ‘Her Letters’ by Kate Chopin
  6. ‘The Birth-Mark’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. ‘The Lightning-Rod Man’ by Herman Melville
  8. ‘The Pelican’ by Edith Wharton
  9. ‘Wild Frank’s Return’ by Walt Whitman
  10. ‘A Winter Courtship’ by Sarah Orne Jewett
  11. ‘My Friend Bingham’ by Henry James
  12. ‘The Haunted Mind’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  13. ‘Nanette: An Aside’ by Willa Cather
  14. ‘The Striding Place’ by Gertrude Atherton
  15. ‘Is He Living Or Is He Dead?’ by Mark Twain
  16. ‘The Maypole Of Merry-Mount’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  17. ‘Legend Of The Two Discreet Statues’ by Washington Irving

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

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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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February 2017 favorites

february2017

February 2017

The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘We Didn’t’ by Stuart Dybek
  2. ‘Separating’ by John Updike
  3. ‘A Retrieved Reformation’ by O. Henry
  4. ‘Postcard’ by Alice Munro
  5. ‘Aurora’ by Junot Diaz
  6. ‘Ligeia’ by Edgar Allan Poe
  7. ‘The Altar Of The Dead’ by Henry James
  8. ‘An Ounce Of Cure’ by Alice Munro
  9. ‘The Furnished Room’ by O. Henry
  10. ‘Transients In Arcadia’ by O. Henry
  11. ‘On The Gull’s Road’ by Willa Cather
  12. ‘The Skylight Room’ by O. Henry
  13. ‘How’ by Roxane Gay
  14. ‘Teller’s Ticket’ by Robert Flanagan
  15. ‘It Was Romance’ by Miranda July
  16. ‘The Romance Of A Busy Broker’ by O. Henry

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

december2014

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 Burglar’s Christmas’ by Willa Cather

Cather, Willa 1896

The Burglar’s Christmas by Willa Cather, 1896

The magic trick:

Presenting a stark contrast between the young mans circumstances at the beginning of the novel and those of the ending

Cather presents a stark contrast from start to finish in this story. The opening scene features two homeless men debating where to go for a free meal on Christmas Eve. The younger man is so far gone as to be considering suicide.

Flash forward a few pages and you’ll find the same young beggar wolfing down a fancy dinner in a fancy chair seated at a fancy table in the fancy library of his parents’ fancy home.

That’s a long way to travel in a short story, but the distance – and the contrast – is kind of the point of the story. And that’s quite a trick on Cather’s part.

The selection:

Yet he was but four and twenty, this man—he looked even younger—and he had a father some place down East who had been very proud of him once. Well, he had taken his life into his own hands, and this was what he had made of it. That was all there was to be said. He could remember the hopeful things they used to say about him at college in the old days, before he had cut away and begun to live by his wits, and he found courage to smile at them now. They had read him wrongly. He knew now that he never had the essentials of success, only the superficial agility that is often mistaken for it. He was tow without the tinder, and he had burnt himself out at other people’s fires. He had helped other people to make it win, but he himself—he had never touched an enterprise that had not failed eventually. Or, if it survived his connection with it, it left him behind.

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November 2014 favorites

november2014

November 2014

The November stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Chickamauga’ by Ambrose Bierce
  2. ‘Paul’s Case’ by Willa Cather
  3. ‘The Veldt’ by Ray Bradbury
  4. ‘The Story Of An Hour’ by Kate Chopin
  5. ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’ by Lionel Trilling
  6. ‘The Nose’ by Nikolai Gogol
  7. ‘A White Heron’ by Sarah Orne Jewett
  8. ‘A Circle In The Fire’ by Flannery O’Connor
  9. ‘Going For A Beer’ by Robert Coover
  10. ‘Two Thanksgiving Gentlemen’ by O. Henry
  11. ‘Dawn Of Remembered Spring’ by Jesse Stuart
  12. ‘The Middle Years’ by Henry James
  13. ‘The Catbird Seat’ by James Thurber
  14. ‘The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story’ by Joel Chandler Harris
  15. ‘The Peach Stone’ by Paul Horgan
  16. ‘Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  17. ‘An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving’ by Louisa May Alcott
  18. ‘Who Lived And Died Believing’ by Nancy Hale
  19. ‘The Devil And Tom Walker’ by Washington Irving
  20. ‘The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut’ by Mark Twain

‘Paul’s Case’ by Willa Cather

Cather, Willa 1905

Paul’s Case by Willa Cather, 1905

The magic trick:

Showing Paul in at least four different settings, guises

Cather’s heartbreaking depiction of Paul is based on the notion that he can’t be himself – he can’t truly live – in his life as constructed in Pittsburgh. She makes this point beautifully clear by showing him in different settings, each illustrating the ways his personality is forced to conform to the expectations of those surrounding him. We see him at school. We see him at work as an usher. We see him at home. And finally, we see him, free at last, in New York.

The shifts in his character and behavior are subtle enough to keep the reader believing it is always the same boy; but likewise they are notable enough to carry the story’s key themes. And that’s quite a trick on Cather’s part.

The selection:

Perhaps it was because in Paul’s world, the natural nearly always wore the guise of ugliness, that a certain element of artificiality seemed to him necessary in beauty. Perhaps it was because his experience of life elsewhere was so full of Sabbath-school picnics, petty economics, wholesome advice as to how to succeed in life, and the unescapable odours of cooking, that he found this existence so alluring, these smartly-clad men and women so attractive, that he was so moved by these starry apple orchards that bloomed perennially under the lime-light.

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