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

‘The Little Wife’ by William March

march, william 1930

The Little Wife by William March, 1930

The magic trick:

Using a clever structure to mix the ongoing plot developments with the backstory

The story’s “present tense” is affecting as it is. A traveling salesman is called home by news that his wife is gravely ill after giving birth to their first son. It’s March’s ability to embed the “past tense” that ups the emotional stakes for the reader. Throughout the salesman’s train ride home, he manically attempts to block out his pain by talking about his wife to anyone who will listen. This allows March to relate the couple’s backstory and flesh out his characters without breaking up the narrative for extended exposition. And that’s quite a trick on March’s part.

The selection:

He told of their courtship. He quoted whole paragraphs from letters that she had written to prove a particular point which he had brought up. Bessie hadn’t liked him especially, not right at first, at any rate; of course she had liked him as a friend from the first but not in any serious way. There were one or two other fellows hanging around, too. Bessie had a great deal of attention; she could have gone out every night with a different man if she had wanted to. Being on the road all the time had been pretty much of a disadvantage. He didn’t have an opportunity to see her often. Or maybe that was an advantage – anyway he wrote her every day. Then, finally, they had become engaged.