And The Winner Is…Pt 3

I know you have just been waiting and waiting and waiting for this list of favorite short stories I’ve promised you for quite sometime now. Thanks again to all of you who put a vote in for your favorite. A few days ago, I posted the first place winner (“Pet Milk,” by Stuart Dybek) and the 17 others that tied for second, third and fourth place.

Many of you took the time to comment on why you made the choices you did, and I thank you for that. Patrick Salem, MFA candidate in Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago said this about “Sonny’s Blues,”The Ledge,” and “Hills Like White Elephants:”

Each time I read Baldwin’s I discover something new on the page, something compelling. Hall’s piece is just so menacing that I still feel a chill just thinking about it. And Hemingway’s subtle ending and vague conversation has me changing my mind about the third to last paragraph again and again.”

Right on, Patrick.

Lex Sonne, a recent graduate of the MFA Program at Columbia College Chicago is a fan of Larry Brown’s “Big Bad Love:”

“Humor and poignancy mixed perfectly. The protagonist’s voice reminds me of a friend of mine that lives in Louisville—makes it a little more special for me.”

Thanks, Lex.

Who knows why we make the choices that we do? I imagine something speaks to us at a certain moment in time when we stumble across a particular story, or it might be that we find ourselves turning back to a story again and again. It seems as though many of you (like me) are intrigued with stories that lean toward the dark. “Full of menace,” one person wrote about his choices. “Gorgeous and brutal,” wrote someone else. Kathie Bergquist, Chicago writer and teacher added this to her choices: “I guess I am a sucker for moments of quiet epiphany and memento mori.” Todd Mercer of Michigan Writers wanted to make sure we add the mythic Hemingway six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Other commentary is mixed in here and there with the selections. By the way, if you find some nonfiction titles in here, too, blame it on writer and reader Dakota Sexton who tells us that a good story is just a good story, fiction or non.

One more thing that I think is pretty cool. Two people who sent me titles of their favorite short stories are also among the authors who made it into the list: Gerard Woodward and John McNally.

Okay, so finally, finally, finally a very non-exhaustive list of favorite short stories as selected by a number of my friends and readers (those who were willing to weigh in, that is!) on a particular day at a particular time.

“Compassion,” Dorothy Allison

“Rape Fantasies,” Margaret Atwood

“My First Goose, Isaac Babel

“The Catholic Church in Novgorod,” Isaac Babel [below] (“the Constantine Translations, of course,” Daniel Prazer, ERP Books editor and writer wanted us to know.)

“My Man Bovanne,” Toni Cade Bambara

“Hermit’s Story,” Rick Bass

“The Legend of Pig Eye,” Rick Bass

“Quiet Please,” Aimee Bender

“Big Bad Love,” Larry Brown

“Distance of the Moon,” Italo Calvino

“So Much Water, So Close to Home,” Raymond Carver

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” Raymond Carver

“I Demand To Know Where You’re Taking Me,” Dan Chaon

“Misery,” Anton Chekov

“The Open Boat,” Stephen Crane

“The Ursula Cookie,” Sloane Crosley

“Open Winter,” H.L. Davis

“The Sun, The Moon and The Star,” Juno Diaz

“Notes For A Story Of A Man Who Will Not Die Alone,” Dave Eggers

“After I Was Thrown In The River And Before I Drowned,” Dave Eggers

“Shamengwa,” Louise Erdrich

“A Rose For Emily,” William Faulkner               

“Barn Burning,” William Faulkner

“Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera,” Ben Fountain

“Chivalry,” Neil Gaiman

“The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman

“Jury of Her Peers,” Susan Glaspell

“The Nose,” Nicolai Gogol

“A Clean Well Lighted Place,” Ernest Hemingway

“The Big Two-Hearted River,” Ernest Hemingway

“Beg, Sl Tog, Inc, Cont, Rep,” Amy Hempel

“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” Amy Hempel

“Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” Denis Johnson

“The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson

“Charles,” Shirley Jackson

“Who’s Irish?,” Gish Jen

“Araby,” James Joyce

“The Metamorphosis,” Franz Kafka

“What, Of This Goldfish Would You Wish?,” Etgar Keret

“The Hitchhiking Game,” Milan Kundera

“A Temporary Matter,” Jhumpa Lahiri

“The Third and Final Continent,” Jhumpa Lahiri

“The Rocking Horse Winner,” D.H. Lawrence (“Always, always, always,” says Katie Corboy)

“Travels with the Snow Queen,” Kelly Link

“The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“All Sorts of Impossible Things,” John McGahern (Michael Downs, author of House of Good Hope, says that this story describes this idea of choosing one favorite)

“The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman

“Royal Beatings,” Alice Munro

“The Thunderstorm,” by Vladimir Nabokov. Ryan Sinon, adjunct faculty member of Columbia College Chicago says: “Nabokov grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me toward what would eventually become my thesis material. It showed me how to have fun; it showed me how to write with one foot on the ground and one foot in the sky.”

“Video,” Mira Nair

“Everything that Rises Must Converge,” Flannery O’Connor

“The Life you save may be your own,” Flannery O’Connor

“Revelation,” Flannery O’Connor

“The Bullfighter Checks her Makeup,” Susan Orlean

“The Isabel Fish,” Julie Orringer

“Brownies,” ZZ Packer

“Trilobites,” Breece D’J Pancake. “The vast depth of that story makes it a sort of adventure to explore all the things being done on the page,” says MFA candidate Derek Johnson.

“Punch Drunk,” Chuck Palahniuk

“Like a Winding Sheet,” Ann Petry

“The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allen Poe

“The End of Firpo in the World,” George Saunders

“Tralala,” Hubert Selby

“The Queen Is Dead,” Hubert Selby

“Johnny Bear,” John Steinbeck

“The Fly Paper,” Elizabeth Taylor

“The Kreutzer Sonata,” Leo Tolstoy

“Of this Time, Of That Place,” Lionel Trilling (one of my favorites, by the way! PMc)

“The Dabba Dabba Tree,” Yasutaka Tsutsui

“A&P,” John Updike                                                                                                     

“The Lovely Troubled Daughters of Our Old Crowd,” John Updike

“Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut

“No Place For You, My Love,” Eudora Welty

“Why I Live At The PO,” Eudora Welty

“The Portrait of Mr W. H.,” Oscar Wilde

So that’s the rest of the list of titles. There were a few other suggestions from readers, including “Any of Cortazar’s stories,” and “Anything short by Murakami.”

Perhaps one of the sweetest things, though, was sent by an old boyfriend of mine from a few decades ago: “My favorite short story was written 30 years ago, with no name, no title, no author, no ending.” I think he was talking about us.

But maybe he wasn’t, and I am just full of myself. Hmmm.

This week, “Why the Short Story, A Conversation Among Writers” continues with posts from Gina Frangello, Vanessa Gebbie, and me. Y’all come back now, hear?←

5 Replies to “And The Winner Is…Pt 3”

  1. a feast – much of which I have not tasted yet.

    And I appreciate this so much, and understand it completely… ” how to write with one foot on the ground and one foot in the sky”. It does not happen often enough!

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