|By Tom Gauld|
I haven't always liked short stories. In fact, I used to hate them. They always felt unfinished, pretentious, and boring.
Coming to college, it shocked me how much creative writing classes center on the short story. I've always wanted to write novels, not short stories, so it disappointed me that we seemed to only read and write their diminutive siblings. Luckily, my professors were almost always flexible with their assignments; I'm nearing the end of my college career and I've only written a handful of short stories, but loads of novel excerpts.
I do wish that the creative writing program focused more on how to write a novel-- the structure, the pacing, plot, characters, etc.-- but I'm also glad that I was introduced to a number of great short stories along the way.
My opinion of them has definitely changed. Many have true endings and aren't boring in the slightest. Rather than dismiss short stories entirely, hesitant readers should seek out authors that will appeal to them. So with that in mind, here are some of my personal favorites:
1. A Perfect Day for Bananafish by J.D. Salinger. (These aren't in order, but if they were, this would still be at the top of the list. Great humor, realistic dialogue, a true ending. My favorite.)
2. Cathedral by Raymond Carver. (Funny, but it's got depth too).
3. We Didn't by Stuart Dybek. (Love his repetitious writing style).
4. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. (I've probably had to read this for ten classes now, but there's a reason for that).
5. The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman. (Haunting and portrays a piece of women's history as well).
6. May Day by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (This is probably more of a novella, but oh well. Follows many different characters, but never confusing. Set in the '20s, of course).
7. The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link. (Magical and unique).
8. Adams by George Saunders. (I haven't read much by Saunders yet, but from what I've heard, he's definitely becoming known in the literary world for his great short stories. He has a very unique, casual kind of style that really shows the character's voice).
I've been looking over some of these lately, both for a graphic design project (which I'll share when I'm finished!) and an English assignment. For my Senior Seminar class, I need to write a short story and I'm determined to make it one I'm actually proud of. Not only would it fulfill one of my New Year's resolutions this year, but it would sure feel good just to know I can do it :)
Do you like short stories? Have any favorites I should check out?