Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ten favorite short stories

The Literate Kitten listed her ten favorite short stories a few days ago and issued a Short Story Challenge: read one of her favorites and tell her one of yours. Today LK listed all the stories recommended to her and chose one of them to read.

I'd read most of LK's favorites already, and was happy to see the first story in William Faulkner's Collected Stories, a recent purchase, among the ones I had not. I read "Barn Burning" last night, and then again this morning while waiting for the results of my parrot's bloodwork: it's absolutely brilliant.

Here's a sample:

That night they camped, in a grove of oaks and beeches where a spring ran. The nights were still cool and they had a fire against it, of a rail lifted from a nearby fence and cut into lengths--a small fire, neat, niggard almost, a shrewd fire; such fires were his father's habit and custom always, even in freezing weather. Older, the boy might have remarked this and wondered why not a big one; why should not a man who had not only seen the waste and extravagance of war, but who had in his blood an inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own, have burned everything in sight? Then he might have gone a step farther and thought that that was the reason: that niggard blaze was the living fruit of night passed during those four years in the woods hiding from all men, blue or gray, with his strings of horses (captured horses, he called them). And older still, he might have divined the true reason: that the element of fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his father's being, as the element of steel or of powder spoke to other men, as the one weapon for the preservation of integrity, else breath were not worth the breathing, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion.

Here's my own list of favorites, in no particular order. These are the first stories that came to mind, minus any that were also on LK's list, so I guess I should really call them the most memorable stories I've read:

Brokeback Mountain. Annie Proulx
Wild Horses. Rick Bass
Ward No. 6. Anton Chekhov
A Father's Story. Andre Dubus
People Like That Are the Only People Here. Lorrie Moore
Werewolves in Their Youth. Michael Chabon
Bullet in the Brain. Tobias Wolff
Apocalypse. T.E. Holt
Snows of Kilamanjaro. Ernest Hemingway
Why I Live at the P.O. Eudora Welty

Apocalypse can be found in Necessary Fictions: Selected Stories from the Georgia Review. There are copies available at for a dollar.

I intend to read a lot of short stories over the summer. It'll be interesting to see if my top ten has a different look come September.


  1. Wait wait wait. Your parrot's bloodwork? I...just can't get past this tantalizing little snippet to even read the excerpt from Faulkner, even though I like Faulkner. Here's a good short story (I think-- it's been many a year since I read it):
    Tall tales from the Mekong Delta, by Kate Braverman

  2. I've only read three of the short stories on your list, so that's seven more recommendations for me to pursue. I'm glad LK got this rolling as I'm always happy to be pointed in the direction of good short stories! I look forward to hearing bulletins along the way from your summer of short stories...

  3. The parrot saga started last April:

    Ezra has kidney disease and she has to go to the vet every couple of months for blood work. She got a very good report today--she's gaining weight and her uric acid levels are in the normal range. Squirting meds down her throat every other day works!

    I'll be ordering your own book of stories very soon, Kate.

  4. I will point a link to your list on my site.

    Great choices! Soooo glad you liked Barn Burning. A Rose for Emily is also one of my Faulkner faves. I have tended to like his short stories more than his novels....

  5. I like Brokeback Mountain as well, along with most of the rest of her short stories.

    Have you read Bad Dirt?


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