If you ever have a hankering for an interesting read, but neither have the time nor inclination to sit with an entire novel, here are my very favorite short stories, perfect when enjoyed in your favorite chair, sipping a cup of tea.
Bartleby, the Scrivener, Herman Melville. I am not ashamed to admit that I have never been able to get through Moby Dick. Heavens to Betsy, I get to the part where they are attending the church service before setting out to sea, and I am bored out of my mind. Seriously people, I don’t care about whales, Queequeg, or Ishmael, no siree. So thank goodness there is something by Melville that I do appreciate, and that is dear Bartleby.
Set in the days when copiers were actually men working with pen and ink and not machines, Bartleby stands apart from the others who “prefers not to” do anything, yet claims to not be particular. It is a fine character study.
The Swimmer, John Cheever. Seinfeld fans will remember that Susan’s father had an illicit affair with Cheever. But that’s beside the point. In this offbeat tale, follow Neddy Miller as he swims home across the county, via the numerous pools dotting the way. Witness how each pool reveals more about Neddy, his family, and the way minds create a reality that may or may not jive with what is actually happening in the world.
Neighbor Rosicky, Willa Cather. Remember when I wrote about “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and how it makes me cry every time I hear it? Well, this is the short story version. A gorgeous tale of wealth, both the kind one measures with love and the kind one measures with dollars and cents, among those living in the beautiful and sometimes cruel Nebraska countryside. The prose is simple, yet full of detail, sharp as a fine photograph.
The Story of an Hour, Kate Chopin. A woman finds sweet freedom in the most unlikely of circumstances and pays a very high price in her desire to hold on to it. I love watching the clouds build before the storm.
Good Country People, Flannery O’Connor. Oh there was a delightful wickedness about her! What a marvelous talent she had for twisting and bending people. She could make the beautiful grotesque, the genius simple, and the simple wise beyond measure.
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