10 Short Stories I Like

We live in an age where some good time to read is hard to find.

To read a novel often takes a whole year. A short story is read in an hour riding a metro or waiting for someone somewhere. A good short story stays with you, haunts your dreams and waking life, and introduces you to a place or a time or a character that you remember for a long time. Here are some of the short stories that have stayed with me long after I finished reading them.

  1. Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

“THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.”

Beauty and intelligence were artificially made superfluous by an authoritarian government. Masks for the beautiful, shrill mental handicap radio for the intelligent, made living unpleasant. Vonnegut has painted a picture of dystopia based on equality for all. It’s a perfect satire on our tendency to equalize everyone and everything.

  1. “Why Don’t You dance?” by Raymond Carver

Carver’s prose is minimal, spare, immensely readable.

This story is about a man who has emptied the contents of his house outside, for a yard sale. Why? No answer is provided. Perhaps his wife is dead or has left him. The story is vague. The reader can form his own interpretation. We don’t know what happens at the end. The story is like a film by the French auteur Godard – real, romantic, and tragic at the same time.

  1. “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000 for her short story    collection “the Interpreter of Maladies”.

The title story is about an Indian American couple visiting India. The wife shares a secret with her driver-cum-guide, the eponymous Interpreter of Maladies of the title. The story is about failing marriages, and our failure to communicate. This story along with the first one “A Temporary Matter” from the same collection stays with us. All the stories of the collection deal with the love and hurt, care and neglect, trauma and healing.

  1. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. HenryHenry is known for his stories with a ‘twist in the tail’.

“The Gift of  Magi” and “The Last Leaf” are his most popular stories. Both deal with   sacrifice and love. Jim and Della form a young married couple who love one another. On Christmas Eve, the two have no money to buy gift for one another. This tender love story talks about the distance we can go for someone we love.

  1. “A Man from the South” by Roald Dahl

Dahl was primarily a children’s writer. His children’s stories go dark and gruesome sometimes. This one is a story for adults.

“A Man from the South” is a dark, delectable little gem from the man who gave us Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and many more books. The story is macabre, mysterious and with a twist ending. An old man, a mysterious woman, a gullible American, a green Cadillac, a Zippo Lighter all add up to make a darkly comic tale.

  1. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

The mother of “The Hunger Games” series is this controversial story by Shirley Jackson.

A village lottery is the central event of the story. Everyone gathers to draw a slip of paper. One who draws a slip with a black mark will win the lottery. And the prize is…

  1. “For Esme – With Love and Squalor” by J. D. Salinger

This is a story of an American soldier and a teenage girl.

They meet during the Second World War. The letter from the girl, a year after their last meeting, inspires the disillusioned soldier to recover from battle fatigue. It is a minor masterpiece by the reclusive writer of “Catcher in the Rye”.

  1. “The Dead” by James Joyce

Joyce has a reputation of a writer who writes unreadable stuff.

The short stories in his short story collection “Dubliners” are exceptions though. ‘The Dead’ is a tender, melancholic story. A long short story, it deals with frustrated aspirations and disappointed love. Gabriel Conroy, a teacher and book reviewer arrives at a party with his wife Gretta. The story explores the relationships of Gabriel with his friends and family. In 1987 John Huston directed a truly great movie based on the story.

  1. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber

This is a story of a man who lives in a fantasy world where he is a confident, bold man.

In real life he is a weak, bumbling man who is dominated by his wife. An American Classic, the story has been adapted a number of times on stage and for the screen. This one is James Thurber’s masterpiece. A man running away from the harsh realities and monotony of life by escaping into his dream world…

  1. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’ Connor

A truly dark and delicious story, this one is about a calculating grandma traveling with her family in a car from Georgia to Florida.

Its controversial final scene about the act of grandmother is open to infinite interpretations. The story is about violence, divine grace, selfishness and self-realization. The story reflects all the elements of Southern Gothic for which O’ Connor was famous.

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