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Short Stories - Best

I recently (5/2011) read a story on the intertubes about the Best Short Stories of all time. Seriously?

I disagree.

And I'll back that up with my choices. (But I'm not necessarily limiting it to 10 selects; just too many fish in this pond!) (Top 10 Index)
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"A & P" - John Updike
A coming-of-age tale set in a suburban supermarket. Great writing, brilliant imagery. More of a guy story, but it should appeal to all. It's the realization that, in life, actions have consequences - and that's sometimes painful.

"A Good Man is Hard to Find" - Flannery O'Connor
Southern Gothic at its best, with one of the lead characters called "The Misfit." You know you're in for something crazy.

"A Modest Proposal" - Johnathan Swift
How can this be left off any "best stories" list? Swift - were he alive today, he'd be the head writer for Saturday Night Live - was way ahead of his time, and his scathing satires still go over people's heads. The modest proposal? Solving the dual issues of increasing population and lack of food - by eating children!

"Funes the Memorious" - Jorge Luis Borges
In my mind, Borges is one of the finest fiction writers of the 20th century. However, his output is not novels, they are clever essays, short stories, parables. So he's relatively unknown, which is a shame.

As Borges often does, this story takes an idea and plays with it. The titular character has perfect memory, but that's as much a curse as a blessing - remembering last night's dinner takes ... as long as the dinner actually took.

"Guests of the Nation" - Frank O'Connor
Brilliant ending, but the whole story is very well written. O'Connor captures the idiocy of, well, us vs. them. In this case, the Irish vs. the English.

"Hills Like White Elephants" - Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway is a master of the short story; any Top X Short Story list could be filled with only Hemingway stories and it'd hold up to scrutiny.

Many stories to chose from; I pick this one because it's so vague. Like many Hemingway stories/novels, heavy with dialog, but the actual subject the man and woman are discussing is never explicitly addressed.

Other choices are "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," "Soldier's Home" and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place."

"Tell Me a Riddle" - Tillie Olsen
A heartbreaking, finely woven tapestry of family and the slow-motion capture of the destruction of same. One of the finest short stories I've ever read.

Olsen is not a household name; she has little output but what's there is solid.

"The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" - Stephen Crane
A western tale, but one with a great twist at the end. I can read the last few graphs of this story over and over again. Simply - yet lyrically - written, it's almost an anti-Western. Sure, there are potential gunfights and salons and a protagonist named "Scratchy Wilson," but it's also a tale of marriage, honor and - at end - mental dislocation.

"The Country Husband" - John Cheever
Like Hemingway, Cheever - the archetypical New Yorker writer - could dominate any best short story list. This story of present-day suburbia and a darker past is bittersweet, beautifully written and ends with "Then it is dark; it is a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains."

How can your resist?

"The Dead" - James Joyce
Last story in Joyce's Dubliners is great; I keep reading the last graphs over and over. Awesome.

"The Waltz" - Dorothy Parker
Most pick Parker's "Big Blonde" as her best, but I prefer "The Waltz." A story of the thoughts - and spoken words - of a woman who has accepted the offer of a waltz.

Stream-of-consciousness as a woman, well, waltzes with man. Cutting between her thought - basically, I want to kill him - and speech - "Oh no, it was all my fault." I find it so refreshing at so many levels - the concept, the tremendous writing just about always shown by Parker and the insight into the mind of a woman.

Parker, a key member of the Algonquin Round Table, is at her acerbic best here.

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