The Model Short Story

Dana Johnson

on "Bad Neighbors"

by Edward P. Jones

 

Everyone knows Edward P. Jones’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Known World. Or at least they should. Regularly, I find myself talking about the book with fellow writers and students as if I’m talking about family, because I’m so familiar with its characters and its plot about a black man who owned slaves and the ensuing chaos upon his death. Only too often I hear, “you know, I haven’t read that book yet.” read more

 


 

 


Lynne Tillman 

on "Florida" 

by Mavis Gallant

 

In any Gallant story, life or reality is curious, daunting, often frustrating, sad or tragic. And, she’s funny, too, in her way. And uniquely mysterious. The reader does not know what will happen in a sentence, in a story, but not out of deliberate obfuscation or a rising plot, but because Gallant operates her own airplane, and it flies in strange directions. READ MORE

 


 

 


 

Christine Schutt

on "Brass"

by Joy Williams

 

Aurora, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston, all sites of rampage killings that left four or more dead. Inspired by just such mayhem, “Brass,” by Joy Williams, is about a rampage killer in scenes recalled by his father. The name Jared, the setting—Tucson—and mention of “the congresswoman,” suggest the story is loosely based on Jared Lee Loughner, who critically wounded Tucson congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed several others, including an eight-year-old child. READ MORE

 


 

 


 

Anne Boyd Rioux

on “‘Miss Grief’” 

by Constance Fenimore Woolson

 

When Constance Fenimore Woolson wrote “‘Miss Grief,’” shortly after her arrival in Europe in late 1879, she was, unlike her eponymous character, already known as one of America’s preeminent short story writers. She published regularly in Harper’s, Scribner’s, Appletons’, and the Atlantic MonthlyREAD MORE

 


 

 


 

Kristopher Jansma

on "An Unwritten Novel"

by Virginia Woolf 

 

I teach two hours from where I live, so I spend a lot of time writing on the bus. It’s quiet and the route is scenic––once we get through North Jersey. Each day I engage in various strategies so I can get a seat to myself: feigning sleep, opening my laptop, or hiding under a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Of course most people dread a seatmate, especially a chatty one, but for me it isn’t a matter of the distraction. It’s that I simply cannot resist dwelling on them: a student, the mother of a small child… grandfatherly men are my kryptonite. READ MORE

 


 

 


 

Lily Tuck

on "The Elephant Vanishes"

by Haruki Murakami

 

Italo Calvino once wrote that he wanted to edit a collection of stories that consisted of one sentence and, as an extraordinary example, he cites the one-line story written by the Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso: “Cuando despertó, el dinosaur todavía estaba allí” (When I woke up, the dinosaur was still there). Extraordinary indeed! READ MORE

 


 




Edith Pearlman

on "A Love Match"

by Sylvia Townsend Warner

 

“A Love Match” by Sylvia Townsend Warner is the story of brother-sister incest. No, I haven’t spoiled it—the fact of the incest and the circumstances leading to it are revealed early on. The tale is not about something unnatural and shameful but about something lovely—a marriage. READ MORE

 


 

 



Dan Chaon

on "Sex Education"

by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

 

I have long been interested in writers who have fallen into neglect. Dorothy Canfield Fisher is, unfortunately, among those whose work is seldom read these days, though she was quite famous in her time. Read More

 


 

 


 

Deb Olin Unferth

on "Death of a Government Clerk"

by Anton Chekhov

 

“Death of a Government Clerk” is one of Chekhov’s first published stories. I love it for its comic nonchalance, playful absurdity, brevity, and for the way I can feel the hand of the author all over it. Read More

 


 

Chimamanda Adichie

on "The Garden Party"

by Katherine Mansfield

 

Katherine Mansfield's "The Garden Party" is beautifully written, with a touch that one might best describe as delicate. Yet it is pitiless and clear-eyed in its engagement with class, its questioning of the willful blindness and privileges of the upper middle-classes. It is my idea of the perfect story: realistic and subtle but never hiding behind the idea of art for art's sake. It actually has something to say. Read more

 


 

Matthew Sharpe

on "Salvation"

by Langston Hughes

 

“Salvation” is the third chapter of Langston Hughes’s memoir The Big Sea, but this two-page tour de force of prose is also a compact and complete story. Here are five things I like about it: Read more

 


 

The Center for Fiction

on "Sweethearts"

by Richard Ford 

 

Yes, we could have played it safe and inaugurated this series with something by Chekhov or Gogol or by someone like Alice Munro, who writes nothing but short stories and who does so exquisitely. Instead, we’ve selected "Sweethearts" by Richard Ford, published nearly 24 years ago. We think "Sweethearts" is pitch-perfect and heart-rending—and a terrific example of everything a great short story should be. Read more

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