Let’s talk short stories. I know some folks who think they’re a waste of time. Give me a full-length novel or nothing! they say. Others who may not have time in their busy lives to read books enjoy a good short story. I’m somewhere in between. I like them enough and have been known to buy collections of them from time to time but I do admit that the ones that blow me away are few and far between. The ones that knock me on my ass, though, make it worth it. Here are a few of my all-time favorites:
5. Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King – yes, it later became the basis for one of the top 5 movies of all time, “The Shawshank Redemption” and yes, technically, it’s a novella, which is slightly longer in length than a short story (but still too short to be a novel; I know, who makes these rules?) but the story is too good for it not to make this list. And by good, I mean moving, haunting, rich in character development and a stunningly elegant plot. For a master of horror, King sure does know his way around a drama.
4. The Invitation by Barb Johnson – I read this story in the collection entitled More Of This World And Maybe Another. Every story in it is set in New Orleans (pre-Katrina) and all are worth reading. What sets The Invitation apart is its impeccable timing. Johnson balances heavy themes such as poverty, infidelity and redemption with its relatively light plot that revolves around a couple’s anniversary party seamlessly.
3. Jesus Christ’s Half-Brother Is Alive And Well On The Spokane Indian Reservation by Sherman Alexie – This oddly titled story is one of 22 exceptional stories in the published collection called The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fistfight In Heaven. Its stream-of-consciousness style immerses you into the story completely, pulling you so far in, you feel like you’re living it.
2. Distances by Sherman Alexie – Another of Alexie’s outstanding stories, Distances is a beautifully mournful story about loss and remorse and the way they shape who we are.
1. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Probably my favorite short story ever, The Yellow Wallpaper tells the tale of a young woman spiraling downward in neurotic delusions. Told in such an original and entirely consuming way, you’ll feel unhinged before it’s over.