Short Story Appreciation

Although I read constantly, I have never really been drawn to reading short stories before. Getting back into literary appreciation and creative writing classes however, I have discovered that, not only is a good short story a work of art in its own right (rather than a lazy man’s novel), it is also a fantastic way to sample a vast array of writing syles and skills in a shorter period of time. It is also a chance to discover new authors that may appeal, because there are a huge number of authors who have written short stories and novels.

Last week I read two short stories by William Faulkner, A Rose for Emily and Barn Burning. I have never read any of Faulkner’s novels and something tells me, following these two stories that they will not be uplifting reads, but I enjoyed his southern style and the conflict in the stories. His characters, in both stories, are rather unsympathetic; not much to endear the reader, even to the child protagonist of Barn Burning, in my opinion, but still I found myself wanting to know more about them all! Faulkner employs considerable pschological drama and his stories are emotionally fraught with conflict and struggle. The rising action is where the story is at in these two Faulkner tales and the climax happens quickly with little falling action, if any. It seems that Faulkner uses the main families in his make believe Yoknapatawpha County throughout his novels and stories, that are all set in Mississippi, where Faulkner was born and lived out most of his life. Faulkner was born into a fairly old and influential southern family –his great-grandfather was a Colonel in the Confederate Army — and his writing is heavily influenced by social struggles between poverty and wealth, intelligence and stupidity and the postions of whites and blacks. A southern ambiance permeates his writing that despite its gravity does not lack in humor.
I was surprized at how many students in my class disliked Faulkner though, I thought his writing was energetic and exciting, but some said they found it hard to follow…

I still recommend checking out some of his stories though here is a good link to read some online for free: William Faulkner On The Web

While I’m on the subject of short stories I thought I’d take the time to recommend two other very good but very different authors of stories, Dorothy Parker and Angela Carter. Parker’s ascerbic wit and Carter’s beautiful magical realism are the draw for me here. I hope that you will check them both out. I have a Parker collected works that is well worth having on the shelf and a couple of Carter books that are really great are American Ghost’s and Old World Wonders and The Bloody Chamber.

Click on this link to check out a nice review of Parker in the archives of Becky’s Book Reviews

Also, while I’m at it, I found this fair mine of stories browsing the web at East of the Web that also has an interactive and word games section if you are so inclined. There are stories for all genres. It’s a great site.

One thought on “Short Story Appreciation

  1. “A Rose for Emily” is one of my all-time favorite short stories. I taught it to my students this semester, and they really enjoyed it. I’m not sure if you’ve read Flannery O’Connor, but you might like her Southern style as well. Thanks for the links!


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