by Heidi Kuchta on March 23rd, 2017
I love short stories! They’re a fun way to try out a writer’s work without a 300 page commitment. If you don’t like one of the stories, you can pick another at random or put the whole collection aside.
2017 has been a great year for new short story collections, but my all time favorite is from twenty years ago, Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders. “Set in a dystopian near-future…these stories constitute a searching and bitterly humorous commentary on the current state of the American Dream (Goodreads).” Upon re-reading, this book is still very relevant and very funny. Civilwarland, the brilliant setting for one of the stories, is a Civil War reenactment theme park staffed by hilarious and doleful characters. A side note: check out Saunder’s first novel that just came out, Lincoln in the Bardo (2017).
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by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on October 29th, 2015
Nowadays, it seems like horror equals gratuitous gore, especially in movies. These stories, to me, are the ones that are truly horrible. They strike to the primal core and are remembered decades after reading.
Let’s start with my favorite from the master of macabre, Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado (1846). It’s a short story of revenge mixed with wine – one that rarely ends well. It’s told from the viewpoint of the “villain” who is specific with many details except for a definitive reason for his grievance. The ending is not nice but what really gives me the chills are the false displays of friendship.
I first read on On the Beach (1957) by Nevil Shute when I was a teenager. It was still the Cold War and as a fan of Tom Clancy, I thought “Aha! Here’s what happens if Jack Ryan does not save the day.” After World War III, the radioactive fallout has not yet reached Australia but it’s on the way. The survivors know they only have months to live and act accordingly. I highly recommend this book as own it and have read it multiple times since then.
The Lottery (1948) by Shirley Jackson takes place in the center of a tiny village. It’s small enough that everyone knows each other’s name and most of their business as well, very much like where I grew up. This short story develops quickly, interspersing character introduction with descriptions how the lottery works. By the time the winner is revealed, it’s completely different from the idyllic beginning.
I read Flowers for Algernon (1959) by Daniel Keyes once long ago and never again. That’s not because the novel is awful (it’s brilliant!) – it’s because the story line is so plausible and that is terrifying. It’s written in diary form by Charlie Gordon, a man with low IQ, as progress reports for Dr. Strauss. The doctor performs an experimental operation on Charlie to increase his intelligence like Algernon, the lab mouse. The changes are gradual, yet noticeable, and Charlie shares them all with the reader.
Lastly, you know that short story about that guy on an island that hunts other guys? Most people say yes but can’t remember the title or author. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I plugged the above phrase into a search engine and voila: The Most Dangerous Game (1924) by Richard Connell. That plot may not seem like much but consider that it was written almost 100 years ago and is still a popular basis for both books and movies.
Thanks for letting me share some scary stories with you. Happy Halloween!