How is it that I always knew that April was National Poetry Month, but I missed May’s honor as National Short Story Month? Oh, I love poetry. I do. In fact, I love it so much that my students always commented about how happy I was on the first day of our poetry units. What’s not to love about alliteration, onomatopoeia, metonymy, and polysyndeton? Okay, so maybe not spelling the terms, but I love the rest of it– the depth, the musical qualities presented by the rhythm and rhyme and punctuation (or lack thereof) working together or even against each other, and the power of the words.
Stopping and noting everything that lives on our bookshelves– the shelves that line our downstairs library (read office-like area that dreams of being a grand library), and upstairs bedrooms– you’d see a lot of novels crossing so many genres between the four of us that it’d make your head spin (Crichton, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Jordan, Kafka, King, Pratchett, Preston & Child, Riordan, Rowling, Stockett, Weber– you get the idea) and you’d find many, many, many books of poetry (Dickinson, Eliot, Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, Whitman, not to mention anthology after anthology of renaissance and romantic poets, war and modern poets).
There are also plays, art books, tomes on architecture and history (ancient and modern), physics and engineering, photography, and a few cookbooks here and there (really– just a few when compared to everything else). What you won’t find, though, are compilations of short stories. I own maybe five of them. Maybe.
The thing is, the mere fact that there’s not a proliferation of short stories on those shelves makes what is there are all the more important to me. What those stories say about me, I’m sure I don’t really want to know. They are the ones, though, the ones that I’ve chosen to collect, to keep, and to occasionally reread. When I sat down to write some fiction this past month for the first time in fifteen years, it wasn’t Dumas or Golding or Hurston whispering in my ear, it was Flannery O’Connor and Roald Dahl, William Faulkner and John Updike.
So, what was my point? Oh, yes. May is National Short Story Month, so read one or two or three, or write one… or two or three.
Some of my favorites (many of which are not for the faint of heart, all of which are classics) in no particular order:
- A & P—John Updike
- A Good Man Is Hard to Find—Flannery O’Conner
- The Story of an Hour—Kate Chopin
- The Scarlet Ibis— James Hurst
- The Lottery—Shirley Jackson
- A Rose for Emily—William Faulkner
- Lamb to the Slaughter—Roald Dahl
Okay, even I have to admit to being a little creeped out by the short stories I like. Eesh. Perhaps they’re balanced by all of the Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert, Far Side, and Bloom County comic compilations we own. But come to think of it, maybe not.