Tag Archives: F. Scott Fitzgerald

What are your favorite short stories?

Updated 3:15 p.m. July 1

I’m a former newspaper guy who studied literary nonfiction (a.k.a. creative nonfiction) for his graduate degree, a master of fine arts, not a master of arts in literature.

So that’s my disclaimer about these choices.

And please comment with your favorites, however many you have.

Of course, some of these choices come from textbooks I’ve used while teaching, while others come from unrequired reading.

Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald — one of my first short-story loves

“May Day” by F. Scott Fitzgerald — a relatively large cast of characters for a funny and devastating story

“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver — the finest secular understanding of spiritual elevation

A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor — placing the Gospel message in the mouth of a criminal, while showing us the false facade of a Southern woman’s faith

“The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams — a taut, tight thriller of a short story written by a doctor who also was a leader in poetry’s Imagist movement

“Flight” by John Steinbeck — this vivid pursuit in arid lands has stuck with me for decades, literally

“Accident” by Dave Eggers — a relatively minor car accident becomes a meaningful look into the human condition

“Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace — tight, unflinching, horrific, with a deep symbolic move

“Bigfoot Stole My Wife” by Ron Carlson — a hysterical journey through denial and the basis for belief

“Powder” by Tobias Wolff — redeeming a mess of a Dad in the unlikeliest setting

“The School” by Donald Barthelme — creepy students seep through the oblivious narrator’s perspective

“Elephant Feelings” by John Haskell — an historically based look at an elephant who was executed

“The Schreuderspitze” by Mark Helprin — could a dream be better than an actual achievement?

“Letters from the Samantha” by Mark Helprin — a different kind of albatross

“Frontiers” by John M. Daniel — a 5-year-old on a new adventure, short and perfect (only 101 words)

My Kinsman, Major Molineux” by Nathaniel Hawthorne — striking images from the pre-Revolutionary era surround a boy’s journey from the country to the city, where he figures out his search for his kinsman is a joke at his expense

The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe — using kindness and a common interest to exact revenge

The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe — the godfather of the detective story gets started with a case of hiding in plain sight

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson — a psychologically astute (and horrific) use of the third-person-objective point of view

Tip Jar

Appreciation for books and vinyl

Teaser and the Firecat

Teaser and the Firecat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why buy the BooksAndVinyl.com URL and start a news and e-commerce site?

The following reasons:

Godspell — on vinyl.

A double live recording of Peter, Paul, and Mary in concert — on vinyl.

Cat StevensTeaser and the Firecat — on vinyl.

One of Johnny Cash‘s recordings — on vinyl.

The full soundrack, including dialogue, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — on vinyl.

And just before vinyl disappeared from the record stores in the late 1980s, a clandestine purchase of Invasion of Your Privacy by Ratt — on vinyl.

These were some of my parents’ and some of my own records — a word that hardly makes sense any more, unless you’re talking about the Olympics.

Like everyone else, I see images and memories from my growing up years when I recall songs (or lines from The Empire Strikes Back) from those albums.

But mostly, I bought cassettes in high school and college, and gradually bought compact discs.

I think one of my first CDs, oddly enough, was an album by Clint Black.

Music never became less important in my life, but the role of books in my life increased in college.

I was not a voracious reader in college. I was a slow reader with a thirsty-but-rarely-focused mind.

One book that seemed to capture and combine several threads from my college years was Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky.

In Notes from Underground, I found a libertarian suspicion of rationalism in politics and social engineering, hints of a profound Christian existentialism, and a cranky narrator who declared, right away, “I am a sick man, a vile man.”

I can’t remember whether I read Notes from Underground first, or if I read the introductory chapter in Lev Shestov‘s Kierkegaard and the Existential Philosophy.

That introductory chapter was actually a reprinted lecture delivered by Shestov on Dostoyevsky and Kierkegaard.

I’m not sure if Shestov influenced my reading of his fellow but earlier Russian, Dostoyevsky, or if Notes from Underground prepared me for Shestov’s point of view.

Something in me, during those college years, was afraid of knowledge. As much as I embraced literature and began quick, tentative dips into philosophy, I had also gained a fundamentalist fear of “worldliness” — and that word, as I had come to understand it, was defined almost to a gnostic extreme, almost to an anti-materialist and anti-embodiment radicalism.

In some sense, Plato would fit right in with that attitude toward “worldliness,” with his insistence that ultimate reality was unseen, and a matter of the soul, not the body. Maybe that’s why I felt safer with Plato’s Phaedrus dialogue, that or maybe the practical reason of it being assigned reading in a junior-level course on advanced composition and rhetoric (not scary philosophy), and it was supposed to hold keys insights into rhetorical arts (again, not scary philosophy). I remembered enjoying Phaedrus quite a bit, but I can’t remember now what I learned from it.

I didn’t read The Great Gatsby until graduate school, but during the earlier years of my long trek to a bachleors degree, I loved F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s short stories, particularly those in Babylon Revisited and Other Stories, and especially “Babylon Revisited,” “May Day,” and “The Ice Palace.” I don’t know why I didn’t read Gatsby, but having enjoyed Fitzgerald’s short stories so much, I also read This Side of Paradise.

A few books stick out in my memories of grade school and high school:

Hiroshima by John Hershey — the melting flesh of Japanese men and women after the atomic bomb.

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck — a young, lonely boy’s love for his pony, and the pony’s heartbreaking death.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, especially The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — Scout’s sarcastic tone.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien — a story that glowed.

The Grange at High Force by Philip Turner — the ballista!

Sir Machinery by Tom McGowen — a robot in an underground war.

So, for these reasons, I bought BooksAndVinyl.com, and I hope I can contribute some favorites and some memories to others.