Friday, June 26, 2015

stories, stories, stories

I’ve been thinking about stories lately. I've actually lain awake in bed, just thinking about them. Not just any story, but stories I’ve read, re-read, and loved.  I even had a dream last night in which I was evaluating a book and noticed that it included some of my favorites.  I recall someone mentioning “Wild Swans” by Alice Munro.  I’ve been trying to figure out what makes these stories I have loved, so special.  Why do I choose these when I think of the best stories I’ve ever read, or the ones that moved me most?  I can’t really say.  Some grew on me.  Some electrified me from the start, and others were stories that talked to me at a subconscious level, a gut feeling or reaction, an immediate tug at the heartstrings.  Did I recognize myself or some part of me in them? I have been writing this list for days now. They are the ones I'd choose if I were collecting for an anthology. I’ve tried to arrange them in order of preference but that has proven difficult so…here they are in some kind of an order.

Some of these are stories I taught every semester for they were stories I really wanted students to come to know, stories I figured you shouldn’t go through life without reading; others I used on and off whenever I felt it was the right time, or used the right elements, or advanced an idea I thought needed to be considered, discussed, contemplated.  Suffice it to say they are all great stories by great writers.

Here’s my list:

  1. A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.  This is one of Faulkner’s best known stories.  It’s the story of a spinster (Is that still a word?) who after her father’s death shuts herself off from the world—except for a brief romance with a Northerner-- and how the curious folk only get to really “know” her after her death. It is narrated in first person and the narrator is one of the townspeople. It is masterfully written with just enough social criticism to keep you going.
  2. The Verb to Kill” by Luisa Valenzuela. Two girls follow a man on the beach.  They imagine he is a pervert and will do terrible things to them. The ironic twist is one of the cruelest in fiction.
  3. I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen. A woman ponders a question the teacher has asked her about her daughter while she irons a bunch of clothes.
  4. The Man to Send Rain Clouds” by Leslie Marmon Silko. An old Native American is found dead and his relatives prepare him for a traditional burial.
  5. Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville. One of Melville’s most famous stories. Bartleby gives up on human contact.
  6. Snow” by Ann Beattie. The narrator broods over love lost as snow falls around her.
  7. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Marquez. An old man with enormous wings shows up in a poor peasants' shed and they must decide what to do with him.
  8.  “The Rule of Names” by Ursula Leguin.  A man shows up looking for a dragon and a treasure but finds the local wizard instead.
  9.  “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid.  A young girl lists her mother’s advice on sex and social relationships.
  10.  “A Jury of her Peers” by Susan Glaspell:  Two women find evidence that links another to a crime but decide not to condemn the accused due to mitigating circumstances.
  11. The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Ann Porter. An old woman on her deathbed remembers the pain and humiliation suffered after she was jilted years, and years ago.
  12.  “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. An allegorical story about the struggle between good and evil.
  13. Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway. A man and his lover consider alternatives when they discover she is pregnant.
  14. There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury.  A house struggles to "survive" after the family that once inhabited it has been exterminated in an apparent nuclear bombing.

Ok.  This went a little longer than I had bargained for ( I was going for the ten best), and I’m sure I’ll regret leaving some story out…It just occurred to me that I didn’t include anything by Margaret Atwood, or Rosa Montero, Dionne Brand, or Alice Munro, or “Gravity” by David Leavitt, “My Father Sits in the Dark” by Jerome Weidman, and “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver.  Oh well…

Now gentle reader, share something with me...tell me what are your favorite stories? ¿Cuáles son tus cuentos favoritos?


Elba Iris Pérez, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for sharing your favorites. I haven't read any of them! I'll add them to my reading list.

elf said...

Let me know how it goes...

Aleator said...

Pues la lista no solo está bien preparada, sino que suena de lo más interesante. Me llamó la atención ver el cuento del Gabo entre los favoritos. Me gustaría saber por qué?

elf said...

Pues, tuve que escoger entre varios del Gabo que me gustan y me fui con ese porque es un poco la historia de lo que pasaría si JC volviera, no? Ahora, no veo tu lista...