Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Short Stories That Will Rip Your Guts Out

My first semester of grad-school creative writing is in the books (see what I did there?). Here is a list of my favorite short stories I read this time out. Each of these made my jaw (or a tear) drop.
  • "At Night" — Andre Dubus in Dancing After Hours. This story is only four paragraphs, about a wife whose husband dies next to her in bed at night. The last sentence killed me.
  • “Honesty” — Ron Rash in Chemistry and Other Stories. At the suggestion of his wife, a struggling professor answers the personals ad of a young mother whose felon husband has vowed to kill her when he gets out of jail. The way she tells this story — and the things the professor realizes about himself--are tough to take.
  • “Knockemstiff” — Donald Ray Pollock in Knockemstiff. A man who lives with regrets because he didn't shoot a rabbit with his dad when he was 6 gets one final chance to tell the girl he loves how he feels before she moves to Texas with another man.
  • “A Temporary Matter” — Jhump Lahiri in Interpreter of Maladies. A husband and wife who have avoided each other since a shared tragedy make regular dates in their apartment when the city shuts off their electricity for one hour on five straight days. Eventually, they start telling each other secrets. The last secrets they tell are brutal. Here's the whole story.
  • “Bullet in the Brain”—Tobias Wolff in The New Yorker. A critic gets himself killed during a bank robbery because he can't stop being a critic. The story starts out funny, but the sequence where you see his final thoughts, including a flashback to when he fell in love with the language he now criticizes, is breathtaking. You can actually listen to the story by clicking the link.
  • “Everything in This Country Must” — Colum McCann, in Everything in This Country Must. A father and daughter in Northern Ireland are struggling to save a horse from drowning and receive unwelcome assistance from British soldiers — the same army that accidentally killed the daughter's mother and brother. In this case, most of the soldiers seem to mean well, but the father just can't bear to benefit from their help.