Saturday, June 24, 2006

Reader's Diary #113- John Stevens (Editor): Best Canadian Short Stories (up to


I read in Reader's Digest recently that fewer Canadians read poetry than any other genre of writing. For me however, I'm more neglectful of short stories. I do enjoy them, don't get me wrong, but I've just never been likely to buy a collection or borrow one from the library. The last collection I read was Kilter: 55 Fictions by John Gould (which you should read, if you haven't already). Recently, while talking with my wife's uncle who teaches a short story course, I made a conscious decision to read more. It's really a fun genre and just as important as any other.

incidentally my favourite short stories are obviously limited to those I have read. In fact, truth be known, it's probably more of a "Here Are Short Stories That I Remember" list. This "Top 10" comes to mind:
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty- by James Thurber
2. The Lottery - by Shirley Jackson
3. The Loons- by Margaret Laurence
4. The Monkey's Paw - by W.W. Jacobs
5. Lamb To The Slaughter - by Roald Dahl
6. My Financial Career- by Stephen Leacock
7. The Tell Tale Heart- by Edgar Allen Poe
8. Gift of the Magi- O. Henry
9. Quitters, Inc. - Stephen King
10. Ideas Die Hard- Isaac Asimov

Some of these I haven't read since high school, I might read them now and hate them, but I'm curious as to what your favourite short stories are. Most of the above stories are available through their links, so if you haven't read them before, I encourage you to do so and let me know what you think.

So far in Best Canadian Short Stories I've only read Charles G. D. Roberts' "The Cabin Door". It's okay, but it made me aware of chauvinistic tendencies I didn't even know I had. The story is about a young woman returning home to visit her sick mother and ending up being cornered in a cabin by a bear. It's a heart thumper but I wonder if it would have had the same effect on me had it been a man? Maybe it's just the similarities to Goldilocks that had my inner caveman acting up, because I've had plenty of female friends far more adventuresome than I (mountain climbing on Baffin Island, Cambodia trips, etc). They'd be the ones chasing off the bear while I'd be hiding under a sleeping bag wondering how I was ever going to get my shorts clean. Yet the protagonist in "The Cabin Door" seemed somehow more threatened simply because she was female- the writer's intention or my own sexist residue?

11 comments:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I really liked all of Alice Munroe's stories, especially the ones in Who Do You Think You Are. And you cannot beat the Lottery, the Telltale Heart and the Monkey's Paw, which you listed.

John Mutford said...

Oh oh, our first disagreement! Put Alice Munro's name in the "Search This Blog" thingy and you'll see some of my rants about her. Not a big fan at all. Though I did like "My Mother's Dream" and was okay with "Save The Reaper" from The Love Of A Good Woman.

chuck said...

WOW. THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO REMEMBER 10 SHORT STORIES YOU READ!

I AM IMPRESSED.

Leazwell said...

I love short stories! Yea, the Lottery was good and I'm always up for Poe. The last one I really enjoyed was The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane.

Robert said...

Read 7 of your Top 10 and most would probably appear on my Top 10 as well.

A couple of additional recommendations:

One's A Heifer by Sinclair Ross. It's one of my favourites. I can't find a link to it online but it's worth reading.

And, to a lesser extent, Desire's Baby by Kate Chopin.

Also, for those who like being read to via MP3, many of your selections are available as audio downloads from Librivox .

John Mutford said...

Chuck, at first I thought you were insulting me- afterall 10 doesn't seem like a lot. But then, I did have trouble remembering titles. There's still a few I didn't get. There's one about a post-apocalyptic Canada that I can't track down. I'm not sure if that Stephen King is my favourite or not- I DO remember liking several, but that one sticks out just because of the James Woods movie version.

Leazwell and Rj- thanks for the recommendations!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh John, it was bound to happen (the disagreement). We couldn't go on in bliss forever.

chuck said...

H.H. MUNRO I LIKE.
THE JUNGLE BOOK, TOO.
THE LAGOON (J.CONRAD)- OR IS IT SIMPLY 'LAGOON'?
BRET HARTE STORIES
ARE CHAUCER'S TALES SHORT STORIES?
WHAT ABOUT ROBERT SERVICE'S EPIC POEMS?

SERIOUSLY, TO REMEMBER 10 SHORT STORIES BY NAME IS IMPRESSIVE TO ME.

John Mutford said...

Chuck,
Do you have a Canadian connection? I'm impressed that you put Robert Service in there. I'm a fan too. And when I first read your list, I thought Bret Hart writes short stories?! (I'd thought of the pro-wrestler- also Canadian). Thanks to wikipedia for setting me straight on that one, and thanks to you for adding to my ever growing "to read" list.

Sure b'y said...

I know and like some on your list but the one that always stands out to me is Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas". That one really stayed with me.

John Mutford said...

Sure b'y, I look forward to reading it (though when I first read the title as "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelettes" I was more intrigued).