Short Fiction Time: 5 Masterpieces in the Genre

Ben short story

5 Short Stories Which Make Their Collection Worth Buying

~ post by Ben

Ok folks, short fiction time.

There might be some of you out there who have never read any short fiction, and that’s okay. Trust me, I understand. The form has often been an underrepresented one. Thankfully, short stories are in the midst of a come-back, though it’s still hard to know what’s worth diving into. Novels are easy. One story, one set of characters to focus on, and the time to get to know them all. Plus, they win all the awards that let you know what everyone’s reading. But not those pesky collections. They have a whole bunch of stories, and how will you know if any of them are good if they’re all different? Safer to stick with that new novel right?

Wrong!

Dear readers, it is my literary duty to you to provide an alternative! Behold, the most decisive proclamations I will allow myself to make on a public forum and would probably temper in a private setting! Because for their size, stories can achieve perfection in ways that novels can’t. That’s right, I said perfection. Here are five stories I deem to be masterpieces of the form (maybe more to come, if my bosses are foolish enough to let this become a series). These are stories I’d defend to the end, five stories that on their merit alone make the entire collection worth reading, because they’re that darned good.

The Hitchhiking Game by Milan Kundera
Featured in “Laughable Loves
The psycho-drama of a man and woman driving towards their vacation destination, things go awry when the pair give into their insecurities about the relationship and each other as they play a seemingly innocent game. With each passing exchange, it’s like my nerves have been tightened another notch. Fantasy and reality blur as language and coded messages are interpreted and misinterpreted. Wittgenstein probably would have loved this one.

When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri
Featured in “The Interpreter of Maladies
A child’s telling of her family and a frequent dinner guest, Mr. Pirzada from Dacca. A juxtaposition of unity amongst immigrants set against one of the most divisive times in South Asia. Now known to us as the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide, the backdrop drives the story to examine identity through a historical, geo-political, and interpersonal lens. The innocence and naiveté of our narrator guides us through, and we are left with an affecting impression of the effects of living in modern society and an interconnected world.

How I Met my Husband by Alice Munro
Featured in “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You
A spectacular tale that captures the dreams and scandal of love in rural Canada. When a young man begins to give plane rides across from the farmhouse where our narrator works, she quickly falls in love with the outsider. Of course, everyone has an opinion about it. Munro is a Nobel Prize winner for a reason here folks. I don’t have a Twitter account, but y’all can take the #goodmothersmakegoodwriters trend from here.

A Perfect Day for Banana Fish by J.D. Salinger
Featured in “Nine Stories
Brilliant. Salinger’s patent dialogue and koan-style storytelling is on full display in this piece which takes place during, again, a couple’s vacation. Split between the beach and the hotel room, tangents lead us to unexpected places when they might at first seem distracting. If you have Zen tendencies, this is the collection for you. And no, there won’t be some kid in a hunting cap calling everyone “phonies.”

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
Featured in “Welcome to the Monkey House
One of the great moralists of our time, Vonnegut gifts us with stories better likened to parables. By taking the concept of equality further than any of us could imagine, we are dared to look at the potential cost, accompanied, of course, by Vonnegut’s classic wit and humor. One of the great dystopian short stories. Short, sweet, profound. Favorite Line: “‘Gee—’ said Hazel, ‘I could tell that one was a doozy.’”

Well folks, that’s all for now. Until next time, happy reading. What’s next? Don’t click here if you hate spoilers.

8 thoughts on “Short Fiction Time: 5 Masterpieces in the Genre

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