Some time ago, one of my favorite bloggers, Suzannah Rowntree, published a post entitled “Favorite (Vintage) Short Stories” in which she listed her favorite stories by genre. It sounded like a wonderful idea to me, which is why I’ve decided to do something similar here.
(P.S. Most of these stories are in the public domain or have been published online, so I’ve linked to as many of them as I can.)
“The Diamond Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
I don’t adore every single thing I’ve ever read from Maupassant, but he is certainly one of the best short story authors I’ve ever read, as “The Diamond Necklace” proves. He’s the king of twist endings and in this story, he gives his heroine a deliciously painful comeuppance at the very last second. Quite entertaining.
“The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman
This story was recently published in Gaiman’s short story collection Trigger Warning, but I didn’t read it there; rather, I had it read to me by Neil himself ( 😉 ) via the recording he posted to Soundcloud.
I’m not sure if it can even be called a “story”: it’s actually a monologue given by an elderly man who cannot for the life of him remember the name of his favorite author. The premise sounds sparse, but it becomes a work of art when Neil Gaiman gets his hands on it. It was written as a tribute to Ray Bradbury and has since become a beautiful elegy on a great author. Perhaps it’s only because I too miss Bradbury and fear that his and the legacies of authors like him will be forgotten–or worse, purposely destroyed by political correctness and other crimes against intellect–but this story moved me. Deeply. I recommend it to everyone.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
Honestly, I didn’t want to like this story. Ever since I was a little girl (one who was easily spooked by all things lurid), I had had a strong dislike for Poe, despite having never read any of his work. When I finally did read something of his, “The Raven,” I, ironically, was forced to eat crow: I actually enjoyed the poem far more than I expected to. The excellence of that poem led me to try more of Poe’s work, including this story, which, as it turns out, is every bit as brilliant.
I think the part of this story that I enjoyed the most was the narrator: viewing the story through his eyes made it twenty times scarier and more suspenseful than it would have been otherwise. I also appreciate Poe’s concision: authors of his day tended to use thirty words where five would do, but here, Poe tells his story as briefly as possible, while still making it gripping.
“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury
This is the first and one of the most famous stories in Bradbury’s collection The Illustrated Man. Since the story’s setting is an automated house containing a virtual reality chamber, it feels far more like science fiction than many of Bradbury’s other stories. Nevertheless, like all of his stories, it focuses not on technology but on human beings and the truths about them that will never change, no matter how technology does. I was especially impressed by this story’s ability to (subtly) scare the reader with its last lines. Even though I had had the ending spoiled for me long before I read The Illustrated Man, I still found the ending a bit unnerving. That takes talent.
“The Visitor” by Ray Bradbury
Another gem from The Illustrated Man, though not nearly as well-known as “The Veldt.” It concerns a group of men, all victims of an incurable disease, who are sent to Mars to await their deaths. One of these men, Leonard Mark, is a mutant who has the ability to change the landscape of a place simply by willing it so. When Leonard’s abilities are discovered, he becomes a sought-after commodity for the homesick horde.
This story encapsulates nearly everything I love about Bradbury as a writer: his poetic prose, his brilliant insight into human nature, and his ability to make even the most fantastical settings feel real as life. It does exactly what a short story should do: gives the reader something to think over in as few words as possible. In my opinion, it’s one of the best stories in the collection.
No doubt this author’s name is unfamiliar. She’s not a giant in the literary world like Poe or Maupassant, but she could be one day! Chloe Kookogey is a seventeen-year-old author who published this story (a flash fiction piece) last September on her blog Living on Literary Lane. Perhaps it’s not to the level of what one would consider “great literature,” but nevertheless, it was powerful. As my sister can testify to, it’s one of those stories that I preached about on first reading it. It’s definitely one of my favorites.