Short Story Mini Reviews – June 5

was going to do a mini review wrap up of all the short stories I’ve been/will be reading for my fiction writing class. And then I started writing this post, and realized how long it would have been in ten weeks. So, instead, I decided to make this a (temporary) weekly feature on my blog. I will publish my weekly reading wrap ups on Saturdays, as per usual, and then a post of mini reviews of all the short stories I read that week on Sundays!

Most of these (the first six) were required reading for my class, but I did do some reading on my own, since I had to come up with proposals for three short stories, and I was desperately searching for inspiration, since I don’t write short stories very often. Most of these are fictional, but I couldn’t resist starting Neil Gaiman’s new book of nonfiction stories, The View From the Cheap Seats, so a couple of these stories are from that book as well. I hope you enjoy this post, and feel free to share any short story recommendations in the comments!

1. “Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood. ★★★★★. I loved this one! The whole idea that no ending but one in which everyone dies is actually real is kind of brilliant. And I thought the different storylines was very creative. From what I’ve read of Atwood’s, she seems like a really cool person, and this story definitely supports that image.

2. “Reading Blind” by Margaret Atwood. ★★★★✩. This is a short story about stories. And there’s some great advice about both reading and writing stories in it. I like the way that Atwood thinks about how we read (or listen, as the case may be).

The word should is a dangerous one to use when speaking of writing. It’s a kind of challenge to the deviousness and inventiveness and audacity and perversity of the creative spirit. – Margaret Atwood, “Reading Blind”

3. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. ★★★✩✩. What the hell did I just read? The style was very 1950s, which I kind of liked. But the grandmother was unbelievably annoying. I thought it was weird that the climax of the story (which was very dramatic) happened because of an ill-placed cat and an idiotic reaction to a mundane moment of senility.

4. “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. ★★★★★. I’m still laughing, this story was amazing! It started off great, and then went to a place I was not expecting at all. Basically, it’s about a future society in which above average people are handicapped by the government so they can’t out-perform the average people, hence eliminating competition. Satire at it’s best!

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. – Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron”

5. “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe. ★★★★★. I’ve read this before (in high school, I think), but I definitely enjoyed it much more this time around! I’m a fan of Poe, and now that I’m old enough to actually understand and appreciate the nuances of this story, I ended up loving it more than I remembered.

6. “An Act of Vengeance” by Isabel Allende. ★★★★✩. Sad, but good. I really enjoyed how it portrayed life and love in a turbulent country (Allende is a Peruvian author, and this story was translated into English). I thought it was great that the story demonstrated how people’s emotions can be heightened or exaggerated in times of political conflict and extreme stress. (This one seems relatively obscure – I couldn’t even find this author on Goodreads!)

7. “Credo” by Neil Gaiman (published in The View From the Cheap Seats). ★★★★★. Gaiman wrote this brief essay in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. I had the pleasure of hearing him read it aloud onstage the day after the Paris terror attacks in November. I love it every time I read/hear it, and this time was no exception! (I’m sure it is easily found for free online if you’re interested, and it is infinitely worth reading.)

8. “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming: The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013” by Neil Gaiman (published in The View From the Cheap Seats). ★★★★✩. This was a speech Gaiman wrote for a charity that helps people become more confident readers. I loved his message, and even more the fact that it contains my new favorite quote from one of my favorite historical figures, which I cannot believe I had never heard (see below).

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. – Albert Einstein

9. “Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman (published in Smoke & Mirrors). ★★★★✩. This is such a fun story about a little old lady, a knight, and the Holy Grail. I love Gaiman’s writing style and his incredibly unique imagination. I’m reading his stories in the hope that I will be inspired to be more free with my own writing.

10. “Nicholas Was…” by Neil Gaiman (published in Smoke & Mirrors). ★★★★✩. This is a very short story (and by very short, I mean one page, barely). And for almost the entire story, I was confused. And then I got to the last three lines, and everything made sense, and it was actually very funny. I think it’s pretty clever and definitely unlike any other short story I’ve ever read. I loved how it was kind of about seeing something everyone is familiar with in a totally different light. I actually immediately read it again, and (because I knew the punchline) laughed the whole time.

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