The Short Stories

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A story about the people of Earth deciding to throw away the Moon.


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Green means up your shirt; blue means down his pants. Purple means in your mouth. Black means all the way. The first four sentences of this short story sent chills down my spine. A superbly told story of the extremes of girlhood and adolescence; the pressures girls face as they get older. Love at first sight, if you believe love is predestined rather than a choice.

Fated love, to me, no matter how hard my heart becomes, still seems ridiculously romantic. This story was written in before the publication of The Vegetarian. Han Kang can do no wrong in my eyes.

I love Sarah Gailey. A hot and bothered story about a house falling in love with the girl who lives in the attic. I loved everything about this story. There is no imperative for a work of fiction to expose or even notice modern society, to report on the haves or with any more urgency the have-nots, to see New Zealand.

And yet a subtle, tangible New Zealandness seeps through every sentence. I thought the way she set it up was on course for something sentimental. Little Heemi is taken to and dropped off at the side of the road. His mum drives away. Probably, but the sense of mystery gives the story an extra dimension. It reads like a first draft. So why is it that I read it with such deep consuming interest? When I saw her the next morning, it was clear that it was Duncan had been doing the fucking. Three kids, three authentic and very casually drawn portraits of New Zealanders. Hura ought to be regarded as one of our major writers.

You can date it by the appearance of Judy Bailey. There are two runaways in this story — one is Carla, who is trying to escape her marriage to surly, obsessive Clark. The other is Flora, a goat who has gone missing. Alice Munro's exquisite writing always manages to convey just how complex an ordinary life can be, and she's on some of her best ever form here. Another elephant-related short story for this list — who would've thought?

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In this quietly lyrical tale, an elderly zookeeper and an equally aged elephant vanish, seemingly into thin air. The last person to catch sight of them is our narrator, who wonders whether it was an optical illusion or magic. All the hallmarks of his incredible gift for language are firmly in place.


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  • Humans have been misunderstanding each other for as long as we've existed, and here R. Narayan's vivid portrayal of an encounter between a Tamil-speaking villager and an English-speaking New Yorker is an amusing yet quietly poignant story that explores the clash between Eastern and Western culture. John O'Hara is an underrated writer, and he knew it - spending a lot of his time complaining about being overlooked in favour of contemporaries like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

    Before you continue...

    But don't let that hold you back from his stories, and this one in particular, which are bingeworthy chronicles of American life in his era. Thus lies the conundrum at the heart of this story, which reads almost like a cautionary tale or dark fairytale on modern day office gossip culture. For a debut, it's a truly astonishing piece of writing, raw — yes — but also a compassionate portrayal of the people involved. A woman sits at home, agonising over a late phone call from a man — and wonders whether she should call him instead.

    It might have been written in Fans of Angela Carter and Roald Dahl's dark tales will love Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha's stories, which take their inspiration from horror fiction, myths and legends and rework them with a feminist twist.

    Bringing the Pieces together

    This one's more of a novella than a short story but it'd be foolish to leave out this seminal piece of writing which shows how far we've come in our thinking on women's mental health, and perhaps how far we still need to go. One of the most famous short stories of all time, Poe's matter-of-fact and economical writing style works to full effect in this tale of a man's haunted conscience.

    As the unnamed narrator tries to convince us of his sanity, his paranoia only worsens. Hugely influential and, even today, enjoyable. In Karen Russell's dazzling and darkly funny story, two vampires — one traditional and one of a more progressive variety — make their home in a lemon grove with the hope that the luscious, ripe fruit will quench their thirst for blood.

    J D Salinger produced so little fiction, relatively speaking, that every word of it deserves to be read and read again. Shocking and equisitively observed, his peerless ear for dialogue - particularly between adults and children - is also on full display.

    4 Elements of Great Short Stories

    One of Britain's most daring and consistently surprising authors, Ali Smith's work is hard to categorise. We'll just say that this story — which comes from a collection dedicated to libraries and the power of reading — is nothing if not inventive. A high ranking politician of an unnamed country attempts to escape his homeland after it is ravaged by a storm.

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    This is one of Smith's greatest short stories: a subtle meditation on memory and power with a tense conclusion. A newly married couple share a simple, happy day together. Beatrice doesn't know who she is, or who she wants to be. Working a dead-end job in a bar, she dreams of being rich, having expensive clothes and being famous. But of course, things don't always turn out the way we want them to. This is a story about someone writing a story. Edwin is writing about a boy he grew up with.

    When Irvine Welsh decided to revisit Begbie, the terrifying hard man of Trainspotting fame, on Christmas day, it brought together all the best elements of his writing: dark humour, tense action and a brutal dissection of troubled masculinity. You'll never look at Brussel sprouts in the same way again. A story for children, yes, but it's no surprise English literature's greatest proponent of the bon mot infused his fairytales with plenty of sumptous allegories for adult foibles such as vanity, gread and pride. This is perhaps his best. For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more.

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    View all. Events Podcasts Apps. Contact us Contact us Offices Media contacts Catalogues. Home Articles 50 of the best short stories ever written. Indira Birnie and Sam Parker 20 September The short story is back.

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