A recent conversation got me thinking about short stories. I've heard more than a few readers say they just don't really "like" short stories lately, and I have to admit that I've had a hell of a time getting through the ones that have appeared in the New Yorker. Notable exceptions to this rule: I read anything by T.C. Boyle and Alice Munro, because their stories are always compelling to me.
Here are some of my favorite short stories:
Sorry Fugu, T.C. Boyle: A chef aims to seduce a restaurant critic. Well done.
Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx: I loved this story long before the movie, loved it to the point that the image of the shirt within a shirt can still give me chills. Actually I like all the stories in this particular collection (Close Range). The one about the half-skinned steer will give you nightmares for a week.
The Dead, James Joyce: No, I'm not being an AP English suckup. I love this story and its final haunting lines.
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Ernest Hemingway: Anyone who knows me has heard me gripe about Hemingway's bull-goring, war-mongering testosterone-ridden novels, but this story is genius.
How to Talk to a Hunter, Pam Houston: From Cowboys Are My Weakness, which also boasts the excellent Jackson is Only One of My Dogs.
Emperor of the Air, Ethan Canin: "Look up at the stars."
Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot, Robert Olen Butler: I heard the author read this hilarious story at Miami Book Fair once - a sublime experience.
Everything's Eventual, Stephen King: Look, I like The Mist too (the story, not the movie) and the one about the guy who chews off his own foot on an island. But this one is his BEST STORY EVER. I dare you to top it!