Friday, March 27, 2015

Three from Ireland: Boylan, Donovan, and MacLaverty

I have long had a special fondness for Ireland.  My wife's mother was born in Belfast and met a young Yankee stationed there during WWII and said yes when he asked her to marry him and come live in California. My wife, although born in Los Angeles, is thus an Irish citizen and has a soft Irish accent that, among many other beauteous features of mood and mien made me fall in love with her over thirty-five years ago.  

In 1996 and 97, I was fortunate enough to get a senior Fellowship at University College, Dublin, teaching the short story, which has always been a special talent for the Irish. I was also asked to teach a class on the American short story at Trinity.  We lived near Blackrock just to the south of Dublin, close to University College, Dublin, to which I could walk. Once a week, I took the Dublin Area Rapid Transit into the city to Trinity to teach at that iconic campus. 

I loved that year in Dublin—loved the city, loved the people, loved the Guiness.  I enjoyed going to the historic Abbey Theatre to see Irish plays. And I loved taking the bus with my wife and daughter to Belfast to visit relatives. I love both the North and the South and hope the current peaceful co-existence between them continues.

After my retirement, I arranged to teach a three-week summer class in Dublin on James Joyce. I took twenty American students to the city, and we walked the walk of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, and we read all the stories in the Dubliners and we read Ulysses.  I did this twice, once with my daughter attending, which was a joy, and once, when I contracted a terrible lung disease that almost killed me. I remember the chilling simple comment of one of my student evaluations: "I think he is dying."  I haven't been back since, sad to say, but I hope to return, bearing no hard feelings.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my take on three Irish short-story writers—one from Dublin, one from Galway, and one from Belfast.

Clare Boylan

            If you come to Clare Boylan’s stories looking for gritty realism about dirty old Dublin or folklore spun by a traditional storyteller, then be prepared to change your expectations about Irish fiction.  The booming Irish economy, called the Celtic Tiger by other members of the European Union, although short-lived, changed the cultural landscape of the old country.

Except for one character calling a man a “shifty wee shite” or another skeptically inquiring, “are you coddin,” Boylan’s stories bear few tale-tell cultural markers; most could have taken place in any mid-sized western city or the suburbs thereof.

And, the only traditional oral tale is “Concerning Virgins,” a fascinating yarn about a terrible old man named Narcissus Fitzgerald living with two daughters, who advertises for a virgin with whom to have a son and gets a predictably surprising, poetically just, response.

Boylan collects thirty-eight stories in her Collected Stories (2002) from her previous three short story collections published originally between 1983 and 1995, ranging from her first, “Appearances,” in which a young girl is ominously enticed into a secluded area by a man promising to show her a special secret (which turns out to be his prized collection of religious medals) to the title story of her last collection “That Bad Woman,” in which a married woman facing menopause merrily has an affair with a shocked and reluctant lover.

            Granted, some of these stories are just clever bits of ironic reversal, for example “My Son the Hero” in which a mother who suspects her son of murder discovers that he was telling the truth when he said he got scratched saving a cat from a tree, or “The Stolen Child,” in which a childless woman steals a baby, tries to abandon it, saves it from drowning, and finally discovers that the mother was glad to get rid of it for a while. 

            Don’t look for political or economic criticism here; the closest candidate is “Thatcher’s Britain,” a phrase which makes a character think of England as a pleasant place with thatched houses, fields of hay, and employment for all, only to discover that many Irish there live in derelict houses. 

Don’t look for easy satires about the Catholic Church either, except in the story “Confession,” which deals lightly with lying to the priest about sex. 

            Boylan’s best stories are those which deal perceptively with the secret life of women, regardless of what society they live in. “A Nail on the Head” is a sad story about a woman whose husband brings strangers home to dinner.  In “A Particular Calling,” a traveling electrolysis lady who visits various towns advertising “the usual service” is coarsely misunderstood by five drunken farmers.  And “The Little Madonna” sensitively links a woman facing menopause with a sixteen-year old mother. 

            Clare Boylan is a sophisticated, witty writer who can spear the cocky and the condescending with biting barbs.   She knows men well enough to make them uncomfortable, and women well enough to bring them shocks of recognition.   She is too good a writer to remain one of Ireland’s best-kept cultural secrets.

Gerard Donovan

Ireland’s past is marked by quixotic revolts and ignominious failures.  In 1848, during the Potato Famine, a small band of idealistic poets known as the Young Irelanders tried to convince starving farmers to rebel against the British.  The uprising petered out in a garden, and is still known as “the siege of Widow McCormack’s cabbage patch.” However, since 1973, when Ireland joined the European Union, a booming economy and a youthful population has given the country its greatest success story.

Gerard Donovan, who grew up in Galway, is well aware of the social and cultural effects of this success.  The characters in his book Young Irelanders (2009), far from poetic rebels, are more like John Cheever’s prosaic American suburbanites. “Archeologists” juxtaposes the new Ireland of shopping centers and housing tracts with the old Ireland that lies just beneath the surface. A couple hired by a company to look for artifacts before development discover the bones of a female child—a young Irelander—and find their own relationship torn between old and new expectations.

            Several stories deal with couples whose marriages are threatened by changing values in a country where people no longer fear the wrath of the village priest. In “Morning Swimmers,” three middle-aged men go for morning swims in Galway Bay.  On this particular morning one overhears the other two talking about an affair his wife is having.  In typical Cheever fashion in “How Long Until,” a man asks his wife how long she would wait after his death before she slept with someone else.  As the story cranks up to a crisis, the man lamely says, “It was just a question.” Many of the stories unearth secrets between husbands and wives.  When in “Shoplifting in the USA” a man who works for an American storeowner tells his wife that his employer is obsessed with catching thieves, she confesses that she has been a thief all her life.

             In “Another Life,” a woman discovers after her husband’s death that he owns a home in another town, in which he has been supporting a woman who has had his child. The most Cheever-like story, with echoes of “The Swimmer,” is “Country of the Grand,” in which a man makes a tortured symbolic journey though his past. “Harry Dietz” is a similar hallucinatory story in which an Irish man living in the United States takes a drive to Chicago in his pajamas because he has lately “run out of life,” and the “emptiness is pouring into his head.” Although new to Ireland, the subject of these stories will seem familiar to American readers who know the work of Updike and Cheever. 

Bernard MacLaverty

The first story in Bernard MacLaverty’s collection Matters of Life and Death (2006) is an emblematic introit that he says he hopes encapsulates many of the horrors of Northern Ireland since Bloody Friday.  Metaphorically titled “On the Roundabout,” to suggest the never-ending dizzyingly circularity of sectarian violence in the North, the story takes place soon after the beginnings of the so-called Troubles in the early seventies.  A man driving into a traffic circle with what he calls his Norman Rockwell family rescues a young man being savagely beaten by two laughing assailants.  That’s all that happens, but in its restrained elegance, the story epitomizes the deep-seated hatred that has crippled the country for years.

Three additional stories derive either directly or indirectly from the Troubles. In “A Trusted Neighbor,” a Protestant policeman seems like a friend to his Catholic neighbor, until, with something of a shock at the end, we learn that he is setting him up for a vicious attack. “The Trojan Sofa” is a comic tour-de-force told from the point of view of an eleven-year-old boy whose Catholic father sews him up in a sofa, which he then sells to a British Major.  Once the boy is in the house, he is to let his father in to loot it--a robbery his father justifies by saying that the wrong done to Ireland by the British is so great that anything done to them in retaliation is honorable.

“Learning to Dance” is a sad and subtle sonata about two young boys who are placed in the temporary care of a childless doctor and his wife when their father, a prominent man, is killed in what we assume was an act of sectarian violence.  As usual in a MacLaverty story, nothing much happens, but the story is a moving elegiac evocation of loss, sadness, and perplexity.

Like many others, MacLaverty learned to write this kind of subtle atmospheric story from Chekhov—a mentor to whom he pays tribute in “The Clinic,” in which a man passes the time in a doctor’s office while anxiously waiting to hear if he has diabetes by reading a Chekhov story entitled “The Beauties.”  The man’s experience with his fear and his experience with the story merge in the end when love and beauty are reaffirmed as both the man in Chekhov’s story and the man in MacLaverty’s story feel the “wind blow across [their] soul.”

 In  “Visiting Takabuti,” another Chekhovian story, a maiden aunt takes her two nephews to see a famous female mummy in a Belfast museum.  On the bus ride home, she thinks about a traditional Irish tale in which, at the moment of death, the soul tiptoes to the door but then turns back and kisses the body that has sheltered it all these years.  Although the story’s ending may seem a bit too symbolically pat and predictable, MacLaverty creates the woman so delicately that the reader cannot help but be moved. 

The longest story in the collection, “Up the Coast,” moves back and forth between the point of view of a young woman who has gone to a remote area to paint and a young man who hunts her down and rapes her.  MacLaverty refuses to sensationalize or politicize the act, choosing instead to focus on the understated artistic means by which the woman transcends the violation. Although Bernard MacLaverty is probably best known to Americans because of the film versions of two of his novels, Cal and Lamb, he is a very fine short-story writer in a tradition of Irish masters of the form from James Joyce to Frank O’Connor to William Trevor.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mystery in the Short Story

Back when I first started teaching, I was twenty-five years old, just out of graduate school.  Hell, only six years out of high school.  I was teaching a short story one day to a class of freshmen and sophomores and had worked the story pretty hard, I thought, doing my best to get the students to interpret, explicate, analyze--to figure out what the story meant and how it meant what it meant rather than just to process plot.  When I finished, I asked if anyone had any final questions.  One older man in the back of the room, who had remained quiet through the whole proceedings, raised his hand and said, with the exasperation years of experience with the work-a-day world often brings:  "Well, hell," he said, "if that's what he meant by the damned story, why didn't he say it that way in the first place?"

 I took a deep breath and gave some version of answer we all have given in one way or another over the years.  I stumbled and stuttered about how stories could never be reduced to explanation, that they were about stuff that couldn't really be talked about any other way, and so forth and so forth.  He listened with pursed lips until I straggled to a halt, finishing hopefully, "Does that answer your question?"  He shook his head indulgently--the older man putting up with the earnestness of the younger--and said, "It's a mystery, ain't it, son?"

Many writers have talked about this basic mystery.  One of my favorites is Flannery O'Connor, who once explained it (without really explaining it) much more succinctly than I did to my impatient student.  "The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it.  A story," O'Connor says, "is a way to say something that can't be said in any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.  You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate."

Well, yes, sure, that's right.  But what kinds of meanings cannot be expressed in a statement? Are there really such things? Later on, O'Connor says, "There are two qualities that make fiction.  One is the sense of mystery, and the other is the sense of manners.  You get the manners from the texture of existence that surrounds you."  Yeah, O.K. I get that.  But where do you get the mystery?  She doesn't' answer that one.

"Mystery" is indeed Flannery O'Connor's favorite word.  She says that for the writer who believes that life is essentially mysterious, "what he sees on the surface will be of interest to him only as he can go through it into an experience of mystery itself."  For this kind of writer, the "meaning of a story does not begin except at a depth where adequate motivation and adequate psychology ... have been exhausted.  Such a writer will be interested in what we don't understand rather than in what we do."

I love it when she talks like that.  One more:  "The peculiar problem of the short-story writer is how to make the action he describes reveal as much of the mystery of existence as possible....His problem is really how to make the concrete work double time for him."  Yes, I believe it.  Somehow the concrete doesn't stay concrete in the short story, but like the mystery of incarnation, is transformed into spirit even as it remains body. But, Lord, what do you make of that?  The "mystery of existence", O'Connor says confidently.  Yes, I believe that.  I just don't know how stories get at it in a way that nothing else quite can.

Most of my favorite writers talk like this.  Eudora Welty is another.  She once said:  "The first thing we see about a story is its mystery.  And in the best stories, we return at the last to see mystery again.  Every good story has mystery--not the puzzle kind, but the mystery of allurement.  As we understand the story better, it is likely that the mystery does not necessarily decrease; rather it simply grows more beautiful."

"The mystery of allurement."  Yes, I believe that.  And yes, when it comes to the stories I like best, the more I read them, the more mysterious they become.  I love being caught in the beautiful mystery of them. 

Umberto Eco uses a metaphor to describe what is required of us from such stories in his Six Walks in the Fictional Woods:  “There are two ways of walking through a wood," Eco says.  “The first is to try one or several routes (so as to get out of the wood as fast as possible, say, or to reach the house of grandmother, Tom Thumb, or Hansel and Gretel); the second is to walk so as to discover what the wood is like and find out why some paths are accessible and others are not.  Similarly, there are two ways of going through a narrative text. 

Any such text is addressed, above all, to a model reader of the first level, who wants to know quite rightly how the story ends (whether Ahab will manage to capture the whale, or whether Leopold Bloom will meet Stephen Daedalus after coming across him a few times on the sixteenth of June 1904).  But every text is addressed to a model reader of the second level, who wonders what sort of reader that story would like him or her to become and who wants to discover precisely how the model author goes about serving as a guide for the reader. In order to know how a story ends, it is usually enough to read it once.”  However, in contrast, says Eco, “to become the model reader of the second level the text has to be read many times, and certain stories endlessly."

Well, if the short story does not hold together by plot or action, but rather by reiteration through pattern, then the short story is not a narrative form at all, is it?  For what the short story wishes to explore is not to be discovered by narrative--that is, is not to be discovered by recounting events organized by cause and effect in time. 

The implication of this--an issue I have often referred to--is that the short story seems to focus on a moment out of time, or on time as mythically perceived, the way Ernest Cassirer and Mircea Eliade have described it, something that cannot be understood as a time-bound, socially-specific event.  Moreover, the issue of cause and effect is crucial, for the short story seems more apt to deal with phenomena for which there is no clearly discernible logical, sociological, or psychological cause.  

And such an event without a clear cause is hard to sustain over the length of the novel, that is, unless the novel itself becomes circular, mythic, patterned, rather than linear, such as, of course, Moby Dick. If the book had focused only on the plot of Ahab's pursuit of the whale, it would have been much shorter than it is.  Moby Dick is more like a short story than a novel because it is an exercise in accounting for what cannot be accounted for in any practical, logical, sociological, psychological way.  And so, of course, is Ulysses.  Both books are like short stories.  They just happen to be long.

When Frank Kermode in his Norton lectures twenty years ago asked, "Why Are Narratives Obscure?"  he cited Kafka's parable  "Before the Law" in The Trial. It’s about a man who comes to beg admission to the Law but is kept out by a doorkeeper.  So he sits there year after year in inconclusive conversation with the doorkeeper outside the door unable to get in.  When he is old and near death, he sees an immortal radiance streaming from the door.  He asks the doorkeeper why he alone has come to this door and receives this reply: "This door was intended only for you.  Now I am going to shut it." 

A terrible parable, you would have to agree.  "To perceive the radiance of the shrine," says Kermode, "is not to gain access to it; the Law, or the Kingdom to those within, such as the doorkeeper, may be powerful and beautiful, but to those outside they are absolutely inexplicable.  This is a mystery."  "While the insiders protect the Law without understanding it, the outsiders like us see an uninterpretable radiance and die."  A terrible parable indeed.

Kermode is concerned, of course, with the radiant obscurity of parables, a word which in the Gospel of Mark is used as a synonym for "mystery."  It is the radiance Welty refers to when she says the "first thing we notice about our story is that we can't really see the solid outlines of it--it seems bathed in something of its own.  It is wrapped in an atmosphere.  This is what makes it shine, perhaps, as well as what initial obscures its plain, real shape."

To Marlowe, sitting Buddha-like on the deck telling the story of Kurtz, to outsiders to the mystery, the "meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of those misty halos that, sometimes, are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

David Means' "Assorted Fire Events" and Ron Carlson's "At the Jim Bridger": A Reading

In the past seven years that I have been writing this blog, I have discussed what I consider to be the distinctive generic characteristics of the short story form, have tried to evaluate new short story collections published during that period, and  have commented on the status of the short story in the general and the academic reading public.
However, what I always enjoyed most when I was teaching short fiction was attempting a "close reading" of an individual short story and then trying to encourage my students to enter into a dialogue with me about my reading vs. their reading. I miss that dynamic engagement with students and lament the fact that I cannot replicate it on this blog.
At least I can share my "reading" of some stories that I admire in hopes that my readers might admire them too, and maybe even enter into a dialogue with me about them. Here are my thoughts on two such stories:

David Means, "Assorted Fire Events"
“Assorted Fire Events,” the title story of David Means’ second book of short stories, which won the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for fiction, is a poetic meditation on the universal fascination with fire, describing and pondering the significance of several events in an attempt to explore what drives people to “play with fire” or “follow the fire truck” to a burning building.
The first event does not focus on the person who started the fire, but with the boy’s fascination with the effect of fire on a house.  What he likes is the way the fire makes its way from the inside out until there is no more inside, only outside.  He also likes the way the pine trees around the cottage are reduced to brittle towers.  The skeletal remains after fire has ravaged a house and its surroundings create a poetic image of something being stripped to the bone.
The narrator introduces the second fire event by saying that the sound of fire, like popcorn in hot oil just before the kernels explode, makes him laugh.  He tries to find a metaphor for the sound, noting it was like a “huge hunk of brittle cellophane crumpled by the hand of God.”  However, he says he will never use that metaphor, but rather the metaphor of a giant weed whacker. The ironic juxtaposition of this sound against the sound of his children whooping and hollering with joy is what interests him in this event.  When he finds out that the fire started from spontaneous combustion from varnish-soaked brushes, he creates an additional metaphor of sound in which the brushes sitting in the hot sun begin to sizzle and talk to each other, until “drunk with the elixir” of the varnish, they are ready to “burst forth in the song of fire.”
The next two events focus on the burning of living flesh, first by a boy named Shank who burns a dog and then by his aunt who burns herself alive.  The previous metaphor of the singing fire is extended to a metaphor of dance; the dog’s body writhes in a heat wave and no one is sure if the movement is the dog’s or that of heat distortion; it is like the monks “doing their sit-down self-immolating dances during Nam.” The narrator muses that the plot of fire is both wildly fanatic and calm at the same time, taking its own sweet time and then becoming logarithmic, until it “sings sweetly the fantastic house-burning lament.”
The final and most extended fire event combines the horror and beauty of fire.  When a young boy named Fenton tries to launch his homemade rocket ship with gasoline, the fire quickly gets out of control and engulfs him.  The ironic juxtaposition of horrible destruction and comic effect is then suggested by a description of Fenton on fire, looking like an actor in a fire suit, a stunt person like a Chaplin tramp.  This image of opposites is echoed at the end when the boy is so scarred that people try not to look at him for fear of laughing out loud.  The narrator says he looks like a clown whose goofy smile is painted over the face of the saddest-looking, most pathetic clown-school dropout.
Ultimately, the narrator sees Fenton as like Christ who has walked into the fires of hell to suffer for all humankind.  Thus, the fire is a holy event, for the boy has experienced that extreme mystery that he cannot explain and that the writer can only create assorted fire events to try to capture.
“Assorted Fire Events"  is an example of a writer’s attempt to use language to explore the basic paradoxical mystery of fire as a powerful force that can burn away the extraneous and reduce one to pure essentials.  David Means’ method for achieving this exploration is to reject linear narrative altogether and describe various fire events in such a way that even as they are horrifying they are somehow eerily beautiful.  If one is concerned with images rather than physical actuality, what is horrible becomes abstractly beautiful.  If one focuses only on the sound of the fire, it is “lively and spunky” like popcorn.  Consequently, although there is nothing particularly funny about fire, if one divorces the sound of it from the destructive power of it, it is comic.  And if one perceives the immolation of a dog or indeed a human being as being like a dance, then that too, divorced from its physical horror, can be beautiful.
In this way, the narrator moves from one fire event to another, describing them as purely aesthetic objects. The aunt’s first-person note written from the point of view of the gas can serves as a grotesque parallel to the aunt’s body and mind; the narrator thinks of the meaninglessness of the can’s life, as it is used for mundane tasks, all the while the vapors inside it pushing against the roof of its mouth, “singing, making little arias to the instability of their bonds.”
The final event of the burning of the young boy, as terrifying as it may be in actuality, is transformed into an emblem of paradox, like that of the mythic transformation of Christ from mere body into spirit.  Although it seems cruel to laugh at the scarred face of the boy, what one is really laughing at is the mystery of the sadness that underlies the painted smile.  Thus, the basic technique of the story is to use the essential methods of poetry, which, like fire itself, transforms the merely physical into the aesthetically meaningful and beautiful.

Ron Carlson, "At The Jim Bridger"
Although he has published two novels, Ron Carlson is one of those rare writers who has remained true to the literary form he seems to love best and at which he excels—the much-maligned short story. “At the Jim Bridger” is the title story of his fourth collection.
Echoing many short-story writers before him, Carlson considers each story he writes an investigation and a surprise.  For example, he has said that when the woman in the story tells Rusty he has heard the wonderful story about him he was surprised, for he did not know that he was writing a story about stories. And in many ways, the nature of story is one of the predominant themes of “At the Jim Bridger.”  The story Donner tells the woman who is not his wife about being caught in a snowstorm and saving Rusty by keeping him warm, is what began their affair.  And the story that Rusty tells Donner about losing his girl to his boss is a story that bonds them in the sleeping bag in the snow. 
The woman’s love for Donner results in part from the story he tells her.  However, when he sees Rusty’s pickup in the parking lot, he senses something false in his relationship with the woman, something not as genuine as the night in the sleeping bag with Rusty.  That the erotic experience with Rusty seems more real than his sexual experience with the woman does not suggest that Donner has homosexual longings. His lying down flesh to flesh with Rusty is a life or death experience, and the erotic nature of the encounter is not narrowly sexual, but rather broadly mythically. 
Whereas Donner told the woman the story to seduce her, he now feels that this use of the story has cheapened it.  At the end of the story, as Rusty and the woman dance in the New Year and he goes outside and watches the magnificent moose across the lake, he thinks that to use the story as he had, “to show it to her, burn it like a match, had led to this new darkness and the longer night.”
It would be easy to oversimplify Donner’s encounter with Rusty either by reducing it to the perhaps meaningless term of latent homosexuality or by putting it in the category of masculine bonding typical of locker room banter and towel-slapping.  However, Carlson risks this, and by his no-nonsense style and the very seriousness with which the describes the encounter, succeeds in suggesting that an erotic experience can occur between two men that is not narrowly sexual, but rather can lead to a profound realization of what it means to hold someone else as if it meant life or death.  “At the Jim Bridger” suggests that genuine stories about such bonding encounters, regardless of the gender of those engaged in them, are all we have to protect us from the cold that surrounds us.
Ron Carlson says that the title story of At the Jim Bridger is his tribute to Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”  However, its tight-lipped style, its focus on doing things with care, and its emphasis on telling a story well makes it a more likely descendent of Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River.”  Donner is a Hemingway character who does everything with care, with a kind of exactness that borders on ritual.  He tells the story of his encounter with Rusty with the same kind of precision that he uses in the wilderness to build a fire.  When he tells the story well, “something in him knitted up taut and he felt centered and ready.”  This sense of exactitude, of getting it just right, is part of the Hemingway style that dominates the story.  Moreover, there is here the same sense of the significance of being “alone in real places,” often suggested by Hemingway.  The tight-lipped style in which the story is told reflects the masculine bonding theme that holds it together. 
 The Hemingway style can most clearly be seen in Carlson’s description of the physical encounter between Rusty and Donner in the sleeping bag.  After Donner takes Rusty’s hands and puts them in his own groin to give them warmth, “he felt himself stirred, a reflex he gave in to.”  Donner identifies Rusty with his son and wants to rescue him with his own body, for as he talks to Rusty he also talks to his son. As Rusty falls asleep in Donner’s arms, “Donner knew that Rusty had taken him into his hands and they were together that way in the mountain tent.”

The story that Rusty tells Donner makes him sick, for he imagines the boyish Rusty being betrayed by his boss, an older man he saw as a father figure.  The seemingly irrelevant story of Donner’s son running away is actually a reflection of Donner’s seeing Rusty as a son who has been betrayed by a father and who now can be rescued by another father.  These parallels, like the parallel of the two fishing trips, create a balanced structure of significance for the story.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Part 2 of Important Short Stories of the 20th Century

Thanks to my readers for calling my attention to some omissions in my posting of important stories of the first 50 years of the 20th century.  Just overrsight on my part. Here's what I left out:

O. Henry         "The Cop and the Anthem" 1906      
                        "The Furnished Room"
                        "The Gift of the Magi"
Saki                 "The Lumber Room" 1914
                        "The Open Window"
                        "The Schartz-Metterklume Method"
                        "Sredni Vashtar"
William Sansom          "Through the Quinquina Glass"
                                    "The Vertical Ladder"1946
James Thurber "The Catbird Seat" 1939
                        "The Greatest Man in the World"
                        "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
                        "The Unicorn in the Garden"

One of my readers pointed out that two entries—Dubliners and Winesburg, Ohio--were not individual short stories.  I listed them this way because practically all the stories in Dubliners have been widely anthologized and analyzed and because Winesburg is more important as a series of linked-stories than it is for individual stories.

This list of stories between 1950 and 2000 is somewhat more problematical than the list of stories between 1900 and 1950, for they have not been around long enough to settle themselves into a tradition based on being anthologized and analyzed.  Once again, I urge readers to let me knowwhat I have left out or should have included.

Achebe, Chinua          "Dead Man's Path" 1952
Agee, James                "Mother's Tale" 1952
Aichinger, Ilse             "Bound Man" 1952
Baldwin, James           "Come Out of the Wilderness" 1958
"Sonny's Blues" 1958
Bellow, Saul               "Father to Be" 1955
"Leaving the Yellow House" 1958
Berriault, Gina                        "Stone Boy" 1957
Boll, Heinrich              "Murke's Collected Silences" 1958
"Laugher" 1955
"Across the Bridge" 1950
"Christmas Every Day" 1951
Brodkey, Harold         "First Love" 1957
Buzzati, Dino              "Seven Floors" 1958
Calisher, Hortense       "In Greenwich, There are Many" 1951
Camus, Albert             "The Guest" 1957
Cheever, John             "Country Husband" 1953
Cortazar, Julio             "Axolotl" 1956

Dinesen,  Isak             "Babette's Feast" 1950
"Blank Page" 1957
"Cardinal's First Tale" 1957
Elliott,                         George            "Among the Dangs" 1958
Gold,   Hebert             "Susanna at the Beach" 1954
"Heart of the Artichoke" 1951
Gordimer, Nadine       "The Defeated" 1952
Grau,   Shirley Anne   "Black Prince" 1952
Hall, Lawrence Sargent "The Ledge" 1958
Hildsheimer,Wolfgang"World Ends" 1952
Keyes, Daniel              "Flowers for Algernon" 1959
Landolfi, Tommaso     "Gogol's Wife" 1953
Lavin, Mary                "Great Wave" 1959
Lispector, Calirce        "Imitation of the Rose" 1955
Mailer, Norman           "Time of Her Time" 1959
Malamud, Bernard      "Magic Barrel" 1953
"Angel Levine" 1955
"Take Pity" 1956
"Last Mohican" 1958
Mishima, Yukio          "Swaddling Clothes" 1953
Nabokov, Vladimir     "Vane Sisters" 1959
O'Connor, Flannery    "Good Man is Hard to Find" 1952
"Life you Save May Be Your Own" 1953
"The River" 1953
"Displace Person" 1953
"Artificial Nigger" 1955
"Good Country People" 1955
"Greenleaf" 19546
O'Connor, Frank         "Man of the World" 1957
O'Faolain, Sean           "Lovers of the Lake"
Paley, Grace               "The Loudest Voice" 1959
"Used-Boy Raisers" 1959
Pavese, Cesare                        "Suicides" 1953
Purdy, James               "Don't Call Me By My Right Name" 1956
"Color of Darkness" 1957
"Why Can't They Tell You Why" 1957
Rooney, Frank                        "Cyclist's Raid" 1951
Roth, Philip                 "Conversion of the Jews" 1958
"Defender of the Faith" 1959

Rulfo, Juan                 "Because We Are So Poor" 1942
"Tell Them Not to Kill Me" 1953
"Talpa" 1953
Salinger, J.D.               "For Esme, with Love and Squalor" 1950
Sillitoe, Alan               "Loneliness of Long Distance Runner" 1959
Stafford, Jean             "A Country Love Story" 1950
"In the Zoo" 1953
Svevo, Italo                 "This Indolence of Mine" 1957
Taylor, Peter                "What You Hear from Em?" 1951
                        "Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time" 1958
Tellez, Hernando         "Just Lather, That's All" 1950
Welty, Eudora             "No Place for You, My Love"  1952
Olsen, Tillie                 "I Stand Here Ironing" 1956
Williams, Tennessee    "Three Players of a  Summer's Game" 1952

Baldwin, James           "This Morning, this Evening, So Soon" 1960
Baraka, Amira             "Screamers" 1967
Barth, John                 "Night Sea Journey" 1966
"Lost in the Funhouse" 1967
"Life Story" 1968
Barthelme, Donald    "Shower of Gold" 1961
"Margins" 1964
"Balloon" 1966           
"Indian Uprising" 1968
Blattner, H.W.              "Sound of a Drunker Drummer" 1961
Butor, Michel              "Welcome to Utah" 1962
Buzzati, Dino              "Falling Girl" 1965
Cheever, John             "Brigadier and the Gold Widow" 1964
"Swimmer" 1964
Colter, Cyrus               "Beach Umbrella" 1962
Coover, Robert           "Babysitter" 1969
"Brother" 1969
Cortazar, Julio             "Island at Noon" 1965
"Axotol" 1964
Eastlake, William        "Long Day's Dying" 1964
Elkin,   Stanley             "Poetics for Bullies" 1965
                                    "I Look Out for Ed Wolfe" 1961
Fort, Keith                  "Coal Shoveller" 1969
Fuentes, Carlos           "Aura" 1962
Gaines, Ernest             "Just Like a Tree" 1963
"Sky is Gray" 1963
Gallant, Mavis             "Ice Wagon Going Down the Street" 1963
Gass, William H.         "Order of Insects" 1961
"In the Heart of the Heart of" 1967
Hughes, Ted                "Snow" 1960
Larner, Jeremy            "Oh the Wonder" 1965
Lavin, Mary                "Happiness" 1969
Lessing, Doris             "Homage for Babel" 1961
"To Room Nineteen" 1963
"Woman on the Roof" 1963
Lind, Jakov                 "Journey Through the Night" 1961
Malamud, Bernard                  "Jewbird" 1963
"Idiot's First" 1961
Marquez,Gabriel Garcia "Old Man with Enormous Wings" 1968
"Handsomest Drowned Man" 1968
Michaels, Leonard      "City Boy" 1969
Mishima, Yukio          "Patriotism" 1961
O'Connor, Frank         "My Oedipus Complex"
O'Connor, Flannery    "Everything That Rises" 1961
"Revelation" 1964
Oates, Joyce Carol      "Upon the Sweeping Flood" 1963
"Where Are You Going? 1966
"How I Contemplated the World" 1969
Olsen, Tillie                 "Tell Me a Riddle" 1961
Paley, Grace               "Faith in a Tree" 1967
Paredes, Americo        "Hammon and The Beans" 1963
Plath,   Sylvia              "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams"
Price,   Reynolds         "Warrior Princess Ozimba" 1962
Purdy, James               "Daddy Wolf" 1961
Robbe-Grillet,            "Secret Room" 1961
Rogin, Gilbert             "Judging Keller" 1964
Rosa, Joao Guimaraes "Third Bank of the River" 1961
Silko, Lellie Marmon  "Man to Send Rain Clouds" 1969
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr "Matryona's House" 1963
Spark, Muriel              "Black Madonna" 1966
Taylor, Peter                "Miss Lenora When Last Seen" 1960

"Reservations:  A Love Story" 1961
Updike, John               "A&P" 1961
"Pigeon Feathers" 1961
"Lifeguard" 1962
Walker, Alice              "To Hell with Dying" 1967

Adams, Alice              "Roses, Rhododendron" 1975
"Truth or Consequences"
Atwood, Margaret      "Rape Fantasies" 1974
"Man From Mars" 1975
"Sin Eater" 1977
Bambara, Toni Cade   "Gorilla, My Love" 1971
"Raymond's Run" 1971
"The Lesson" 1972
"My Man Bovanne" 1972
Holst, Spencer             "Language of Cats" 1971
Beattie, Ann                "Shifting" 1977
"Burning House" 1978
"A Vintage Thunderbird" 1977
"Greenwich Time" 1979
Carver, Raymond        "Neighbors" 1971
                                    "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please" 1976
"So Much Water Close to Home " 1977
Dubus, Andre               "Fat Girl" 1975
Gallant , Mavis            "Speck's Idea" 1979
Gardner, John             "Redemption" 1977
Godwin, Gail              "Dream Children" 1971
"Sorrowful Woman" 1971
Hannah, Barry             "Testimony of Pilot" 1974
"Water Liars"
Helprin, Mark              "Schreuderspitze" 1977
Le Guin, Ursula          "Ones Who Walk Away" 1973
Madden, David           "No Trace" 1970
Munro,Alice               "How I Met My Husband" 1974
"Beggar Maid" 1975
"Royal Beatings" 1975
"Wild Swans" 1978
O'Brien, Tim               "Going After Cacciato" 1976
O'Faolian, Sean           "Faithless Wife"
Paley, Grace               "Conversation with Father" 1971
"Long Distance Runner" 1974
Phillips, Jayne Ann     "Home" 1978
"Black Tickets" 1978
"Lechery" 1979
Price, Reynolds           "Truth and Lies" 1970
Robison, Mary            "Pretty Ice" 1976
Silko, Leslie Marmon  "Yellow Woman" 1974
Taylor, Peter                "Old Forest" 1979
Walker, Alice              "Everyday Use" 1973
Williams Joy                "Train" 1972

Abbott, Lee K.            "The Final Proof of Fate and Circumstances" 1983
Apple, Max                 "Bridging" 1984
"Oranging of America" 1976
Banks, Russell             "Sarah Cole:  Type of Love Story" 1984
Barthelme, Donald      "Chroma" 1987
Bass, Rick                   "The Watch" 1989
Bausch,                       "Old West" 1989
"All the Way in Flagstaff, Arizona, 1987
"Fireman's Wife" 1989
Busch, Frederick         "Ralph The Duck" 1988
Baxter, Charles           "Gryphon 1985
Beattie, Ann                "Jacklighting" 1982
"Janus" 1985
Bell, Madison Smartt  "Naked Lady" 1983
"Finding Natasha" 1989
Bloom, Amy               "Silver Water" 1991
Bourjaily, Vance         "Amish Farmer" 1980
Boyle,  T.C.                 "Greasy Lake" 1981
"Hector Quisadilla" 1984
Canin,  Ethan              "Emperor of the Air" 1984
"Star Food" 1986
Carter, Angela             "Black Venus" 1980
"Tis Pity She's a Whore" 1988
Carver, Raymond        "Cathedral" 1981
"Errand" 1986
Conroy, Frank             "Midair" 1985
Doer, Harriet               "Edie:  A Life" 1988
Dubus, Andre             "A Father's Story" 1983
Dybek, Stuart              "Bijou" 1985
"Chopin in Winter"
Erdrich, Louise           "Saint Marie" 1984
"The Bingo Van"
Faust,  Irving              "Year of the Hot Jock" 1985
Ford, Richard              "Rock Springs" 1987
"Communist" 1985
Gaitskill, Mary           " A Romantic Weekend" 1988
Gallant , Mavis            "Lena" 1983
Gilchrist, Ellen            "Victory Over Japan" 1984
Hempel, Amy             "Going" 1985
"Al Jolson" 1985
"Today Will be a Quiet Day" 1985
Johnson, Denis            "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" 1989
Kaplan, David Michael "Doe Season" 1985
Leavitt, David             "Territory" 1982
Mason, Bobbie Ann    "Shiloh" 1980
"Residents and Transients" 1982
"Big Bertha Stories"
"Graveyard Day"
"The Retreat"
Miller, Sue                   "Inventing the Abbotts" 1987
Millhauser, Steven      "Eisenheim, the Illusionist" 1989
Minot, Susan               "Lust" 1984
Mukherjee, Bharati     "Management of Grief" 1988
"Wife's Story" 1988
"The Tenant" 1986
Ozick, Cynthia           "The Shawl" 1980
Robison, Mary            "Coach" 1981
"Amateurs Guide to the Night" 1983
Simpson, Mona           "Lawns" 1985
Sontag, Susan             "Way We Live Now" 1986
Stone, Robert              "Helping" 1987
Swift   Graham           "Learning to Swim" 1982
Tan, Amy                    "Two Kinds" 1989
Tilghman, Christopher"In a Father's Place" 1989
Trevor, William           "Beyond the Pale" 1981
Updike, John               "Afterlife" 1986
"A Sandstone Farmhouse" 1990
Wideman, John Edgar"Damballah" 1981
"Daddy Garbage" 1991
Williams, Joy               "The Skater" 1984
"Health" 1985
"The Wedding"
Wolff, Tobias              "In the Garden of North American" 1980
"Rich Brother" 1985
"The Liar"

Allen, Paula Gunn       "Deer Woman" 1991
Barnes , Julian             "Dragons" 1996
Barrett, Andrea           "Behavior of the Hawkweeds" 1994
Bausch, Richard          "The Fireman's Wife" 1990
Boyd, William             "Dream Lover" 1993
Brown, Larry              "Big Bad Love" 1990
"Facing the Music"
Butler, Robert Olen    "A Good Scent from a Strange Mt." 1992
Byatt, A.S.                  "Medusa's Ankles" 1990
Carey, Peter                "The Last Days of a Famous Mime" 1995
Chang, Lan Samantha "Pippa's Story 1993
"The Eve of the Spirit Festival" 1995
Cisneros, Susan           "One Holy Night" 1991
"House on Mango Street" 1991
Dixon, Stephen           "Man, Woman, and Boy" 1992
Dubus, Andre             "Dancing After Hours" 1996
Dybek, Stuart              "We Didn't" 1993
Gaitskill, Mary            "Girl on the Plane" 1992
Gordon, Mary             "City Life" 1996
Gilchrist, Ellen            "The Stucco House" 1994
Hospital, Janette Turner"Unperformed Experiments Have No Results" 1994
Houston, Pam             "Cowboys Are My Weakness" 1992
Johnson, Denis            "Emergency" 1991
Johnson, Charles         "Exchange Value"
Jones, Thom                "A White Horse" 1993
"Pugilist at Rest" 1991
"Cold Snap" 1993
Jones   Edward           "Lost in the City" 1992
Millhauser, Steven      "The Barnum Museum" 1990
"Knife Thrower" 1998
Moore, Lorrie              "People Like That Are the Only People Here" 1997
Munro, Alice               "Love of a Good Woman" 1998
O'Brien, Tim               "The Things They Carried" 1990
Offutt, Chris                "Aunt Granny Lilith" 1990
"Melungeons" 1993

Rushdie, Salmon         "Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies" 1994