Question of the Day

I know all of us here in Shakesville love our books. Personally, when it comes to fiction, I have a love for short story collections. There’s at least a dozen on my shelves right now; and I always look greedily at new ones when they’re released. Which brings me to the question: What’s your favorite short story? (I’m cheating and going with two.)

Richard Matheson (Who many of you know without even realizing it; he penned “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”: “There’s a man on the wing of the plane!” and many other stories that were made into Twilight Zone episodes) is one of my favorite short story authors. It’s very difficult to pick just one, but I’ll go with “Disappearing Act;” a chilling little noir-ish tale about a man that is slowly vanishing. It begins:

These entries are from a school notebook which was found two weeks ago in a Brooklyn candy store. Next to it on the counter was a half-finished cup of coffee. The owner of the store said no one had been there for three hours prior to the time he first noticed the book.

It ends:

Monday night:

The house is gone.

I’m sitting in the corner candy store. When I got back from the V.A. I found an empty lot there. I asked some of the boys playing there if they knew me. They said they didn’t. I asked them what happened to the house. They said they’d been playing in that empty lot since they were babies.

The V.A. didn’t have any records about me. Not a thing.

That means I’m not even a person now. All I have is all I am, my body and the clothes on it. All the identification papers are gone from my wallet.

My watch is gone too. Just like that. From my wrist.

It had an inscription on the back. I remember it.

To my own darling with all my love. Mary.

I’m having a cup of cof

Man, I love that.

Another favorite of mine is “The Sound Machine,” by Roald Dahl, about a man who invents a “listening” machine, hoping to hear sounds that are normally undetectable to the human ear. Unfortunately, it works a little too well, and he realizes he can hear roses screaming in pain when they’re cut…

And you?



Filed under 02_paul_the_spud

38 responses to “Question of the Day

  1. Aly

    Esio trot, by Roald Dahl. I’ve loved it for years; it’s about a woman who wants her pet turtle to grow, but it won’t. There’s this man who’s in love with her, so he tells her a ‘magic spell’ to make her turtle grow, so he can get her attention. But he’s actually replacing the turtle with new ones. It’s so silly, but I love it. Love anything of Dahl’s, actually.

  2. Wow, awesome question. This is actually very hard for me, since I’m a Kafka fanatic, I grew up adoring Faulkner, and, more recently, have gotten into Thomas Mann…

    If I was forced to pen it down, I’d say “In the Penal Colony” by Kafka. It was actually the first one I had read by him.

  3. to pen it down

    Freudian slip? 😆

  4. thebewilderness

    The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin.

  5. Ooo, I can’t believe I completely forgot about that one, thebewilderness! That story is why I became a progressive!

  6. Kate Harding

    No way can I pick one. I’ll narrow it down to three, in no particular order:

    1. “Cats and Students, Bubbles and Abysses,” by Rick Bass
    2. “Pastoralia,” by George Saunders
    3. “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” by Lorrie Moore.

  7. Good question!

    My favorite short would be “Risk” by Charles Dickenson, from the sadly out-of-print collection With or Without.

    Owen is the host tonight. Washing glasses, he flips them in the air until they are just winks in the light. Catching them again takes his breath away.

    Frank is the first to arrive. Then Nolan. Frank wore dirty clothes that afternoon when he took his laundry down to the big machines in the basement of his apartment building; with the load in the washer, soap measured, and coins slotted, he added the clothes he was wearing and made the long walk back upstairs to his apartment naked. He paused to read the fine print on the fire extinguisher. Noises in the building set birds loose in his heart. Frank takes the red armies when they gather to play the game of world conquest.

    Second fave is probably “The H Street Sledding Record” by Ron Carlson, originally collected in The News of the World. It’s a little sappy, but in a literary way. 😀

  8. Oh cool. A place for me to squat (sooner or later I’ll have to read the post, after all it is Spudsy)

    This is a question for all you ladies out there.

    Why do guys seem to scratch their asses more than women?

    I try to be non discreet. Instead of scratching my crack, I’ll just spread my cheeks in rapid succession. Agitation is the same as scratching.

  9. Can I pick one of my own? 😀

    If not, I’m’a go with “Sweet Thing” by Joy Parks, from Best Lesbian Erotica 2007.

  10. God, it’s fun to lay bait for one’s self.

  11. Mine is from Edith Wharton (of course! Who else would I pick? Kate Chopin?

    “A reason?
    “For not going. A woman who gives reaons for getting out of social obligation is sure to make herself unpopular or ridiculous.”

    The words were uncaulculated; but in an instant he saw that they had strangely bridged the distance between his wife and himself. He felt her close on him, like a panting foe, and her answer was a flash that showed the hand on the trigger.

    “I see,” she said from the threshold, “to have done both in giving my reason to you.”

  12. This is what happens you allow a drunk stoned person onto your blog. You have a stupid fucker who forgets to use


    I am shamed beyond recognition.

  13. oh fuck, thelonious monk AND sonny rollins are banging on my back door. i think i may have told them the wrong night.


  14. “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” – Flannery O’Connor

    “Helix” – Banana Yoshimoto

    “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” – Joyce Carol Oates

    All of Poe…all of Hawthorne…all of Kafka.

    I know there are more I’m forgetting. I hate these questions! I’ve been on a short story kick lately; it’s an unappreciated form of literature. Down with the tyranny of the novel! Up with the short story! Fight the power!

  15. carol

    Wow. i will be checking out Roald Dahl soon. Anyway, here’s some of mine:

    Open Me Carefully- by Emily Dickinson, non-fiction, but outstanding

    Written on the Body- Jeanette Winterson. I love anything by her, but also have really recently enjoyed Lighthousekeeping.

    Song of Solomon- Toni Morrison- she rocks

    Alice Walker, anything.

  16. Kona, I’m currently having a passionate love affair with The Age of Innocence.

    O, my heaving bosom…

  17. Hey Tart, what are you drining babe? I’m buying.. I mean SERVING. Liss is buying, a day early.

  18. See, there mere imagination of your heaving bosom causes typos.

  19. I’m so sorry, but it has gotten wild as fuck over here now that ella showed up with a FUCKING BRASS BAND, and BIG they are.

  20. Has anyone ever done a study about what happens when you force marijuana on hardcore evangelical christians?

    Does it sound ANYTHING like Ella?

  21. txrad is in the kitchen now playing “air trumpet.”

    I need to get him a real one, but then we’ll officially be a “menace to south central.”

    ella should never let the band just go. she needs to control them.

    otherwise, halucinations might invade one’s percepton of my sweet harlem.

  22. mamajane

    Just read a short story collection called “The Green Man; Tales From The Mythic Forest, an awesome collection with illustrations by Charles Vess. I picked it up because I saw his name on the cover, fell head over heels for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman. In it is my new favorite short story, “Among The Leaves So Green” by Tanith Lee.

    I always loved Stephen King’s short stories, preferred them over his novels. Poppy Z. Brite is another fave.

  23. Moira,
    If you are around, would you like to share ANOTHER beer?

    Within our desert caravant.

    Night Night Night NIight,
    and stars that shine so light at night.

    Sleep upon my shoulder as we creep

    upon the sands,

    oh shit she lost me already.

    Ella is a ride you only have to pay for once, and you get an unlimited lifetime pass. Fuck.. don’t miss the opportunity. Screw that fucking thing on top of the Stratosphere. Been there done that.

  24. caravant = caravan.

    See, I knew a mere mortal such as myself could not pull it off, despite all the inspiration.

    And now we have lonnie morgan on the cd, and I’m coming back to life now.

    txrad says he has some old carlin on the boob tube.

    I’m gone baby, like cat sperm.

  25. pidomon

    I think the short story is the hardest work to write (hence why I have never tried it)

    Asimovs Robot series started out as shorts in a sci fi mag back in teh 30’s or 4o’s and they read like a novel but they are good (and then turned into novels)
    Also any short by Ray Bradbury is OK by me.

    MamaJane if you like Vess the new printing of Stardust by him and Neil should be hitting shelves soon

  26. t87

    *Shiloh and Other Stories* by Bobbie Ann Mason.

    Unfortunately, several of the stories are so focused on what was happening to the formerly rural south in the 70s/80s that they seem a bit dated now. But still a wonderful collection.

  27. I can’t pick just one favorite. So I’ll go with two nostalgic ones to help me narrow it down. lol Both by Stephen King:

    1) The Boogeyman
    2) Last Rung on the Ladder

    I remember doing the whole ‘sitting under the covers with the flashlight’ thing when I was about ten, sneaking SK books from my father’s bookshelf, happily freaking myself out. The first one did the job (I was obsessive about keeping my closet door tightly shut for over a month); the second one just floored me. Still one of my favorites.

  28. “The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind” by Ray Bradbury.

    “From A to Z in the Chocolate Alphabet” by Harlan Ellison

    “The Shadow over Innsmouth” by HP Lovecraft

    “Red as Blood” by Tanith Lee

  29. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin.

    I introduced my girlfriend to that one a couple of months ago–actually read her the first couple of paragraphs. She added it to her syllabus that night and taught it this summer.

    I haven’t read enough fiction, especially short fiction, in recent years to really have a favorite short story, so I’ll go with a hybrid: Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.”

  30. Beer’s always good, and I wouldn’t say no to some smoke. (I’m only a little bit here, I’m in Azeroth being all heroical and stuff.)

  31. And konagod, heart of my heart, have a story.

  32. I can’t pick just one.

    “A Fruitless Assignment” by Ambrose Bierce.
    “The Words That Count” by Ramsey Campbell
    “Drive-in Date” by Joe R. Lansdale
    “Red” by Richard Christian Matheson

  33. Bitty

    I could list anything by Andre Dubus (the dad), but especially “The Fat Girl” (so relevant to some of the posts here lately) and “A Father’s Story.”

    “Lawns” by Mona Simpson. The first line:

    I steal.

    And it only gets better from there, in a tragic sort of way.

  34. If you’re gonna bring up Ambrose Bierce:

    “An Incident (Occurrence) at Owl Creek Bridge.”

    Made into an excellent film, too.

    Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game.”

  35. blusilva

    The Fog Horn – Ray Bradbury

  36. I could list anything by Andre Dubus (the dad), but especially “The Fat Girl” (so relevant to some of the posts here lately) and “A Father’s Story.”

    I loooove Andre Dubus, he was just a phenomenal writer. I met him while he was recovering from the accident that cost him his leg. In addition to the stories you mentioned, I also love The Curse, it makes me cry everytime I read it.

    In a totally different direction, I also love Fredric Brown, author of the shortest horror story ever written:

    “The last man on earth sat in a room. He heard a knock at the door.”

    His short stories can be very funny and touching.

    I spent my junior high school years with Edgar Allen Poe, I read every word he ever wrote, including all his literary criticism. I read a lot of regular horror stuff after Poe – lots of Stephen King (I’ll always prefer King’s short stories to his novels).

    When I was a freshman in high school, my mother bought me this book, which, unbeknownst to her contained some eye opening excerpts from the Marquis de Sade’s “Justine”. That was an eye opener, I read one of those stories in the cafeteria of my Catholic high school.

  37. “occurance at owl creek bridge” ambrose bierce
    “outcasts of poker flats” bret hart

    any chapter from “tortilla flats” stienbeck.
    “brokeback mountain” annie proulx (i read this about two years before the movie went into production and was astonished even ang lee couldn’t do this short story justice, he just couldn’t)

  38. Well, if stories in verse count, I’m gonna have to go with Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tale.” That cracks me up every time I read it. If not, I’d have to say Joyce’s “The Dead” or Munro’s “Walker Brothers Cowboy,” or, yeah, LeGuin’s “Omelas” which several people have already mentioned.

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