I’m on my annual large family vacation–there are three generations here, ages 17 to 85. In a conversation about choices with a few of my nephews, I referenced The Gift of the Magi. They looked at me blankly. I explained–briefly–the plot which I have always found depressing and asked what short stories they liked. Again, they looked rather clueless. Apparently, short stories are not in vogue in American education any more.
This strikes me as a bad plan. Short stories can pack an incredible wallop. Anyone who has ever read The Lottery has 1) never forgotten it and 2) has ever since been more mistrustful of democratic decision making than they might have been. A Good Man is Hard to Find is as chilling a tale about random evil as one could encounter. (My middle son did have to read that in college freshman English and he still shakes his head in wonder when he mentions it.) Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin is a testament to the healing power of art. I’m so grateful I know these and many more. My father loved stories by Saki and Poe and read them to me as a child. Short stories are, for me, one of literature’s great gifts.
How about for you? Did you grow up with short stories in your lexicon? If so, what are those you love?