Short stories really are an art form, but I’ve only become interested in over the past couple of years. I’m using this as my convenient excuse for the fact that I have never read Flannery O’Connor. Given my background (I am originally from southern Missouri), I am particularly ashamed of this! One of the joys of working in a library, though, is that as soon as I think of something I’d like to read, it’s easy for me to just go pick it up. The other day I thought about A Good Man is Hard to Find and, voila, the next day I was reading it on the train. Hooray for libraries!
My knowledge of short fiction is quite limited; I recently read an anthology edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio and have of course read lots of fairy tales. In spite of the mixed endings in the anthology, my mindset still very much tends to be that stories will have a happy or tidy ending. Never mind that that’s not true for many books I read; surely something short will be psychologically satisfying?! O’Connor’s writing is happily destroying those preconceptions, though. Her stories are precise, concrete, full of realistic characters, and simply gripping. I want to keep reading to find out what happens, but at the same time I want to slow down and savour the language. The language is at times problematic from a modern perspective – many words really are not acceptable anymore – but it is crucial to creating the stories’ settings. Also, it is frankly just captivating. Read this and tell me you don’t want to read more:
“Mr. Head awakened to discover that the room was full of moonlight. He sat up and stared at the floor boards -the color of silver-and then at the ticking on his pillow, which might have been brocade, and after a second, he saw half of the moon five feet away in his shaving mirror, paused as if it were waiting for his permission to enter.”
All in all, I think it’s easy to see why A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories is a classic. I will be looking for a copy to purchase, and highly recommend you look into it.
What are your favourite short stories?