A Note on Short Stories
My wife will tell you (I know she’ll tell you because she tells me frequently) that there is a part of me that never grew up. I still enjoy many of the juvenile past times of my youth like watching the original Scooby Doo episodes as well as Land of the Lost and other Saturday morning juvenilia of the 1970s. I still enjoy going to amusement parks and taking apart my car to see if I can put it back together again.
Yes, I am a study in arrested development when it comes to entertainment.
Like almost everyone, I got my start in reading with short stories. I can still remember the joy of grade school and junior high lit teachers introducing me to the works of Ambrose Bierce, Guy de Maupassant, O. Henry, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jack London. Most of you probably read the pre-adolescent instructional stories I did. Tales such as Flowers for Algernon, The Telltale Heart, To Build a Fire, The Necklace, and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge stuck with me through all these years and I still read them again from time to time.
The kid in me still enjoys a short, simple story that I can absorb in a limited amount of time.
I remember my mother using O. Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief as a cautionary tale when my constant misbehavior pushed her too far. My mother was an inveterate reader of short stories and had the complete works of O. Henry in her library. I know I read Ransom of Red Chief in grade school as an assignment, but I believe my mother once assigned it as punishment (diversion) one summer day when I’d driven her to distraction.
God bless my parents for maintaining a library so extensive that a 12 year old boy could explore and find meaty stories to sink his teeth into. She had Bradbury, Sturgeon, Bierce, as well as the complete works of Ira Levin who was my favorite writer before I read Stephen King.
Today, whether I’m delving deep into a weighty tome of presidential lore, taking in one of Stephen King’s gargantuan novels or delighting in Richard Matheson’s lean prose, I always have a collection of short stories at my side for when my time is short or my attention span is flagging.
I can’t remember precisely when I read my first full adult novel. I was perhaps 11 or 12 years old. I think it was Robert Marasco`’s Burnt Offerings. (It’s a scary book and I’ve heard of more than one Gen-Xer who was traumatized by the limo scene in the movie). I still have that novel on my shelf.
Even as I moved on from reading assigned short stories in grade school and junior high to reading books of my own choosing, I never forgot my love of those tales, mostly told by long dead writers, who introduced me to the world of reading. I love them today more than ever.