Short Story Week: Some Recommended Short Fiction

February 20, 2008 | 4 books mentioned 3

“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane (from Open Boat and Other Stories)

This 1898 story, about the last survivors of a shipwreck as they fight for the safety of land on a soaked and cold dinghy, contains one of my favorite sentences in all of short fiction: “It was probably splendid, it was probably glorious, this play of the free sea, wild with lights of emerald and white and amber.” That repetition of “probably” gets me every time.

“Merry-Go-Sorry” by Carry Holladay (from Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Award)

It’s a shame that Holladay hasn’t yet published a collection, for This tale of a town affected by the killing of three young boys, told in a fluid omniscient narration, is strange, ambitious, and beautiful. We venture into the minds of the accused killer, of the girl who writes him letters, of the cops investigating the murders, and so on and on, until a complicated world has emerged on the page.

“Do Not Disturb” by A.M. Homes (from Things You Should Know)

This story concerns a wimp of a husband and a bitch of a wife. She gets cancer, and she gets meaner. What now?

“Stone Animals” by Kelly Link (from Magic for Beginners)

In this wild story, a family moves from a cramped Manhattan apartment to a big haunted house outside the city. Objects start to feel “wrong” and must be discarded; there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rabbits on the front lawn; the wife cannot stop painting the rooms; the daughter sleepwalks; the husband won’t return home from work. Just as the story begins to create a coherent universe, the narrative embraces something new and strange, and the reader must remake meaning once again. It’s a big, messy, playful collision of a story.

Stay tuned for more recommended stories from The Millions later this week.

is a staff writer and contributing editor for The Millions. She is the author of the novella If You're Not Yet Like Me, the New York Times bestselling novel, California, and Woman No. 17. She is the editor of Mothers Before: Stories and Portraits of Our Mothers As We Never Saw Them.


  1. Mea culpa, bizness. I read Edan's piece and, under the impression that there was no Holladay collection, inserted the phrase to that effect. Max, can we change the body of this piece so that it no longer makes that claim, and leave this comment standing as an acknowledgment of the correction?

Add Your Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.