Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stories by Anton Chekhov, O. Henry, and Raymond Carver-

"Misfortune" by Anton Chekhov (1885, 16 pages, translated by Constant Garnett)
"Nobody Said Anything" by Raymond Carver (1988, 12 pages)
"A Municipal Report" by O. Henry (1909, 19 pages)

Three Short Stories by Masters of the Form
O. Henry, Carver, and Chekhov

This morning I want to briefly post on three very different short stories by writers considered among the greatest of all short story writers.    

Almost everyday I check out East of the Web:Short Stories to see what has been selected as the short story of the day.   Normally they have one story from a high status author and one story that may not be real well known.   They often have new stories as well.   It was here I first discovered Katherine Mansfield.   If you have some time to read and cannot think what to read, you might check out this web page.     One of their stories of the day yesterday was "A Municipal Report" by O. Henry (1862-1910-USA-There is some background information on him in my prior posts on O. Henry.)   I saw it was 19 pages and I at first thought that I did not want to read a 19 page story just to find out what the surprise ending might be.   Then I recalled Jhumpa Lahiri had said he was one of the geniuses of the short story.   I did some quick research and saw this story is often considered O. Henry's masterpiece.   I hate to gush too much but this story is a quantum leap better than his other work.    It is a work of genius that belongs among the world's best short stories.   If all of O Henry's stories were this powerful nobody would think it was odd or patronizing to include him with Chekhov and Carver as a master of the short story.   This story is about a traveling representative for a publishing house on his way to Nashville to renegotiate a contract with one of their authors.    The characters in this story are whole people, not the semi-cartoon like characters in the other stories by O. Henry I have read.   The characters are beautifully realized.   There are some surprises in this story-maybe four of them-I loved them all.    I know a lot of people are not going to be willing to read a 19 page O. Henry story, I almost did not.    In my after read research I read that people say that if O. Henry was not a bit lazy and did not have to please magazine editors, then this is the kind of story he really was meant to write.  

You can read "A Municipal Report" HERE

"Nobody Said Anything" by Raymond Carver (USA, 1938-1988-his very last short story was about the death of Anton Chekhov-it is flat out brilliant) is included in a collection of his short stories (32 in all) Where I'm Calling From" which contains many of his best stories.    In the last few years of his life Carver reread the short stories of Chekhov and many say that this experience pushed Carver into a richer vein.  (There is some background information on Carver in my prior posts).    There is one thing in this story that surprised me-no one drinks in it!    This story is about two brothers, their mother, their father (might be long time step-father) and a boy the older son meets when he goes fishing.   There is also a woman in the story who picks up the older of the boys from the road and gives him a ride while he fantasies she will give him more than that.   Carver is really good at adolescent sex fantasies.    This is a great story.   Carver shows what can be done with the short story form.    I was kindly given an e-book of  Where I'm Calling From by a very generous reader in New Delhi and will be reading and posting in at least a minimal way on the 29 stories in the collection I have not yet read.

Nearly everyone into the genre says Anton Chekhov (1860-1904-Russia) is among if not the very best short story writer in the world.     (There is some background information on him in my prior posts on him.)    "Misfortune"   is an acutely observed story about a man in love with or with a sexual obsession for the wife of a friend.    The real brilliance of the story is in the depiction of the wife and her reactions at various states in the relationship.

You can read "Misfortune" here.

All of these stories are very much worth your time.   If you are really into the short story and kind of look down on O Henry (OK I did before today) and can read only one of these three stories today, then  please read his and come back and tell me what you think please!

If you are hoping to be short listed for the 2012 Caine Prize award, read all the Carver you can.   If you confine yourself only to the greatest of  literature, then read the Chekhov story.  

Mel u


Kelli Nørgaard said...

3 Authors I thoroughly enjoy and 3 stories I have not read before... so thanks for this!!!! Headed over the read them now!

David C. Russell, Author said...

Hi, just discovered you and your blog partly as result of reading Anton Chekhov's Short Stories volume and enjoying. I suppose it is much like browsing one of the social network sites today only with more polish and finness. Glad to discover you are aware of and read and recommend other short story writers too. Happy blogging, one never knows who will stop by their blog.
Mellow Roc