My friends over at Paste Magazine wrote an article called “5 Short Stories You Can – And Should – Read Online Right Now.” It’s good. It contains one from the 1880s, 1950s, and three that were written since 2010.
It got me thinking about short stories that I like. I started seeing if they were available for free – either legally or not. We know that there is a lot on the World Wide Web and it’s easy to find a lot of PDFs or just copy/pasted stories out there. Here are five that I like; in no particular order. Unsurprisingly, most of them come from my favorite source of short stories: The New Yorker.
I wouldn’t call myself a Stephen King fan (I’m not outside of Different Seasons and Misery). I’m not a fan of horror. But I am a fan of a suspenseful narrative. And that’s what this story is. You’ll have to read a PDF scan of Esquire to get this online, but it’s there. It follows a man named Wilson who is late to a meeting he flew into New York to take. In typical King fashion, the story is not what it appears. There’s a bus, obviously. What happens on that bus is definitely another world away from Wilson. It’s a breezy read that leaves you both wanting to know more, but begging that you’ll never find out.
I have been obsessed with the late Marina Keegan as of late. Her story is tragic: a rising literary star who graduated from Yale with a job waiting for her at The New Yorker, only to have her life cut short at 22 by a car accident. Her family and writing mentor put together a collection called The Opposite of Loneliness (named for an essay she wrote shortly before commencement). “Cold Pastoral” is one of those stories. It eerily deals with death. In it, the narrator’s sort-of-boyfriend dies. The character is left with a feeling of emptiness, but also of anxiety. She wasn’t the love of his life; they were just consistently having sex. Keegan beautifully weaves in numerous emotions in such a short amount of space.
Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her collects nine interlinked stories surrounding the relationship between a young man named Yunior and his love interest Alma. This is the shortest in the collection with a word count under 1,000, but that doesn’t mean there is any less impact. Written in second person, you become Yunior. You’re called bad names as Alma claims horrific things about you. You’re sucked in almost instantly and aren’t let go until Alma decides to let you go. There’s a resounding punch to the gut that any man – or even woman – who reads this will take some time to recover.
This was published pretty recently. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Canty, but I love this story. It’s not a traditional story in the sense that it just delves into bits and pieces of a narrative, but leaves a lasting impression of those moments in time. It’s about a couple who likes to drink more than they like each other. It really impacted me because it was similar in tone and theme to a story I had been editing for a few weeks. If you want to read a good, atmospheric story, then this is one short on you definitely need to click.
This may not be the best story by the actor-turned-director-turned-curator-turned-writer. Franco might not even be a good writer. But this was my first introduction to the actor’s stories and it stuck with me. It was nice to read a story by someone who wasn’t a “writer.” Not yet anyway. Reading it again four years later, I understand why not everyone was in love with Franco’s early work. Yet, it’s still interesting to read if you like how his views on suburbia developed; especially in his collection Palo Alto.