(CLASSIC: from The Best American Short Stories of the Century, Houghton Mifflin)
My classic short story choice is very easy – and it’s ‘The Ledge’, by Lawrence Sargent Hall. It is the story of a fisherman taking his son and his nephew out on a promised Christmas Day hunting trip to the eponymous ledge, accessible only by boat, and only uncovered at low tide. ‘The Ledge’ won the O’Henry award in 1960 – much anthologised, it was also selected by John Updike when he edited Best American Short Stories of the Century. I am sure there is no such thing as perfection, but The Ledge comes darned close. The story is simple; but even after countless readings, it still provokes a physical reaction in me as a reader. If I consciously remain a writer as I read, this story is the best teacher on the planet.
(MODERN: from Instruction Manual for Swallowing, Comma Press).
My contemporary short story choice is very difficult – there are so many wonderful writers about. But I’d plump for a story that always makes me think, and laugh and shake my head in both joy and terror as it seems to have an element of prescience about it – Robot Wasps, by Adam Marek, in Instruction Manual for Swallowing. I read a lot of stories – and like my classic choice, this one always provokes a real reaction as I read. You could talk about it for weeks and never get to the bottom of it. That’s also a nod to the fantastic work Comma does (and I don’t have to say that, it’s not my publisher.)
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