Category Archives: Short Stories

The Three Apples (Arabian Nights, 1001 Nights)

An annotated index of the Arabian Nights tales (very good), Full-text: dasburo.com/Sacred-texts.com, translated by Sir Richard Burton 1850

I love the Arabian Nights tales!  Reading Guys Lit Wire last night & their list of favorite short stories I was prompted to read The Three Apples:

The story begins with governors going to the streets to ask how their officials are doing.  They meet a man, very poor with no fish to bring home to his family, and bring him back to the river with the promise to buy anything he catches.  He goes home happily with coins in exchange for the large chest that they pulled out of the river.  Inside, in a basket of palm fronds and wrapped in a hanging, is the corpse of a fair lady.  The Caliph charges Jafar to find the murderer or die in his place. 

After three days Jafar is up on the scaffold to be hanged when two men approach and insist that they murdered the lady.  The young man tells that his wife had been sick for many days and desired an apple, he loved her dearly so he searched and had to travel many days, but he brought her back three apples.  Later he saw a slave in the marketplace tossing an apple, and the slave said that he dined with the lady and she gave him the apple.  In a rage the man returned home and killed his wife, cutting her to pieces and putting her in the chest.  When he returned home his son was weeping by her bed, and he told how he had taken one of the apples to play outside when a slave had walked by and beaten him up for his apple.

On hearing this tale the Caliph is again furious and charges Jafar to find the slave or die in his place.  Again after three days Jafar has written his will and is saying goodbye to his family when he discovers an apple in his daughter’s pocket.  It is the same apple, and he discovers that the slave is one of his own.  He brings the slave to the Caliph but saves him by offering an even more impressive story than the one of the three apples that the king just witnessed in exchange for the slave’s life, the story of Nur Al-Din Ali and his son Badr Al-Din Hasan.

Le Silence de la Mer

par Vercors (Jean Bruller), 1942

Published covertly in Nazi-occupied France, this was a publication for the French people, a sort of “guide for la Resistance” to this country still dazed and reeling from the invasion.  There were underground publications of newspapers going on, but Vercors approached a publisher to do this larger project.  It is a short story, only 50 pages, but still very good and with psychological depth in its intricacies of symbolism and character interactions, as well as an inspiring greater message.

The story enfolds as two lower soldiers examine the narrator’s house.  Several comings and goings later a soldier tells the man and his niece that there will be an officer staying in their house.  When they meet him he is actually fluent in French and very polite.  Still, neither the niece nor the narrator utter a word or even acknowledge him.  This was the start of an unspoken agreement that they would continue their lives as usual as if he had never came. Continue reading

What Would MacGyver Do?

True Stories of Improvised Genius in Everyday Life

Brendan Vaughan

Oh how I love MacGyver movies.  This petite book contains anecdotes by laymen and journalists alike about their solutions to diverse problems.  Almost Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul-esque, you can read in short doses about predicaments strange and silly, solutions genius and obvious.  I think my two favorites are the guy who fixed the clutch mechanism with a knitting needle on an 8-hour drive and the guy who forgot his anniversary and pulled a present out of thin air that was better than most guys do with a month and 100 bucks.  Or the handy guy whose name is pronounced… MacGyver.

This is quick read, great to pick up for a laugh.

The Artemis Fowl Files

Eoin Colfer

First ‘extras’ or fan-targeted companion book I’ve read, and I felt like it was a nice read, offering a degree of satisfaction, and furthermore I think it’s good to have a format like this where the author can release short stories or snippets that they really like but do not fit into one of their novels.  This allows some just-for-fun stories with the characters you already love, and more great writing from the author you already love.

The short story about the blue diamond that Artemis enlists Mulch Diggums’ help to obtain is just as intriguing and witty as the rest of the series, but touching, and I loved the ending.  The short story about Holly Short joining the LEPrecon is also good to learn more about the feisty heroine.

The Pocket Book of O. Henry Stories


O. Henry Stories
by (real name) William Sidney Porter

I have a warm place in my heart for O. Henry Stories.  He is a master of the surprise ending; many of the stories leave you with a chuckle and an open mouth of disbelief.

One of my favorites is “Springtime à la Carte,” where a girl makes a living typing up menu cards for the restaurant downstairs but is heartbreakingly because her country love has deserted her.  Or so she thinks.

I also like “The Skylight Room” and “The Green Door” because they have  a touch of destiny and fantasy (and true love of course).  “A Retrieved Reformation” is very touching, about the reformation of an ex safe-cracker.  But picking a favorite is futile because every time I flip through the stories I remember each with fondness and a smile.

There is a distinction between the stories O. Henry wrote about the southwest and those about New York City.  The NYC tales have an urgency and an urban desperation, and are very mute (being considerably third person).  The southwestern tales are homey and grand and more developed.  Take for example “The Pimienta Pancakes,”  “Ships,” and “Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking,” whose plots take longer to develop and come from a specific character’s point of view.

According to The Literature Network, where you can find a solid collection of O. Henry stories to read online, in 1884 he started a humorous weekly called The Rolling Stone.  I wonder if that’s where the modern magazine got its name.

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Excellent.  Hemingway takes you along on the journey of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who goes out to get fish to sustain life and ends up catching a leviathan merlin, a blessing and a curse.

A short classic full of emotion, power, and epic-ness.