Free Short Story Essay

Calling her a “master of the contemporary short story,” the Swedish Academy awarded 82-year-old Alice Munro the Nobel Prize in Literature today. It is well-deserved, and hard-earned (and comes not long after she announced her retirement from fiction). After 14 story collections, Munro has reached at least a couple generations of writers with her psychologically subtle stories about ordinary men and women in Huron County, Ontario, her birthplace and home. Only the 13th woman writer to win the Nobel, Munro has previously won the Man Booker Prize in 2009, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction in Canada three times (1968, 1978, and 1986), and two O. Henry Awards (2006 and 2008). Her regional fiction draws as much from her Ontario surroundings as does the work of the very best so-called “regional” writers, and captivating interactions of character and landscape tend drive her work more so than intricate plotting.

Of that region she loves, Munro has said: “It means something to me that no other country can—no matter how important historically that other country may be, how ‘beautiful,’ how lively and interesting. I am intoxicated by this particular landscape… I speak the language.” The language she may have learned from the “brick houses, the falling-down barns, the trailer parks, burdensome old churches, Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire.” But the short story form she learned from writers like Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Conner, and Eudora Welty. She names all three in a 2001 interview with The Atlantic, and also mentions Chekhov and “a lot of writers that I found in The New Yorker in the fifties who wrote about the same type of material I did—about emotions and places.”

Munro was no young literary phenom—she did not achieve fame in her twenties with stories in The New Yorker. A mother of three children, she “learned to write in the slivers of time she had.” She published her first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades in 1968 at 37, an advanced age for writers today, so many of whom have several novels under their belts by their early thirties. Munro always meant to write a novel, many in fact, but “there was no way I could get that kind of time,” she said:

Why do I like to write short stories? Well, I certainly didn't intend to. I was going to write a novel. And still! I still come up with ideas for novels. And I even start novels. But something happens to them. They break up. I look at what I really want to do with the material, and it never turns out to be a novel. But when I was younger, it was simply a matter of expediency. I had small children, I didn't have any help. Some of this was before the days of automatic washing machines, if you can actually believe it. There was no way I could get that kind of time. I couldn't look ahead and say, this is going to take me a year, because I thought every moment something might happen that would take all time away from me. So I wrote in bits and pieces with a limited time expectation. Perhaps I got used to thinking of my material in terms of things that worked that way. And then when I got a little more time, I started writing these odder stories, which branch out a lot.

Whether Munro’s adherence to the short form has always been a matter of expediency, or whether it’s just what her stories need to be, hardly matters to readers who love her work. She discusses her “stumbling” on short fiction in the interview above from 1990 with Rex Murphy. For a detailed sketch of Munro’s early life, see her wonderful 2011 biographical essay “Dear Life” in The New Yorker. And for those less familiar with Munro’s exquisitely crafted narratives, we offer you below several selections of her work free online. Get to know this author who, The New York Times writes, “revolutionized the architecture of short stories.” Congratulations to Ms. Munro.

"Voices" - (2013, Telegraph)

“A Red Dress—1946” (2012-13, Narrative—requires free sign-up)

“Amundsen” (2012, The New Yorker)

“Train” (2012, Harper’s)

“To Reach Japan” (2012, Narrative—requires free sign-up)

"Axis" (2001, The New Yorker -- in audio)

“Gravel” (2011, The New Yorker)

"Fiction" (2009, Daily Lit)

“Deep Holes” (2008, The New Yorker)

“Free Radicals” (2008, The New Yorker)

“Face” (2008, The New Yorker)

“Dimension” (2006, The New Yorker)

"Wenlock Edge" (2005, The New Yorker)

"The View from Castle Rock" (2005, The New Yorker)

“Passion” (2004, The New Yorker)

“Runaway” (2003, The New Yorker)

"The Bear Came Over the Mountain" (1999, The New Yorker)

"Queenie" (1998, London Review of Books

“Boys and Girls” (1968)

H/T to Paul McVeigh for making us aware of 4 new stories.

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800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


Custom Short Story On Varied Topics

Among all the different subjects, it is creative writing that generates maximum polarizing feedback. While there are a few students who thoroughly enjoy the subject and express their creativity in the form of poems, short stories, etc., there are others who have a difficult time when assigned to work on projects requiring creative expression. It has been found that several students find it challenging to come up with interesting topics for their short stories during their creative writing or English classes. There are also other students who are unable to develop their stories artistically to engage readers from the start to the end of their stories. This is where we step in to provide professional and experienced writing assistance to students who require help with their sample stories for university/college courses so that they can develop their literary works.

Short Story – How Far It Has Come:

Writing short stories happens to be an ancient art form. It is the opinion of scholars that the earliest short stories were in all probability, oral compositions citing the tales of gods and heroes. Such tales were usually in the form of poetry, and later on these poems grew more complex and longer to become epics, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh is the very first epic poem in the world. Contrary to this, the modern day short story form is derived from anecdotes and parables of ancient times that were primarily brief compositions based on a particular theme or topic.

With the passage of time, fiction grew popular during the 17th and 18th centuries, and it became beneficial to create miniature compositions based on novel writing plans. The popular books came in short versions called chapbooks or blue books, and this set in the template to write short fiction that soon flourished in the world of magazines during the 19th-20th centuries.

However, in recent times, there has been a visible decline in popularity of short stories as most magazines have either moved online or completely closed down. But, the good news is that eBooks are on the rise, which comes as a relief for short stories, mostly in the “singles” form that repackages short stories in scaled-down miniature books read usually on a smartphone or an ereader.

The world of academics uses short story as a standard exercise in the English classes (at schools) due to the fact that it can be completed faster than any novel and also because instructors/professors can grade a short story more easily than any lengthy piece of literary work.

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