Tag: parables

Novelette: “The Real Thing”

“The Real Thing,” by Henry James

According to Wikipedia, this was “first syndicated by S. S. McClure in multiple American newspapers” and then appeared in Black and White, which I assume is long since defunct, on April 16, 1892; it was then collected in The Real Thing and Other Tales (1893, McMillan and Co., on Project Gutenberg); also recorded for LibriVox

10,608 words

A charming, if grim, parable about reality’s relationship with “realistic” art. It reminds me of that passage in Dorian Gray in which the gifted young actress loses her ability to play Juliet the moment she falls in love for real. I wonder, though, if this clever reversal of expectations reflects any real truth. Perhaps it is the author’s way of cautioning us against his own work; perhaps he senses that he’s in danger of convincing his readership too easily of the reality of his depictions, of lulling us into complacency; perhaps, like the post-modernists, he wants to remind us, however much more subtly, that we’re reading a story.

Side note: It’s amazing that I don’t already have an “Oscar Wilde” tag. What’s the matter with me?


Short story: “A Coward’s Death”

“A Coward’s Death,” by Rahul Kanakia

Appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, issue 93, February 2018

2,140 words

A crushing story, tolerable only because it’s so short and parabolic. Who is the coward? Usurus acts to save a few lives in the short term, while Tiktus stands up to tyranny at great cost to everyone around him. It’s Usurus who is venerated, but it’s Tiktus who provokes that urgent question at the end, and the answer: “No. Never.” It’s the kind of question and answer that could inspire rebellion—revolution—if not for the story’s great, terrible last line.

Short story: “The Rememberer”

“The Rememberer,” by Johanna Skibsrud

Appeared in Granta 141: Canada, online here November 9th, 2017; also online here in Maclean’s Magazine; also online here in Street Level Pundit

3,418 words

A really interesting story, seems to be a kind of parable. Reminds me a bit of Steven Millhauser.

It bothers me that Granta is inconsistent in the way it formats section breaks.

Short story: “Suicide as a Sort of Present”

“Suicide as a Sort of Present,” by David Foster Wallace

Collected in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (May 28th, 1999, Little, Brown and Company); read by the author on YouTube; part of the story is excerpted here

Maybe 1500 words?

This is such a good story.

Of course Wallace’s death complicates (or rather, oversimplifies) the way we read it, and probably makes it horribly cruel to his family. All the same, it’s really good.

I’m pretty sure the suicide/present is the son’s, and I suspect he took others with him.

Short story: “The Tower”

“The Tower,” by Steven Millhauser

Appeared in Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 25, 2007

16 1/3 pages in McSweeney’s

Millhauser is always good but rarely as good as I want him to be. This story is a very long parable, maybe too long. When I reread it after some years, I realized I had forgotten the ending—not because the ending is arbitrary, but because it’s sort of parabolically inevitable, like the endings of “Paradise Park” and “The Dream of the Consortium.”

I really like this line, for no special reason: “a row of sparrows rose into the air with beating wings, like the sound of a shaken rug.”

Short story: “The Truth about Sancho Panza”

“The Truth about Sancho Panza” (“Die Wahrheit über Sancho Pansa”), by Franz Kafka

Translated by the Muirs here

108 words in English

Now and then you find an old, familiar story being reinterpreted so elegantly that it feels as true as the original version. (Another example: “If it had been possible to build the tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted.”)

Short story: “Words, Recorded”

“Words, Recorded,” by Aliya Whiteley

From Per Contra: An International Journal of the Arts, Literature, and Ideasissue 29, Fall 2013 (story here)

1,219 words

Sort of a parable about meaning and communication. Not really emotionally engaging—the characters are rather simple (parabolic?), and the ending veers into meta and nihilism—but interesting.

This is a neat picture of a dead relationship: “[S]he feels gratified that she has embarrassed him enough to make him look away.”

Short story: “Inferno, I, 32”

Inferno, I, 32,” by Jorge Luis Borges

Translated by James E. Irby (online here and here; read aloud on YouTube)

293 words in English

Intensely satisfying.