Why you should care
Because we know you’re not naive enough to believe in happily ever after.
Are you post-breakup? Feeling desperate for love? Worried your lover is cheating on you? Whatever your romantic issue, I have just the short story for you. These post-summer-fling reads, snackable and short, will knock any sunny optimism right out of you and have you whimpering that happily ever after — or at least its distant mythical cousin, “uncomplicated love” — might not be real.
”ON SEEING THE 100% PERFECT GIRL ONE BEAUTIFUL APRIL MORNING“
By Haruki Murakami
Like so many of Haruki Murakami’s stories, this is one that you want to retell to the person sitting next to you on the bus, to your best friend, to your colleague. Because it’s bite-size, you can regurgitate all the necessary elements in five minutes and the implications will linger for the next person. A man walks down a street in Japan. He spies a woman who is the “100% perfect girl” for him. In short, his soul mate. Sound uncomplicated? The story that ensues is full of more layers than you can imagine and perfect for anyone who’s been through a breakup, but remained hung up on their ex. Missed connections, regret and bygone romance combine with a dash of magical realism in this quick read.
The best kind of short story is high concept. This one’s got that in spades.
By Charles Yu
The best kind of short story is high concept. This one’s got that in spades through its framing device. It begins: “Once upon a time, there was a man whose therapist thought it would be a good idea for the man to work through some stuff by telling a story about that stuff.” And so our narrator sits in his psychologist’s chair and digs into his personal life as if detached from it. It is, like the title, a fable. He spins storybook phrases like how he met “the most fetching maiden in the village — maybe in the entire realm” and married her. A glorious romance becomes “cursed,” however, as therapy and storytelling intermingle.
“Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes”
By J.D. Salinger
It’s incredible the lies we tell ourselves. J.D. Salinger presents a devastatingly human, all-too-realistic scenario in this short story, collected in Nine Stories. A man calls a friend to see if he knows where his wife went (she’d disappeared at a party they attended). His friend assures him that he just needs to relax. That’s not the end of it, though. You’ll have to read this one to find out why it’s so heartbreaking — let’s just say phoniness isn’t solely a major theme of Salinger’s most famous work, The Catcher in the Rye.
“Good Country People”
By Flannery O’Connor
Remember learning in high school about “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and the grandmother who didn’t want to go to Florida? In this 1955 short story, Flannery O’Connor showed she still had violence and darkness left in her (who could have doubted it?). It all starts off a bit like The Glass Menagerie— a girl who’s on the older side and has a disability (or imperfection) is pushed by her mother to get married off (or busy) with a man. In this case, it’s a Bible salesman. But he’s got another side to him, one that will terrify. Ladies, never trust the boy with a briefcase “full of Bibles.”
Meet the Tribe: Libby Coleman
Video by Nat Roe.