James Joyce’s collection Dubliners (1914) was not an initial commercial success. It sold just 379 copies in its first year of publication, and 120 of those were bought by Joyce himself. Yet Dubliners redefined the short story and is now viewed as a classic work of modernist fiction, with each of its fifteen short stories repaying close analysis. Here are five of Joyce’s very best stories from Dubliners.
‘The Sisters’. The opening story in the collection, ‘The Sisters’ is unusual in that it is told in the first person, by a young boy whose friendship with a recently deceased Catholic priest, Father Flynn, starts to concern him as the narrator picks up rumours and whispers about the priest’s behaviour and reputation. Did Flynn do something wrong? Joyce doesn’t tell us – but the boy’s dreams and nightmares suggest that he may have been aware of something improper concerning the priest’s actions but, being only a child at the time, Read the rest of this entry
The best stories by Katherine Mansfield
The New Zealand-born writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) was one of the pioneers of the modernist short story in English, taking her cue from Russian writers like Anton Chekhov. Below we’ve given a brief beginner’s guide to five of Mansfield’s very best short stories, with links to where each of them can be read online.
‘The Garden Party’. This 1920 story centres on the annual garden party held by the Sheridan family at their home, in New Zealand, Mansfield’s country of birth. One of the Sheridan children, Laura – a young woman on the cusp of adulthood – is looking forward to the party and is keen to become involved in the preparations. However, while the Sheridans are preparing for their party, news arrives that a working-class man who lives in the poorer part of the village has been tragically killed when his horse reared up and threw him from his cart. Laura, filled with sympathy for the dead man and his family, pleads with her mother and siblings to cancel their garden party in light of the tragedy. How can they hold a garden party, with music and guests and laughter, when a family nearby are in mourning for the death of their husband and father? The end of the story poses more questions than it answers, especially concerning Laura’s complex response to the man’s death. We’ve analysed this story, probably Mansfield’s best-known work, in a separate post. Read the rest of this entry