Looking for some short stories to browse while you munch on gingerbread this holiday season? Here’s a list of five heartwarming short stories. Some of them are holiday-themed, others are not, but all of them will get you in the spirit of giving. What are you waiting for – curl up by the open fire with your laptop and read on!
5. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, 1939 (Available for free here: http://bnrg.eecs.berkeley.edu/~randy/mitty.html )
Soon to be released as a feature film starring Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” centers around the experience of Walter Mitty, who daydreams about his life as a paratrooper, a surgeon, and a gangster while he goes on errands for his wife. While the film deviates significantly from the plot of the short story, both versions herald the possibilities of the imagination, allowing us to escape from oft-mundane reality.
4. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, 1905 (Available for free here: http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/1014/ )
Even if the title doesn’t sound familiar, everyone knows this short story. It’s been redone by television shows countless times, but its raw irony has always been effective in explaining that Christmas isn’t really about commercialism, but family. You know the story: a woman cuts off her hair so she can purchase a pocketwatch chain for her husband. Her husband sells his pocketwatch to buy her a comb. 1905 irony ensues. To relive the story in its original form, read it online. For “O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.” I don’t know what that exactly means, but it sounds holiday-ish.
3. “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote, 1956 (Available free here: http://faculty.weber.edu/jyoung/English%206710/A%20Christmas%20Memory.pdf )
A semi-autobiographical story concerning a seven-year old narrator and his celebration of Christmas traditions with an elderly woman who is his distant relative and best friend. Heartwarming and a Christmas classic – Truman Capote at the height of his powers.
2. “The Golden Honeymoon” by Ring Lardner, 1922 (Available for free here: http://www.eldritchpress.org/rl/goldhm.htm )
“The Golden Honeymoon” chronicles the winter vacation of Charley and Lucy to Florida to celebrate fifty years of marriage. There Lucy befriends Mrs. Hartsell, who just so happens to be married to Frank Hartsell, the man whom Lucy had been engaged to marry before Charley came on the scene. Love, family, and old grudges. If that doesn’t sound like Christmas, I don’t know what does – but this story is very funny, poignant, and sweet.
1. “Testimony of Pilot” by Barry Hannah, 1978 (Available in Hannah’s collection Airships and The Vintage Book of Contemporary Short Stories.)
“Testimony of Pilot” is a story about a lot of things – but mostly it’s a story about an everyman trying to understand an American hero. The narrator bullies a boy named Arden Quadberry as a child, but by high school, both are deeply involved in the marching band. Quadberry saves the music festival performance after the elderly band director’s death, and by then the narrator and Quadberry are fast friends. As time goes on, a love triangle forms, with themes of loss, loneliness, honor, and achievement. Poignant, original, and tragic, Quadberry is a Christ-figure for the 20th century. The friendship in this story is so powerful as to make this story a must-read for your holiday experience.