Five Stories of Americana for the Fourth of July

Celebrating America’s independence often involves picnics, barbeque, and fireworks, but how about short stories?

Here are five short stories or collections that truly evoke America.

Dandelion_wine_firstCredit: Wikimedia Commons

5. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, 1957

While Ray Bradbury is better known for science fiction, this collection of interrelated short stories chronicles the summer of 1928 in fictional Green Town, Illinois, the setting of Bradbury’s more famous Something Wicked This Way Comes. Whereas the aforementioned novel is a touchstone of American horror, Dandelion Wine is quintessential Americana. This is the romanticized America of the “Good Old Days.” The king of nostalgia, Dandelion Wine is an important work in the American canon.

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons, PD-USA

4. “A City of Churches” by Donald Barthelme, 1969, available here for free: http://pracownik.kul.pl/files/26723/public/untitled_folder/zaliczenie_sem_I/Barthelme_CityofChurches.pdf

Donald Barthelme’s satirical take on a literal “city of churches” is bizarre, hilarious, and revealing. The close-mindedness of a small town and the individuality of the protagonist describe twin aspects of the American character. One of our greatest satirists, Donald Barthelme’s “A City of Churches” is one of his greatest stories.

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Credit: Goodreads

3. “The Diggings” by Claire Vaye Watkins, 2012, published in the collection, Battleborn

Claire Vaye Watkins’ atmospheric take on the California Gold Rush is mesmerizing, witty, and chilling. The quest of two brothers to find gold in California features a bear-fight, stoic Chinese miners, and vision-like “auguries.” Playing up genre tropes to great effect, Watkins makes the West seem all her own.

William_Faulkner_01_KMJCredit: Wikimedia Commons, PD-USA

2. “That Evening Sun Go Down” by William Faulkner, 1931, available for free here: http://poetry.rapgenius.com/William-faulkner-that-evening-sun-go-down-annotated

“That Evening Sun Go Down” is Faulkner’s prequel to The Sound and the Fury, and if that novel is not one of the greatest in the American canon, then this story belongs in the same pantheon. Featuring the Compson family in childhood, “That Evening Sun Go Down” is dark, funny, and forboding, as it recalls and invokes its great cousin of a novel.

FlanneryOConnorCompleteStoriesCredit: Wikimedia Commons

1. “Greenleaf” by Flannery O’Connor, 1956, available for free here: http://www.rockfordreformedchurch.org/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Greenleaf-Flannery-OConnor.pdf

Similar in tone to The Sound and the Fury is Flannery O’Connor’s “Greenleaf,” which also chronicles the decline of a once-great family. When a bull appears in the yard of an older woman, she goes on a quest to get ride of it. Fate, and her alienation of her relatives and neighbors, intervenes. Chock-full of symbolism, Greenleaf is stunning and the perfect firework to end your Independence Day reading binge.

 

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