The Necklace – Guy de Maupassant (Short Story)

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41A8X85T6RL__SL500_AA240_Rob from RobAroundBooks is a big fan of short stories, and was disappointed to learn that I don’t like them. He suggested I try The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant, claiming it would “touch my heart and soul”. I happened to have a copy in the house and so had no reason to refuse his suggestion – especially since The Necklace is only 8 pages long! If you’d like to read the story for yourself then just follow the link at the beginning of the post.

WARNING SPOILERS!!

Unfortunately The Necklace didn’t come close to “touching my heart and soul.” It only confirmed all the major problems I have with short stories.

Let me explain the problems I had with this story by working through the plot.

  • Couple receive invitation to a party. It’s all going well so far.
  • Woman whinges about how she has nothing to wear. I’m beginning to go off it.
  • Woman begs husband for lots of money to buy a new dress and the husband gives in. The plot continues to cause me minor irritation.
  • The woman then begins to moan about not having any jewelry to wear for the night out. I become increasingly irritated by her shallowness.

“I am vexed not to have a jewel, not one stone, nothing to adorn myself with. I shall such a poverty-laden look. I would prefer not to go to this party.”

  • They decide to borrow a necklace from a friend. Can you guess what happens next?
  • She loses the necklace. You see with a short story there is no time for the plot to develop properly – you can see everything coming a mile off.
  • Instead of owning up to losing it she buys another one, ruining 10 years of her life to pay it off. Do they not have any insurance?
  • It turns out the necklace was a fake, so she has wasted all that time/money on nothing. Stupid woman. I have no sympathy at all.

The problem with short stories is that there is no time for any proper character development. To enjoy reading something I need to become emotionally involved with them. The characters in short stories almost always come across as shallow individuals. This is because there isn’t the time to allow all sides of their character to be revealed. In just a few pages it isn’t possible to show all their flaws and explain the history behind them.

The plot in a short story is always very simple. I can normally see it coming a mile away. I like my plots to be complex and preferably surprising too.

Sorry Rob! This one just didn’t do it for me!

Do you have similar problems with short stories?

Did you enjoy The Necklace?


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81 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Oh dear Jackie. Looks like I may have set your expectations too high( or not because I know you were against the story form to begin with :) ).

    Firstly – nice dissection of the story. Very funny!
    Secondly, I admit this story is pretty predictable but remember you’re reading it in 2009 so you’ve no doubt seen this exact plot played out a million times. Ultimately it’s not about plot though. It’s not about story either. Rather it’s about exploring the human condition, something which Maupassant does exquisitely.

    Sure you prefer longer works so a depth of character is built up, and I like reading novels for that same reason too. But what short stories offer up is a short snapshot of life. A single solitary ‘scene’ which often comes with a moral message.

    Let’s put it another way. You’re walking down the street. Two cars collide. Both drivers get out and start arguing. You watch the drama unfold and, if you’re like me, you enjoy it. It doesn’t matter who the drivers may be, or what their backgrounds are. It was just a fleeting episode of drama which engaged you. That for me is what a short story is.

    It’s more than that though. Reading a short story is the literary equivalent of a one night stand – no strings, no long-term commitment. just a self-contained moment of joy (hopefully).

    Anyway regardless of all that. Thank you for trying. And I totally respect your abhorrence for the form. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying to convince you though (in a non-annoying infrequent manner of course)
    Warmest
    Rob

    1. Jackie says:

      Rob, Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I think the problem is that I’m not a fan of one night stands! LOL!

      I look forward to your repeated attempts to convince me , you never know, one day you might find one I enjoy!

    2. JordynAmoy says:

      Wow, I understand your feelings as well as the others who also shared their opinion on “The Necklace”, but personally as a young ENC1102 student, I felt Maupassant’s tone throughout the story. I imagined the way Mathilde felt she should be living in the vivid images and scenery he places to let the mind to the thinking. I also felt the emotion on how she felt after the 10years of working off the debt of the necklace she was too embarrassed to admit that she lost to a friend. As a young 20year old female, I understood the feeling of not wanting to admit to a friend that you lost something valuable and how the first thing you want to do is replace it before they notice and keep it a secret. But you have to consider the time frame she lived in. Her friend was higher classed that she was and she didn’t want to burn those bridges. Last but not least, as the story ended I felt the embarrassment that I’m sure she experienced when she realized she wasted over thirty-five thousand francs trying to replace the necklace. I realized then it was a good lesson; greed doesn’t lead to anything good and too much greed could kill you. Metaphorically, she killed herself the minute she killed her dreams of ever living richly in Paris and had to endure 10years of hardships.

      Before you knock the short story because its entertaining and predictable (which it is) but it has messages throughout the text that made a difference on my viewing of the story and congratulate Maupassant on his vivid texture.

  2. Annabel says:

    Jackie – maybe you should read a story cycle – ie a novel’s worth of linked short stories. I’m an rare short story reader in the true form, but loved both of these: Tokyo cancelled by Rana Dasgupta – a modern take on the Canterbury Tales, travellers stranded in an airport tell each other stories through the night; and Always outnumbered, always outgunned by Walter Mosley – which introduces Socrates Fortlow – an old man, an ex-con trying to be good and helpful, and dispenser of justice and keeper of the peace.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I quite enjoy linked short stories. I liked Olive Kitteridge (this year’s Pulitzer winner) and will be keen to try more. Thanks for the recommendations!

      1. claire says:

        Another book of linked short stories (which read almost like a novel to me) is Anthony De Sa’s Barnacle Love. Then again, it’s a quiet type of book and you might still not like it. :)

  3. John Self says:

    Well if we’re taking suggestions, I nominate Tobias Wolff’s story Hunters in the Snow. It’s longer than the Maupassant, but very readable and funny, and other things too. The version I have linked to isn’t beautifully presented (and has some typos), but it was the only one I could find!

    Jackie, your comments about ‘The Necklace’ suggest you didn’t like it partly for the predictable plot, and partly because you had no sympathy for the female character. Do you generally feel that you have to like or sympathise with the characters to like a book?

    You say

    The characters in short stories almost always come across as shallow individuals. This is because there isn’t the time to allow all sides of their character to be revealed. In just a few pages it isn’t possible to show all their flaws and explain the history behind them.

    Do you think it’s the author’s job to show all the character’s sides in detail, or should it be up to the reader to do some work and fill in the gaps? My own feeling is that I hate to be spoon-fed by an author, and told everything – I feel a book should be a dialogue between reader and writer, rather than a monologue where everything is laid out for the reader to absorb like a sponge (I’m mixing my metaphors now, sorry!).

    1. Jackie says:

      John, I don’t have to like the character, but I do need to feel some sympathy for them, or the characters they interact with. This story is probably one I wouldn’t enjoy even if it was fleshed out a bit as I do like strong, intelligent characters.

      I don’t like to be spoon fed either, but I do like to see well rounded characters, with realistic flaws.

      Sorry – I’m just a bit fussy!

  4. kimbofo says:

    Jackie, I’ve never been a huge fan of short stories either, but have learnt to appreciate them over time. They’re perfect to digest in a lunch hour, for instance, or on a tube ride. Earlier this year I was introduced to the delights of Frank O’Connor. I believe “The First Confession” is a gem — you can read it here http://www.ireland-information.com/firstconfession.htm

    1. John Self says:

      Oh, now you’re talking kim – Frank O’Connor is fantastic! I’ve been working my way slowly through My Oedipus Complex and other stories this year, and enjoying it thoroughly. Very funny and also, in brilliant ones like ‘Guests of the Nation’, very horrible.

      Jackie, when you say “Sorry, I’m a bit fussy!”, you make it sound as though the things you don’t like about short stories are the fault of the authors. I don’t think they are.

      1. Jackie says:

        John, no it has nothing to do with the authors – it is just my own personal taste.

      2. kimbofo says:

        Yes, I’m working my way through that book too. I think it’s wonderful. (In fact, I think it may well have been you who suggested I read his stuff when I was casting around for ideas on books to read while in Ireland — I ended up buying the collection in Co. Cork) “The Confession” almost made me fall off my chair with laughter — even on the third or fourth reading it still cracks me up.

        I’m also working my way through John McGahern’s “Small Creatures” but his short stories are more gentle and lyrical, so have to be in the right frame of mind to really appreciate.

        1. kimbofo says:

          This reply (above) was obviously for John, but it seems to have gone to Jackie instead. Sorry!

    2. Jackie says:

      kimbofo, I think I’d still prefer to read one or two chapters of a larger book if I only had a short time, but I will give Frank O’Connor a try and let you know what I think.

  5. Susan says:

    Have you ever read any of William Trevor’s short stories? I read his collected stories recently and came away feeling as though I’d been allowed into a multitude of worlds, each very specific and memorable. Haunting, really.

    Maybe you have the wrong expectations for short stories — they aren’t little novels. They take you into a moment, into a time and place with characters who — if the author has done his job — are complex and mysterious and compelling. Alice Munro is another favorite of mine, and Grace Paley. Henry James, Elizabeth Spencer, Flannery O’Connor, and Leslie Norris. Read Henry James’ “The Jolly Corner”, William Trevor’s “The Ballroom of Romance” or Flannery O’Connor’s “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”.

    Over fifty years of reading, I’ve come to think of a great short story as the highest of literary achievements. So much contained in such a small space, and yet it stays with you, engaging your imagination long after you’ve put it back on the shelf. The reader is involved with the story in a way not true with most novels. I love novels, too, but I find myself drawn more and more to the shorter ones, the ones that get it said plainly, sparely, and leave the rest to me. I think that’s an attitude that reading short stories has given me. It requires greater attention, a being present — everything is not done for you.

    1. Jackie says:

      Susan,
      Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time, and for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment.

      I know that being able to write a good short story takes great skill, it is just that I haven’t found one that I enjoy yet. It is quite possible that I just haven’t read the right ones yet, but at the moment my favourite books all tend to be long. I think the shortest book in my top 10 is 300+ pages, so perhaps they are just not for me.

    2. John Self says:

      I’d go along with everything Susan says here, esp in relation to Flannery O’Connor!

      Saul Bellow, whom I mentioned earlier in another thread, had this to say as he moved from writing fat books to writing thin ones:

      Some of our greatest novels are very thick. Fiction is a loose popular art, and many of the classic novelists get their effects by heaping up masses of words. Decades ago, Somerset Maugham was inspired to publish pared-down versions of some of the very best. His experiment didn’t succeed. Something went out of the books when their bulk was reduced. It would be mad to edit a novel like Little Dorrit. That sea of words is a sea, a force of nature. We want it that way, ample, capable of breeding life. When its amplitude tires us we readily forgive it. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

      Yet we respond with approval when Chekhov tells us, “Oddly, I have now a mania for shortness. Whatever I read – my own or other people’s works – it all seems to me not short enough.” I find myself emphatically agreeing with this. … At once a multitude of possible reasons for this feeling comes to mind: This is the end of the millennium. [JS: Or it was when Bellow wrote this!] We have heard it all. We have no time. We have more significant fish to fry. We require a wider understanding, new terms, a deeper penetration.

  6. Elena says:

    From your review, I can understand perfectly why you didn’t like this short story. I never really appreciated them until I started taking creative writing classes, and learned to appreciate the craft and economy of words in a short story.

    They can’t offer the same depth as a novel, but what I love about short stories is the way they provide a sort of “snap shot”, a moment in life, where small details are magnified in the context.

    Can I suggest The Immortals by Martin Amis? Or even any of the Jeeves short stories by P.G. Wodehouse (impossible to hate, I think) :P

    1. Jackie says:

      Elena, I can appreciate that they are well written in the same way I can appreciate that Hotel du Lac was (I reviewed it yesterday).

      Jeeves stories are impossible to hate? Great! I’ll see if I can find one.

  7. lizzysiddal says:

    I haven’t read this one but, at 8 pages, it’s what is termed a short short. Perhaps you should read a long short. Valerie Martin talks about the 100-page short story. I call that a novella. I believe Gilbert Adair’s “The Death of An Author” is brilliant. I’ll be reading it at the weekend so I’ll soon know for myself.

    As for “What makes a short story successful” – there was a terrific event at this year’s EIBF. I summarised it here:

    http://lizzysiddal.wordpress.com/2009/09/06/tss-eibf-2009-the-art-of-the-short-story/

    and am finding that as I make my way through Short Story September my liking for short stories is transmuting into yet an(other) addiction.

    1. John Self says:

      I certainly think The Death of the Author is brilliant, Lizzy, though I haven’t read it in the new Melville House edition which I snapped up a while ago. I think of it as a novel though, rather than a novella – I think it was a shade under 200 pages in the original edition, so despite Melville House’s categorisation, I think that’s a little too long to be a novella.

      However I don’t think Jackie would like it!

    2. John Self says:

      (I just checked on Amazon, for completeness, which didn’t help – they have the paperback Minerva edition as 144 pages and the hardback Heinemann edition, which is the one I have, at 5 pages!! But if it’s 144 pages then clearly it probably is a novella after all. Carry on!)

      1. LizzySiddal says:

        Aye, aye, captain!

        (BTW it’s 124 from title sheet to ending in the Melville House Publishing edition.)

    3. Jackie says:

      Lizzy, I’ve enjoyed a few novellas. I think once I get above 70 pages I start to become satisifed by them. I have had lots of great suggestions today, so perhaps I’ll have changed my mind about the short story by the end of the month.

  8. Claire says:

    “The plot in a short story is always very simple. I can normally see it coming a mile away. I like my plots to be complex and preferably surprising too.”

    Jackie, you know that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with short stories and have the same reservations as you sometimes but I think the statement I’ve quoted is a gross generalisation. Some famous short story writers do not engage me at all (Alice Munro springs to mind) as I find them too subtle with not enough plot or character development but there are others who write beautifully crafted, intelligent, and captivating short stories that are far from predictable. I would urge you to try short stories by Katherine Mansfield, Neil Gaiman, Angela Carter, Edgar Allan Poe, Jhumpa Lahiri, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, Colette, Jackie Kay, Grace Paley, Dorothy Parker, or Franz Kafka.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, You’re right – it is an exaggeration, but it is that I have found to be true so far. I know I’m not very well read in the short story department, so I’ll give a few of your suggestions a try and see if I like them.

    2. claire says:

      Claire.. Am actually reading Alice Munro right now (my first) and absolutely loving it. I also love Grace Paley. I haven’t read much, but I remember loving shorts by Salman Rushdie, Italo Calvino, and Milan Kundera. I should probably read more. They’re all I can think of.

  9. Amanda says:

    With the Maupassant stories I’ve read, I get the impression that they’re more about the irony than anything else. Same with OHenry. I’m not a big fan of either author.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, I’m not a big fan of irony either – perhaps that is the problem!

  10. Jenny says:

    I have this same problem with short stories. I didn’t hate “The Necklace”, but I could have lived without it. I think short stories work best when they are creepy – because like you say, they haven’t got time to develop the characters enough to pack a really solid emotional punch. But if they’re creepy, they’ll leave an impression. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” of course is the classic example of this, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” – you’ve probably read both of those, but just wanted to throw them out there.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I didn’t hate The Necklace either. It was easy enough to read and didn’t feel like a chore, but it isn’t something I’ll remember this time next year.

      I think you may be right about the creepiness factor. The Lottery is the best short story I’ve ever read (I’ve not read Yellow Wallpaper), but although I loved The Lottery I was left craving more. It was like seeing a really good trailer for a film, but not being able to watch the whole thing.

      1. Jenny says:

        Oh, read “The Yellow Wallpaper”. It’s amazing. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote it, and it’s quite long for a short story, so that should be good for you. It’s all about this woman who has been confined to this one room by her doctor husband, so she can recover from the nerves and depression she’s been having. She writes journal entries and becomes obsessed with the wallpaper in the room – she thinks she can see women in it. Quite quite chilling.

        1. lizzysiddal says:

          I complete endorse the recommendation of “The Yellow Wallpaper” – it’s brilliant. So good, in fact, that I read it twice last year and it made my top 10 reads. Reviewed it here:

          http://lizzysiddal.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/a-z-shorter-fiction-the-yellow-wallpaper-charlotte-perkins-gilman/

          1. Jackie says:

            Lizzy/Jenny, The Yellow Wallpaper sounds amazing. I will make sure I find a copy soon. It sounds as though it is nearly a novella though – more my type of thing!

          2. Claire says:

            Jackie, here’s a link to The Yellow Wallpaper online:

            http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/1952

            I’ve mentioned this to Nymeth in the past (I think in relation to the feeling of claustrophobia in Affinity); it makes for an interesting comparison with The Victorian Chaise-longue, I think. I read it at Uni and loved it.

          3. Jackie says:

            Claire, Thanks for the link. I think I have a copy here somewhere – I just need to dig in a few boxes!

  11. Verity says:

    That review really made me laugh! I have a similar feeling about short stories – they are just not long enough, and if one likes the writer and the characters, one doesn’t want it just to be 8p. long.

    However, I’ve just read Louis De Bernieres Notwithstanding which is a collection of short stories and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I found that the thing that swung it for me was the linkages between the stories with similar characters cropping up in each one. So, not exactly short stories. Even so I found myself a little frustrated that I didn’t find out more about some of the people.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I do like linked short stories, although I prefer it if the same character is present in each one. Louis De Bernieres does sound tempting though – I might have a quick flick through if I see a copy in the library.

  12. Stephanie says:

    Short stories are harder to pull off and harder to read, in my opinion. I will read them, but I have to be in the right frame of mind. To me, they’re an acquired taste. But authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne have some great stories out there that shouldn’t be discounted, so I wouldn’t give up on short stories all together.

    I’ve never read “The Necklace” but hopefully I’ll carve out a good twenty or thirty minutes this weekend to devote to it. I’m intrigued now!

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on The Necklace. Don’t worry – I’m not giving up on short stories yet – I have so many recommendations here that I could be reading quite a lot in the future!

  13. Steph says:

    I think I agree with your assessment of short stories in general, at least to some extent. I can’t say that every story I’ve read has had shallow characters, or just one/two-dimensional depictions, as I know that I have read some where the characters were quite complex (for instance, the Alice Munro stories I recently read were quite good in this respect). But you know I don’t really care for short stories and that’s because I always find them unfulfilling in the end. Either they are too simple (as this one appears to be), or they don’t give me quite enough and are inscrutable. It’s very rare that I find a writer who manages to get the amount of detail and information just right. In the end, I like getting lost in a story, really being absorbed by it, and I find this doesn’t happen with short stories for the most part.

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, That is the problem I find with them too. You can’t get lost in them – you only just get immersed in the world and it is gone. Very frustrating!

  14. Beth F says:

    My biggest problem with short stories is that I want more. I want to know what happens next, what happened before. I’m almost always left wanting…

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, Snap!

  15. i LOVE the necklace!!! i think this short story is a great vehicle to illustrate static and dynamic characters and themes about being happy with what you have.

    consider how mathilde loisel changed as a result of her actions. yes, she whined and wheedled money from her husband but in the end she worked to help with the debt.

    the symbolism is brilliant–she puts stock into this stunning diamond necklace only to discover that it’s paste–worthless, just like her values!

    sorry this one didn’t work for you…but i still love it! :)

    1. John Self says:

      A brilliant analysis, nat – short and succinct, just like the story!

    2. Jackie says:

      Nat, Great analysis, but I’m afraid I still think it was too simple/predictable for me. I’m pleased you enjoyed it though.

  16. Car says:

    You really have to read the short stories I linked to on Tuesday.

    http://oohbooks.blogspot.com/2009/09/robin-writes-book.html

    1. Jackie says:

      Car, Thanks for the link – I’ll go and take a look!

  17. Kim says:

    I would have completely agreed with you a year ago. I’ve spent the last year reading more and more short stories and come to love them. I even joined Rob’s 100 shorts challenge. Analyzing short stories has sharpened my reading skills. There is something about have a complete story or snapshot in one sitting that helps me decipher the technique and how the story works. There has been a downside though, I have become increasingly impatient with books that are sloppy. I’ve joked about starting a foundation to promote editors.

    My favorite that I recommend you try before you hang up your short story hat: John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” at http://shortstoryclassics.50megs.com/cheeverswimmer.html

    Thank you to everyone who left links to their favorites, they’re next on my list for Rob’s challenge

    1. Jackie says:

      Kim, Thank you for the link. I am a bit overwhelmed by the number of short stories I’ve been recommended today – there are clearly a lot of people who love them! I will give your story a try and hope I can gain a greater appreciation for the short story soon.

  18. Teresa says:

    I’m also not a big short story reader, not because I don’t appreciate the art behind them, but because I’m out of the habit of reading them. I will say the Flannery O’Connor is the short story writer I most consistently enjoy. Her stories are classics of southern gothic writing–very dark, but sometimes uncomfortably funny.

    CB James at Ready When You Are, CB is compiling a list of 1001 short stories to read before you die at http://readywhenyouarecb.blogspot.com/2009/08/1001-short-stories-you-must-read-before.html. You might find some ideas there. (Most of my personal favorites are on the list.)

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, Thanks for the link! I knew he was a big short story lover, but didn’t realise he was compiling a list of 1001 – that sounds like a few too many for me! That sounds like a great place to visit once you have fallen in love with short stories – not some where for a novice like me. Flannery O’Connor does like someone I need to investigate though. Thanks for letting me know about her.

  19. EL Fay says:

    I read this in high school. I remember feeling sorry for the woman! I mean, who hasn’t wished for something more at least once in their lives?

    1. Jackie says:

      El Fay, Sorry – I have no sympathy for her! I must have a really cold heart!

  20. Jeanne says:

    I do like short stories, and chime in about Flannery O’Connor. Also Eudora Welty wrote one of my favorite short stories ever, “Why I Live at the P.O.”
    Ellen Gilchrist’s “Victory over Japan” is a terrific story and I think it might confound some of your expectations.
    You might also try Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Street Bridge.”
    And if all else fails, try Alan Sillitoe’s “The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner.”

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeanne, Thank you so much for the recommendations! I’m going to look into them sometime soon. I might have to make reading a short story a weekly thing.

  21. She says:

    I remember reading this one in 9th grade and doing a project on it. I understand how you feel– I was mad that I didn’t get Poe. :P

    1. Jackie says:

      She, LOL! Everyone else seems to have done more interesting things than me at school. I don’t remember reading any short stories at school. I don’t know if this is because I didn’t or I’ve just forgotten about them.

  22. Violet says:

    I have the exact same problems with short stories although I have loved a few of them.
    Can I suggest you one? The Fluted Girl, it’s all Science Fiction but it’s really fun to read.
    I also love Chimamanda Adichie’s short stories, I don’t know how she does it, but her stories are always complete.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, I enjoyed Chimamanda Adichie’s stories too, although I think this was because I found them educational. I loved learning about the differences between the African and American ways of life. I was still left craving to know more about them.

  23. litlove says:

    I’m not a bit short story fan, but I have just discovered Mavis Gallant and I love her. She writes the kind of stories that set up a rich situation, in which something clearly happens, only you’re not sure exactly what it is you’ve seen. I like her more than I’ve liked a short story writer in years. The other recommendations I’d have are for Helen Simpson – Four Bare Legs in a Bed is a delight, and for Kate Sutherland’s All Together Girls.

    But then you mght not be feeling tempted to try anything else. There are an awful lot of novels out there! :)

    1. litlove says:

      Sorry – ‘big’ not ‘bit’. Serves me right for typing first thing without my contacts in!

    2. Jackie says:

      litlove, Thank you for the recommendations – I’ll give them a try soon.

  24. mee says:

    I’m not a fan of short stories too. I feel like there’s no point to get into it too much because I know it would end very soon. I read the Necklace before, it felt more like a fable or fairytale to me, complete with moral message. That’s probably another of my problem, I don’t fancy moral message that’s too in your face these days. Anyway, having said all that, I just read a short story by Truman Capote that is soo good. Will post a review on it soon, but if you want to know it’s called A Christmas Memory. I encourage you to read it!

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I haven’t read anything by Truman Capote yet, but plan to soon. I’ll keep an eye out for your review.

    2. kimbofo says:

      Oh yes, I forgot about Truman Capote’s short stories! He is a genius. I have a much-thumbed well read copy of the “Capote Reader”.

  25. JoAnn says:

    I’ve already got The Necklace bookmarked, but this great discussion will have me reading it later today! Short stories are definitely not for everyone, but I’ve rediscovered them this year and now they’re a regular part of my reading. Lots of great stories mentioned here, but let me put in a plug for one of the most powerful ones I’ve read, Chicxulub by T.C. Boyle (recommended by Nymeth). Here’s a link:
    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/03/01/040301fi_fiction?currentPage=all

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, I have The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle on my TBR list (recomended by Dewey) I’ll have to read that first and see if I like the writing style. Thanks for the link – I hope you enjoy reading the discussion – I am amazed about how long it is!

  26. Andreea says:

    I don’t like every short story, but I have found some that I really liked. I especially like ghost (short) stories.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andreea, I think I might like short ghost stories too. I’ll let you know if I find any good ones.

  27. Laza says:

    It’s also important to remember that de Maupassant is one of the “founding fathers” of the short story. So he’s really just breaking ground here. He’s trying out new things and he’s failing at some of it. We just studied this story in my grad class on the short story, and the biggest complaint from everyone is that his characters are flat. But, I’d pose that the character wasn’t the point of this story, the critique of this new middle class mindset was the point. And i think your evident dislike for Mme Loisel shows that he made his point. His stories aren’t perfect, but they opened the way for other authors.

    Don’t let your dislike of this story keep you from exploring others. Try reading some stories out the Paris Review or Zoetrope All Story. Or check out One Story, they are some of the most enjoyable stories I’ve read this year.

    1. Jackie says:

      Laza, Thank you for the thoughtful comment. It is a great critique of the middle class mindset, but I suppose my problem is that I don’t enjoy analysing stories in this way. I read for the enjoyment of the story or the emotion of the characters. I won’t give up on short stories yet and will try to think of them in a different way in future.

      Thank you for your recommendations!

  28. Rebecca Reid says:

    I absolutely love Maupassant’s stories — so I was excited to see the title of this post! But I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t like it.

    I didn’t read the comments other than Rob’s. I have to agree: short stories are not about plot. They are not about character. They are about a slice of life. I wouldn’t call them a “One night stand” but rather a sliver of what does it mean to be human.

    But maybe they just aren’t for you.

    My favorite short story (granted i haven’t read it for a year) is The Student, by Ceckhov. It’s about three pages long. More philosophy and “what does life mean” than about character or plot.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, I think philosophy may be more interesting to me than short stories, so I’d be interested in trying The Student.

      I love a good plot too much, which is why I really struggle with short stories. Hopefully all this good advise will result in me discovering short stories I enjoy, or perhaps I need to head in the essay direction?

      1. Rebecca Reid says:

        “The Student” is still a short story. I think it captures what short stories are: they are reflections of human nature. This is one is about a young that sits in front of the fire and has an epiphany and then keeps walking. I love it. You may not :)

  29. claire says:

    To Rob.. Thank you for suggesting The Necklace to Jackie so that I was able to read it. I loved it. Thanks. I still prefer novels to shorts, but when a writer does it right, I do appreciate them for exactly the same reasons you mentioned. I should read more de Maupassant.

  30. David Nolan says:

    How fitting that a post about “short” stories should lead to such a long exchange of comments! Perhaps it was reading your blog on Thursday, that prompted me to pick up a William Trevor collection when I was in the library the following day? It’s called “The Hill Batchelors”. I’ve liked some of the stories within it a lot more than others, but none of them have excited me in quite the same way as so many full length novels do. I can see why Trevor is regarded as one of the best short story writers. He has come closer than most authors to winning me over to the form, though I would not say I was completely won over yet. He certainly manages to squeeze quite a lot into a small number of pages.

    Someone mentioned the Jeeves stories. I’ve certainly enjoyed some of those in audio form. Perhaps being part of a series helps, because you can get to know the characters over a longer time frame, even though each story can equally well stand alone? In a similar way, many of the Sherlock Holmes books are made up of cases that could be read on their own. However, do Jeeves and Holmes really count as short stories, I wonder?

    One of the difficulties I have had with short stories, is that they very often seem to be in a minor key, rather like chamber music, which is another art form I struggle with. It seems to me that short stories very often have the feel of a grey Sunday about them. I read to be distracted, amused, entertained or informed. If a writer’s talent is so dazzling then I might manage to get through a gloomy tale of regret set in the suburbs, a rural backwater or the mean streets of the inner city, but for the most part I prefer not to read about people who are even more gloomy than I am. As something of a natural pessimist, I need books that give me a boost. I’m already too prone for sad reflection without going looking for it. It is probably important from time to time to engage with the darkness in the world, but I’m not so sure it is quite so vital to engage with smaller causes of sadness, like longing for a lost pencil case. (I’m not actually aware of a short story about a lost pencil case, but you hopefully you get my point.)

    By contrast, I might add that I greatly enjoyed a short novel that I picked up on the same library visit. Only 150 small pages in length, Muriel Spark’s “The Finishing School” was great fun. There were traces in it of the menace and threat that one sometimes associates with short stories, but there was also cheering humour.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, Thank you for the thought provoking comment – you sum up exactly how I feel about short stories.

      I haven’t tried any of William Trevor’s ones yet, but other people have recommended them.

      I see exactly what you mean about Holmes and Jeeves. I think they may appeal more, as you say – you can get to know the characters a bit better. I love the idea of listening to Jeeves too. I think I’ll see if I can get any from the library.

      I haven’t heard of The Finishing School. I’ll have to add that to the list – thank you again for your wonderful comment!

  31. Petunia says:

    Just wanted to step in to say that your break down of the story and your thoughts along the way is hilarious. Your reasons for disliking short stories is one that I held to for a while until I found some that I liked. Just like with novels, there are going to be writers and genres that some readers don’t like but when you finally find one you do like it opens a whole new world. A couple of my favorites are “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “Miss Mary Pask” by Edith Wharton. The good thing about short stories is that if you don’t like them, you haven’t wasted a lot of time on them.

    1. Jackie says:

      Petunia, Thank you for your kind comments and for your recommendations. I really hope that I find some short stories to love soon.

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