Short Stories for a Snowy Day

20 January 2023
By Sophia Heidebrecht

Every time a new term starts, it seems like time goes by faster and faster. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week since we were snacking on delicious cakes with Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl in the second Laird lounge (the mango-raspberry one was divine), who gave us some real-world advice — note to self: never underestimate the importance of being able to do basic arithmetic. We also (some of us, at least) had comps drafts due… No, I don’t want to talk about it. But third week has come and gone, so we thought we’d take a look ahead into what the future holds. 

We have another great event on the roster next week: Visiting professor Chris Martin (class of ‘00) will be giving a talk entitled “Poetry, Autism and Our Neurodivergent Future.” Come to the Athenaeum at 5 on Tuesday the 24th to hear him. 

And, of course, the Nick Adams Short Story contest — the annual writing contest, named for Hemingway’s young hero — has a deadline is coming up on the 26th. Be sure to send your stories in by noon! (Loads of Carls have won in the past… the next winner could be you!)

Chris Martin Poster
Nick Adams Poster

In that vein, we thought we’d give you some more short story recs to get the juices flowing. Don’t worry, they don’t take much commitment — just the perfect length to take a break from your comps research before you lose your mind reading about niche 18th-century literary disputes (just me?).

“The Visit” by Shirley Jackson — Everyone’s read “The Lottery,” but you may not have heard of some of Shirley Jackson’s other stories, beloved of a certain horror-loving editor. If you don’t have the time for The Haunting of Hill House, this eerie little tale is a great place to start — it’s like the lovechild of a gothic novel and a folk ballad. No one does a ghost story like Shirley Jackson. 

“From Far Around They Saw Us Burn” by Alice Jolly — I read this around a year or so ago (it was one of 2021’s O. Henry prize winners) but it’s stayed with me ever since. It’s a tragic story but it’s told with great care, and creates one of the most haunting first-person narrations I’ve ever read.

“Hema and Kaushik” by Jhumpa Lahiri* — This is actually a trilogy of short stories (bonus! three-in-one!) following the title characters from their first meeting in their teens to their reunion decades later. I don’t know what exactly made the story so memorable for me, but it has stayed with me, even though I can’t bring myself to reread it.

*Side note: If you want a completely different kind of story from Lahiri, check out “This Blessed House.” It’s so odd, but maintains her trademark sense of melancholy.

“Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” by Sylvia Plath — I had only read Sylvia Plath’s poetry, and so I wanted to try her fiction. This is a strange and dark story about mental illness, but the writing is so beautiful that you have to read it aloud. Seriously. Just read the first paragraph and you’ll know what I mean.

“Franny” by JD Salinger — “Franny” is witty, it’s super quick, and just hilarious. It challenges ego with true grace, and it has always given me pause, no matter how many times I go back to it. What can I say — Salinger just gets women (yes, yes, that was a joke, but read the story please).

“The Beautifull Cassandra” by Jane Austen — Theory of the mother-daughter romance meets Anthony Bourdain meets Joseph Campbell meets Paris Hilton. I want to comment on this story with a classic Carleton compliment sandwich. But the sandwich is an open-faced, blonde Oreo. It’s all compliment. Find me one flaw.

If you’ve got a short story you think we all should read, drop it down in the comments! Stay warm, don’t fall on the ice, and to all our fellow seniors: Good luck on comps!


  • 2023-01-20 16:37:20

    submitting this 2LM article to the academic standing committee...those last two story recs seem suspiciously hilarious...

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