Those that claim to represent the state of short fiction at any given time are typically lying, to whatever extent mute volumes of literature can lie. I myself first read my favorite short story of all time call it the FSSOAT in an anthology assigned in a college creative writing class.
And we have many chances to do this kind of discovery, because every few years, there seems to be a new big-deal short fiction anthology hitting the shelves. To figure it out, I looked at 20 short fiction anthologies published between and you can see the full list of anthologies I surveyed at the bottom of the page.
This admittedly makes the list skew American, but this was fairly unavoidable. I made no distinction between stories by the same author published under different names i. Now, whether those are the most- read short stories of the past odd years is another question entirely. So without further ado:. White Virginia Woolf. Robert M.
Mary E. Edward P. Frola and Mr.
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Richard Bausch and R. In The Invisible, Martha, who claims she is friends with an invisible family, is living in an invisible mansion in Carnarvonshire. Lloyd, who grew up in south Wales, received her award at a ceremony broadcast live on Radio 4 on Tuesday night. Mr Ingram and his Invisible daughter Miss Ingram live close by, Martha tells us, in a grand, impractical mansion of the type the wealthy favour — except Invisible, of course — made from dressed stone the colour of spring cream, with a slate roof and glass in every window.
They receive numerous Invisible guests, Martha tells us, who must travel here from other Invisible mansions, in other parts of the country. To accomplish trade both parties must be visible, a fact we have not previously had cause to contemplate. We have inspected the spot she indicates and confirmed it is in no way remarkable. Cold eels of water slide among rushes and sedges and tumps of starry moss. Cat-gorse and furze cling to rafts of drier ground. Spearwort and flag dip their toes and shiver. Not that we need to search for evidence.
If there were a mansion across the lake, our dogs would be howling every time an Ingram passed by. Our daughters would be scouring their pots, our sons sweating in their stables and gardens. Others say her wits are failing. But most are happy, eager even, to take her at her word. We want to believe that the Invisible have, for whatever purpose, established their Invisible home next to us. It pleases us to imagine them prodding the fat rumps of our livestock, testing our grains with their clean Invisible fingernails.
It is English, I presume. I seem to understand some of it. But their speech is strange.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
We cannot think why, of all of us, they would choose Martha. She is not the most educated or wise. Not even the most gullible. And her jewellery.
I would love to see how she does her hair. The Vestry can find no regulations that apply. In the past, Martha might have been suspected of contracting with demons, but the Parliament in London has repealed the law against witchcraft. Martha has never been known as a fool or a liar. Once she claimed to have seen a yellow cat the size of a two-tooth hogget at her door, but perhaps she did, and if not, anyone could make that mistake.
Jacob complained that she sold him a calf that was already sick and it expired within a day, but they resolved that dispute between them. Mostly she has lived the way we all do, evenly, tidily, respecting time and season. She has no husband or children bringing home a wage from the quarry, but then she has no one for whom she must buy tea and sugar.
She is a hard worker, if a slow one. When she was a baby her mother, Rebecca, stumbling, as we understand, let her fall in the hearth. In the moments it took the parents to react, flames bit through the swaddling, gnawed the tender infant limbs. We found Rebecca later in the church porch, hanged dead. Martha was left with a limp and, in her breath, a hiss as of hot ashes settling.
But she is not one to make excuses. She salts her own bacon, gathers her own turf and bark. She has a reputation as a pickler and preserver, putting up the greater part of her harvest and whatever she collects from woods and wastes. She is careful with her animals, keeping them clean and dry. In hard winters, she stints herself to feed them. Martha is adamant that the Invisible are not the Tylwyth Teg, who are known to be short and ill-favoured. Also the Tylwyth Teg are spiteful.
They bear grudges for generations. The Invisible, Martha says, are smiling always, and if they are not smiling they are laughing. They are generous. Once I saw Miss Ingram pick up a fallen kit and place it back with its fellows. But on further questioning, she admits such acts of charity are rare. Mostly the Invisible keep apart, chattering among themselves. It is the fashion of the city, I suppose, all bright colours and embroidery.
- This Woman's Work: Anthology 1978–1990;
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And everything always new. Not darned or frayed or even muddy. As if every day is Easter Day.
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Do any of them resemble your father? John Protheroe the smith wants to know. Or Price Price or Mother Jenkins? But we hush him. Martha shakes her head. In looks or behaviour.
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