7 Short Literary Works for the Shortest Month
Original Image via Gabby K
Ah, February. I don’t know about you, but February and I don’t generally get along. It’s when all my good time goals of the New Year have thoroughly been dashed, there’s a greeting card holiday that shall not be named, and it’s usually very cold and very dark. Luckily, it’s a short month. To honor the shortest month of the year, I thought we could traipse through some of the finest short works around (according to moi) and see where to get that next short lit hit.
1. “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid
I mean, come on. Not only is it lyrical, gut-wrenching, and swift in its one paragraph structure, it also masterfully executes the difficult second-person point of view. Published in the New Yorker in 1978, it’s the OG of flash fiction if you ask me.
Read "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid at The New Yorker
2. Hemingway’s Baby Shoes story that he apparently never wrote
So I was today years-old when I learned that Hemingway maybe didn’t write that famous six-word story (“For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”) and that it was a rumor spread by an unnamed newspaper syndicate in the seventies?? Wow, thanks. Mythical story ruined forever. (Still a great story though.)
3. “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams
Okay, okay, I know. This is grade school stuff. What of it? It’s still one of my favorites. Personally, I strive for this kind of poignancy in everything I write (these LitReactor articles excluded, where I am simply, at times, RUDE. Speaking of rude—shameless plug that I once published my own red wheelbarrow poem with Typehouse Magazine entitled “My Red Wheelbarrow” and darn it, I’m still dang proud of this poem.)
Read "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlo Williams at The Poetry Foundation
4. The Best Small Fictions Anthology
Speaking of shameless plugs, my flash piece “Kitten” pubbed in Pidgeonholes was nominated for inclusion in the Best Small Fictions anthology, which then alerted me to the anthology in general, which then alerted me to the vast riches of flash and small fiction greatness found within the pages. You want to be walloped over the side of the head with just a thousand words of good-ass fiction? This anthology is the where to find it. (Another excellent place to look: The Best Microfiction Anthology.)
5. "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
Okay, I admit I am only including this one here because I happened to pull it off my shelf after a decade of dormancy. (I read the first few pages in college, shook my head at the lunacy, and put it down until last week.) It’s still full of lunacy. But you know what? I finished it. Who among you can say the same? ALSO, the only reason I did pull it from the shelf was because I happened to come across this old New York Times article from Pynchon penned in 1966 looking at Watts after the riots, which was both depressing in how little things have changed in regards to police brutality and surveillance in Black communities, and amazing just for the voice and style of it. Pynchon probably should have stuck with long-form nonfiction, IMHO. Anyway, if you want a list of better novellas (and there are plenty), here’s a good one.
6. "Lot: Stories" by Bryan Washington
I love short stories. And short story collections seem to be in a heyday now (or maybe they’re just always getting better and better?). But Bryan Washington’s collection, Lot, blew me away. The hot Houston setting, the malleability of the language, the characters both known and unknown—it’s just great. I highly recommend. It’s not just my Texan allegiance speaking.
7. Short collections from Black voices
The only thing I really love about February is the annual celebration of Black history. Each year, new titles rack up on my to-read list because each year I’m reminded that Black history is so much more than civil rights, systemic justice, and liberation. Going with the short works theme, here are just a few short works by Black voices on my not-at-all short TBR list. (587 books and counting!)
- "The Awkward Black Man" by Walter Moseley
- "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self" by Danielle Evans
- "Friday Black" by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
- "If I Had Two Wings" by Randall Kenan
- "Heads of the Colored People" by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
- "Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick" by Zora Neale Hurston
- "So We Can Glow" by Leesa Cross-Smith
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