Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Short Eerie Reads...

Did last week’s book talk inspire you to pick up an eerie book for the month of October? “No,” you say. “Who has the time to read? Maggie, not all of us work in a library and have unlimited hours to peruse books.”

Well, don’t fret. I thought of the perfect solution. Read a short story!

Short stories are perfect because they are, um, short. That’s right; I just stated the obvious, but stay with me. They are akin to compact, story bombs: any well-written tale will leave a lasting impact. I remember “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving as read by my teacher Mrs. Margaret Hamilton.

Short stories are perfect for retelling at later events. Read a short story during the day then personalize it for a chilling fireside ghost story. Retell “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce using a local train trestle and creek as the setting. Main character, Peyton Farquhar, could be your great-great-great grand uncle unable to serve in the Civil War for medical reasons. These personal touches give the story a real feel.

Short stories are perfect because they appeal to all generations. Edgar Allan Poe is fresh to today’s youth and is an old friend to the retiring. Reading aloud these gems to either group can be rewarding. (Short story reading is perfect for senior care centers because the listener doesn’t have to juggle too many characters or plots.)

If this sounds more appealing to your time than reading a whole book, here are a few author suggestions: Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, W. W. Jacobs, Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, and H. G. Wells.

Two of my favorite twisted tales are “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Law of Life” by Jack London.

Classic short stories are now accessible to internet users through www.shortstory.byethost6.com. Browse the index for title/author then print for later reading. At most, an hour is required to read the tales, promising a ghoulish quick fix.

If you still think reading one of these short stories is impossible because of time, might I suggest a poem by Edgar Allan Poe titled “The Raven”? “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary….”

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