Category Archives: free short stories

More Than A Shadow for Christmas

A Warning to the Curious, A Ghost Story for Christmas  by M.R. James (1925)

December’s Short Story,  Tuesday, December 14, 2021

M.R. James  (Montague Rhodes James) is the master of British ghost stories. Five stars all the way.  No arguments. He is known as the originator of the “antiquarian ghost story.”

This story was written to be read aloud on Christmas Eve, like many of James’s stories were at the time. I love his style of writing because he often brings up the mysterious in a way that leaves you chilled to the bone with his supernatural manifestations. In his A Warning to the Curious,  A Christmas Story we have a multiple layered narrative that is creepy and unsettling— storytelling so smooth, you’ll be unable to stop reading. His skills in drawing in the reader by implication and suggestion of the malevolent  supernatural reach far deeper into the imagination than explicit horror narratives. He does write exquisitely in  “quiet horror,” which is my genre!

The setting is the wind-beaten coastal town of Seaburgh. Heaths, fir woods, a gorse, church tower, white windmills and cottages of bright red brick.  Quaint, yes, but buried here is an Anglo-Saxon crown (one of three holy crowns of East Anglia). An antiquary archeologist, Paxton (A James’ classic gentleman protagonist), is vacationing at the village inn and discovers where this crown is buried in “a mound in the woods” of Seaburgh . Dare he dig it up? He does, of course he does. And soon after Paxton begins to notice a “dim presence” following him … and waiting for him in secret places.

The theme is obviously curiosity but with tones of the attraction to fear. And as ghost story readers that we all are, attractions to fear are always at the core.

 

You can read it below, listen to the audio, or watch the 1972 film, which is vintage horror.

Read the full short story (35-minute read) at Gutenberg Australia

https://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0605921h.html  

Listen to the audio on YouTube.com:

 

Watch the 1972 film broadcast by the BBC:

 

 

James’s ghost stories were published in a series of collections: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), and A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925).

In the anthology Ghosts and Marvels, James is quoted: “Two ingredients most valuable in the concocting of a ghost story are, to me, the atmosphere and the nicely managed crescendo. … Let us, then, be introduced to the actors in a placid way; let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings; and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.”

 

As an extra treat, you might want to try BRIT BOX from your cable stations. They are showing MR James’ A Ghost Story for Christmas collection (available from 20th December 2021).

Based on the works of MR James’ chilling short stories, this collection of BBC produced adaptations of ghost stories is an extra special Christmas treat. These adaptations, which have a subtlety and style all of their own, have been a major influence on many contemporary British horror filmmakers and have come to be some of the most sought after British TV titles of all time by their legions of eager fans.

BBC’s classic M.R. James ghost stories coming to BritBox this Christmas

 

TO ALL, HAVE A HAPPY AND HEALTHY HOLIDAY SEASON AND PROSPERITY FOR ALL THE NEW YEARS TO COME!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome!

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 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

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      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

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Bittersweet in Toni Morrison’s “Sweetness”

Tuesday’s Short Story,  November 16, 2021

Sweetness  by Toni Morrison  (2015)

I told her to call me “Sweetness” instead of “Mother” or “Mama.” It was safer … calling me “Mama” would’ve confused people. Besides, she has funny-colored eyes, crow black with a blue tint—something witchy about them, too.”

This story will grab you by the throat.  The mother is speaking about her daughter Lula Ann. We all know that how we treat a child has profound effects for a long time, and this is especially true in this story by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. The story is a force about race, parenting, and color—a bit savage too, and so incredibly honest that you will not be able to stop reading. The mother-daughter relationship going on is earth-shattering. I found the storytelling to haunt me to the point where I had to reread it. Heartbreak and redemption, bold, yep, it’s all here in full Morrison raw yet graceful style. This short fiction is a prelude to Morrison’s bestseller God Help the Child.

 

Read it here at New Yorker Magazine:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/sweetness-2

 

Listen to the audio. A marvelous reading! I give it an A+.

https://youtu.be/ltKXTZTBmPs

 

 

Toni Morrison  (1931-2019) was a Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, essayist, editor, and  college professor. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Morrison was born Chloe Adelia Wofford; “Toni” is a nickname derived from Anthony her baptismal name, which she began using because people had trouble pronouncing Chloe. She wrote her college thesis on suicide in reference to the work of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. She didn’t own a television until she was in college.

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome!

Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

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Author of the Week, Ann Cleeves, November 1

AUTHOR OF THE WEEK    November 1

Ann Cleeves

(Mystery, Crime, and Detective Novels)

“I write like a reader, without any planning. I have to write the next scene to know where the story is going.

“I get my greatest ideas By listening to other people. That’s what I’ve missed most during the pandemic: the overheard conversations in trains or restaurants. Places often trigger ideas for books too.”

“I like really complex locations, places that hit you and strike you.   I grew up in North Devon so I know it quite well and I like that mix of cosiness – we think of Devon as having cream teas and thatched cottages.”

 

Ann Cleeves (born 1954)  is a British author of crime fiction. She has written 30 novels in 30 years, and is the creator of detectives Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez  dramatised as the TV detective series Vera, and the Jimmy Perez Shetland novels as the series Shetland. Her latest novel is The Heron’s Cry and it features Detective Matthew Venn. For the National Year of Reading, Ann was made reader-in-residence for three library authorities. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States. Raven Black was shortlisted for the Martin Beck award for best translated crime novel in Sweden.

“Ann Cleeves is one of my favorite mystery writers.”—Louise Penny

 

Ann Cleeves and Louise Penny on Writing at Politics and Prose (1 hour):

This is delightful video if you are a writer or lover of reading crime fiction. Worth the hour indulgence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit Ann Cleeves Amazon Book Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Cleeves/e/B001IOF9MG

 

Please join me in my reading nook and discover an author on Mondays at Reading Fiction Blog!

Browse the Index of Authors’ Tales above to find over 200 free short stories by over 100 famous authors. Once a month I feature a FREE short story by contemporary and classic authors.

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The Haunted House in the Square, for Halloween

The Empty House  by Algernon Blackwood  (1906)

October’s Short Story for Halloween,  October 21, 2021

 

What could be more satisfying than to read a classic haunted house mystery during Halloween season? Especially a gabled house surrounded by dark gardens that cry out and air fragrant with ruin. Inside lurking staircases flicker shadows, and a faceless clock ticks away on the threshold of midnight.

Dean Koontz says of haunted houses: “We are haunted and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.” How utterly delightful to be a ghost! Maybe our DNAs truly are blueprints of the past.

One of the absolute finest writers of ghost stories is Algernon Blackwood. Here at Reading Fiction Blog, you will find six of his stories to read for free—because Blackwood is a master at ghosts, psychological chills, and performing the highest atmospherics. He has been considered the foremost British supernaturalist. His skills lie in drawing upon Oriental thought, psychology and philosophy, which bring an intelligence to his stories.

The Empty House is a simple story, a fiction over 100 years old. There was a murder in this house that is now empty and shunned by the village folk.  Aunt Julia and her nephew Jim Shorthouse spend a night in The Empty House.

 

We walk through this house with Aunt Julia and Jim, not as observers, but as participants in seeking the ghost.  The atmospherics do it all to illicit fear  and trembling as the characters engage in the supernatural events. Pay close attention to the narrative closure. It sneaks up on the reader, leaving you breathless in the sea air.

 

The original chatter about this story was that Blackwood personally experienced some of these ghostly events during his ghost hunting work at the Society of Psychical Research in London. We are in a well-written “quiet horror” of supernatural literature.

 

Read it here at Gutenberg.org

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14471/14471-h/14471-h.htm

 

Listen to the audio on YouTube.com:

 

More of Algernon Blackwood’s free short stories here at Reading Fiction Blog:

Blackwood, Algernon  Ancient Sorceries, February 5, 2013

Blackwood, Algernon  Wood of the Dead, September 9, 2014

Blackwood, Algernon  House of the Past, November 9, 2015

Blackwood, Algernon  The Glamour of Snow,  March 1, 2016

Blackwood, Algernon A Psychological Invasion, Case 1,  June 28, 2016

Blackwood, Algernon  The Willows, October 16, 2018

 

Have a Happy Halloween!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome!

Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

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Ann Beattie’s Winter Love Affair, “Snow.”

Snow by Ann Beattie   (Vanity Fair, 1983)

Monday’s Flash Fiction,   September 13, 2021

 

 

Short, cozy, and deep, this short story holds a bright candle to spending winter in a country house with your lover. The intensity between reality and imagination is Beattie’s signature style. This is written in second person narrative (not one of my favorites), but well done in imagery and metaphor.

 

“I know that stories don’t really have conclusions. It’s only an appropriate moment for stopping.”

This is not a surprising quote by Beattie. Her stories often dangle you at the end. In Snow, the dangling leaves the reader with a sense of drama and loss. But even that is open to interpretation. Reading this 5-paragraph story a couple of times is well worth it!

Ann Beattie  is an American short story writer and novelist. She has received an award for excellence from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a PEN/Bernard Malamud Award for excellence in the short story form. Her work has been compared to that of Alice Adams, J.D. Salinger, John Cheever, and John Updike. She is the author of twenty-one books, including the collections What Was Mine, Follies, The State We’re In, and The Accomplished Guest, as well as the novels Chilly Scenes of Winter, Another You, Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life, and A Wonderful Stroke of Luck (Viking, 2019). Beattie was the Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.  She lives in Maine and Key West.

 

Read the short story here at Wattsenglishclass.weebly.com:

https://wattsenglishclass.weebly.com/uploads/5/8/2/9/58298297/snowbyannbeattie.pdf

Listen to the audio  (5 minutes)

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome!

Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

 

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The Mysterious Magic Shop

The Magic Shop by H.G. Wells (1903)

Monday’s Tale of Magic  July 26, 2021

 

Conjuring, the real and the unreal, glass balls, demons clinging to a coat sleeve, charming illusions and evil magic. The elements of magic in fiction are often mesmerizing. H.G. Wells takes these powers beyond our normal physical limitations,  doubt, and desires.  Come meet Gip and his father as they enter  The Magic Shop  on Regent Street in London. Gip is a boy who believes in the reality of magic, as all children do in their innocence and trust. But the father wants to draw the line with intelligence and practicality. The Magician’s many marvels carry mysterious weight and entertainment.  Listen for the touch of philosophical talk going on beneath the illusion of The Magician pulling out streams of colored paper from the father’s hat.

“The crumpled paper rose and billowed on the counter more and more and more, until he was nearly hidden from us, until he was altogether hidden, and still his voice went on and on. “We none of us know what the fair semblance of a human being may conceal, sir. Are we all then no better than brushed exteriors, whited sepulchres–“

This is a beautifully written little tale with a thought-provoking ending.  Listening to the audio will capture you!

Read at Online-literature.com:

http://www.online-literature.com/wellshg/10/

 

Listen to the Audio:

 

 

H. G. Wells  (1866-1946) is well known in literature as a futurist and a literary sensation with his sci-fi novels The Time Machine and War of the Worlds.  Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945), his last book, was a vision of the future as nightmare. Author of more than 100 books, he  described his stories as “a miscellany of inventions.” Wells died on Aug. 13, 1946, in London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For lovers of  H.G Wells, you might like this historical fiction The Haunting of H.G Wells by Robert Masello: A plot against England that even the genius of H. G. Wells could not have imagined.

REVIEW: “Masello takes us on a wild ride through twentieth-century Europe as Wells goes up against foes both physical and paranormal, teaming up with his suffragette partner to save the world. This is history unlike anything you learned in high school.”  Adrienne Procaccini, Editor

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

 

Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

 

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Author of the Week, Anthony Horowitz, July 5

AUTHOR OF THE WEEK   July 5

Anthony Horowitz

(Mystery, Suspense, Crime Novelist, Screenwriter, and Television Series Author)

“My writing has always been what you call ‘narrative fiction’ in the sense that it’s got very strong plots and twists at the end.”

“Throughout history, story-telling was at the very beginning of life.”

“I fear dying in the middle of a book. It would be so annoying to write 80,000 words and not get to the end. I’m phobic about it. So when I’m writing a book I leave messages all over the house for people to know how the story ends, and then someone can finish it for me.”

“I had three brilliant English teachers at secondary school. They found the writer in me.”

 

 

Anthony Horowitz (born 1955),  English novelist, screenwriter, and children’s novelist, has written more than 50 books including The Magpie Murders,  The Power of Five series, the Alex Rider series, The Diamond Brothers series, and has adapted many of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels for TV.  He is the creator and writer of  Foyle’s WarMidsomer MurdersCollision, and Injustice.  Also the Hawthorne and Horowitz Mysteries: The Word is Murder; The Sentence is Death; A Line to Kill. In October 2014, the Ian Fleming estate commissioned Horowitz to write a James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, and Forever and A Day. A third Bond novel is expected to be released sometime in 2022. An underachiever at school, Horowitz started writing at the age of 8 or 9 and he instantly “knew” he would be a professional writer.

 

Interview with Anthony Horowitz about Magpie Murders, film to be released in 2022:

 

Quickfire interview with Horowitz:

https://www.anthonyhorowitz.com/journalism/article/quickfire-interview-anthony-horowitz

 

 

 

 

View his profile page on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Anthony-Horowitz/e/B000AP7TDG

 

Please join me in my reading nook and discover an author on Mondays at

Reading Fiction Blog!

Browse the Index of Authors’ Tales above to find over 200 free short stories by over 100 famous authors. Once a month I feature a

FREE short story by contemporary and classic authors.

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The Dreamed Phantom

The Circular Ruins  by Jorge Luis Borges

June’s Tale of the Supernatural   June  28, 2021

What if you had a dream, and during this dreaming you actually created a man?

We are in the world of the sorcerer. He arrives at the ancient circular ruins of a god of Fire.  This sorcerer closes his eyes, sleeps, and dreams a man. He dreams a heart, the organs, and then a full bodied man. And then the sorcerer prays to the Fire god of the temple to bring this man into worldly existence. And now the sorcerer has a dream-son in the  real world.

If you are looking for a story of great artistry, mesmerizing prose, and an ending that will surely hit, this 14-minute short story by Borges is one you will not forget and may even spark you to read it again because it is that—dare I say—circular?

Read the 6-page short story here at JerryWBrown.com

https://jerrywbrown.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/The-Circular-Ruins-Borges-Jorge-Luis.pdf

Listen to the audio at You Tube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpMh1oFKyfw

Jorge Luis Borges (1899—1986) believed that literature is not written by any one person, that it is written by the human spirit, collectively. Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine journalist, author, essayist, poet, and short-story writer whose works became classics of 20th-century world literature. In 1938, the year his father died, Borges suffered a severe head wound and blood poisoning, which left him near death, bereft of speech, and fearing for his sanity. This experience appears to have freed in him the deepest forces of creation. In the next eight years he produced his best fantastic stories, those later collected in Fictions.

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX OF AUTHORS’ TALES above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, fantasy, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, romance, ‘quiet horror,’ and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading one short story every month. 

Comments are welcome!

Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

      Monster Librarian     

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

Discover Author of the Week posted on Mondays!

Leave a comment

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Author of the Week, Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), June 21

AUTHOR OF THE WEEK   June 21

Karen Blixen

(Short Stories, Nonfiction, Memorist)

“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”

“God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.”

“We must leave our mark on life while we have it in our power.”

“I start with a tingle, a kind of feeling of the story I will write. Then come the character, and they take over, they make the story.”

“To be a person is to have a story to tell.”

Karen Blixen,  1885 to 1962, was a Danish author (pen name Isak Dinesen). A baroness, a farmer, a storyteller. Blixen wrote works in Danish, French, and English and is famously known for Out of Africa, her account of living in Kenya, and one of her stories, Babette’s Feast, both of which have been adapted into highly acclaimed, Academy Award-winning motion pictures. She was considered several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Most of her readers have known her to be a woman who fought for women’s rights at a time and in a country that challenged many female liberties.

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills” is the opening lines of  Out of Africa, that romantic adventure that has become a classic in literature and motion pictures.  If you’ve never seen the film, you can stream it easily and it’s a beautiful escape into the mind and imagination of Karen Blixen. If you are a fan of short stories, this is a writer to dive into.

(Karen’s study in Denmark)

In Karen’s home in Copenhagen, garden and bird sanctuary:

Out of Africa, behind the scenes:

 

The Paris Review’s Interview of Karen Blixen, The Art of Fiction:

https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4911/the-art-of-fiction-no-14-isak-dinesen

 

 

Please join me in my reading nook and discover an author on

Mondays at Reading Fiction Blog!

Browse the Index of Authors’ Tales above to find over 200 free short stories by over 100 famous authors. Once a month I feature a FREE short story

by contemporary and classic authors.

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Author of the Week, George Saunders, June 14

AUTHOR OF THE WEEK   June 14

George Saunders

( Novellas, Short Stories, Essays, and Children’s Books)

“Reading is a form of prayer, a guided meditation that briefly makes us believe we’re someone else, disrupting the delusion that we’re permanent and at the centre of the universe. Suddenly (we’re saved!) other people are real again, and we’re fond of them.”

“When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. What I want is to have the reader come out just 6 percent more awake to the world.”

“By honing the sentences you used to describe the world, you changed the inflection of your mind, which changed your perceptions.”

“Sometimes I think fiction exists to model the way God might think of us, if God had the time and inclination to do so.”

 

George Saunders (Born 1958)  is a New York Times best-selling American writer of short stories and eleven novels. He won the Man Booker prize in 2017 for Lincoln in the Bardo. His stories have appeared regularly in The New Yorker since 1992. The short story collection Tenth of December was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has taught, since 1997, in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University.

Interview (Late Night with Seth Myers) with George Saunders, How Stories Enter Our Minds as Memories:

 

 

 

George Saunders is a conjurer, summoning worlds by stacking sentences and paragraphs, using agile and often brutally efficient language.  An interview with Saunders at The Believer Magazine:

An Interview with George Saunders

Reviews on Amazon:

“You want funny? Saunders is your man. You want emotional heft? Saunders again. You want stories that are actually about something—stories that again and again get to the meat of matters of life and death and justice and country? Saunders. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.”—Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King

“The best short-story writer in English—not ‘one of,’ not ‘arguably,’ but the Best.”—Mary Karr, Time.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that short story master George Saunders helped change the trajectory of American fiction.”The Wall Street Journal

Saunder’s Amazon Page:

https://www.amazon.com/George-Saunders/e/B000APEZ74

 

Note: You can read one of Saunder’s short stories Sticks right here at Reading Fiction Blog, featured in November 2018 (flash fiction 4-minute read):

George Saunder’s Flash Fiction “Sticks”

 

Please join me in my reading nook and discover an author on Mondays at Reading Fiction Blog!

 Once a month I feature a FREE short story by contemporary and classic authors. Browse the Index of Authors’ Tales above to find over 200 free short stories by over 100 famous authors.

Leave a comment

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