I’m teaching a seminar in the American short story in the fall, and I’ve got the syllabus all planned out. (I’ve got too many short stories on it now, and will probably have to pare my syllabus down a bit). But I just read an anthology called “You’ve Got to Read This” (or something like that) in which authors nominate their favorite short stories and write a few paragraphs on their reasons for nominating that story, so I thought I’d ask you all if you’d like to give me your choices.`
My own nominee would probably be “Natica Jackson” by John O’Hara, a story that I love to watch people read since there’s a moment about halfway through that’s so shocking (and yet thoroughly believable) that people often gasp while reading it. “Natica Jackson” is set in Hollywood of the 1930s, and concerns an actress, but focusses on the non-celebrity side of her life, as she undertakes a secret love affair with a married guy who’s not in show business. O’Hara explicates some differences between the worlds of celebrities and non-celebs, and achieves the very difficult task of portraying rich and famous people in terms that make us empathize with them. He also brilliantly gives us rare insight into the workings of minor characters’ minds–agents, screenwriters, and especially the psychotic woman who provides that GASP moment at the story’s climax.