Six memorable stories: in five words?

This week I’ve been gently challenged by Ola, who, in tandem with Piotrek, blogs about her reading, on Re-enchantment of the World. They recently described some Favourite Books in Five Words. This idea has, it seems, been circulating for at least a year, so I’m late – again.

I wondered whether the inspiration for this owed something to Hemmingway’s six word story. Once I’d made that connection it was inevitable that my list would be short fiction. I decided to limit myself to six that I’ve found unforgettable.

I begin with Mary Mann.

‘Who?’ you say.

I’m not surprised. She is a writer who has been shamefully neglected, so let me stretch the rules a little, and put her into context.

Mary Mann, born 1846, in Norfolk, was a merchant’s daughter who married a yeoman farmer in 1871. They had four children. Yeoman, by the way, means he farmed his own land. Many farmers were/are tenants. It has been suggested that Mary’s writing helped her transition from town life to an isolated rural community, and was a necessary supplement to the family income during the agricultural depression of the 1880s.

Women O’Dulditch, by Mary Mann (1908)

Dinah and Car’line’s ideal husband?

Bliss, by Katherine Mansfield (1918)

Revelations at Bertha’s dinner party.

Hills Like White Elephants, by Ernest Hemmingway (1927)

Listening for what’s not said.

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)

Fate, reverence and a circus.

The Blush, by Elizabeth Taylor (1958)

Mrs Allen listens, watches: sees.

Puss in Boots, by Angela Carter (1979)

Sex, lies, rats and love.

There could, of course, have been more. On a different day of a different month, there would have been other choices.

30 thoughts on “Six memorable stories: in five words?

  1. Oh, I haven’t heard of this before! Great idea Cath. It’s like uncovering a books alternative title for yourself. I’ve just started following someone on Twitter who writes short stories inspired by results of the Exquisite Corpse game play. The results are fun and engaging! Blessings always, Deborah.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I really liked the Hemingway one and how he didnโ€™t say the most important things but you read it between the lines. Brilliantly written! I must find the others to read. Thanks for the suggestions.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Ann. I was quite pleased with myself on the Hemingway – not usually a good sign.

      I’d love to see how other readers would whittle them down. It was an interesting challenge, though slightly frustrating to cut quite so much away.


    • Thanks, Pam. It was quite a challenge, and I suspect other readers would find different aspects to focus on. I hope you’ll be allowed more than five words when it comes to the tagline for your novel.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Cath, spare a thought for the poor author ~ all that work, 100,000 words reduced to 5, how galling ๐Ÿ˜‰.
    But it’s a lovely idea, and thanks for your suggestions.
    Does it work for plays ~ “star crossed lovers, both die”?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Believe me, Mike, when I assure you that I did spare several thoughts for the authors. I hesitated several times, wondering how I had the cheek.

      I think, however, these are like blurb, on the back of a novel, that generally entirely miss most of the points, because you can’t sum-up a complex, delicately balanced and carefully worded piece of literature by another writer, in a handful of your own words. Perhaps I should blog about that, next. Though I am drawn to the idea of applying this to plays…

      I do like your Romeo and Juliet.


  4. Interesting challenge! I don’t read a lot of short fiction so I’d be hard-pressed to name six stories. I can think of a few, though.

    “By His Bootstraps” by Robert Heinlein
    “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce
    “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

    I could come up with more (probably ones by Stephen King and Clive Barker would be in there) but I would have to look them up. Those are the only three I thought of without referring to anything to refresh my memory.

    Liked by 2 people

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