Stories have held my fascination since childhood. The earliest memories are of my maternal Grandmother narrating stories every night at bedtime with all the grandchildren around her. She thoroughly enjoyed narrating them with sounds and effects,spinning and adding her own creativity to the original tale. What I hated most was the end as I would want the story to continue for ever and ever.

After that came a stage , when my Dad took over the bedtime story telling and he would narrate the tales from the Mahabharat in great detail. I and my sis knew every bit of Mahabharat long before its telecast on Doordarshan which took the nation by storm.

By then I was hooked to stories and from then onwards to Champak, Chandamama, Amar Chitra Katha, Twinkle, all kinds of comics, Jataka Tales and Tales from the Arabian Nights.

Short stories are like snacks, they fulfil the hunger cravings temporarily and cannot substitute for lunch, here the lunch being Novels.I have relished reading Novels extensively but I cannot deny the charm and entertainment of short stories.

The genre of Short stories requires a great skill, to devlop the plot, to introduce the characters, the events, the dialogues, the action and finally the climax have to be limited within a specific limit of words ,length and time while holding the readers captive right uptil the end and leaving them asking for more.

A few short stories have remained my favourites among which three stand out to be the best for the craft of the art and the impact they have had on my psyche to remain with me all these years.

“The Last Leaf”, by O Henry was a part of my twelfth class syllabus and is a poignant portrayal of two  struggling artist friends,Sue and Johnsy who share a room in New York City. Unfortunately Johnsy falls  prey to  Pneumonia and deteriorates to such an extent that she loses the will to live. She develops an absurd notionthat her life will ebb away just like the dry leaves of an Ivy creeper on the wall opposite to her bedroom window and her life would end the day the last leaf dropped from the creeper.Sue is determined to help her friend and  takes the help of their neighbour Behrman an old artist himself  who has lived all his life in the hope of painting a masterpiece in his lifetime

As Johnsy recovers from her sickness the truth is revealed. Behrman after all does paint his masterpiece an Ivy Leaf or “The Last Leaf” on the wall opposite Sue’s window.The last leaf never does fall, and Sue discards her false notion and recovers whereas the old man falls sick having painted the whole night.

The story is beautiful, brings out the optimism of Sue, Pessimism of Johnsy in sickness, the ultimate virtue of Art being service to humanity in the form of sacrifice. As a teenager with heightened sensitivity ,I was immensely touched by the friendship of the two girls who remained with each other through thick and thin.

“The Luncheon”, by Somerset Maugham remains special as it inevitably brings a smile to my face every time I read it.It is narrated in first person and instantly strikes a cord with the readers and wins them over. The story is woven around a luncheon which the narrator is forced to host for his admirer and that too a beautiful woman who has read his book . The proceedings is in the form of dialogues in which the guest keeps assuring her host that she would have only one thing for lunch, and keeps ordering expensive items from the menu one after the other. The narrator has a limited amount and gets worried about the impending bill at the end of the luncheon. Somerset Maugham has used subtle humour to bring out the hypocrisy of the rich woman who has no qualms at having a luncheon at the expense of the poor writer. They meet after twenty years and the narrator is happy at the sight of the once beautiful woman who has now become  very obese. It is a moment of savouring sweet revenge  for the narrator. I enjoyed the recurring dialogues of the woman that she would have nothing except one thing, before ordering every time.The story is very relatable even in the present times, where boys beg and borrow to take their girlfriends out on dates and the resulting disillusionment in the relationships.

“The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde is a great story of friendship. This remains one of my favourites as I got to teach the lesson for three consecutive batches and everytime I taught it had the same effect. There would be full attendance, and I took the story forward like a daily soap on the television, stopping at strategic points and the students would beg me to continue. For the first time I could drive the students to read the text even before the lesson was taught and that gave me a high. The ending would invariably bring tears to even the most hardened soul in the class.

This can be considered as one of Oscar Wilde’s best work and portrays the relationship between a swallow and the statue of a happy Prince. Wilde brings out the pathos and has detailed the hypocrisy prevalent in the  society of his times. The merriness of the rich and the desolation of the poor and how the happy Prince reaches out to touch the lives of his poor subjects through his friend the swallow and brings about the joy and happiness in his kingdom at the cost of their own end makes up the story. A story of supreme sacrifice in a world of selfishness.

The three writers have created memorable stories which remain an example of supreme craftsmanship of the genre of short stories and remain with the reader long after .

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Awesome Threesome

  1. Three masterpieces from three maestros.. Awesome! Unfortunately I haven’t read any of them till now. But I’m gonna do it first thing this weekend. Who says classics are outdated? Every notion of them brings back their charm. And you’ve written it so nicely. Looking forward to more of your thoughts on books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You must read O Henry …Oscar Wilde…Guy de Maupassant…Anton Chekhov all masters in short story writing….and Jeffery Archers Four collections…you will get addicted…and oops I forgot Rabindranath Tagore…awesome collection

    Like

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