The short story can be a magical thing. It’s a breath, a moment, a captured mood — or an entire teeming world packed into a few pages. Maybe, if it’s really great, it’s both. The only trouble with short stories is that not enough people read them. So, in a series to celebrate Short Story Month (and help you add to your reading list), Flavorwire is asking some contemporary masters of the form to talk about the short stories they love. In this installment, Brian Kimberling, whose great novel-in-stories Snapper hit shelves last month, recommends a favorite.
Kimberling: “Revenge,” by Ellen Gilchrist. Six kids — five boys and ten-year-old Rhoda, an afterthought in the minds of all concerned. She’s denied access to the sacred Broad Jump Pit all summer. She becomes maid of honor at another cousin’s wedding, and afterward, emboldened by some creme de menthe, she ventures to the pit, strips to her underwear, and teaches herself to pole vault. That’s superficially it, but one of the charms of this story is the way that every droll detail tells. The era, the place, and the people — wealthy white Southerners during World War II — are all drawn obliquely and amusingly, but the mechanics of youth and sex and privilege shine darkly behind an ostensibly trivial event.