If you’re lucky, you’ll be spending this long weekend barbecuing or beaching or participating in some other kind of ecstatic relaxation to usher in summer. But since you can’t actually spend all of your time staring into the sun or drinking whiskey lemonades, you might need a little extra stimulation—and since this is the last weekend of Short Story Month, you might as well get stimulated by some summery short stories. Thus, I am offering you ten recommendations for short stories you can read right now, on your phone, to distract you from your blossoming sunburn or give you a good excuse to ignore your drunk friend’s rambling diatribe or just please your brain while you’re on your beach towel. Mostly these are short enough that your arm won’t get tired holding up your phone, some are short enough that I predict you’ll be reading them out loud to the group, and a couple are worth flipping over for.
Moshfegh’s most recent published story is one of the longer pieces on this list, although it’s still short enough to knock out during one cocktail. It tells the story of an American man idealizing/obsessing over the tropical island he visits with his wife and the “beach boys” (male prostitutes) he noticed there. A meditation on how privilege and personality can spiral out of control.
Super short, super weird, super hilarious. This is one to cackle over and read out loud to your friends, especially if you are anywhere near swans right now, or if you happen to be channeling Taylor Swift.
This is really a group of three short-shorts, all from Corin’s collection One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, which sprang from her decision to write an apocalypse a day as a way of getting the writing juices flowing. These particular three all shift the familiar scenes of summer and friendship a few degrees to the left, and each end some kind of world in some kind of way.
Is it a story? Is it a sentence? Is it a poem? Yes. Also, it’s a classic of voice (I always teach this one in fiction writing classes) and how much you can do with how little. Another read-alouder.
Maybe you’ve read this one—it’s another classic, and probably Cheever’s most famous. For me, this story has always perfectly captured the feeling of unmooring that seems to crop up in the summer, when everything seems open before you, but a little refracted, a little surreal.
This story, published in the first issue of awesome new literary project Territory, imagines a land with all the good characters of myth and tale and story but none of the evil. Balance, as you might imagine, quickly becomes an issue. Something to think about while reading from whatever paradise you’re reading from.
This frantic-but-gorgeous story drops you straight into a group of women talking God and sex and gossip at a shopping plaza. A perfect read if you aren’t surrounded by friends this weekend, but rather wish you were.
Going fishing for the holiday? Or hey, spending any time at all on a boat with other people this weekend? Read this first, because a lot can happen with three men in a boat, especially when they don’t see eye to eye. Actually, read this before doing anything else. You’ll thank me.
Homeless American Indian Jackson Jackson sees some “powwow-dance regalia” in a pawn shop window, and is sure it once belonged to his grandmother. He spends the rest of the story trying to get it back. Quest narratives, I feel, are best enjoyed in the magic of summer—even if this one is something of a heartbreaker.
Long weekends filled with friends can be fun, but they can also be rather trying. What to read when you’re at the end of your dealing-with-other-people tether—or feel like your friends might be at the end of theirs.