A tale of the short story

The annual observance of  the Short Story Day on 22nd December is designed to remind us that we need to make a conscious effort to restore in our lives a space for literary forms like short stories. The passion for reading must be rekindled. 

DR RAJAN PHILIPS –
rajanph@yahoo.co.uk –

Stories and storytelling have been integral part of human culture and heritage. Short stories of different hues have enriched and entertained human mind through the ages. Today, sadly, our preoccupation with electronic gadgets and swift digital communication has diminished our appetite for reading or listening to grandma tales.
The annual observance of the Short Story Day on 22nd December is designed to remind us that we need to make a conscious effort to restore in our lives a space for literary forms like short stories. The passion for reading must be rekindled.
The observance of the Day becomes meaningful by reading and enjoying a few great short stories and by sharing them with our kids and friends. We could watch movies based on short stories. We can even try our hand at penning a story of our own.
In this context, let us acknowledge the laudable efforts of Dar al Atta and its Let’s Read’ campaign to foster reading habits among children in Oman and wish this charitable organization greater success in the days ahead.
A short story can be usually read in one sitting, though the length may vary widely. Good short stories possess in a concise and distilled form, the power and charm of a novel. They make excellent reading material during a short trip in a bus or train or a lunchtime break on even while waiting in a long queue.
World literature offers myriad forms of the short story that instruct as well as entertain. The Indian tales of ‘Panchatantra’ are 3rd century B.C. collection of animal fables in prose and poetry. These stories, laced with principles of just and wise living, were compiled by Pandit Vishnu Sharma. The Greek fables of Aesop and the ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ are equally famous.
Religious teachers often taught their lay followers, deep spiritual principles through parables. Fairy tales of royalty, giants, witches, elves and fairies have regaled children down the ages. Works of the Danish master storyteller Han Christian Anderson and the Grimm brothers stand out. Some of these have been turned into blockbuster animation films. Who can remain un-enthralled by the horror stories of Edgar Allen Poe ?
It is but apt to mention some all-time great short story writers like Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekov, Franz Kafka, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, Washington Irving and Roald Dahl.
Short listing great and memorable short stories from the millions in world literature is near impossible, though such lists are occasionally compiled by literary experts. One tale that appealed immensely to me is ‘Harvey’s Dream’ by Stephen King, with its highly relevant theme of the impact of Alzheimer’s disease.
With Christmas round the corner, The Gift of the Magi’ (1906) by O Henry springs to my mind. It is a tender story of love and devotion of a poor, young couple- Della and Jim. They set out on a quest to find for each other the perfect Christmas gift. In this process, each partner sacrifices something highly precious to them. That imparts an ironic and unforgettable twist to the conclusion of the tale.
Next, here’s what is purported to be the shortest ever ghost story.
Two persons were conversing. First : ‘Do you believe in ghosts ?’.
Second: ‘No. But, do you believe in ghosts?
First person said, ‘Yes’ and vanished!
On Short Story Day, let us resolve to revitalize our efforts to encourage the habit of reading and experience the resultant joy and thrill.

Quotes :
The short story is as diverse and exciting as the novel, offering the condensed satisfaction of a good poem. – Sean O’Brien
Reading a short story, makes you a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. – George Saunders