Remember: Freedom isn't free; free men are not equal; equal men are not free.
If a man is not a liberal at the age of 20, he has no heart. If a man is not a conservative by the age of 40, he has no brain.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
—John Stuart Mill
What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites....Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
Self-government without self-dicipline doesn't work.
I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
—Alexis de Tocqueville
To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.
Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, 'What should be the reward of such sacrifices?' ...If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!
In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, "Make us your slaves, but feed us."
—Dosteovsky's "Grand Inquisitor"
A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.
Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping toward destruction. Therefore, everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interest of everyone hangs on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.
—Ludwig von Mises
People demand freedom of speech to make up for freedom of thought which they avoid.
The day the second amendment is repealed, is the day it was meant for.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.
America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to "the common good," but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.
The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.
—H. L. Mencken
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
—T. S. Eliot
Politicians never accuse you of 'greed' for wanting other people's money—only for wanting to keep your own money.
A liberal is a man who will give away everything he doesn't own.
It isn't that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so much that isn't so.
The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.
I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents "interests," I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.
—Henry David Thoreau
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.
—Henry David Thoreau
A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.
How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin.
Broad-minded is just another way of saying a fellow's too lazy to form an opinion.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world's great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.
—Alexander Tyler, 1770
In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other.
I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
—H. L. Mencken
The man who lives his own life, and wears it out, can dispense with the need of taking it with him. He dies his own death or he goes on living, and where the life has worn in the death will come out. Skin and bones, jacket and shoes, tools, sheds and machines wear out; even the land wears out and the seat wears off the cane-bottom chair. The palms wear off the gloves, the cuffs off the sleeves, the nickel off the door-knobs, the plate off the silver, the flowers off the plates, the enamel off the dipper, the label off the floursacks, the varnish off the checkers, and the gold off the Christmas jewelry, but every day the nap wears off the carpet, the figure in the carpet wears in. The pattern for living, for hanging in there, can be seen in the white stitches in the denim, the Time Piece stamped like a medallion in the bib of the overalls. Between wearing something in and wearing it out the line is vague as the receding horizon, and as hard to account for as the missing hairs of a brush. That's how it happened. That's how the figure on the front of the carpet got around to the back.
A human being is part of the whole called by us 'Universe'...a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his own consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.... Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world.... The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious, it is the source of all true art and science....
Outside the warm, plush environment of civilization we all enter the food chain, and not always necessarily at the top.
Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are small and crunchy, and good with ketchup.
It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
—Robert F. Kennedy, South Africa, 1966
The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel.
—H. L. Mencken
No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why.
Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
—Thomas A. Kempis
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
—George Bernard Shaw
An honest man is always in trouble.
—Henry Fool, in the movie "Henry Fool"
Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem.
The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.
It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom. I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.
—Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
That many of you are frustrated in your ambitions, and undernourished in your pleasures, only makes you more venomous. Quite rightly. If I found myself in your position, I would not be charitable either.
—Henry David Thoreau
The problem with you conservatives is you have such simple solutions to very complex problems.
—Phil Donahue to Cal Thomas
The problem with you liberals is that you've ignored the simple solutions, which has caused the problems to become so complex.
—Cal Thomas to Phil Donahue
There are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what you want. And the other is getting it.
The faults we first see in others are the faults that are our own.
—Honore de Balzac
There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it.
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.
—Theodore Roosevelt, 1915
There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile.... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.
—Theodore Roosevelt, 1919
One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Understanding, on any level, is difficult to achieve. Here in the United States we have a population that combines personal commitment with intellectual detachment, and even disbelief. We have people who work hard, but refuse to think; refuse to add things up. There is a widespread conviction that nothing has a larger meaning.
It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.
Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Republicans are preferable to Democrats because they believe in the right to bear arms. If you disagree strongly enough with them you can shoot them.
—P. J. O'Rourke
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.
90% of the people in the world are idiots. Everybody knows this, and thinks they are part of the other 10%.
If you are angry with someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes... then you'll be a mile away from them, and you'll have their shoes.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
Love your country, but fear your government.
The glass is neither half empty nor half full. It is merely twice as large as it needs to be.
We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
After all the great religions have been preached and expounded, or have been revealed by brilliant scholars, or have been written in fine books and embellished in fine language with fine covers, man is still confronted with the Great Mystery.
—Chief Luther Standing Bear
Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
Discipline yourself and others won't have to.
He that would govern others, first should be the master of himself.
We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
The early bird may catch the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Heaven ghostly, is as high down as up, and up as down: behind as before, before as behind, on one side as another. Insomuch, that whoso had a true desire for to be at heaven, then that same time he were in heaven ghostly. For the high and the next way thither is run by desires and not by paces of feet.
—The Cloud of Unknowing (14th Century text)
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
—Henry David Thoreau
Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.
And here, gentle web surfer, you have stumbled upon the section which embodies the real purpose of 101Bananas.com. The decline of American society in the 20th century seems to have closely paralleled the decline in real literacy. No one reads anymore (and thus no one thinks anymore) once they're out of school, and many don't even learn to read, or think, very well while in school. Reading requires much more effort than watching TV—or surfing the Web—and it has been shown that brain activity is much higher while reading than in most other every-day activities. You don't have to read McLuhan's Understanding Media to understand the profound difference between what you might call "literate thinking" and "visual thinking" (though that's an excellent start), you just have to have common sense, keep your eyes open, study history, and observe your fellow humans on this planet. (That's exactly what McLuhan did, better than anyone in his time.) Thus, this small contribution to literate thinking, a mere finger in the dike, a quixotic attempt to help stem the tide of the eventual collapse of Western civilization.
Currently, the Scholar's Library contains three sections:
1) The famed and much celebrated Required Reading List for the Human Race
2) A Non-Fiction section containing a collection of articles, columns, speeches and essays
3) A Fiction section containing short stories
The Non-Fiction section (at the top) contains various articles, columns, speeches and essays collected over the years from many different sources. These text files cover a variety of serious and not-so-serious intellectually-oriented, thought-provoking topics; some are quite short, some are rather long, and most deal with politics or serious sociological, cultural, or philosophical topics. If your attention span coincides with television news bites and you haven't read a non-fiction book since high school, you should probably stay away from this section of 101Bananas.com. Go look at the pretty pictures in The Art Gallery. Reading the items posted here requires a small investment in time and effort, and the ability to think critically. As someone once said though, there is almost nothing a man won't do in order to avoid having to think. Or as H. L. Mencken said, if you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; if you really make them think, they'll hate you. If you're the type who can never finish a long newspaper editorial that runs for a whole page, but get bored after the first couple paragraphs because you can't follow the argument or reasoning, don't waste your time in the non-fiction section of the Library; you won't find any typical web-site cotton candy for the brain here. (That's over in The Garden of Enigmatic Delights.)
The Fiction section (at the bottom) contains a collection of great short stories that are well worth reading. If you appreciate the short story as a literature form, you've probably read some of these stories, but you're sure to find a gem or two you haven't read yet.
REQUIRED READING LIST FOR THE HUMAN RACE
Looking for something good to read? Here's my list of great books, short
stories, and poetry that are required reading for the human race. Lots of
thought-provoking material here, but no "lite reading" for the mentally-challenged.
Articles, Columns, Speeches and Essays
(Listed alphabetically by author)
L. Brent Bozell
No Time For Moral Equivalence
The inexplicably insane Reuters wire service decision to not refer to the 9/11 terrorists as "terrorists."
Not Yours To Give: Davy Crockett and Welfare
An incident during Crockett's term in Congress helped him understand the limits intentionally placed on government by the U.S. Constitution. Ignoring those limits has given us the disastrous Great Welfare State.
The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America
In a speech given at a Hillsdale College seminar, Decter reviews the history of the continuing shameful attacks on the Boy Scouts by the politically correct liberal crowd.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the greatest essays ever written, Emerson's Self-Reliance should be required reading for high school students once a month.
The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent
Doing the right thing requires that we first have the ability to make intelligent, reasoned decisions as to what the right thing is. In this famous, provocative and influential 1915 essay, Erskine argued that we actually have a moral obligation to acquire this ability and to use it.
Does Character Matter in Public Officials?
Two related articles dealing with then-President Bill Clinton. Does personal character have anything to do with a public official's job performance? Defenders of bad behavior aren't very familiar with American history and the moral foundation of our country. Unfortunately, George Washington isn't around anymore to set them straight.
The REAL Brain Drain
An excerpt adapted from her book ID: The Quest For Identity In The 21st Century, discussing how modern technology literally changes the way our brains work, and the far-reaching implications of this fact.
The Real Condit Scandal
The Congressman Gary Condit/Chandra Levy scandal, and why private behavior does affect public policy.
The Czech playwright who became his country's president was nothing if not a thoughtful observer of the human condition (he died in 2011). In this short essay he gets to the heart of the dilemma posed by modern man's "progress" to a scientific, rational view of the world.
Address to the United Nations Security Council
The late U.S. Senator's speech to the U.N. explains why many Americans have a major problem with what the institution has become since it's founding.
Winning the Cultural War
The late actor and N.R.A. president's speech at the Harvard Law School on the all-out culture war going on in America.
Loving Your Country but Hating Your Government
How it is quite possible, and sometimes the only moral choice, to love your country but to hate your government.
A Message to Garcia
This short little "literary trifle," as Hubbard himself called it, was written and first published in 1899. By 1913 forty million copies had been reprinted in pamphlet form. It remains probably the most widely-reprinted essay on duty and responsibility ever written.
Commencement Address at Stanford University
The Commencement address to the Stanford University class of 2005, delivered by the late Steve Jobs, at that time the CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios.
Eliminate the Slave Tax
Thoughts on eliminating the "slave tax" that is the Federal income tax, and replacing it with excise taxes.
James J. Kilpatrick & Antonin Scalia
A Sad Day for the Freedom of Speech
Many misguided people applauded the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in the "McCain-Feingold" Campaign Finance Reform Act, which upheld specific restrictions on political speech. The astounding short-sightedness of the decision is discussed here by Kilpatrick, followed by excerpts from Justice Scalia's brilliant dissent to the majority opinion.
Commencement Address at Stanford University
The ABC News correspondent's remarks to the graduating class of 1998 at Stanford University.
Moral Darwinism: The Fittest Conscience—A New Take on Evolution
A review of a book by David Loye, Darwin's Lost Theory of Love, that brings to light some little-known and surprising ideas of Charles Darwin.
Constitutionalism and Responsible Citizenship
The N.R.A. Executive Vice President speaks to the Claremont Institute about the Clinton administration's refusal to enforce gun laws as a dishonest way to attack the 2nd Ammendment.
The Americans Who Risked Everything
His father's story of the risks taken and the prices paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
The Wall Jefferson Almost Built
The commonly mistaken notion that a so-called "wall of separation" between church and state outlaws any government-sponsored or -approved activity relating to religion in any way is examined more closely.
A Brief Defense of Free Will
Clear and easily understandable arguments in favor of the concept of free will. Though most people's eyes glaze over at the mention of serious philosophical concepts, whether you know it or not your ideas on the Free Will vs. Determinism debate have a great influence on your opinions of many other things in life, including whether you tend towards the conservative or the liberal end of the the political spectrum.
The Media's Presidential Bias and Decline
The bias in the 2008 Presidential campaign got so bad that even "mainstream" reporters became uneasy. 25-year veteran reporter Michael Malone looks at some examples of blatant bias, and offers a suggestion as to why it's happened.
Why Anti-Americans Must Focus on the Past
Continually emphasizing our past faults and ignorning the vast progress made is a convenient way for America's enemies to focus attention away from their own abysmal record and lack of progress over the past thousand years.
Video Game Explains an American Traitor
An incident in a video game software store helps Medved partly explain how John Walker, the "American Taliban," could grow up with all the privileges and advantages in the world yet still turn out to be a traitor. That his father thinks he did nothing wrong tells us all we need to know about how he must have been raised.
Facing the Diversity Crisis in Pro Sports
Too many people are terrified of openly discussing politically incorrect facts of life, but not Michael Medved. Here he brings to light the "shocking" lack of diversity in professional sports.
America's Hidden Minority: The Easily Confused
A researcher on the subject of IQs has said that "Life is an IQ test." Everyone knows people who seem to fail the test repeatedly. In the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, some voters in Palm Beach County, Florida, even advertised their failure on national television.
Why Do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?
Some interesting biological factors help reveal why "blondes have more fun." The widespread patterns of biological differences between types of humans is often a taboo subject, but hiding from the truth doesn't make it go away.
The Unexpected Uselessness of Philosophy
Where do many philosophers go wrong? Looking at physicist Steven Weinberg, Plato, Charles Darwin, Elvis Presley, and Australian philosopher David Stove's book Against the Idols of the Age, can help with the answer. As Sailer says, "Philosophers of the world, get real! You have nothing to lose but your irrelevance."
The Genetic Revolution
America's role in the twenty-first century may depend on acknowledging and understanding human genetic diversity. In this speech to the Hudson Institute, Sailer confronts issues of race, eugenics, genetic selection and modification, that are inevitably becoming more important as scientific advances give us more power to determine our biological future.
The Crisis of the American Family
The replacement of moral codes with amoral anything-goes personal codes of conduct; the attempt to silence and marginalize anyone espousing ethics and personal responsibility; and the intentional destruction of the traditional nuclear family where children are actually raised by their parents are the subjects of "Dr. Laura's" speech to the Claremont Institute.
Scanning, Digital Photos, DPI, Screen Resolution, Aspect Ratios, Wallpaper, and the Kitchen Sink
Catch-all miscellaneous help file for figuring out what resolution you should scan things at, what size file you need for good photographic prints, creating Windows Wallpaper, why you don't get the full frame of a negative in an 8 x 10 print... but no tips for installing a new kitchen sink.
Labels and Libels
Mass confusion seems to reign over the use of labels such as "liberal," "conservative," "racist," and the like. It's not really that complicated though—except to liberals.
A blind focus on an abstract concept like "civil rights," while ignoring the reality the concept is supposed to protect, is the cause of many problems. Do terrorists have civil rights, when they live completely outside of, and attempt to destroy, the system that grants those rights?
Government-Sanctioned Pyramid Schemes
The biggest and most well-protected pyramid scheme in history is the government-sponsored scam known mistakenly as "Social Security."
Real Political Reform
Looking closely at what the so-called "Campaign Finance Reform" legislation actually does shows why real reform in Congress is needed, not another "Incumbent Protection Law."
David C. Stolinsky
Siding With the Enemy
A certain segment of our population chooses to side with enemies whose only goal is to destroy us. Apparently it doesn't occur to them that they wouldn't have any of their precious freedom to disagree if those they side with are successful.
Henry David Thoreau
Certainly one of the most famous essays in modern history, Thoreau's 1848 exposition of his ideas helped change the world; it had a big influence on Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, among many others.
America's Biggest Crook
The Enron scandal caused an uproar over corporate accounting practices, but there are much bigger crooks loose in the land. Hint: they meet in Washington D.C., in a huge domed building that millions of tourists take pictures of.
A few very short miscellaneous excerpts from his important book. Heavy-duty philosophy was never so much fun!
Commencement Address at Boston University
The well-known American author's remarks to the graduating class of 2000 at Boston University.
The Short Fiction Reading Room
A Collection of Great Short Stories That Are Actually Worth Reading
(Listed alphabetically by author)
Some great writing, both fiction and non-fiction, came out of the Vietnam war, written by veterans who served there. Though the majority of it naturally deals with combat, this particular story concerns the support troops whose workplace was an office instead of the jungle, but who didn't like it any more than the soldiers in the field.
The Untold Lie
Thoreau once wrote that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." The quiet desperation, the lies people tell themselves, and the untold lies they live by, are plainly and unforgetably recounted by Anderson in this deceptively simple story from his well-known series of "Winesburg, Ohio" stories.
The Young Man Who Flew Past
There are nine million stories in the naked city, and here a young man catches a glimpse of five of them as he falls past five windows. Disillusionment, love, contentment, hope, resignation, and finally, a kind of understanding—however cynical—flood his mind before his fatal encounter with the sidewalk below.
A Shower of Gold
Some of Barthelme's strange post-modernist writing is a little hard to decipher. This story though proves him a prescient observer of American society. Written in 1963, it concerns the artist's relationship with society, and presages the Jerry Springer Show hilariously. Or Montel. Or Maury. Or Sally Jessie....
It's been said that comedians are often the saddest people in their own personal lives. Böll, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972, tells us about a man with an unusual profession—a professional laugher, whose job it is to start a crowd laughing, but whose private life doesn't match his public persona.
Jorge Luis Borges
The Library of Babel
One of Borges' more well-known little gems of mystical fantasy concerns an infinite library that contains every possible book that could ever be written.
A Variety of Religious Experience
A royal flush at a poker game with friends leads young Alexander Simpson into a metaphysical investigation that changes his life. A delightful story about the uniqueness of every human being.
Bryant's story is hard to describe, though it is certain a stoned hippie from the '60s would love it. Completely unique in its style and technique, it may be related to what the Starchild experienced at the end of the movie "2001." Or maybe not. It concerns a certain power of vision and understanding that reaches to the ends of the universe. Or something.
Russian author Anton Chekhov was well known for both his plays and the great short stories he wrote. In this one, a discussion about capital punishment at a dinner party leads two men to make an unusual bet that takes fifteen years to resolve.
The Other Wife
Long before "Women's Lib," Colette wrote from a unique woman's perspective on relationships between men and women. This story shows her insight and understanding of the unspoken motivations and unconscious feelings that control even the best of marriages.
A Dog in Dürer's Etching "The Knight, Death and the Devil"
A tour de force of creative imaginative writing; a meditation on what the writer imagines to be the story behind a famous Albrecht Dürer engraving. It may require a little patience—it consists of one single long, long sentence—but great writing is always worth the time and effort it takes to read it.
Every year thousands of people just disappear and are never found or heard from again. Finney, author of the classics Invasion of the Body.Snatchers and Time and.Again, tells us what really happens to many of these people who simply disappear without a trace.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
One of Fitzgerald's earliest stories, this one is obviously a pure fantasy, and has a theme that would recur in his later work. A middle-class young man enters the insular and amoral world of the super-rich and falls in love with the daughter of the richest man in the world—a man who lives on a mountain that is one huge solid diamond.
E. M. Forster
The Other Side of the Hedge
What's it all about, Alfie? Why the incessant struggle to accomplish more, to acquire more, to just keep going without knowing where you're headed? Forster's memorable little parable reminds us that life doesn't consist merely of a mad dash for "success" or "progress," however one defines those terms.
A chance meeting of old acquaintances on a New York street in the rain leads two women into a long conversation that gets to the heart of the nature and power of belief and faith.
Where the. Woodbine.Twineth
Alfred Hitchcock used this spooky little story for an episode on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965. It would have also been perfect for The Twilight Zone. This one might make you pause a second the next time a young child tells you that the imaginary characters they talk to, and the dolls and toys they play with, are really real.
William Fryer Harvey
This would have to be called a horror story, for lack of a better classification, with a tinge of the supernatural. Oppressive heat has been known to drive men mad... and if you ever see your own name on a tombstone... run!
The Minister's Black Veil
The author of The Scarlet Letter is known for his dark, psychologically probing fiction. This arresting tale, one of his early efforts, may be a little too obvious with its symbolism, but like all great authors Hawthorne had the ability to make whatever he wrote compelling and memorable.
Hesse's popularity was greatly revived by the '60s counter-culture, who took his novels Siddhartha and Steppenwolf to heart. This story of a Chinese poet's life-long devotion to his art is sort of a zen parable on the relationship between art and life.
This very short story asks a simple question: if you could travel into the future and then return, would you want to remember what you saw there? Are you sure?
Jackson's modern gothic horror masterpiece is a very well-known and widely reprinted story. If you've never read this one, read it now. The ending sneaks up on you like that huge boulder chasing Indiana Jones downhill.
A Painful Case
Joyce's grim portrait of a cynical man who was an "outcast from life's feast" takes its title from a newspaper article about the death of a woman who once had a close relationship with the man. But the irony of the title is apparent by the end of the story, when one is forced to ask: who was really more of a "painful case," the man or the woman?
A Country Doctor
Kafka was a strange person, and wrote some strange novels and short stories. The dream-like telling of the country doctor's tale, which appears to be a dream itself, can also be seen, like much of Kafka's work, as a parable of the artist in an uncaring society.
This very short story is typically strange and Kafkaesque, and concerns a trapeze artist who lives up on his trapeze twenty-four hours a day.
A Hunger Artist
This is one of Kafka's best known stories. It appeared long before "performance art" was ever around, but sounds as if it could be describing a current art "happening." What is an artist's responsibility to society, and what is society's responsibility to an artist?
The Nine Mile Walk
Sherlock Holmes would have loved Professor Nicky Welt, who in this story solves a murder he didn't even know happened. Beginning with a supposedly random overheard sentence—"A nine mile walk is no joke, especially in the rain."—he demonstrates how a string of logical inferences can be made from the remark, which leads to a startling conclusion.
The Cat that Walked by Himself
A fable, a bedtime story, a tall tale; Kipling's story explains why cats are such independent creatures, but such experts at ingratiating themselves with humans that they get themselves fed, housed, and pampered for free.
Who ever heard of a talking crow who says his name is Schwartz and claims to be Jewish? Malamud, a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, applies humor to his typically Jewish characters, and turns them into representatives of the whole human condition.
Alan E. Mayer
One of the shortest short stories you'll ever read in your life, this one contains only fifty-five words—and a surprise ending to boot. Some people have all the bad luck.
Bartleby the Scrivener
Bartleby is certainly one of the more memorable characters in American literature, a source of endless fascination and discussion regarding his motives—or lack thereof. You'll never get Bartleby's famous credo, "I prefer not to," out of your head. "Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!"
The Lightning-Rod Man
Melville had a knack for creating strange characters. The lightning-rod man, though apparently based on a preacher Melville was familiar with, will also remind you of a modern fast-talking salesman, desperate to pressure you into buying his wares.
The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love
The author of many stories and novels, including The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, Mishima committed ritual Japanese suicide with a sword at the age of forty-five in 1970. In this story a great and noble priest, who seemed to have successfully renounced the world and its pleasures, is undone by a chance meeting's momentary glance at a woman of overpowering beauty.
A baby born in the most dismal of circumstances causes a sensitive woman to contemplate what his poor life could turn out to be in twenty years. And those twenty years pass so fast!
A Matter of Chance
Nabokov is best known for his novel Lolita, but he also wrote many wonderful short stories. His son Dmitri has said that one of the themes in his father's stories is his "contempt for cruelty—the cruelty of humans, the cruelty of fate." There is no better example of the "cruelty of fate" than this short story.
How to.Tell a True.War Story
O'Brien is the author of some of the best non-fiction (If. I Die In a.Combat Zone) and also some of the best fiction (Going After.Cacciato and The Things.They Carried) to come out of the Vietnam war. This piece is one brilliant chapter from The Things.They Carried that stands quite well on its own as a work of short fiction.
A Good Man is Hard to Find
A Southern writer who died young at the age of thirty-nine, O'Connor was a devout Catholic whose style and subject-matter gave many the false impression that she had a rather dark vision of humanity. The title of this story could also be its theme, as an escaped killer known simply as "The Misfit" encounters a family in a car accident on their way to a vacation in Florida.
The Blue Bouquet
This little grotesquery of a story, by the 1990 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, reminds one of a mini-nightmare. A man has a close brush with disaster when accosted by a machete-wielding man trying to please his girlfriend, who wants a bouquet. A bouquet of blue eyes!
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams
If prizes were given for titles of stories, this would be a contender for first place. Plath's life and suicide at age 31 are well known, as is her first novel, The Bell Jar. This story belongs on the same shelf of honor with Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, with which it shares a quite similar theme.
Edgar Allan Poe
The Tell-Tale Heart
If "Casablanca" is the quintessential American movie, this famous tale of Poe's is the quintessential American horror story. A sense of guilt does strange things to the human mind.
The Secret Room
One would be hard-pressed to argue the point that this is not really a "short story." An unusual piece of creative writing, is it the beginnings of a screenplay for a movie, a description of a painting, an imaginary scene, or... what?
The Purpose of the Moon
The author of the classic pop novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues muses in his inimitable way on an imaginary doomed romance between Vincent van Gogh and Marilyn Monroe, ponders the purpose of the moon, and wonders who knows how to make love stay.
The Girls in Their Summer Dresses
Ah, the simple sensuous joy of watching all those girls flutter by in their summer dresses! Men tend to be inveterate voyeurs, and Shaw captures perfectly the irresistible impulse to look at every pretty woman in sight—even if you're with your wife.
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Gimpel the Fool
Singer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978. Like Bernard Malamud, much of his fiction deals with Jewish characters and themes. Gimpel may have been a "fool," but the wisdom of fools and their simple belief and conviction sometimes exhibit a deeper understanding of life than that of a jaded skeptic.
The Bat Who Got the Hell Out
One of Thurber's little parables. This is a very short one about a young bat who decides to get the hell out of the bat cave and join the human race. Some humans aren't the best representatives of the species though, and the bat quickly learns his lesson.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Not too many stories are so well-known that they've become part of the American cultural landscape. Thurber's beloved classic about an affable daydreamer with a very active imagination is one of them. "Walter Mitty" is even listed in some dictionaries, and a Hollywood movie was made from Thurber's story several years after it was published.
The Three Hermits
Tolstoy, the famed Russian author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, converted to a radical, pacifist Christianity late in life. This story perfectly summarizes the profound difference between a showy public appearance of piety versus a private, genuine godliness.
A & P
No one has ever described so succinctly and comically the attitude and demeanor of teen-age adolescents like Updike does here. If a young James Dean had worked in a supermarket, this could be his story, but his grand heroic gesture doesn't turn out quite like the script of "Rebel Without A Cause."
E. B. White
How often have you heard modern life described as "a rat-race"? White's nightmarish little tale, very unlike anything else he ever wrote, is a dark, hopeless, dream-like subjective view of the world—from the rat's point of view.
Only the Dead Know Brooklyn
Wolfe isn't known as a comic writer; his more well-known serious novels are Look Homeward, Angel and You Can't Go Home Again. But this little slice of Americana would make a hilarious piece if read aloud as a performance by someone with a strong Brooklyn accent. Just imagine the scene actually happening on a Brooklyn street as you read it. "Oh yeah?" "Yeah!"
Somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek story in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," though not quite as outrageous, this story could (almost) be true. It has an insight into the female psyche that women may not like, but cannot deny.
The Heat Death of the Universe
When Glen Campbell sang something about "the dreams of the everyday housewife," he wasn't thinking about a woman like Sarah Boyle, the protagonist of Zoline's unusual, widely-praised story. Have some theoretical physics along with your morning bowl of Cheerios.