Sometimes I feel kind of ambivalent about short stories. There are those stories everyone had to read in high school, and while yes, they're well-constructed, and they're classics for a reason, sometimes the very act of studying The Short Story can suck the joy out of a beautiful and well-told tale. I much prefer my short stories with no strings attached, no threat of baggage. I love when a short story inhabits its own island of imagination, where its whole world is entirely self-sufficient and anything is possible. Where every perfect turn of phrase shimmers and echos.
During a bout of insomnia this past week, I started rereading my favorite short stories from Saki. Is there anything more perfect than "The Open Window"? I don't think so.
I've also started reading Ellen Klages's collection Portable Childhoods. I'm only a few pieces into the book, but already the strong characters and slightly-tainted landscapes are doing a number on me. I love when I read a story and I can feel its reality, see it playing out right in front of me. Thus far, that's Klages to a tee. Oh, and the best affirmation: Neil Gaiman agrees.
Try some great short stories this week, no strings attached. Just live someone else's tale for a few minutes.