Recently I’ve been thinking about writer Mary Ladd Gavell. Originally from Texas, she was managing editor of Psychiatry magazine in Washington D.C. In her spare time, just for fun, she wrote short stories. Psychiatry magazine didn’t print fiction, so she just kept them in a drawer. She died in 1967 at the quite young age of 47. After her death, her colleagues at Psychiatry magazine ran her story “The Rotifer” in the magazine as a tribute. So months after her death, she finally became a published fiction writer. That story was selected for “The Best Short Stories – 1968”. Her husband then tried to get the University of Texas to publish more of the stories without success.
Then, at the turn of the century, 2000, John Updike selected “The Rotifer” for one of “The Best Short Stories of the Century”. He called the story a “gem” and “feminism in literary action”. Then in 2002, sixteen of Gavell’s stories were collected in the book “I Can Not Tell A Lie, Exactly”. The book met with near universal acclaim. I read the book then, and many of the stories are as fine as “The Rotifer”.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of some of my favorite collections of short stories by woman writers.
A Dedicated Man by Elizabeth Taylor I consider this English writer the real Elizabeth Taylor. She was also a great novelist. Having read at least a dozen of her novels and all her stories, I feel qualified to say that.
The Springs of Affection by Maeve Brennan an Irish writer and regular contributor to The New Yorker, she had a long, sad ending. She was re-discovered four or five years ago – a personal favorite.
Dictation – A Quartet by Cynthia Ozick her stories are intelligent and unique.
Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy – A young United States writer. Very impressive.
The Darts of Cupid by Edith Templeton Re-discovered in 2002, she is in danger of being forgotten again. Her novel “Gordon” was banned in England
I Am No One You Know by Joyce Carol Oates Some of her novels are enchanting (“You Must Remember This”, “I’ll Take You There”), and some are exasperating (“We Were the Mulvaneys”). However, her short stories are uniformly strong.
Tigers Are Better Looking by Jean Rhys A legendary writer of the twentieth century.
Throws Like A Girl by Jean Thompson A Chicago writer with several fine collections.
I Can Not Tell A Lie, Exactly By Mary Ladd Gavell Perhaps the secret to writing a great story is to not think about publishing at all.
Little Black Book of Stories by A. S. Byatt An excellent writer in both short and long form.
Bad Characters by Jean Stafford Former wife of insane but brilliant poet Robert Lowell. Her novels are fine too.
Perfect Strangers by Roxana Robinson I am always on the lookout for new books by this United States writer.
Birds in America by Lorrie Moore A quirky, humorous storyteller, justly famous.
The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro Why even mention her? Everybody already knows she is a great writer. Cynthia Ozick calls her “our Chekhov”.
Any short story writers you would like to mention?