We’ve moved!
Visit the new Library of America blog at our new website: www.loa.org/news-and-views

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking back: what readers enjoyed most from Story of the Week

With the end of 2011 The Library of America’s Story of the Week completes its second full year—and the continued response from readers—in signups, comments, suggestions for stories—confirms this as one of the LOA's most satisfying initiatives. This milestone prompts a review. Which stories did readers like best? Do any themes connect them?

Take a look below at the list of last year’s top ten stories. Humorous stories abound (#3,#4,#5, #7 and #8), suggesting that Story of the Week readers like to laugh—even at themselves, since Edith Wharton’s “Xingu” pokes fun at reading groups (not yours, of course, just the pretentious ones).

When readers aren’t laughing, are they yearning to be forever young? How curious that the most popular story by several thousand views, “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” was a fable written more than 170 years ago about the hubris of science and the yen for eternal youth? And there’s sparse humor in #2, “Why Don’t You Dance?”—available to Story of the Week readers for a limited period—Raymond Carver’s brief, bleak vignette of a furniture sale in the aftermath of divorce.

Stories of challenge best characterize two other top entries. More than a hundred years ago, Mary Church Terrell, an early activist for women’s rights and civil rights, delivered the stem-winding speech “What It Means to be Colored in the Capital of the United States.” Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” dates from around the same time, but his unnamed “man” confronts quite a different challenge: striving to staying alive, alone with his dog in the Yukon at fifty degrees below.

Story of the Week's Top Ten for 2011
  1. “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” Nathaniel Hawthorne – week of June 26, 2011
  2. “Why Don’t You Dance?” Raymond Carver – September 25, 2011
  3. “A Box to Hide In,” James Thurber – June 19, 2011
  4. “Shiftless Little Loafers,” Susan Orlean – October 16, 2011
  5. “The Ransom of Red Chief,” O. Henry – August 21, 2011
  6. “What It Means to be Colored in the Capital of the United States,” Mary Church Terrell – January 16, 2011
  7. “A Dog’s Tale,” Mark Twain – April 17, 2011
  8. “Charles,” Shirley Jackson – June 6, 2010
  9. “Xingu,” Edith Wharton – January 23, 2011
  10. “To Build a Fire,” Jack London – February 27, 2011
Two things seem clear: First, good yarns have long lives. And second, new Story of the Week readers are avid archive combers. What else explains how Shirley Jackson’s “Charles,” first posted in June, 2010, became #8 in 2011?

New readers seeking out previously posted stories is the only explanation we can think of for why only three new 2011 entries made it onto the “all-time” top ten (“all-time” meaning, of course, the past two years). Here, amid the entertaining treats from Jackson, Thurber, and Twain, atmospheric tales from Hawthorne and Carver find fellowship with three much more ominous classics: “The Little Room,” “I’ll Be Waiting,” and “The Train.”

Story of the Week All-Time Top Ten (from 2010-2011)
  1. “Charles,” Shirley Jackson – week of June 6, 2010
  2. “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” Nathaniel Hawthorne – June 26, 2011
  3. “Why Don’t You Dance?” Raymond Carver – September 25, 2011
  4. “The Lady on the Bookcase,” James Thurber – April 25, 2010
  5. “The Little Room,” Madeline Yale Wynne – October 17, 2010
  6. “I’ll Be Waiting,” Raymond Chandler – December 5, 2010
  7. “Hunting the Deceitful Turkey,” Mark Twain – November 21, 2010
  8. “A Box to Hide In,” James Thurber – June 19, 2011
  9. “The Train,” Flannery O’Connor – October 3, 2010
  10. “The Christmas Fireside (for Good Little Boys and Girls),” Mark Twain – December 19, 2010
Previous Reader’s Almanac posts of interest:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature