All great literature is, in some way, a literature of consciousness. Through words, we enter an other—sometimes we find kinship in them, shadows of our own experiences, and other times the eyes we inhabit see a world we don’t recognize.
If novels are the luggage of consciousness, giant trunks taller than bellboys and bursting at the seams, then the short story is a valise of consciousness—a little carrying case that hides in its folds much more than it might at first appear able to hold.
I made for myself three simple rules while creating this personal anthology:
1. DO NOT include any stories previously recommended on this site.
2. DO include stories that expand the borders of what a short story can and should be.
3. MAKE the collection a showcase for the varying shapes and styles valises of consciousness take.
Right off the bat, I handicapped myself, as a number of my all-time favorite short stories had already been listed in the various anthologies previously published here: James Joyce’s ‘The Dead,’ Julio Cortázar’s ‘Letter to a Young Lady in Paris,’ Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Mark on the Wall,’ Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,’ Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss,’ Anton Chekhov’s ‘Gusev,’ to name but a few. But my second rule ballooned the list right back to an unwieldy size, as I reminded myself of stories tilting toward the essay, stories swelling to novella-length, stories dabbling in poetic form, stories that could be classified as chapters of a longer novel-like work, even stories on the verge of art criticism.
Thus, here are twelve valises of consciousness whose contents, I hope, will intoxicate, challenge, and surprise you. I have ordered them by date of initial publication.