from the shelf #001, as per today’s earlier mentioning, we have Franz Kafka’s short stories. Of course I rock the Norton. It’s how this radical scholar rolls.


Which are perhaps his highest masterpiece. After all, he is the man who, by his own words, “[is] not able to perceive the complexities of a large scale work”.

And it’s fairly easy to see why, reading his short stories. Often extending just a handful of pages, and laying bare the agony a single character would undergo their entire life, almost all of his works can suggest an entire person’s life into whatever they worry about at night, and make sure that you know all the good details and can fill in the boring bits.

It’s more than a little inspiring to a writer, reading his elegant and unadorned prose rendering scenes dripping with intriguing details and creative subject matter. I think my favorite example is about a trapeze artist, and the constant struggle between not being able to perform his trapeze art during the transportation of his circus’ tour and his desire to only practice and get better at his art.

Kafka, as anybody who’s heard his name would know, does not simply write about the mundane. Often, he does not, and a similar story, about the trials and tribulations of the world’s most noble starvation artist [one who starves himself publicly for accolades] is astounding as well.

And it comes off almost like a fairy tale. Every artist Kafka mentions is the absolutely most intense and idealized practitioner of their craft, ever. The starvation artist sits still, even in the face of others who cheat around him, and the images that Kafka brings to the world are cynical observers of the starvation artist mocking him for not being able to verify the fifty days he spent without food.

Other stories, such as the singer with the most arresting voice [despite Kafka’s own insistent amusicality] just happens to feature a crowd of mice doing the singing as well.

And, as much as Kafka’s works can read like moral fairy tales expressing a point, the setting under which they bestow the morals is demented, unsettling, and as much a part of the moral itself as the story is. Utilizing epistolary forms occasionally, Kafka’s prose can turn a policeman’s uninspired writing into a depressingly cursory glance over a horrific and unsettling scene.

It’s all good juice for the short story writer wanting to know how to be both imaginative and concise. I suggest you make a smoothie from it.

Here’s my favorite pic I could find of the author.