This week New Orleans publisher Julie Smith sent me a “lagniappe.” As an email subscriber, I could select seven free short story downloads. That’s when I was convinced short stories are making a literary comeback.
Short stories marked their popular fiction revival in 2013 when short story writers won both the Booker Man International Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature. That year short story sales rose 35 per cent. Experts attribute the resurgence to technology and the desire for short reads on mobile devices like phones and tablets. For this week’s Gumbo for 52 American Writers, I chose Kate Chopin, who spun of tales of Acadians in the late 1800s about Louisiana’s Cajun country. Some scholars think Chopin even wrote a perfect short story.
From 1870 to 1879, Chopin lived in New Orleans. Then she moved to Cloutierville in Cajun
country. There, locals would gather for parties in each other’s homes for conversation, card playing, and dining on meat pies and gumbo. In her short story “At the ‘Cadian Ball,” she describes a character arriving too late for the chicken gumbo — which had been served at midnight. So, it’s Cajun Chicken Gumbo Gumbo for realist, romantic, local colorist Kate Chopin.
Like today’s short stories – her work enjoyed a comeback in the 1960s when feminists discovered her novella The Awakening. It now sells more copies each September to women’s studies college students that it did during in her entire lifetime. And it’s #12 on the list of top texts in English courses – right after #11 The Great Gatsby.
To honor Kate Chopin I offer three chicken gumbo recipes from two famous Cajun chefs – John Folse and the late humorist, storyteller, cook Justin Wilson. His recipe comes with a free story, just a little bit off color.
And my lagniappe, my little something gift to you, is this link to free short stories by Kate Chopin.