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Paul

Paul Smethers, a former high school English teacher, is an Associate with the Popular Materials team. He hosts a monthly poetry appreciation group, the Word Art Poetry Discussion Group and teaches a 6-week poetry writing course in the spring, Wolf Tickets and Pickled Peppers.

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The story of Tom Walker is a variation on the legend of Faust, a l6th-century magician and astrologer who was said to have sold his soul to the devil for wisdom, money, and power. Washington Irving reinvented the tale, setting it in the 1720s in an area of New England settled by Quakers and Puritans. In Irving’s comic retelling of the legend, the writer satirizes people who present a pious public image as they “sell their souls” for money.  

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In “The Nightingale and the Rose,” the conflict between science and faith that so marked Oscar Wilde’s own era is mirrored in the conflict between love and philosophy as a young man tries to fulfill his dreams.

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"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1890) is a short story by the American writer and Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce. The story, which is set during the American Civil War, is known for its irregular time sequence and twist ending. Bierce's abandonment of strict linear narration in favor of the internal mind of the protagonist is an early example of the stream of consciousness narrative mode.

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"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" is a short story by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne about a doctor who claims to have been sent water from the Fountain of Youth.

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On its surface, “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell appears a simple detective story, but through extensive dialogue between two women, Glaspell slowly reveals the story's true underlying conflict: the struggle of women in a male-dominated society. 

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A perennial Christmastime favorite, "The Gift of the Magi," written by O. Henry, is about a young husband and wife and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other--with very little money.  His wonderful plot twists and surprise endings, as well as his deep insights into human nature, make O. Henry a favorite around the world, where his works have been translated into numerous languages.

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Edgar Allan Poe is classified as an American Romantic writer, a detective fiction writer, and a Gothic writer. He is considered by many to be the father of the short story and the first writer of detective fiction. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” a visit to a friend’s wine cellar turns out to have disastrous consequences. Listen to the careful description of revenge in the opening statements and follow along as vengeance finally catches up with Fortunato.

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“The New Dress” by Virginia Woolf is perhaps one of the finest examples of stream-of-consciousness writing produced by an American or British author, many of whom dabbled in this genre once or twice in their writing careers, including William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett and Toni Morrison.

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Algernon Henry Blackwood, a Commander of the British Empire, was an English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator. Today’s story, “The Empty House,” is one of his most widely anthologized stories, famous for its suspense. It details the circumstances of an elderly adventuress intent on investigating a house with a terrible reputation.

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Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant  was a French writer, remembered as a master of the short story form, and as a representative of the naturalist school of writers, who depicted human lives and destinies and social forces in disillusioned and often pessimistic terms. Today’s story, “A Ghost,” relates the tale of a brief haunting that results in a lifelong terror.