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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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In “Theft,” Katherine Anne Porter’s widely-anthologized short story, the protagonist must grapple with a host of emotions and circumstances:  loneliness, uncertainty, struggle, trust, independence, love, and loss. Finally, she must discover the truth of her own identity in the midst of so many confusing impressions.  

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At a railway station an arrogant and overbearing woman, Mrs Quabarl, mistakes the mischievous Lady Carlotta, who has been inadvertently left behind by a train, for the governess, Miss Hope, whom she has been expecting, Miss Hope having erred about the date of her arrival. Saki’s humorous handling of the events and characters in “The Schartz-Metterklume Method” make it an endearing favorite for his readers. 

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Saki is the pen name of the British writer Hector Hugh Munro, also known as H. H. Munro (1870 - 1916). In"The Open Window," possibly his most famous story, social conventions and proper etiquette provide cover for a mischievous teenager to wreak havoc on the nerves of an unsuspecting guest.

Podcast

Famous for its surprise ending and the author’s majestic use of irony, “The Necklace” remains a favorite story in anthologies and textbooks for its eminent readability. The moral of Guy de Maupassant's short story is to be happy with what you have.

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Louisa May Alcott, most famous for her coming of age novel Little Women, wrote in a variety of genres to support her family, including humor. As a child of the famous education reformer Bronson Alcott, she was dragged along to take part in a communal living experiment spearheaded by her father and including such luminaries as Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne. “Transcendental Wild Oats” is a satirical account of that tiny community’s first year, taking a tongue-in-cheek look at living an “ideal life.”

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Joseph Katz, writing under the pen name of Alexander Godin, immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine with his family in l922.  “My Dead Brother Comes to America” was published in 1934 and included as part of The Best Short Stories of the Century.  Written at a time of large European immigration to the United States, the story highlights the arrival of immigrants to America through Ellis Island. 

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The fairy tales of the notorious Oscar Wilde are considered by many to be among his best writings. Today we consider two stories that fall somewhere in the area of fairy tales, love stories, children’s fables, and didactic tales for adults. We begin with “The Happy Prince,” a story about an unlikely friendship between a tiny bird and a beautiful statue.

Podcast

"The Story of an Hour," by Kate Chopin, was controversial by American standards of the 1890s because it features a female protagonist who feels liberated by the news of her husband's death. In her book Unveiling Kate Chopin, Emily Toth argues that Chopin "'had to have her heroine die' in order to make the story publishable."  “The Story of an Hour” is considered by many to be a hallmark of early feminist fiction.