What Story Have You Always Known?

I am struck, in Maureen Kincaid-Speller’s latest post about reading The Weird anthology, by the sentence “I cannot remember a time I didn’t know this story.” She’s referring to Saki’s “Sredni Vashtar,” but I’m curious, dear readers, as to what story you have known as long as you’ve been alive? Or, at least, it seems that way…


  1. says

    I’m convinced that even before I read it for the first time, I knew “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Borges. It just seems like part of my self at this point. In fact, it played a vital role in motivating me to get serious with my writing and the directions I wanted to take it in. I could say the same for “The Circular Ruins,” but “Forking Paths” is the most appropriate candidate.

  2. says

    Even though I know which collection I read the story in, and thus approximately how old I was, it’s Asimov’s “The Last Question”. It isn’t close to the first story I ever read, but it was so memorable that it feels like the story was part of me for longer than when I discovered the story.

  3. says

    I have two: Elissa Malcohn’s “Moments of Clarity,” and Tom Disch’s novel On Wings of Song. I can’t really explain the first one, but the second feels like the story of my life in important ways.

  4. Andrew McKie says

    I can’t remember first reading A Piece of String (Maupassant), The Gifts of the Magi (O Henry), or Sredni Vashtar and Tobermory (Saki). The ones which seem central to me now are by Borges (especially Three Versions of Judas and The Zahir), Donald Barthelme and Calvino.

  5. says

    John Stevens, I’m honored!
    The first story that came to mind after I read the question is the one that struck me that way when I was a kid: Harlan Ellison’s “One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty” in Damon Knight’s Orbit 8 anthology (1970). Probably the first two stories that ever gave me that reaction were “The Boy Who Drew Cats” and “The Gratitude of the Samebito”, both in a Japanese story book given to me very early on. I have no idea what became of the book (whose illustrations were gorgeous, but I found the stories online only a few years ago. Marge Piercy’s poem “For Strong Women” (in The Moon is Always Female, 1980) has been one of my touchstones for the past 30+ years.

  6. says

    Roald Dahl’s “Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”. Oh how I practiced looking into a candle flame and gaining second sight. Must have read that one dozens and dozens of times, and I still love it.

  7. says

    I had the same experience as Adam Mills up at the top of the thread; as a middle schooler I wrote a story that was a bastardized version of “Garden of Forking Paths,” and that was a good four years before I first heard of Borges or the story. (Incidentally, the original Spanish title of the story has always felt like a little poem in my mouth: “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan.” “Bifurcar” is a *fantastic* verb!)

  8. james kenyon says

    Jeffrey Ford’s “The annals of Eelin Ok”
    Everyone knows that sand castles are inhabited

  9. says

    “summer in the air” by Ray Bradbury- when I read it at 9 it was as if he’d read my mind- i always believed there were special items in the world that you had to work for but when you got them everything would be just as it should be-

  10. Will Humphreys says

    There is a part at the end of The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien where the protagonist goes in between the walls into a kind of impossible space. It has a huge weight of menace and airless claustophobia and both my wife and I agreed that we knew this place from dreams and nightmares for as long as we could remember. That book has other moments where it seems to plug in to the unconscious and it is an extraordinary work.