Short stories with alternating storylines?
July 26, 2014 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of short stories that have two oscillating storylines that ultimately intersect. I mean two different characters on two different trajectories whose paths ultimately cross. This is a frequent structure in novels, but I'm looking for short stories where this is done. I'm sure Alice Munro has done it, but I can't think of examples off the top of my head. Anyone know of any?
posted by swheatie to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but Joan Silber's book Ideas of Heaven is a cycle of short stories, any of which could stand alone, but all of which are connected thematically and by at least one character.
posted by prewar lemonade at 8:36 AM on July 26, 2014

A piece entitled Here's the Story by David Gilbert that recently appeared in The New Yorker uses this structure.
posted by carmicha at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2014

Jhumpa Lahiri wrote a trio of short stories about two characters who meet briefly and then their paths diverge, only to come together again at the end. First story is from the woman's POV, second from the man's, third is them both. They are published in her short story collection Unaccustomed Earth and I believe at least two of then were published in the New Yorker before that.

Once in a Lifetime
Years End
Going Ashore

I think these three stories are probably her best work and far more compelling than her novels.
posted by thereemix at 12:14 PM on July 26, 2014

Here's my favorite.
posted by KRS at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2014

Thanks for these, folks. I read the David Gilbert story, and it's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. I'm just hoping to find more examples. I've also read both the Silber and Lahiri -- but am hoping to find stand-alone stories with this structure. I agree with you, thereemix. I love Lahiri's stories, but don't feel as strongly about her novels -- the last one anyway. Didn't read the first.
posted by swheatie at 3:43 PM on July 26, 2014

The one that came to mind first is The Paradise Lounge by William Trevor.
posted by billiebee at 4:02 PM on July 26, 2014

One of my favorite authors does this frequently. Look at Jorge Luis Borges's Axolotl for a version of this. (There's another story of his, the title of which I am blanking on at the moment, with two male characters, one riding a motorcycle down the street, the other being offered up as a Mayan sacrifice. The way the stories ultimately intersect is amazing.)
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 12:52 AM on July 27, 2014

Damn, here's why I shouldn't post in the middle of the night: "Axolotl" is by Julio Cortazar, as is the other story, the one whose title I couldn't think of. That story's title in Spanish is "La noche boca arriba" which is translated into English as "The Night Face Up."

Borges has a lot of twinning in his stories and stories in which a character meets himself, which is why I was confused!
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 1:17 AM on July 27, 2014

This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but Borges's "The Garden of Forking Paths" might possibly fit.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:22 AM on July 27, 2014

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