This month’s short stories column features parties. Stories by these five writers: Katherine Mansfield, Banaphool (tr. Arunava Sinha), Joshua Ferris, Nina McConigley, and Kirsten Valdez Quade. And the parties described — a summer garden party, an elaborate tea function, an intimate couples dinner, a themed pre-wedding get-together, and an annual blueberry celebration — are not only life-changing for the protagonists but they are also memorably unique for readers.
For fiction writers, the party scene has always proved to be fertile space to create conflict, drama, surprise, and more. First, as a literary device, it’s an opportunity to bring a group of people together who might not have much else in common except knowing the host or hostess. Further, whether intimate gatherings or large celebrations, anything can happen on such occasions. People at fictional parties do a lot more than meet, chat, eat, and drink. They reveal secrets, start affairs, fight like vicious animals up to the point of murder, show off their ridiculous excesses, betray their gaucheness, and a whole lot more. And, as in real life, a fictional party provides many opportunities for close people-watching.