Arts and Culture

Eight of the Best Short Stories Set in Colorado

Here are eight of our favorite short stories set in Colorado.
Here are eight of our favorite short stories set in Colorado. Marketa, Flickr
Author Lorrie Moore once described a novel as a marriage, while short stories function more like brief affairs. Colorado has inspired many literary hookups, some passionate and some bleak. Here's a list of short stories set in Colorado that you can easily read on your next lunch break.

Ann Beattie

In this story, which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1976, weed-soaked Ivy League dropouts from back east idealize an imagined snowy Colorado. While their lives hit a mid-twenties dead end, the answer seems easy: head west. Though written over forty years ago, this story feels populated by characters you've encountered recently at the dog park.

Lucia Berlin

This story details the experiences of an alcoholic who, oddly enough, feels Boulder just isn't boozy enough. Throughout her life, author Lucia Berlin struggled with addiction, health and money problems, living for a brief time in a trailer park on the edge of Boulder. She died in 2004, and in 2015 finally gained literary fame for her short stories when A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories was published by FSG.

“Private Debts/ Public Holdings”
Kent Haruf

Like his novels set in the fictional town of Holt, in this story Kent Haruf’s terrain is the broad, grassy plains of eastern Colorado. An abandoned wife repays the debt of her long-gone husband through the only means she has left: her body. Bursting with humanity, Haruf’s depiction of small-town life in Colorado is unparalleled in literature. He died in 2014.

click to enlarge Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - FISHERGA/FLICKR
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
James B. Hemesath

Told in journal entries spanning from February to June, a husband notes events, both mundane and profound, stemming from his wife’s cancer diagnosis. Salida, Pueblo, Denver, San Luis, Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and much more all get play here. At times the story feels like a map through southern Colorado, one that is dog-eared by the chaos of illness.

click to enlarge Million Dollar Highway - FLAMOUROUX, FLICKR
Million Dollar Highway
flamouroux, Flickr
"Mud Season"
Antonya Nelson

For anyone who has driven Colorado's Million Dollar Highway, veering off into an endless pit is an unnerving possibility. This story, set in Durango, deals with the aftermath of a daughter's death on a high mountain pass. Written in Nelson’s trademark hyperrealist fashion, the story is both haunting and beautiful.

“White Devils and Cockroaches”
Manuel Ramos

Featuring crooked Capitol Hill landlords and a handful of misfits, this story introduced readers to González, a down-on-his-luck Chicano lawyer. González morphed over the years into Luis Móntez, a familiar character from Ramos’s five mystery novels set in Denver. And, hey, the story first appeared in Westword in 1986. Now, that’s homegrown.

"Pale Horse, Pale Rider"
Katherine Anne Porter

Pulitzer-Prize winner Katherine Anne Porter’s "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," a heartbreaking love story with a good dose of fever dreams, is set along Colfax, in the mountains, and parts of Capitol Hill. This long story (Porter detested the word ‘novella’) centers around the magnitude of Denver deaths due to influenza in 1918.

“Regaining Flight”
Gary Schanbacher

Set in Denver, "Regaining Flight" is the story of Wes, a construction manager from the Western Slope whose ex-wife accuses him of losing his roots. The story charts his new romance with a vet from back east. Told in tight, understated prose, there are beautiful descriptions of Colorado’s varied landscapes, as well as deft observations of human character.

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