the shortest story ever written

8 03 2008

Hemingway once wrote what he called the shortest story ever written:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

from http://www.slate.com/id/2185856/pagenum/2/

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34 responses

25 05 2009
Abdul Majid

Outs standing Story. The Writer Shoul be AWARDED

12 10 2009
edward

lamo!!!!!

24 10 2009
Ryan Lee

Somebody once wrote…..”God Lay Dying.” which I always
thought was particularly powerful.

17 11 2009
Geoffery

no way!!

4 11 2009
Patrik Stephenson

this has no basic literary meaning and it was pretty much pointless to write

25 11 2009
Joe gibson

You are an idiot. These few words convey so much.

21 01 2010
Robert Patterson

what do they convey…?

29 11 2010
Falco

Look everyone! The fact that this “story” has us discussing it’s literary value or lack there of has proven that it is a piece of literature. The fact that it even poses the question you are asking proves you wrong.

17 03 2012
Rarface

Please stop being stupid. That doesn’t prove it’s a piece of literature. If I discuss whether or not a Panda is really a type of bear, it doesn’t mean it is a bear. It’s coming under question. I won’t argue whether this “story” actually tells a tale or even has a theme. I’ll only argue your argument is stupid.

10 12 2009
Ryan

You read this, and think thats short, and pointless, then you think about why these baby shoes are never worn.

11 02 2010
Raj

here’s my short story. it has a beginning, a plot and an end, i think.

“God fucked up.”

21 02 2010
Harsha

a man with good heart ll understand… Its really great.

4 03 2010
me

cooooooooooooooooooollll

19 03 2010
Jacob

Good god people, we’re talking about Ernest Hemingway here! What does the comment “no basic literary meaning” MEAN? I assume you are implying that the story, and yes I’m calling it a story, doesn’t have meaning, and that it is literature (or an attempt at literature). However, it is comprised of six works and punctuation that are composed in such a way to imply that there are baby shoes for sale, and that said shoes were never worn–without interpretation we know this much! But we see also the form it comes in–brief, like a newspaper ad. The author tells us that the shoes were never worn, and so implies that knowledge is needed, and so tells us that the person selling the shoes is not who you would typically buy shoes from. This begs the question of why they are selling the shoes–they are no longer needed, and will not be needed. But why does a person buy baby shoes, and then sell them without ever using them? If I’ve had to walk you this far, its probably a lost cause. You might want to consider reading poetry, and perhaps finding a kind soul to teach you about the majesty of the written word.

27 02 2012
Aisha

Thank you, there are intelligent people here. I thought the Internet was only made up of trolls now.

17 03 2012
Rarface

I’m happy to see an intelligent defense.

3 05 2010
Amanda

…And yet, if I wrote “I need you. Please answer.” would it have the same weight? This could pose just as many unanswerable questions, but does it really now?

While yes, I do see these six little words as a interesting piece, I also feel that every day there are thousands of short little phrases said that convey so much, and fade away as soon as they are said. The only reason this stands out is that from great authors we expect great things, and cling to them. Your response “we’re talking about Ernest Hemingway here!” portrays that fact perfectly. I could have written the same exact words, but no one would come out and say “My god, we’re talking about AMANDA from the INTERNET!”

16 10 2012
moataz

same impression amanda,,
very smart indeed :)

17 05 2010
Mr. Owl

I completely understand it, and I still think it’s stupid. I do not want to read that story, and no one has any good to gain from reading that story because it is all assumptions. There are no characters, there is no beginning, middle, or end, or any thematic elements. Everything that would make it a story is assumed. I think a better story would be “A man got hurt one day.” This has a character, an introduction, action (if obscure), a setting in time (if obscure), and a conclusion because we know that it happened in the past. It also has a moral: don’t get hurt!
“I need you. Please answer.” Does not have a conclusion, it cannot be a story.

29 11 2010
Falco

Okay Mr. Owl. Just because you don’t like it, does not mean it is not art, and that it is not literature. Personally, I find that your story leaves to little to the imagination and is just a conformity to today’s society, where everyone needs to know everything and not use their mind to expand and grow. Besides, this story obviously has a character and could have several because someone has to be selling the shoes and someone has to be reading the sign. As far as you saying all of this is just assumed, there is a difference between assuming something and creating something from your own imagination, your own intelligence.

Good day sir.

20 01 2012
Meagan

The story has several characters…countless really. The most beautiful thing about this story is that is makes you imagine so many.

24 06 2010
msjl

I see some crazy people down here who can’t understand this simple yet beautiful story.

The story in simple words is about a mother who buys a pair of shoes for her child, but she loses the child.

it also implies that she might have sold the shoes because she is so poor, other wise no mother would sell her child’s shoes that she lost.

another meaning to the story might be that the child have been born, but was born disabled and hence wont wear those shoes.

another interpretation is that the mother of the child have died while giving birth , and child died too, and the story is about the husband who sold the shoes to forget the tragedy.

by all means, its a tragic full story in one line. pure love

17 03 2012
Random

What if I want to think that a father is selling the shoes because his pregnant wife jumped off a cliff after giving him the finger?

I’m sorry, I just think people like this are funny. Hopeless romantics I suppose (and since you’re here arguing this is art, I hope you know what that really means).

21 07 2010
Krystal

Anything can be a story, really. “A man got hurt one day.” Could also be a story as ‘Mr. Owl’ say’s. You can turn anything into a story, to be honest. But this story isn’t all just assumptions. it’s possibilities. It’s all the reasons why. It makes you think about what happened. Why is she selling baby shoes that have never been worn? Did he die? Maybe she didn’t need them. Maybe they were too big. The Answer? Who knows. Nobody will ever know. He just wants you to think for yourselves. To think ‘Why’ or ‘What happened?’ Non-the-less, it’s art with simplicity in itself. And complaining about whether it’s a story or not it useless. It’s not going to change anything.

10 03 2011
Sage Hazzard

Honestly, it’s an intriguing sentence, but it alludes to a story more than it tells a story. And before everyone starts replying to me saying I should read more (which would make me laugh quite a bit), think about what this “story” conveys that’s more than a literal ad in a classifieds section. If you actually found such an ad, would you call the person up and congratulate them on their poetic sensibilities? I’d hope not. It’s just a sentence. Just because it’s Hemingway does not mean it’s good or even art at all. Is a piece of paper with an ink dot in the center of it a painting? If you answered “yes” to my last hypothetical question… well… I have some wonderful paintings to sell you.

8 08 2011
Alex Ramirez

If you think its a story then call it a story. If you think its not a story, who cares you’ve already read it. Hemingway said it was a story and he didn’t care what people thought. To him it was a story. So decided if its a story or not, either way it won’t change a thing except your opinion.

13 12 2011
Tracy Hutchinson

“One Sunday, the skid marks disappeared.”
Kudos to you, Robin. Six word stories are so hard to write. Very well done, babe, VERY well done. xo

1 04 2012
Nuta

Hemingway wrote the story for those who might have imagination. For those who don’t have, here is my story that shows the difference.

The hunter was lost and cold, trying to find a warm place for him and his horse, his eyes and face stinging from the wild wind, dizzy and hands numbed, the rains dropping from his hands, body falling in the snow, slowly crawling an his hands and knees; although, he was trying to get into the old deserted barn, hungry and tired, falling on a bed of straws, imagining a bottle of whisky and a hot meal, and the horse sitting near him, warming each other, waiting for the furry of the blizzard to go away as they slept in a fantasizing world, a way of survival in the snowy country.

12 04 2012
JB

I’ve always interpreted his story to be that the baby died. It conveys the sadness of the parents’ anticipation of the baby they were expecting, only to lose it, and the sadness of posting the ad for the shoes. It’s actually a brilliant story.

22 04 2012
Shami Mianwalians

Horror story by martin graner:
“when the last person on the world was alone in his room,the door was knocked….!!”

23 08 2012
Michael

Shortest Horror story in the world:
“I Do”

14 03 2013
Kevin Widoff

It’s literature because it speaks to the human condition and experience. Just because the story can have many interpretations to the reader does not disqualify it as literature. The text asks the reader to engage and think about the humanity of the character and of them-self. Whereas ‘A man got hurt one day’ (suggested above as a ‘better’ story) does not hint at deep themes and is so vaguely worded that the reader is in no way encouraged to engage with the text.

4 04 2013
madison

Okay, all the critics: stop, and think why the baby shoes are unused.

4 04 2013
madison

Now that you have thought, stop once again, and think what defines literature as literature. Go find a dictionary if you need to. Now, truly reflect on the story, instead of trying to prove your genius by finding non-existent technicalities. Just form an opinion on the piece, enjoy or hate it, write a comment opinion, or experience, or whatever, and stop battling over whether or not it is literature.
I, for one, find it astounding and remarkable that so much can be conveyed with a few simple words. I could learn to use a skill like that myself.

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