The Short Stories of Nikolai GogolA few years ago, I read Gogol's Dead Souls and I thought it was OK. Maybe I wasn't ginvig it enough attention, but I thought the supposedly sharp social criticism was overhyped. I've shown the film version of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake to my Contemporary Literature course in the past, and the protagonist feels an affinity to Gogol, and in particular, to his short story The Overcoat . So it was out of some sense of obligation that I picked up a small collection of his short fiction, intending to be able to understand this character better once I read The Overcoat, but I had low expectations. I even remember seeing, years ago, a blurb in The Onion titled, What Aren't You Going To Read This Summer and The Overcoat was on the list, somehow. Anyway, the best of these stories were among the best short fiction I've ever read. Diary of a Madman chronicles a man's slow descent into insanity, but manages to be laugh-out-loud funny. In The Nose, a man's nose falls off of his face, and then becomes animate, disguising itself as a human and trying to escape from him. The protagonist tries to put a Missing Persons ad in the newspaper. It all gets very strange. Gogol's funny moments are legitimately funny, not funny in the sense that you read it and smirk, appreciating that the author is intending to amuse. I loved it.