Short and Sweet: Read More Stories
Andrea shines a spotlight on short story collections. A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger. ~Stephen King
When I was growing up, my parents always had a subscription to the New Yorker. I think that’s where my love of the short story began. Every week a new story would arrive in the magazine. Now, my New Yorkers pile up, often unread; but my love of the short story still remains.
Here are three short story collections to look into, if you too agree that a short story is a very sweet thing.
Sing to It: New Stories By Amy Hempel From legendary writer Amy Hempel, one of the most celebrated and original voices in American short fiction: a ravishing, sometimes heartbreaking new story collection—her first in over a decade. These fifteen exquisitely honed stories reveal Hempel at her most compassionate and spirited, as she introduces characters, lonely and adrift, searching for connection. In “A Full-Service Shelter,” a volunteer at a dog shelter tirelessly, devotedly cares for dogs on a list to be euthanized. In “Greed,” a spurned wife examines her husband’s affair with a glamorous, older married woman. And in “Cloudland,” the longest story in the collection, a woman reckons with the choice she made as a teenager to give up her newborn infant. Quietly dazzling, these stories are replete with moments of revelation and transcendence and with Hempel’s singular, startling, inimitable sentences.
That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung Carrianne Leung enlivens a singular group of characters sharing a shiny new subdivision in 1970s Toronto. Marilyn greets new neighbors with fresh-baked cookies before she starts stealing from them. Stay-at-home-wife Francesca believes passion is just one yard away, only in the arms of another man. And Darren doesn't understand why his mother insists he keep his head down, even though he gets good grades like his white friends. When a series of inexplicable suicides begin to haunt their community, no one is more fascinated by the terrible phenomenon than young June. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she sits hawk-eyed at the center, bearing witness to the truth behind pulled curtains: the affairs, the racism, the hidden abuses.
Leung bursts onto the American literary stage with prose remarkably attuned to the tenuous, and perhaps deceptive, idea of happiness among these picket-fenced lives.
Instructions for a Funeral by David Means Following the publication of his widely acclaimed, Man Booker-nominated novel Hystopia, David Means here returns to his signature form: the short story. Thanks to his four previous story collections, Means has won himself an international reputation as one of the most innovative short fiction writers working today: an “established master of the form.” (Laura Miller, The Guardian). Instructions for a Funeral—featuring work from The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, and VICE—finds Means branching out beyond the explorations of violence and trauma with which he is often identified, prominently displaying his sly humor and his inimitable way of telling tales that deliciously wind up to punch the reader in the heart. With each story Means pushes into new territory, writing with tenderness and compassion about fatherhood, marriage, a homeless brother, the nature of addiction, and the death of a friend at the hands of a serial-killer nurse. Means transmutes a fistfight in Sacramento into a tender, life-long love story; two FBI agents on a stakeout in the 1920s into a tale of predator and prey, paternal urges and loss; a man’s funeral instructions into a chronicle of organized crime, real estate ventures, and the destructive force of paranoia. Our short stories are found alongside fiction in the store. Search them out and you may find yourself agreeing with George Saunders “When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you.”