Saturday, May 12, 2012

Short Story Month 2012



Hooray, it's Short Story Month! As you may already know, we (um, that's the royal "we," meaning... me) love short stories here at Books, Personally. I would even venture to say that short stories have come to make up at least half of my reading since SSM2011. But it sounds like we short fiction fans are in the minority. Dan Wickett over at the Emerging Writers Network considers why Short Story Month is important, even necessary, in a world that idolizes the novel and rock-star novel writers, but perhaps undervalues and under-recognizes the incredible talent of writers of short fiction.

Why read short fiction? It's efficient, it's more tightly crafted, it's often more exciting, and more daring. It offers a more intense, but far briefer emotional involvement - probably inspiring thrill-seeking behavior in readers, changing their reading habits, and maybe their attention spans. The novel (or, at least some novels) begins to feel too long, too self-indulged (I remember reading Jeffery Eugenides' The Marriage Plot last fall and thinking, "all right, let's just move this along now, shall we?") In a humorous-but-so-true essay over at Atticus Books, Kevin Catalano, compares flash (i.e., very short) fiction to a ... flasher: "His unfortunate victim is made vulnerable to a quick, frantic peek, and is then left disoriented, forced to make sense of what she just saw. It’s the speed of the event that makes it so intense, and memorable." This rings true in many ways also for short fiction of longer lengths - though usually less with the disorientation. Short fiction can pack a lot of power. I am forever spoiled.

If you are looking for great short stories, I've reviewed many here, as well as at LitStack - among recent favorites, I highly recommend Megan Mayhew Bergman's Birds of a Lesser Paradise, Lysley Tenorio's Monstress, and Shann Ray's American Masculine. My colleagues over at LitStack also had some fantastic recommendations this week. Author and blogging colleague David Abrams has been featuring short stories recently on his blog, The Quivering Pen, including today's marvelous recommendations from author Bonnie Jo Campbell. Also check out the Story Sundays meme at NovelNiche (most recently, a smashing review of Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem") and Fat Books Thin Women. And many, many more.

Happy reading!

Update: One more must-read source of great short story recommendations - Fiction Writers Review. (Thank you to author of wonderful short stories Erika Dreifus for bringing this glaring omission to my attention.)






15 comments :

  1. Great post and loads of awesome links. I just finished a wonderful collection of short stories as well yesterday and stayed up late reading some lesser known Fitz stories. I love the likening of short stories to flashers. LOL.

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    1. Isn't that a great essay? Which collections did you read/how do you like the Fitzgerald stories?

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    2. It is a great essay!

      The collection I finished up is Gretchen Johnson's The Joy of Deception, which I absolutely LOVED. Am particularly crazy about the title story...

      Also going through Fitzgerald's Afternoon of An Author. Read "How to Waste Material," which discusses the then state of American novels and the literary preoccupation with being American "enough" and near the end, Fitz starts talking about this amazing new writer on the scene named Hemingway, which is particularly poignant, given that they had their rivalry and Hemingway's often public condescension towards him. Makes you wonder how much of the rivalry was true and how much of it was blown up and exploited by critics. Another story I read was One Hundred False Starts, which seems like a segue into The Crack Up...he seemed particularly paranoid that he was wasting his talent and that fascinates me, considering that the 20s, an era which he epitomizes, is all about decadence and living in the moment. So to see him older and worried about wasted time and regret and scurrying to accomplish something is something many of us can relate to.

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    3. The Fitzgerald sounds so interesting, & so glad to learn of The Joy of Deception- will have to check it out!

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  2. Fantastic post. I've always thought I'm not a short fiction fan but I've had such success in 2011 with short fiction I'm changing my mind. Thanks for all these recommendations -- I don't even know where to dive in!

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    1. Thanks so much Audra. Great that you found so many you liked! Which short stories have you especially loved this year?

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    2. I loved Tara Masih's Where the Dog Star Never Shines -- absolutely moving collection -- loved.it. I also had great fun with Ben Loory's collection -- Stories for Nighttime and ... I forget the rest of the title. Absurd but so moving!

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    3. Oh I loved Stories for Nighttime too! Will have to check out Where the Dog Star Never Shines. Just love the title.

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    4. Do, do -- the stories are more amazing than the title!

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  3. This might sound weird, but I'm going to say it anyway. I love short stories, but I hate short story anthologies.

    Why? Well, mostly because of rising action/falling action roller coaster that makes it harder for me to reach maximum cruising--I mean, reading speed (I blogged about it once in relation to Ray Bradbury's Long After Midnight. There's also the fact that, invariably, a short story anthology will use a handful of exquisite stories to carry a lot of mediocre ones.

    I still read short story anthologies, though. Maybe I just like the punishment?

    Jonathan @ I Read a Book Once

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    1. I tend to agree, though I imagine it depends on the anthology - I love getting into a groove and reading a collection by a single author - gives you a better feel for their voice, style, etc.

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  4. I did not know this was short story month! I'm going to have to read some!

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    1. LOL, yes! there's still time, go read ;D

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  5. Jennifer, what a splendid summary of why short stories rock as hard as they do! Thanks, too, for linking to the Sherman Alexie piece. I've been in love with that particular story for so long, for so many reasons, but really, the reason that stands out the most is simply that it's one of the best things I've ever read, and I wanted to highlight it. :)

    The only other Story Sunday I've done for May was "Jane", by McKinley M. Hellenes, who is a dear friend of mine, and a brilliant writer. I think, in future Story Sundays, I'm going to continue to focus on writing I like and respect, by writers I know, like, and respect... because who says each post's got to highlight the work of someone already well-established, right? Here's to ferreting out great short fiction (and all writing, really), no matter the source.

    Thank you again for such a marvellous, link-lovely piece, and merry final few days of SSM2012 to you! :D

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    1. Shivanee, thanks so much for kind words and for the link to your latest Story Sunday piece! heading right over to read. I so agree with you, it is wonderful to discover & feature great stort stories by emerging writers. Have done a few for Story Sundays myself and tend to prefer them. I noticed the two types of posts tend to draw different kinds of readers, curious to see if you've found that as well.

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