Did you know May is Short Story Month? I don't know about you, but I've been finding myself reading story collections more and more often over the past few years. It's strange, because it wasn't intentional. When I was younger, I actually used to avoid short stories like the plague. I much preferred losing myself in big, chunky novels. Perhaps it's a change that's come with age, or maybe it's just a temporary literary itch I hadn't realized needed to be scratched. Either way, in honor of Short Story Month, Kate Vane and I present our favorites. Prepare for those TBR piles to start expanding...
What Kate's Into:
Blood by Janice Galloway
“Visceral” is a word I try to avoid overusing in reviews but it perfectly describes Janice Galloway’s writing, never more so than in the title story of this collection. A schoolgirl’s apparently uneventful visit to the dentist is drenched in significance.
Galloway is always innovating – as well as writing fiction she has written opera libretti and has collaborated with visual artists. This collection too shows her willingness to experiment with form as she dissects her subjects with a ruthless eye and dark humour.
The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
These are beautifully realised stories about women in India and America. Many are immigrants. More than that, though, these are stories about the “between” space where we all live – not just between cultures but between generations, between love and hate, between self and society.
Divakaruni’s beautiful imagery and understated style create an effect which is, like many of her characters, quietly powerful.
The Complete Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant
When I was about twelve, a teacher read us Maupassant’s “The Diamond Necklace” (also known as “The Necklace”) and I was absolutely stunned by the ending.
Maupassant was prolific and the quality of his stories varies but at his best he created vividly drawn portraits of nineteenth-century bourgeois France.
Endings tend to be less emphatic in contemporary stories but I like to get to the end of a story and feel that something in its world has changed. Maupassant gives you a world – and then turns it upside-down.
What Lori's Into:
Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth by Stephen Graham Jones
Jones is like a mad scientist, rolling up his sleeves to play elbow-deep with his creations before strangling them quietly to death and burying them deep in the ground where they'll dissolve into dry and brittle bones with our memories of them buried right there, alongside.
The writing, people. The writing is phenomenal in this incredibly fucked up kind of way. Dude's got a great way of working out the bizarre to make it seem just normal enough... and oh my GAWD the opening story with the dad and his son.
This Time While We're Awake by Heather Fowler
Heather Fowler has taken literature to places I hadn't known it could go. A practice baby for expecting parents, that looks and acts just like your own baby would (so creepy); drugged breeders who are awakened for one day of copulation and impregnation, then put back to sleep while the baby gestates (so freaky); a town that allows an alien species to harvest one of them per visit in return for their continued protection against the assumed horrors that exist on the other side of the walls that seal them off from the rest of the world (so scary).
A wickedly dark and haunting collection that shows its readers an alternative look at the future of humanity; a deep, devastating spiral into strange and frightening circumstances.
I Am by Ben Tanzer
Ben Tanzer takes on celebrity has-beens, almost-weres, and still-ares in this saucy collection of stories told from each individual perspective. Some stories connected with me immediately - Vanilla Ice, Richard Simmons, Corey Feldman, Darth Vadar - while others floated out in over-my-head land because I simply lacked the name recognition. That didn't lessen the impact of the collection, though. Tanzer brilliantly birthed each persona, forced their words up off the page, and made each one come alive much like a puppeteer brings life to his marionettes.
A quick, enticing collection, clocking in at just under 100 pages, that demonstrates a brand new side of Ben.
What are some of your favorite short story collections?