Inventive short-story writers
Now that the Academy has deemed short stories worthy of the status of high literature by awarding Alice Munro the Nobel Prize, you might be interested in trying other younger, perhaps more inventive short-story writers.
As a librarian, I am often asked for book tips. I have learned over the years that suggesting short story collections is almost always a bad idea. People seem to want novels. And preferably in a series of three or more. But maybe that will change now? Here are five contemporary collections worth your time.
The Tenth of December, by George Saunders. The New York Times declared this the best book you will read this year (2013) when they reviewed the book, in January! Saunders is, like Munro, exclusively a short story writer. He is also quite possibly the best practicing short fiction writer going. As one reviewer put it, “No one writes more powerfully…about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised, those Americans who struggle to pay the bills, make the rent, hold onto a job they might detest — folks who find their dreams slipping from their grasp as they frantically tread water, trying to keep from drowning.” However, he does so in completely new and unexpected ways, drawing from science-fiction as well as horror and other so-called genres to paint a picture of how we are living now. See also, Pastoralia and Civil War Land in Bad Decline.
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower. An excellent collection with loads of depth and breadth featuring marauding Vikings, old, wheelchair-bound men, down-and-out he-men, among others.
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Lydia Davis is a joy. Her shortest story is a sentence long. Sometimes her stories are a paragraph or a page, sometimes they’re 30 pages long. They can be about everything from the hierarchy of cool couples to an adventure story set in Middle Ages Sweden. They always, always feel true.
This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz. Inter-connected stories about betrayal in love, with the narrator from Diaz’ previous books Yunior (Drown, and The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), who talks in Spanglish, hip-hop, sci-fi, macho-man and nerd, depending on what needs to be said.
Happy Trails to You, by Julie Hecht. A combination of Thomas Bernhard and Larry David. If you have a sense of humor and like a good anti-hero, these stories, told by the same anonymous narrator throughout, will hit the spot.