More praise for short stories was the title of a post on this blog in January 2017. It updated an earlier post (November 2013). It has maintained a modest readership ever since, so I decided it was time to revise the second post and recommend more short stories for those who love reading them, as I do.
I love the form, writing them and reading them. They are not novels-lite, and the stories of Alice Munro are as rich as any novel, giving the reader the experience of a novel in one story. William Boyd suggested that the form’s strength derives from its roots in our oral traditions. He said:
The great modern short stories possess a quality of mystery and beguiling resonance about them – a complexity of afterthought – that cannot be pinned down or analysed. Bizarrely, in this situation, the whole is undeniably greater than the sum of its component parts. (in Prospect 2006, A Short History of the Short Story)
Nadine Gordimer said that short stories should ‘burn a hole in the page’. That’s another way of putting it.
Reading short stories
I love reading short stories, especially in anthologies. They can introduce us to new writers; give us a great experience of creative writing in a nugget; provide us with insights into different writing in a digestible form.
It is not clear why large publishers don’t like to publish anthologies of short stories. But smaller and independent publishers are doing their bit (let’s hear it for them AGAIN! because they listen to what the reading public say they want.)
A selection from Bookword
In the last year I have reviewed the following collections, with links included:
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Wave Me Goodbye: stories of the Second World War, Edited by Anne Boston
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine
Refugee Tales IV Edited by David Herd & Anna Pincus
And in the next few months I plan to read these:
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston
Elizabeth Bowen collection
Shirley Hazzard collection
Where the Wild Ladies are by Matsuda Aoko, translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton, Tilted Axis press (2020). A present from my daughter.
Writing short stories
Short stories have provided a platform for writers not visible in other forms. This is especially true for novice writers, and for women: think of the numerous short story competitions by Fish Publishing, the Bridport Prize, and the Costa Award. And you can find local competitions too, for example here in the South West there is the Exeter Short Story Prize, organized by Creative Writing Matters. These competitions are not usually limited to contestants in the area, although this one has an additional award for local writers. Online you can also find many journals and sites that publish short stories.
Most how-to-write-fiction books assume the reader is a novelist, so I recommend Short Circuit: A guide to the Art of the Short Story, edited by Vanessa Gebbie (published by Salt). Not only is the guidance relevant and helpful, but the writers all recommend further reading, further delights.
I say no more about writing them at the moment as I have been stuck on one for months and months and months.
Some other recommendations (with some links) are:
Elizabeth Taylor (Virago)
Raymond Carver (Vintage)
Alice Munro (Virago and Penguin)
Edith Pearlman (Pushkin)
Hilary Mantel (4th Estate)
Persephone Book of Short Stories
Dorothy Whipple (Persephone)
When I previously wrote about short stories, readers recommended the following writers:
More Praise for Short Stories appeared in January 2017 on this blog.
Over to you
Which stories and writers would you recommend? What have you enjoyed? Are you a writer of short stories?