With origins in oral story-telling and the prose anecdote, short stories usually present a swiftly-sketched situation that quickly comes to its point. Less complex than novels, most short stories focus on only one incident, with a single plot, a single setting, a small number of characters and a short period of time. Less is more when writing short stories and it takes a special talent to distill the details into a complete story.
Famous short story writers include Jorge Luis Borges. O.Henry, Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever and Raymond Carver. Novelists who also excelled at short stories were Kurt Vonnegut, Nathaniel Hawthorne, F.Scott Fitzgerald, P.G. Wodehouse and Ernest Hemingway and John Updike. Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Alice Munro and Deborah Eisenberg are current favorites.
A new story collection is The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund. Carefully observed people venture into the world with romantic ideals that are not quite strong enough for the adventures that ensue. Satire and gentle disenchantment permeate these stories.
In Call Me Ahab by Anne Finger, legendary outcasts, from Goliath to Vincent Van Gogh are placed in a “normal” setting to see how they fare. Imagine Van Gogh in a 20th-centruy New York City hotel living on food stamps and communicating with God. Consider the relationship between David and Goliath from the Philistine’s point of view. These are the kinds of inventive and intelligent situations created by this author.
In Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet, animals represent nothing but themselves, except as they are used to boost the celebrity of people like Sharon Stone (Komodo dragons), Madonna (pheasant hunting),David Hasselhoff (his dachshund), Jimmy Carter (swamp rabbit)…you get the idea. A lucid look at the foolishness of pop culture and its use of the animal world.
For fans of crime fiction, Peter Robinson’s The Price of Love and Other Stories includes not only several Detective Banks stories, but other insightful journeys into the dark side of human nature. He explores the psychological motives that lead to harm in these suspenseful and thrilling stories.
Short story collections gather stories by various authors into books with a general theme, such as crime, nationality, holidays, gender, or any other subject. At the Library these anthologies are in a separate section near the fiction, science fiction & mystery books. If you find short stories intriguing, take a look at the anthologies, as well as the collected stories by individual authors.
There are many “swiftly-sketched” and “to the point” tales waiting for you.