Is 2013 really the year of the short story? In my reading life it certainly is, but beyond that, who knows? My proclamation was made somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and based largely on the fact that I knew we were in for a lineup of stellar new collections to be published in 2013. As you can imagine, I was happy to see this article from The New York Times, even though they claim that the rise of digital reading may responsible for the “resurgence” of short stories. I don’t agree. Most of the story collections they list as “evidence” are from authors who have been writing and publishing for years. And let’s not discount that the “resurgence” is marked partly by the success of George Saunders’ collection Tenth of December which was driven, in part, by a glowing feature article in The New York Times Magazine. Is the role of The New York Times to report the news that the newspaper itself creates?
Laura Miller, writing in Salon, calls the short story boom “bogus.” What I really wanted her to say was that The New York Times was wrong, but that 2013 is indeed the Year of the Short Story because I said so.
The upside, of course, is that people are talking about short stories. And that’s a great thing. Because short stories are everywhere: in print, online, on podcasts, and even on the radio. And if people begin to pay attention they may stumble upon a short story and choose to read it.
My reading this week comes from a variety of sources. Because short stories are everywhere.
“Passing Each Other in Halls” by Matt de la Pena, from One Teen Story magazine, Vol 1, issue VI – This was the first issue of my One Teen Story subscription, and I didn’t know what to expect. The story documents an evening in the life of a young man, likely in his late teens, who find themselves at an impromptu house party in the rich part of town. I could feel the late night hour and alcohol fog that fuels the events of the story, and the narrator’s voice was strong and believable. I’m not sure what makes this story “teen,” beyond the age of the narrator. In some ways it reminded me of the few Junot Diaz stories I’ve read.
“The Zen Thing,” Emma Duffy-Comparaone, in One Story #175 – I’ve re-subscribed to One Story, and this time I will actually read the stories instead of letting them pile up. My favorite line is the opener: “Each year, like a shifty circus in a truck, the family unpacks itself for a weekend on a beach and pretends to have a good time.”
“The Proxy Marriage,” Maile Meloy, on The New Yorker website – Beginning in high school, William and his friend Bridey are asked to stand in for brides and grooms in proxy weddings. The weddings, made possible by a legal loophole in the state of Montana, are for servicemen overseas to marry their sweethearts in the US without either party being present. I love this central conceit, and I loved the story. It’s somewhat sweet and happy, which is different from most of the stories I’ve read this year. Thanks to the BOTNS reader who recommended it!
“The Veldt,” Ray Bradbury, on PRI’s Selected Shorts Podcast – I listened to this with my ten year-old as we were driving. She loved it, and so did I. I’m fairly certain I read this story in high school even though I did not recall the details; it’s a classic for sure. What made this rendition of “The Veldt” even better is that it’s read by Stephen Colbert. I think it added a level of humor to the story that I wouldn’t get from reading. As I was hunting for the link to include here, I found a video of the performance. Enjoy!
“That Which” by Lonely Christopher, in his collection The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse – This was on the front table of an odd little bookstore, and the title coupled with the cover image compelled me to pick it up. It’s dark and experimental, but I really enjoyed this story, the first in the book. The story is told from the point of view of a boy who has suffered a brain injury in a fall. What I didn’t realize until I did some research after reading is that every word in this story is only one syllable. This was certainly the most interesting story of the week, though it’s certainly not for everybody. If that intrigues you, you can read it online.
“A Short Story About the Academy Awards” by Tim Carvell, on the McSweeney’s website. – I read this on the evening of The Academy Awards. I’m not well-versed in Hollywood culture and I don’t watch the Oscars or go to many films, so this story, while fun, was somewhat wasted on me.
“Lucky Boy,” by Jessica Francis Kane, from This Close – I received this advance reading copy from Graywolf Press and was going to hold it for a spotlight on new March collections, but the cover was too oompelling. In this story, a young man moves to New York City and learns the ways of the people, including finding the all-important dry cleaner. This story felt very real to me, and I can’t wait to read more from this collection, which will be published on March 3rd.