May 31

At Books on the Nightstand, we’re dubbing 2013 “The Year of the Short Story.” In celebration, Ann is reading one story a day, for the entire year. We’ll also be highlighting new story collections, lit magazines, and online resources for short fiction. Below are links to all of our posts tagged “Project Short Story”

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and I confess that I have had a few days where I have completely forgotten about reading a short story. So I’ve done a bit of catch up. I’m still on track to average one story per day — but my one story and only one story rule has gone out the window as I make up for missed days.

Before I list my two weeks of reading, a few bits of news related to short stories:

Irish postage stampA new postage stamp in Ireland features a complete short story. This is the coolest thing ever. If any of you are reading this from Ireland and would like to send me a stamp, I will happily share my mailing address.

Lydia Davis won the Man Booker International Prize. This is a big deal. Davis is known mainly for her short stories, and some of them are very short. I had not read Davis until this week. Ali Smith wrote a nice piece on Davis for The Guardian that you may find interesting, and there is a second Guardian article that says Davis is considering writing some microfiction via Twitter.

Just today, the shortlist for the Frank O’Connor Short Story award was announced. Two of the collections appear to be published only in the UK, but I’ll try to hunt them down. I’ve read stories from Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn and from Peter Stamm’s We’re Flying, and I’d love to sample some of the others before the award is given in July.

Lastly, one of the reasons I neglected short stories this week was because I was completely wrapped up in Elliott Holt’s new novel, You Are One of Them. So blame her. Elliott has been the source of many of my short story recommendations this year, so don’t be too angry. Elliott has also written some short fiction on Twitter, in a very intriguing structure of tweets. Check it out.

So on to my reading from the past two weeks. It’s chock full of flash and micro fiction, which is not only a time saver, but is becoming a favorite form of mine to read. I am constantly amazed at the way authors can build a complete story in 250 or 1000 words.

“The Seventy-Fourth Virgin” by M.C. Armstrong from The Pushcart Prize XXXVII (2013 edition) is the longest story I read this week. It’s a somewhat confusing story set in the near future US, where some kind of religious war is happening.

The rest of the stories are very short. In honor of Lydia Davis’ win, I read “Five Stories” by Davis as featured on Conjunctions. I don’t know if Davis meant the five stories to be on the same page, or if that was a decision that Conjunctions made. Are they five separate stories? I’m not sure, but I’m counting them as one. I particularly love “The Mice.”

“Produce” by Sarah Gerkensmeyer features a woman who cries on the fruits and vegetables in a grocery store.

For my Uncle Danny” by Danny Nowell on the Tin House blog – flash fiction, in which the narrator remembers his Uncle Danny, who was a paratrooper in Vietnam.

A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids’ Table,” by Simon Rich on The New Yorker. This is one of three pieces under the heading “The Wisdom of Children.” It’s brilliant and funny and oh so true.

“Death and the People” (sample the first few lines here), “To Make Us Whole,” and “The Dictator is Drinking Alone,” all by Amber Sparks in May We Shed These Human Bodies. This is a very wonderful story collection that I want to read in its entirety. Of the three stories, “Death and the People” was my favorite, but they are all great — surreal, filled with imagery and humor, and short but powerful. After three stories, I can confidently recommend that you buy the entire collection.

“”Twins” by Pamela Painter and “Chalk” by Meg Kearney are both from a collection called Sudden Flash Youth, a collection of flash fiction where the characters are all young people. It contains many coming of age stories, some funny, some sad. This is a book for adults, even those who don’t read young adult, but fans of literary young adult fiction will also like this. It’s a great collection to share with a teen (though I’m keeping it a secret from my own kid so she doesn’t steal it).

The bulk of the stories this week, however, come from a collection called Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories, edited by Jerome Stern. It’s a small paperback, and each story is under 300 words. From this book I read:

  • “The Poet’s Husband” by Molly Giles
  • “The Cough” by Harry Humes
  • “Daydream” by Robert Allen
  • “Wrong Channel” by Roberto Fernandes
  • “Harmony” by Joy Williams

My favorite was “Wrong Channel,” which is a funny story about language and being misunderstood, but also says something about the world. Hunt this one down if you can; it will make you smile.

I’m doing more travel over the next 10 days, and am looking forward to more very short fiction.

 

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