Jul 15

I wish I knew why I always believe I’m going to have more time to read in the summer. It’s not really true. Yes, there are more hours of daylight, but I do have electricity, so that doesn’t really make a difference. Anyway, I’m not behind in reading, just in blogging. I promise! (OK, I’m behind by 2 days in my reading. No excuses.)

But in order to keep Callie (who keeps up the amazing index of stories I’ve read) from going insane, and these posts from being too long, I”m going to blog one week at a time, twice this week and twice next week, and then I should be caught up.

I assigned a “theme” to week #25: “Stories by authors who have new novels.” In many cases I’d read the new novel, and it was interesting to experience these authors through a shorter form..

Fem Care” by Elliott Holt. This story won a Pushcart Prize in 2011. It’s set inside the world of corporate feminine product marketing, and secrets learned while attending a conference.  Holt’s new novel is You Are One of Them, and I talk about it on BOTNS #238.

“Dinner” by Alissa Nutting, from Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. I adore this story about a woman and five men who are boiling in a kettle of broth, waiting to be eaten. Many of you know that I am slightly obsessed by Nutting’s new novel, Tampa, which has been getting much buzz due to its shocking and controversial content. I will definitely read more from Nutting’s collection; I like the sense of edginess that she brings to her writing. You can watch a video of Nutting reading her story “Dinner.” It starts at about the 04:15 mark.

The Cartographer’s Girl” (pdf link) by Matt Bell, from How They Were Found. A man’s girlfriend disappears while sleepwalking. He’s a cartographer, and draws maps of their city in an attempt to find her. I read this story in its ebook version, and due to formatting limitations, it is missing an important part of the story — the graphical key that the cartographer uses in his map. Thanks to publisher Keyhole Press (an imprint of Dzanc Books) for providing a pdf version online so that I could read the story as intended. Bell’s new novel, In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods is a dark and odd novel that is unlike anything I’ve read before. Bell is an author to keep your eye on — supremely talented, not for everyone, but if you are feeling adventurous, give his novel a try. It’s fantastic, in every sense of the word.

“Serenade” by Daphne Kalotay, from Calamity and Other Stories. A little slice of life circa 1970s, when a piano teacher is invited to a neighborhood cocktail party. This is lovely. The music at the center of the story echoes Kalotay’s new novel, Sight Reading. “Serenade” is not available online, but three other stories from the collection are linked from her website.

“Children of the Sea” by Edwidge Danticat, from Krik? Krak! This story is told in the voices of two young lovers who write each other letters that will never be read. He is on a boat, escaping Haiti and the persecution of political ideas. She is with her family, as they are forced to flee their home. Danticat writes like a dream, and her upcoming Claire of the Sea Light (on-sale August 27th in the US) is one of my favorite books of 2103.

This week I also diverged a little from theme and read two stories from new collections. I think it’s safe to say that you should add both of these collections to your reading lists.

“Bobcat” by Rebecca Lee, from Bobcat and Other Stories. A dinner party in Manhattan, varied lives, marriages, affairs … most importantly, excellent writing. This book is getting a lot of love from readers I trust — some are calling it their favorite collection of the last year or two. I’m looking forward to reading more.

“On Ohaeto Street” by Chinelo Okparanta, from Happiness Like Water. This highly-anticipated collection will be published mid-August, and I’m eager to read more. Okparanta is Nigerian by birth, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and very talented. “Oh Oheaeto Street” is the story of a marriage brought to its knees by a robbery. Okparanta has a lovely voice, and there is a strong evocation of place. I love discovering new places through stories, and though I’ve read a few novels set in Nigeria, the stories seem to be able to touch on a wider range of experiences than can be done in a novel. Put this on your calendar to buy or check out at the library.

  • Marly

    Anne, I just read Bobcat by Rebecca Lee yesterday and I loved it. I’m not much of a short story reader but I was lucky enough to get this book in one of my Powell’s Indiespensible monthly treasures. Rebecca Lee is an amazing author and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the collection.

  • Catelyn Lee Lanier

    I’d been considering Bobcat but I hadn’t seen too many reviews but based on yours and Marly’s above I think I’ll check it out.

    By the way, Ann, I look forward to your short story reviews. I love Alissa Nutting’s short story collection and Tampa too.

  • Robin

    Just when I get a grip on my short story reading, along comes another post from Ann Kingman. I enjoyed “You Are One of Us” so looking forward to her short story. Guess I’ll just have to sit in the AC and read. Thanks!

  • Melissa

    Ann: I can’t remember if I commented on an earlier post this week but I just finished Who I Was Supposed to Be: Short Stories by Susan Perabo this past weekend. Terrific collection. Some of the stories weren’t my cup of tea but overall it was a beautiful collection. Some super moving stories that left me wanting more.

    On the subject of Edwidge Danticat: I listened to one of her short stories on a podcast (I think it was The New Yorker) and it was one of the most beautiful and heart breaking stories I ever listened to. I keep meaning to buy Krik Krak (the collection it’s in) and read the other stories and I just haven’t got to it yet.

    • Melissa, I don’t have the Susan Perabo collection, but I did read one of her stories that was in a recent issue of One Story Magazine. I’ll get a copy of Who I Was Supposed to Be.

      • Melissa

        It was very funny how I ended up with the book. My friend and I had gone to a bookstore, shopped separately and when we got in the car, I, of course, had to go through her books. I ended up stealing her book and reading it before she even got it home. Isn’t that what friends are for?

  • RSturgeon

    Never really got into reading short stories because I never really knew where to start! I can honestly say this helps to give me a good reference point on who I should I start reading first

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