Short stories are the underdogs of the literary world. I’ve been told (more than once, twice, thrice) that few people get book deals solely based on short story collections, they’re usually taken with the promise of a novel down the line, you know a novel, a real book. The thing is— I’m a short story writer. I don’t have the capability to write a novel. Although, I do write interlinked short story collections which are novels in a way (hey, if Joyce can say it…) But, I’m proud of being a short story writer. I think there’s a beauty to a perfectly written short story that doesn’t exist in novels. A perfect short story is all the better because it’s a short story. Succinct, ephemeral, perfection. So, in that annoying manner of mine, I started thinking about short stories. Mostly, because I wanted to stop thinking about the Final exam that I’ve just taken, but that’s beside the point (it wasn’t pleasant let me tell you. In fact, it was as opposite of pleasant as can be…It wasn’t just unpleasant, it was anti-pleasant…).
So some short story collections (excerpted from a ridiculously long list) that make me want to shake my fist in the face of every short story naysayer out there. These collections make me want to jump up and down and yell “I write short stories” at the top of my lungs. They make me want to bake cupcakes for the authors and even use my fancy cake decorating tips to make pretty designs in the frosting. They’re that good and reading them not only makes me ridiculously happy but also helps me to figure out what it is that makes a short story perfect. And as a wannabe-someday-at-least-okay author, I sort of can’t argue with that. So read these, my four (happy EIC) readers and if you write than read them first to enjoy and second to teach, and if you don’t write (except for that Twilight fan fiction that you don’t tell anyone about) then just enjoy.
“Stranger Things Happen” and “Magic For Beginners’ By: Kelly Link. I wanted to just include one link collection to keep it fair. But, I couldn’t decide. Link is my personal goddess. Her writing is new wave fabulism and your favorite fairy tale from hen you were a kid and that scary story that your brothers used to tell you that you still get chills when you over hear it. She’s just that good and more.
“For the Relief of Unbearable Urges” By: Nathan Englander. Because it’s perfect. “The Twenty-Seventh Man” makes me cry every time and not just because it’s heartbreaking but because it’s perfect and heartbreaking and devastatingly beautiful.
“Looking For Jake” By: China Mieville. Maybe, I do talk about Mieville too much. But, I don’t care. He is awesome and insanely good and the stories in here are terrifying and wonderful and strange and lovely. Each one is like finding a perfect piece of agate out on the shores of Lake Superior and you think “wow, I won’t find another like this soon!” and then you read his next story.
“The View from the Seventh Layer” By: Kevin Brockmeier. Perfection. Brockmeier is simply one of the most human writers in existence. If that sounds like a weird compliment then read him and you’ll see why it’s the perfect compliment.
“The Shell Collector” By: Anthony Doerr. I read this book when it first came out, many years ago, and I still remember it so vividly that I can picture the stories in my head. That’s skill!
“Refresh, Refresh” By: Benjamin Percy. There are horror stories in here and stories that contain horror. The thing Percy does best is not letting you know the difference until you finish. This is a stellar collection.
“The Universe in Miniature in Miniature” By: Patrick Somerville. First off, any book dedicated to Slartiblartfast, deserves to be on here. Second, any book that takes the end of the world and makes it into something so beautiful and lovely and sad and yet uplifting should be commended. Third, the machine for understanding other people needs to be invented and fast.
Okay, I’ll stop here for now…I tend to get carried away with my short story love and so instead of giving you dozens of collections, dear four readers, I’ll space them out. Writing posts about short stories will be my pick-me-up whenever final exams or whatever get me down. And if you think that’s sad pick-me-up then you haven’t read these story collections.