Weekly Feature

Junior Gomes

Fall Reading Essentials: Short Stories

October 27, 2008
by Rachel Balik
They say good things come in small packages, and that’s certainly true of short stories. Usually structured and themed differently than a full-fledged novel, the short story has unique chances to reveal subtle insights and delicate emotions. FindingDulcinea looks at some stellar collections coming out this fall.

If you’re like the bigwigs in the publishing industry and you’re not yet sold on the merits of the short story, allow yourself to sample a few without making any commitments. On the Web site of the BBC National Short Story Award, you’ll find prize-winning short fiction available for free download.

Now that you’ve read some short stories for free, you’re thinking, wow, these are beautiful, striking and perfect for my 21st century-sized-itty-bitty attention span! Where can I find more of these succinct yet moving gems? Well, you might have to search around a bit. It’s difficult to publish a collection of short stories unless you’re a well-established writer, or have written an amazing collection. Irish writer Anne Enright published the novel “The Gathering” to great acclaim, and has subsequently released “Yesterday’s Weather,” a collection of short stories. The review in the International Herald Tribune describes many of these stories, and notes that while Enright, like many short story writers is deft at executing a surprise ending, she has also mastered the art of surprising beginnings. It’s an excellent place to begin your short story reading adventure.
If Enright’s tales of missed connections, unhappy mothers, confused relationships and humorous ache over the sadness of life are right up your alley, you need to be reading Alice Munro. Munro is, almost without a doubt, the most famous living short story writer. Hailing from the backwoods of Canada, Munro has been dubbed “our Chekhov” by writer Cynthia Ozick, and is renowned for creating worlds of “novel” proportions in a significantly shorter form. Get to know Munro by reading a Vintage press Q & A, and then order yourself a copy of Alice Munro’s Best Selected Stories, scheduled to come out in late October. The introduction is written by another great Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood.

Alice Munro has said that she doesn’t think of herself a Canadian writer, but rather a writer who happens to be Canadian. Still, should you become interested in reading more books by Canadian authors, October is the perfect time to do it, as it’s the month when McClelland & Stewart publish the Journey Prize Stories. The collection comprises the works of Canada’s best up-and-coming young writers. Editors of literary publications send in what they consider to be the best stories they have published, and the result is the “Journey Prize Anthology.” The winning story earns its author a $10,000 prize.
Another prestigious prize for short fiction is the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, awarded by the University of Georgia. Hitting the shelves in October 2008 is one such prize-winning volume, “Drowning Lessons” by Peter Selgin. The collection has a water theme, and focuses on the amorphous and perilous difficulties of human relationships.

Selgin has actually created a playlist to accompany “Drowning Lessons” for the Largehearted Boy music blog. The list is accompanied by a short essay about Selgin’s thoughts on writing to music.

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