I have two pitches to complete in order to answer two separate, and exciting, invitations. I have other projects awaiting my attention. A novel brewing. An old novel wondering after its fate. Yet… I keep getting pulled back to my short story collection. I tell myself it’s so totally impractical and can’t I do something more, um, worthwhile with my time? But then again, some encouragement this past week has given me renewed drive to move forward with the stories. I’ll be sending out submissions to literary journals probably this weekend. I like to send in threes, dunno why, just humor me, so I’m waiting to complete the revision on the third story before making the exhilarating voyage to the post office. (I am not being sarcastic. I really like going to the post office with a stack of stories, weighing and stamping them up, and then setting them out into the world through the first-class mail slot. I am so old-school that way.)
It’s just that I love short stories so much. On their own. In collections. In journals. Anywhere.
And did you see this post on Koreanish? Maybe a story collection doesn’t have to be a totally lost cause. (Of course that depends on who’s written it.)
To be honest, I don’t understand why more people wouldn’t read story collections. They’re perfect for this endlessly distracting existence we’re in—I shouldn’t speak for everyone, but I know I’m in an endlessly distracting existence. A short story collection feels to me like a good CD. I don’t want to hear just one long, extended song—I want many songs, one for this mood, one for that mood, one that’s slow, one that’s fast, some that feel connected, some that don’t. But I do want the voice to be similar, which is exactly the way I like my short story collections. I love how flexible a collection can be, how you can experience it in whatever way you want to. You could read one story on its own, read them all in order in one pass, or shuffle them up and read them as you please. It’s a way to see many different facets of one writer; it’s the way to get me hooked.
Off the top of my head, here are some collections I admire (with links to author interviews!):
A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom
Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Break It Down by Lydia Davis
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
Drown by Junot Diaz
Fresh Girls and Other Stories by Evelyn Lau
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
Girls in the Grass by Melanie Rae Thon
Honeymoon by Kevin Canty
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang
In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd by Ana Menendez
Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
The Knife Thrower by Steven Milhauser
Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto
Lust and Other Stories by Susan Minot
My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
The Question of Bruno by Aleksandar Hemon
Runaway by Alice Munro
Servants of the Map by Andrea Barrett
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Use Me by Elissa Schappell
Huh, that turned out to be a lot.
Psst. Hey, you. What are some short story collections you like?