For Short Story Lovers

By Jeff

Here’s a quick literary tidbit:  the modern short story is an art form pretty much developed by American writers.  This is not to say that the first short story was written by an American, far from it.  However, the short (anywhere between 5 and 50 pages), carefully sculpted piece of fiction  that we today call a “short story,” became art because of 19th Century Americans like Poe, Twain and Gilman, and 20th Century writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and O’Connor.

I’m a big fan of the short story.  Although I’ve read short stories throughout my life, I sort of “discovered” them when I first read J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories.  Each of these tiny masterpieces had a huge effect on me.  It was much later, in college as an English major, that I learned about the significance of the short story in American (and World) Literature.   These days I can get my weekly short story “fix” from one magazine.  I have been a subscriber of The New Yorker magazine for about 25 years (with one small break during “the lean years”).  Though  I love to read the in-depth articles and profiles, the “Shouts and Murmurs” humor pieces and the “Critics’ Notebooks,” what I really look forward to is the new short story included in every issue.  Each story is a little gem.  Some are by writers I’ve never heard of, but most are by quite accomplished fiction writers (this week, by the way, a new short story by Haruki Murakami is available, even for non-subcribers).

The New Yorker online also has an amazing Fiction Podcast in which a current writer is asked to choose a classic story from the The New Yorker archives, read it aloud and discuss it.  I’ve been listening to these since they started the series in 2007 (I cannot believe it’s been over four years).  You can listen to Anne Enright read and discuss a  Cheever classic, Orhan Pamuk on Nabokov, or hear a contemporary writer, Junto Diaz, admire the work of another contemporary, Edwidge Danticat.

Another great place to hear a short story read out loud is at Selected Shorts which also has a podcast.  This weekly radio broadcast features celebrated actors reading/performing a great short story.  Here in western North Carolina we can listen each Saturday morning on WCQS.

Of course, you may want to actually read a short story out an actual book.  Well, if this is the case, then Fontana Regional Library has got you covered!  Here’s a short (in no particular order and not in any way comprehensive) list of books of short stories by masters of the form:

8 thoughts on “For Short Story Lovers

  1. Wow, Jeff — what an exciting list of titles.

    For me, a short story collection is like a dim sum cart at a Chinese restaurant –100 unexpected delights. Mrs. Gump had it right, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

    I like to keep a collection handy for the same reason my Mom used to keep a roll of Life Savers in her purse — to keep me from getting fussy.


  2. I didn’t appreciate short stories when I was young. I wanted huge, thick books that lasted for days. I didn’t realize then how powerful short stories can be. That changed as I got older. I recently read Ron Rash’s “Burning Bright” and it blew me away.


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