At the Books on the Nightstand blog, Ann Kingman dubbed 2013 “The Year of the Short Story.” In celebration, she’s reading one story a day, for the entire year.
It amazes me how short story writers can create a world in just a few pages. Here’s Kingman’s list, many Story Prize winners in the lot.
The Story Prize is an annual literary award designed to honor the short story. Publishers submit story collections for consideration and the judges narrow the list to three finalists. Kingman decided that some of her reading would come from the 2012 shortlist. I followed her lead ~ and her links ~ and read alternate stories from each collection.
Stay Awake by Dan Chaon – This collection is dark and creepy. Kingman’s blogging partner Michael talked about it on BOTNS #168, so I had a clue that I was about to bump into peculiarity. Indeed.
The Bees – Gene, in his mid-thirties, is living in Cleveland with his wife and five year old son Frankie. Frankie has been waking up in the middle of the night, screaming. It’s frightening for Gene and his wife, but the doctor can’t find anything wrong. The lack of sleep is taking its toll on Gene, and he starts to behave in odd ways. He thinks a lot about his earlier life, a life kept secret from his wife but shared in detail with us, the readers. This story takes a very, very dark turn. The ending is satisfyingly disturbing ~ or is it disturbingly satisfying? You decide.
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins – She is one of the National Book Foundations “5 under 35″ and this is her first book.
Ghosts, Cowboys ~ Watkins compresses an amazing amount of history into this story. It feels like an entire novel in just a few pages and stays with you long after you’ve finished it. Swift, dark, mysterious. Razor Blade Baby is quite the character. You can read it here.
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz – I’m probably one of the few people who have never read Diaz, so I was surprised to find, part way through the first story, that the narrator of the stories in this collection was named Yunior. I don’t know Yunior, the details of his background, his relationships, or his struggles. There’s lots of Spanish words sprinkled throughout the natural-sounding dialogue. I’m thinking that an audio version might up the Wow Factor.
In The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, Yunior struggles to save his relationship with Magda, despite his having cheated on her. He takes her on vacation to Santo Domingo. She hates it. He tries to make her happy. He can’t. There are some wonderful sentences in this story, including the line from which the title comes.
Afraid of commitment? Don’t have weeks to read the latest novel? Give yourself a break. Reach for a short story. It’s got the flash and zzzt of a hummingbird. Do you have one to recommend? Do share. Looking for one right now? They’re free and online at Flavorwire.
meet you here next sunday ~ not just for kids