Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there. My own “child,” my cat Diva, is unfortunately under lockdown in our guest bathroom. She had to have radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, which is common in older cats (she is 17, but doesn’t look a day over 10…even the vet cannot believe it). We have to keep her semi-isolation for two weeks, and lap cat that she is, she is not happy about this fact at all. Let’s just say, I am not expecting a gift. Not even a card.
I mentioned this yesterday, but May is Short Story Month. Dan Wickett at the Emerging Writers Network blog has long been an advocate for a national short story month, and this year Poets & Writers magazine is getting into the mix and supporting the idea as well. I am late to the party as usual (and in fact was technically not even invited), but I greatly support the idea of a national short story month so I have decided to devote every Wednesday for the rest of the month to discussing short story collections I have read and enjoyed in the past, hopefully to help generate more interest in the short story as a form. I’ve never understood the whole West Side Story thing between the short story and the novel, like they were rival gangs squaring off in the aisles of bookstores and libraries. I have also never understood why some people believe that the short story is some sort of practice for writing a novel. The forms are distinct, but they are both meaningful. I don’t think anybody would ever say (I would hope nobody would ever say) a poet writes poems because he or she is not ready to write a longer work. They are all distinct forms of art, and no less valuable for it.
A few weeks ago–when I was completely unaware of Short Story Month, by the way–I mentioned that I wanted to spend more time discussing short stories. Part of my inspiration for wanting to do so was finding Charles May’s excellent blog, Reading the Short Story. I cannot remember how I found it, but I am so happy that I did. Charles discusses individual stories, collections, and the form and art of the short story as a whole. He is a passionate advocate for the short story, and the literary world could use more people like him. After reading his blog, I realized that in my earlier post about the short story I may have done the form a disservice. I said that I had studied them so deeply that for a period I could no longer enjoy them. That statement is not entirely true. I certainly did not mean that stories are so opaque, take so much work to unlock, that one must read so deeply that reading becomes a chore. I think a lot of people put that sort of pressure on the form–having to read for language and metaphor rather than “story,” whatever that means–and expect it to be more difficult than it really is. I simply went through a period of time where I worked so hard to understand how writers constructed their stories, from the point of view of trying to understand how to construct my own, that I had exhausted myself. My disappointment in my own writing was at an all-time high, and my energy for reading at an all-time low.
Anyhow, I am not here to discuss my own efforts at writing, but rather to talk about stories and collections I have enjoyed in the past, and as the year continues, to share some new (to me) collections with you. I’ve already reviewed several collections, including Mary Yakuri Waters’s Laws of Evening, Bobbie Ann Mason’s Shiloh and Other Stories, and Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds. Over the coming weeks I hope to highlight stories from Marly Swick, Mary Robison, David Gates, Amy Hempel, Antonya Nelson, and Charles Baxter, among others, and I hope that you will share some of your favorites in the comments.
*Short Story Month logo designed by Stephen Seighman; copied from Emerging Writers Network