TSS: May is Short Story Month

sunsalon1Happy 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

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10 comments

  1. I enjoy reading short stories. Sometimes they end up being more memorable for me than novels I’ve read.

    I loved these books:

    The Dog of Marriage by Amy Hemple
    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

    And recently:

    Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

  2. Thanks for reminding me to pick out some short stories to read. I was on a short story binge about a year ago – read all of Munro’s which were marvelous.

    I think short story writing is quite difficut, and a well written short story is as completely satisfying as a complex novel.

  3. Great post! I’m late to the Short Story Party, too (and also not an official invitee 🙂 I absolutely love short stories.

  4. Meant to add that I hope your cat is on the way to a full recovery soon … never an easy thing when our pets are not well.

  5. I don’t read a great many short stories but I do like Katherine Mansfield and the contemporary writer, Helen Simpson.

  6. Sherry, I admit I have not yet read The Dog of Marriage. I also loved Interpreter of Maladies, and I highly recommend Unaccustomed Earth. I tried to put Maile Meloy’s new one on hold at the library, but they don’t have it yet. Grr!

    Becca, I completely agree with you about short story writing. I’ve seen a lot of writers confess they don’t quite get it.

    Melissa, I guess essentially anyone can join in support, but there are some “participants” on Emerging Writers Network who are discussing particular stories, and it’s quite fascinating. And thanks for your kind words about our kitty…luckily she is not really ill, and this treatment has a 99% success rate or something. She is mostly just mad that she can’t get in our laps! 🙂

    Nicola, I honestly cannot remember whether I have read any Katherine Mansfield, but I think I have always meant to and have not. I know I haven’t read Helen Simpson, so I will keep my eye out for her work. Thanks for the suggestions.

  7. I saw something about this at the beginning of the month, and I’ve been enjoying browsing through my anthologies of short stories. I started with some 19th and 20th century classic short stories by women. I really should read short stories year round!!

  8. Rebecca, I have been trying to get back to reading them more frequently. I suppose the interesting thing is, they do take time and attention, and it has to be a conscious commitment. When one had agreed to read X number of novels for different challenges and read-alongs and so on (and I am not saying there’s anything wrong with that), it can seem like it would be easy to add a few short stories in here and there–they are short, after all–but stories often require more than one reading to properly get at the heart of them.

  9. I just started a new collection of short stories. Not sure yet if it will all tie together in the end or what but so far I like it. I’m hoping to finish this book during the month in honor of Short Story Month! I hope eventually SSM will become as popular as National Poetry Month. That would be cool.

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