Monday, May 16, 2011

Take a look at those shorts

By Steve Weddle

Load up the audio version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Ready? OK. Go to the part where the lion roars and start to play it backwards. You'll hear that guy from Judas Priest saying, "The short story is dead."

Which doesn't make much sense to me, because I've been reading some great short stories recently.

I'm working on a series of short stories and found myself being drawn to the form. (Sheesh, that sounds corny. Do people say 'corny' anymore? Does that make me a square?)

So I ask a few folks for their favorite short story collections. Lyrical. Rural.

Jedidiah Ayres shoots me a list of about 83 collections.

JESUS' SON by Denis Johnson. I bought this one at a local bookstore and went on the webernet to download the audio version of "Emergency." The stories in the collection are about a young man named Mr. F. Head and his crazy life. I listened to "Emergency" while I was cutting the grass one day. Fantastic. Then I read through the rest of the book -- all 124 pages -- in one sitting. The stories are first-person some the mind of this drugged out character, falling in and out of beauty. The connectedness of the stories works here, never feeling gimmicky.

REFRESH, REFRESH by Benjamin Percy. Hell yeah. That first story that starts out with two kids in a backyard fight that isn't really a fight and the military aspect and the recruiter and the sled at the end. Wow, that's a good one. And you can read that story online for free here.

KNOCKEMSTIFF by Donald Ray Pollock. "Real Life" and "Knockemstiff" are two fantastic pieces of fiction. The first one is all about a father and son beating the crap out of a father and son in a toilet. Well, that's not all it's about. There's some thinky stuff in there, too. And "Knockemstiff" is one of those ugly, beautiful stories of hope and horror.

VOLT by Alan Heathcock. I was a bit worried about this one when I started the first story. Dead child. I'm not fond of reading about dead children. So I skipped that one. The rest of the book is spot on, you know? "Lazarus" is probably one of my top ten favoritest stories in the world ever in the whole world. Bonus: The NYT review of VOLT was written by Donald Ray Pollock.

MIRACLE BOY AND OTHER STORIES by Pinckney Benedict. Just hell yeah. As they say over at Bookslut, "This collection is timely and timeless with heart and cowardice and tenderness rolled into one very human whole." Damn right.

OUT OF THE WOODS by Chris Offutt. The story in here called "Melungeons" had me running to the webernet as soon as I'd finished. Are these people real? Turns out, yes. And they might be from the very county in which I work. Friggin small world, huh? "Barred Owl" is great -- about a couple of guys who "made it out" of Kentucky, but, of course, didn't. This is a book about place. About belonging. About what makes you part of something, and what makes something part of you. A great book if you're interested in short stories that tie together without feeling forced.

OK. There's what I've been reading that past couple weeks. How about you? You reading short stories? How about we share, huh?


jedidiah ayres said...

People don't say 'square' anymore... it makes you sound like a real 'Weddle'

Chris Rhatigan said...

Reading a lot of shorts! Just finished Wendig's Irregular Creatures, which was excellent. That guy's got an imagination the size of, um, something very large. I'm sure he would come up with something better.

Paul D Brazill said...

Thanks for that! They all look beut!I've just read the smart horror collection Bite Sized Horror and my mate Frank Duffy's beaut collection The Signal Block.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I could go on all day here but In Devil's Territory, Kyle Minor, Florida Gothic Stories, Vicki Hendricks, The Expendables, Antonya Nelson, Who Do You Love, Jean Thompson, The Summer Before the Summer of Love, Marly Swick, Damn Near Dead. Any collection by Charles Baxter, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, William Trevor, etc.

Elizabeth said...

Some of my recent favorites, that haven't already been mentioned: 8 POUNDS by Chris F. Holm, MORE SINNED AGAINST by Dave White, and DEAR MR HOLMES and NAUGHTY by Steve Hockensmith.

Steve Weddle said...

Oh, yeah. All great ones in there. I didn't mention Frank Bill's CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA or Chris F. Holm's 8 POUNDS or Dave White's MORE SINNED AGAINST because I read them more than a few weeks ago.

Also, I should have mentioned Holly Goddard Jones, whose stories keep popping up in anthologies and mags I'm reading. Her book, GIRL TROUBLE, is in the TBR pile.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, I read them more than a few weeks ago, they're just the most recent ones I've read. CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA, however, is on the radar for the not too distant future.

Unknown said...

How about Bad Juju by Johnathan Woods? Dead Boys By Richard Lange, Scubo by Barry Graham, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson, Third Class Super Hero by Charles Yu, Town Smokes by Pinckey Benedict, Fugue State by Brian Evenson....Jeez, that's just off the top of my head, there are some great collections out there

Josh Stallings said...

I really fell for Gone Bad by
Julie Morrigan

Smart tough Brit noir.

Josh Stallings

Elizabeth said...

That one's on my radar too! Such good stuff going on these days in short stories.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Yeah, Gone Bad's my favorite collection so far this year. That Julie Morrigan writes nasty.

Chris said...

Women and Other Animals as well as American Salvage, both by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Great stuff.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Can't believe I forgot American Salvage.

Nigel Bird said...

I've been flicking through Revenge Of The Lawn again recently. Brautigan seems to see the world like it's inside-out and upside-down, then he rolls poetry and prose together to come up with something unique. I'd recommend Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, too, though it's not going to be for everyone.
And for darkness, Pollock's the one.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

Thanks for covering Steve.

I try to read one short story a day as a means to get through collections and anthos. I'm currently reading Crime by Ferdinand Von Schirach, a collection translated from the German.

Pretty good. It's a bit dry but it's hard to tell if it's because of the translation or because the author is an attorney.

David Cranmer said...

95% of my reading are shorts. I get more out of your "Missed Flight" or say Hilary Davidson's "Insatiable" than many of the big named best sellers that came out last year.

My favorite collections of last year were Holm's 8 POUNDS and Charles Gramlich's KILLING TRAIL.