Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Short Story Reading Challenge

I love short stories, and I can't say that I've always had a great affection for them. For the longest time--as a direct result of forced reading in school I suspect--I wanted little to do with short stories in my free time. When I sat down to read and slip into another world, I yearned for a prolonged trip into an extensive literary adventure. Short stories always struck me as literary rejects...plots that failed to blossom into the end-all and be-all of readerly wonderment...the novel.

A few years ago when, as a Master's student, school took over my life completely, I found myself longing to read but wielding the attention span of a gnat. As a result, I turned to the short story with the utmost suspicion but an undeniable need to read something...anything. Once I finally dove into a collection or two, my affinity for the genre began to grow by leaps and bounds, and now I find myself a complete convert. I read short stories often and with vigor. Two wonderful short story collections, No One Belongs Here More Than You and The Secret Lives of People in Love, both made it to my Top 10 for 2007--something I never would've suspected a few years ago.

When I got wind of Kate's Short Story Reading Challenge, my ears perked up, my eyes got shifty, and I started mentally flipping through the available short story collections hiding in the corners of my "to be read" stack. Kate has laid out several options for completing the challenge, and I've decided to go with option 5:

Option 5: This is the custom option under the rubric of which you can tailor your reading list to best meet your personal reading aspirations. You might wish to craft a list that focuses on a particular place, or era, or genre. Or you might wish to include reading about short stories as well as of short stories, for example, such works as Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story. It’s entirely up to you.

I've decided to tackle four unread collections from my stacks, one collection that I don't own yet, but that I've had my eye on, and a smattering of selections from other sources like the "Best of" collections and literary journals like Tin House, The Golden Handcuffs Review, and Swink (all of which are on my nightstand right now). I'll deem a smattering at least 5 stories worth discussing.

Without further ado....the list of books:

1. The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter
2. I Am No One You Know, by Joyce Carol Oates
3. Little Black Book of Stories, by A.S. Byatt
4. Demonology, by Rick Moody
5. Like You'd Understand, Anyway, by Jim Shepard

I'll also toss the following collections into the ring as alternates:

20th Century Ghosts, by Joe Hill (don't own)
Close Range: Wyoming Stories, by Annie Proulx (do own)

I have to thank Kate for coming up with such a wonderful challenge. I'm SO EXCITED! I'll keep you all posted on my progress.


  1. I'm glad for the excitement and energy towards the short story and the challenge from Kate. I would appreciate it if you would please also consider stories that sometimes appear in various places alongside poetry and prose.
    Why We Need Peach Trees & Kids
    Buffalo Creek Crossing

  2. I'm so jealous that you have that Joe Hill collection! I've been coveting it since I read Heart-Shaped Box.

    I loved Little Black Book of Stories, so I'll enjoy reading your thoughts on it. :D

  3. I am glad you are joining in, Andi! I had such a hard time narrowing down my list to something doable. I have quite a few short story collections and wanted to read them all for this challenge.

  4. Thanks for the recs, usiku!

    Eva, welp, I don't actually have it YET, but it's another excuse to whip out the B&N card, right?! I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the Little Black Book. I'm really excited about that one.

    Lit Feline, I hear ya! I'm sure I have many more collections languishing on my TBR, but those are just the ones off the top of my head!

  5. The Bloody Chamber and The Little Black Book of Stories are both excellent! And like Eva, I'm coveting that Joe Hill collection. I bought Close Range at a library sale some time ago, but I've yet to read it. It definitely is a good idea for this challenge...maybe I'll squeeze it in.

  6. Good to see another person doing this challenge. I have picked Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter which includes The Bloody Chamber which I have been meaning to read for some years now. I am really looking forward to this one :)

  7. I picked Burning Your Boats by Carter too. I have been meaning to read more of her work for ages! And I think I want to get my hands on that Joe Hill myself. My birthday is coming up, I may just have to treat myself ;)

  8. ACK!! Another challenge?? I've been reading short stories for Short Story Monday's lately, and have been really enjoying myself. Of course, when I run out of Gaiman, I don't know what I'm going to do!!

  9. I'm so excited about this challenge. I prefer novels but I have a feeling I've been missing out on a lot of good stuff. Okay, and I totally spaced out and forgot that Secret Lives of People in Love is a short story collection! Yay, that means I'll get to read more as I'm reading that one for the Dangerous challenge :)

  10. Nymeth, I'm glad to hear that you liked Little Black Book and The Bloody Chamber. I've had both on my TBR for a long time now. Close Range is really good...quite gritty and atmospheric.

    Rhinoa, I hadn't heard of Burning Your Boats! Carter is one of those authors I really need to explore more. Thanks for dropping in!

    Heather, I don't have it yet, but I will!!! B&N card! Yay!

    LOL, Stephanie! Maybe I can throw a few recs your way when you run out of Gaiman. And maybe I'll get around to Smoke & Mirrors one day!

    Iliana, short stories are an acquired taste, it seems. I've been really pleased that I've found some great collections for the last few years. And my lit class I'm teaching spends a good chunk of the semester on short fiction, so I'll get to re-read some of my all-time favorite short stories.

  11. Thanks for visiting my blog and for the recommendations. I've started reading Interpreter of Maladies, and do find (with some surprise!) that I enjoy the short story more than I thought.

    I'll look into some of your suggestions for my remaining choices, and check back to see what you're reading :)


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