- I Love Short Story Collections
It is extremely rare that I am caught somewhere without a book in hand—sometimes a poetry collection, often a novel or non-fiction book on a topic I'm interested in or by a writer I trust, and on occasion, it might be a graphic novel or memoir. More often than not, however, that book is going to be a short story collection. I genuinely enjoy the other forms of writing. But I love short stories and collections of them. Opening the cover, I anticipate the author getting me completely caught up in each and every one of the tales listed in the table of contents. I get caught up in the author's ability to capture my interest, to keep my attention, and to create a little world and be able to do so multiple times.
An author might find their stories all focusing in a single direction—Among the Wild Mulattos (2015) by Tom Williams is a collection of stories that all have bi-racial protagonists, for instance. While others don't seem to have much commonalities at all—All Over (2007) by Roy Kesey is just that, a collection of stories that are all over the short story map. One is set up as the responses to job interview questions (no questions—just the replies), another involves creation via a Pizza Hut bar, another sees an airport encompassed by fog leading to Olympiclike contests among those stranded, and so on. The one thing the stories in this collection have in common is that they are fantastic and have the ability to transport their readers.
Fortunately for one such as myself, short story collections continue to find their way into publication in abundance. In both 2016 and 2017, the industry has seen over 200 single-author story collections published ranging from debut authors on very small presses on up to collected stories of authors with multiple titles to their career on the largest of NYC houses. There are collections written by authors of various races, gender, and sexual orientations. There are collections that have been translated into English from various languages so that somebody like myself can enjoy them. On occasion, a Kristine Ong Muslim or a Gary Fincke will publish multiple new collections in a single calendar year.
Looking over collections on my bookshelves I can understand my attraction to the form—there are almost as many reasons that I enjoy the collections as there are collections themselves. Compression Scars (2002) by Kellie Wells slips into the world of science in strange and wonderful ways; Greasy Lake (1985) by T. Coraghessan Boyle jumps from topic to topic and looks at it from almost an inside-out perspective. Hardware River (1996) by Alyson Hagy has an outdoorsy feel to it with stories set in Virginia and Michigan; Misfits and Other Heroes (2009) by Suzanne Burns zeroes in on individuals just outside what would most likely be considered "the norm." The stories in The Ones That Got Away (2010) by Stephen Graham Jones are horrifying and are made even more so by the fact that they feel they could come true. Collections by authors such as Peter Christopher (Campfires of the Dead ), or Peter Markus (We Make Mud ) use language in a way that makes me believe they are the only people in the world that could have published those titles. Similarly, a group of female writers—Dawn Raffel, Yannick Murphy, Terese Svoboda, and Pamela Ryder—while all having an aspect of their stories in common—the language is condensed, sentences revised until there's nothing extra included—I'm positive I could determine the right author, given stories from their collections, blind.
There are collections set regionally, from the Los Angeles-based stories of Dana Johnson's In the Not Quite Dark (2016) to the Cape Cod stories in Colin Fleming's Between Cloud and Horizon (2013) to the West Virginia hollers of The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake (1983) and Town Smokes (1987) by Pinckney Benedict, not to mention those set in foreign countries.
In short, there doesn't seem to be any place I...