Hooliganism: Short Stories
Just quite recently, I’ve read a lot of short story collections. In began in December when I read the Ecco Book of Christmas Stories and the said book introduced me to short story writers like Paul Auster, Alice Munro, John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov, and Graham Greene. I think that was the moment when I realized how different a short story is from a novel and that the short story presents a different set of possibilities when compared to the novel. It has a different cadence, a different style, and, in effect, a different beauty.
This year, because of my discovery of the short story, I have read a total of short story collections. No doubt that it will increase as the year continues but, just as a short review, here are the short story collections that I have read this year and their ratings:
- Exile and The Kingdom by Albert Camus (4/5)
- Fourteen Love Stories edited by Jose Dalisy Jr. and Angelo R. Lacuesta (4/5)
- Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (5/5)
- My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides (5/5)
- Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents The Art of the Short Story edited by The Paris Review (5/5)
- Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson (4/5)
- Last Night by James Salter (4/5)
- Short Cuts by Raymond Carver (5/5)
Currently, I am reading Javier Marias’ collection of short stories and my flight tomorrow will be accompanied by four short story collections. Needless to say, short stories are now a major part of my reading list compared to last year when majority of the books that I read were novels or novellas.
Accompanied by this newfound love for the short story is the book hoarding. Here’s a fun fact, there are a lot of short story collections being sold on Booksale for 50-145 pesos ($1-$3). Knowing that, I may have hoarded a lot of short story collections/anthologies this year especially those by authors that I have just discovered such as Miranda July, Deborah Eisenberg, Grace Paley, David Bezmozgis, Ethan Canin, Lorrie Moore, and others. I also purchased several other short story anthologies with several authors within their pages. Anthologies with stories commissioned by The Paris Review, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and by the charity organization, 826 National.
Why this much attention to the short story? Unlike a novel, a short story is limited to a few pages and, therefore, the author reveals only the essentials leaving some aspects to the reader’s imagination. A good example would be James Salter’s Bangkok or Raymond Carver’s Why Don’t You Dance. In the aforementioned short stories, the reader does not know what happened before the story took place even though the whole story hinges on the events of the past. There are also instances when the writer of the short story ends on a cliffhanger just like in Anton Chekov’s The Lady With The Dog in which Chekov ended the story just about when his two protagonists are about to make a drastic change in their life. There is little we know about the protagonist’s past or their future and we are then forced to hypothesize and read between the lines which, in my opinion, makes the reading experience richer.
Of course, not all short stories have incomplete narratives. Some have plots that will not, more or less, force a reader to speculate or to hypothesize. In these stories, they are more like anecdotes and they depict a single event in the life of its protagonists. Stories such as Natasha by David Bezmozgis which depicts a teenager’s relationship with his female cousin; or John Cheever’s Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor which depicts a bellhop’s Christmas day. Although the reader aren’t forced to speculate, they are still made aware of the human condition through the experience of the protagonists.
I hope, dear readers, that I am not sounding too pretentious or all-knowing. I just have a lot of thoughts regarding short stories. Although reading a novel is a wonderful experience, short stories are a different matter. They make me sigh and they are the brand of fiction that I really form an attachment to (at the moment). That is why, maybe, I seem passionate when I talk about them.
Enough rambling. More books. I’ll leave you, dear readers, with a peek into some of my short story collections: