Story Collections Community Read-Along March 2013

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Story Collections Community Read-Along March 2013

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Editado: Fev 28, 2013, 9:05 pm

I don't know quite how it happened, but it's March 2013. I'm almost ready for it to be June 1998, but I don't know to whom I should complain about the mismatch.

I think this month's read for me, since I am so woefully behindhand on the date, will be a book older even than I am:

A Curtain of Green: And Other Stories by Eudora Welty

Here's the sales blurb: "In her now-famous introduction to this first collection by a then-unknown young writer from Mississippi named Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter wrote that "there is even in the smallest story a sense of power in reserve which makes me believe firmly that, splendid beginning that it is, it is only the beginning." Porter was of course prophetic, and the beginning was splendid. A Curtain of Green both introduced and established Eudora Welty as in instinctive genius of short fiction, and in this groundbreaking collection, which includes "Powerhouse" and "Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden," are the first great works of a great American writer."

I've read "Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden" in an anthology, but otherwise I'm new to these stories. Anyone care to join in?

Fev 28, 2013, 10:39 pm

Great start Richard. I knew it wasn't June just by sticking my nose out the door, but it could be 1998. Really.

& I'm reading one that has stories mostly older than me, but a few were published after my birth. The Best of Cordwainer Smith. I'm enjoying it so far, and cracking up a bit over his image of women in the future. The first story has a lovely 1950s-style housewife in space, and the next one has a "feminist" who is rails against marriage and insists that she will bring forth genetically perfect and diverse children by picking a different anonymous father for each of them. The feminist is a side character in the story, but it's the first time I've seen sf actually call a woman "a feminist" and the feminist seemed a bit like Mary Wollstonecraft if she had been a media hog.

Fev 28, 2013, 10:55 pm

I just started God's Dogs: A Novel in Stories by Mitch Wieland. Here's the description from the back cover:
Ferrell Swan has fled the shambles of his life in Ohio for the vast and empty landscape of Idaho's high desert. Here he tries to escape his past and its failures--even to escape memory itself. He seeks solace in sunrises and sunsets, wild mustangs and wheeling hawks, and the coyotes that roam his one hundred acres of scrubland. Through visits from his stepson and his ex-wife, through occasional contacts with odd and reclusive neighbors, Swan confronts himself in order to realize his humanity.

I'm reading this for a library book group that meets on March 12th. I've only read the first story so far but I loved it so I have high hopes for the rest of it.

Fev 28, 2013, 10:55 pm

uurrggh too busy to read much, but slowly making my way through Children's Hours, and it's not too bad.

Thanks Richard, will have a look for Eudora Welty when I'm in the library next. I have just found the short story section doh, don't know where my brain has been.

I definitely don't want it to be June 1998 as I was 6 months pregnant with our last child and had just moved house - no thank you, not again (the pregnant bit - I'm sure I will move house again).

Fev 28, 2013, 11:15 pm

For the past few months I've been reading through the dazzling and profound Modern Library collection Selected Short Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Fev 28, 2013, 11:18 pm

Oh yay, it looks like I'll be able to join in on something! I've been reading Jennifer Haigh's News From Heaven which is a series of very loosely linked stories centered around the mining town of Bakerton, PA which was the setting of Haigh's Baker Towers. It's very good!

Thanks for setting up these threads, Richard! Hmm, June 1998...I'd go back there happily...still in my 30s (barely), son starting kindergarten, my job was great...good times! Where do they go.

Fev 28, 2013, 11:46 pm

I finished Trigger Man: More Tales of the Motor City by Jim Ray Daniels, which was OK but nowhere near as good as his first collection, Detroit Tales. My brief review is on the book's page.

Mar 1, 2013, 1:20 am

>2 cammykitty: Cordwainer Smith! Omigosh. "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" was a major revelation to me when I was very young. Hadn't thought of him in ages.

>3 phebj: Hi Pat! I hate you! Now I want to read that book, and it's all YOUR fault.

>4 FionaWh: Your June 1998 doesn't sound too spiffy, Fiona, I understand. Mine wasn't quite so bad. It featured a lot of drinking.

Mar 1, 2013, 1:23 am

>5 rocketjk: Dazzling is the word I'd choose, too. Lots of stories, lots of ideas, in that tome.

>6 Copperskye: Where they go isn't so much my issue as why I can't go back. *sigh*

>7 Cariola: I liked your brief review, Deborah, and thumbs-upped it. Another book to add to the TBR.

Mar 1, 2013, 3:06 am

I wrote some brief comments on my own thread. The Hill Bachelors by William Trevor is an exquisite collection of stories.

Editado: Mar 1, 2013, 8:25 am

What a great start, Richard. So wonderful to wake up to a new month of reading, and short stories! Thank you for all of your reviews.

I chose A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler to kick off March's SS reading. A Pulitzer winner I never even heard of! Here is the snippet from Wikipedia:

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a 1992 collection of short stories by Robert Olen Butler. It received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1993.

Each story in the collection is narrated by a different Vietnamese immigrant living in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The stories are largely character-driven, with cultural differences between Vietnam and the United States as an important theme. Many of the stories were first published in journals such as The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. The collection was re-released in 2001 with two additional stories, "Salem" and "Missing".

So far I am enjoying them a lot. Some are very funny. There is one "Love" - where a Vietnamese man goes to a "low down papa" (voodoo man) to learn a hex to put on his beautiful, but straying, wife. What he goes through to accomplish it, had me laughing out loud. Otherwise, they are a little bit more on the fairy tale, sad, wistful side ... but the every day things about how new immigrants view American culture - that is just great. Had me thinking a time or two about the silly things we do. I was a little suspect that a white dude could write from the Vietnamese perspective (and often female), but he does a great job. I just have to stop thinking about stuff like that and read with an open mind.

Mar 1, 2013, 11:13 am

11> I read that collection several years ago and enjoyed it a lot.

Mar 1, 2013, 1:38 pm

>10 EBT1002: Here is Ellen's quick hit on The Hill Bachelors.

>11 CarolynSchroeder: Sounds really good! A first novel that treats the Vietnamese immigrant experience, and which I loved, was Grass Roof Tin Roof by my fellow former-Austinite Dao Strom.

>12 rocketjk: Hi Jerry! Nice piece on you and the store in the Ukiah paper.

Mar 1, 2013, 4:43 pm

I just finished There Are Little Kingdoms by Irish writer Kevin Barry and it's an excellent collection.

His most recent collection, Dark Lies The Island is also very good.

Mar 1, 2013, 11:58 pm

#Richard ; want to return to June 1998 don't remember much about it lol??

Mar 2, 2013, 12:39 am

>14 Hagelstein: Hagelstein, the writer is unknown to me. That's exciting, someone new to find and follow. Thanks!

>15 FionaWh: Exactly. My daughter was 15. Most everything that wasn't worry is blank.

Editado: Mar 2, 2013, 9:54 am

I finished 1993 Pulitzer fiction winner A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler and put up a review (on the book's page).

I am continuing on in my short stories for March with an odd little number (which I had not before heard of) I found yesterday at the GoodWill book racks (for a dollar!) called The View from Stalin's Head by Aaron Hamburger. So I leave Vietnam (and Lousiana) and travel to Prague. Here is a little snippet/description of this collection from Amazon:

The ten stories in The View from Stalin’s Head unfold in the post–Cold War Prague of the 1990s—a magnet not only for artists and writers but also for American tourists and college grad deadbeats, a city with a glorious yet sometimes shameful history, its citizens both resentful of and nostalgic for their Communist past. Against this backdrop, Aaron Hamburger conjures an arresting array of characters: a self-appointed rabbi who runs a synagogue for non-Jews; an artist, once branded as a criminal by the Communist regime, who hires a teenage boy to boss him around; a fiery would-be socialist trying to rouse the oppressed masses while feeling the tug of her comfortable Stateside upbringing. European and American, Jewish and gentile, straight and gay, the people in these stories are forced to confront themselves when the ethnic, religious, political, and sexual labels they used to rely on prove surprisingly less stable than they’d imagined.

Mar 2, 2013, 5:44 pm

I am about to try Revenge eleven dark tales by Yoko Ogava, I purchased from Amazon, it is her latest, the stories are supposed to be interlocking. Another that I have recently read that are interlocking is Mrs Somebody Somebody by Tracy Winn, this one I loved.

I find that I am drawn back to Close Range by Annie Proulx and Shiloh & Other Stories by Bobbie Ann Mason.

Mar 3, 2013, 12:38 am

#16 oh been there twice with teenage girls - now going through it with a teenage boy, different but definitely easier!

and I'm still working my way through Children's Hours

Mar 3, 2013, 10:30 am

I've read a couple of collections by Neil Gaiman (M is for Magic and Smoke and Mirrors) and both were middle-of-the-road for me. That's okay, though. As someone who is relatively new to shorties, I don't have very high expectations (this is not an insult - more like I don't really have any expectations) mostly because they seem, for me, to be more miss than hit. But no matter, I'm still reading them! I'm gearing up to read my first Alice Munro (courtesy of Nancy/alphaorder), and I'm discovering more short story collections on my shelves than I thought I had.

Question: I've been a subscriber to One Story for a few years - when reading them, should I count each individually since they're published as such? Or should I group 8 or 12 together and then count that as one work? It's got me stymied....

Editado: Mar 4, 2013, 10:09 am

I've just devoured an excellent collection of short fiction by Rosanne Cash, titled Bodies of Water. Not only her first, but as far as I can tell, her only foray into fiction of any kind. Reviewed over on my 75 Book Challenge Thread.

Mar 4, 2013, 10:08 am

I just finished and reviewed the uneven The View from Stalin's Head by Aaron Hamburger and may travel back into novel-land and then pick up another SS collection in a week or two.

Mar 4, 2013, 5:03 pm

Starting The Black Madonna, a short story collection by Doris Lessing.

Editado: Mar 7, 2013, 1:22 pm

I haven't read a short story collection yet this year but have been lurking and quite astounded by the diversity of ss that all of you have come across. I have several on the TBR soon pile though. I love short stories when they are well done. I love the punch they have by the very nature of being contained in a short form. The collection I am reading right now, titled Errantry: strange stories is just that. Not quite horror and not quite science fiction. The author Elizabeth Hand obviously likes nature. All her settings so far (I am about half-way through) are in the forests of Maine or on the moors of England, and she is adept at describing trees, bushes and flowers that, while they may not be familiar to me, paint a vivid picture in my imagination. Her settings are important to her stories. Her characters are well-developed. The odd thing is that the very first story I found to be a complete disappointment ( the ending, not the whole story). The story itself has a great deal of detail about aeronautics and film in its inception, when it was made of the dangerous nitrate. But since the ending was weak, it ruins the story for this reader, anyway. Since the rest of the stories are so good, I wondered if I was wrong in my assessment, and maybe I was missing something. It just had one of those unconvincing endings that ruined an other-wise decent story, if a bit too long. But don't let that dissuade you. Her other stories are, so far, quite lovely.

Edited to say-I was reading the back of the book to put a blurb on here and I read that the first story, "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon," won the World Fantasy Award! So there you go! What do I know about anything?! LOL! I still maintain the ending was stupid for such a good story.

Here's the blurb-

"No one is innocent, no one unexamined in Shirley Jackson Award-winning author Elizabeth Hand's new collection, her first since 2006. From the mysterious people upstairs to the odd guy in the next office over, Hand teases apart the dark strangenesses of everyday life to show us the impossibilities, the broken or improbable dreams that surely can never come true."

Mar 7, 2013, 1:46 pm

Richard, I love Eudora Welty, and I will most likely try to find that book on Amazon. Of late, I have begun to find and order books by Rumer Godden. She has been one of my favorite writers since I was young and I recently ordered the two books that make up her memoirs, A Time To Dance, No Time To Weep and A House With Four Rooms. Years ago I listened to A Storyteller's Life about her childhood in India. I enjoy writers and their lives from the first half of the 1900's. Especially the females, but not exclusively. Something about the way they broke through the social barriers of the time, I guess.

Editado: Mar 7, 2013, 4:14 pm

Mar 8, 2013, 1:47 pm

Interesting descriptions of the short story literary form by authors of stores n the collection I am reading:

".....the short story is the literary genre which manages to bind together poetry and prose."
" is autonomous and self-contained."
"...the story is the form par excellence for the poetic apnea: holding your breath as long as possible then letting it go, just at the moment you are about to digress, thus suffocating."

Mar 8, 2013, 4:28 pm

My favorite quote about short story writing is from (I'm pretty sure) Faulkner: "First I tried to write short stories, but that was too hard. So then I tried to write poetry, but that was too hard. So finally I became a novelist."

Mar 8, 2013, 5:39 pm

>27 hemlokgang:; Love that last quote!

Mar 9, 2013, 12:40 am

I finished Errantry: strange stories by Elizabeth Hand I read it as often as possible over the last few days, it was very good. Her descriptions are just fantastic, worth reading the stories for her language alone. The last 3 or 4 stories were just great, in my opinion. Full of atmosphere, lovely language and quirky characters. I will write a more thorough review shortly and put a link on here to it. I have quite a few other short story collections to choose from now. I am reading a novel, Ash by James Herbert. It says it is paranormal fiction. Leafing through the book it seemed that every page had something big happening on it. Since it is a library book, I have to read it before I can start a short story collection, but it will give me time to look around a bit for the one I would like to begin next.

Mar 11, 2013, 5:00 pm

#28 That's Faulkner, all right. Except he started with poetry.

Mar 12, 2013, 8:34 am

Devoured first 100 pages of News from Heaven last night.

Carolyn: I read Good Scent for a Strange Mountain back when it was published. I think I liked it more than you did. I also think it was his best book...

Mar 12, 2013, 6:59 pm

I finished and REVIEWED Yoko Ogawa's new short story collection Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales. If you are in the mood for dark and twisted, it doesn't get much better than this.

Mar 13, 2013, 12:50 am

I read the first two stories in Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove. She's got quite an imagination. I don't know why I wasn't expecting to read about actual vampires in a lemon grove but the title should have clued me in. The second story, "Reeling for the Empire" was very good and kind of creepy.

Mar 13, 2013, 5:57 pm

>33 brenzi: I have a rather more jolly story collection I've reviewed: We Have a Pie, some short-short stories the publisher asked me to review. So I did, over in my latest #49.

I used to like Rumer Godden a lot, Mary Beth. Eudora Welty has fared better in my affections, I have to say.

Editado: Mar 13, 2013, 9:37 pm

I recently finished Middle Men: Stories, an excellent collection by Jim Gavin.

One of the stories, Costello, was in the New Yorker (12/6/10 issue).

Mar 13, 2013, 9:43 pm

Picked up Collected Stories by Carol Shields today for 49 cents!

Mar 18, 2013, 3:23 am

I have finally (not much reading happening at the moment) finished The Children's Hours; Stories of Childhood by various authors. It was published as a Save the Children fundraiser - very good. I enjoyed all but one of the stories, some were extremely good.

I want to finish the books I have out from the library first before I make another trip to look for the next short story selection. I am really hooked on these now, ideal for my lifestyle at the moment.

Mar 18, 2013, 8:35 am

My March short story read was the wonderful News from Heaven. Check out the reviews on the book's page to see why I and others are recommending this read.

Editado: Mar 19, 2013, 2:16 pm

I have reviewed Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand.The review is here:

I highly recommend it. It was a fairly quick read and I enjoyed it a great deal. Real escapist reading!

Editado: Mar 20, 2013, 9:18 am

I am not sure it counts as a collection, or where to put this. But I treated myself to a two-year subscription of The Paris Review a bit ago and got the new issue, #204, and devoured all the short fiction stories in it (there were six). And I would say 5 of 6 were awesome. Because I believe literary journals expose me/us to authors I would not otherwise find, here are the ones featured this issue:

1) Bettering Myself by Ottessa Moshfegh - 4.5 stars; 2) An Actor Prepares by David Gates - 4.5 stars; 3) Do You Realize? by Tess Wheelwright - 4 stars; 4) Sandstorm by Adam O'Fallon (just awesome, and intense, any of you folks who write too will love this one) - 5 stars; and 5) Musicians Afloat in the Night Sky by Adelaide Docx - 3.5 stars. There is a sixth one, Sizzle Real by Mark Leyner, but it is was in an "expiramental" style, sorta like a script/interview or something, and the subject matter was nausea producing to me, so not big on that one. Just not my cuppa, so that one gets 1.5 stars. Few of the Touchstones work as some of these authors are not published anywhere else yet, I think (or however that works).

I think most libraries carry the Paris Review, so this issue is worth seeking out to borrow and read some great new writing!

Mar 21, 2013, 4:09 am

Just picked up The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 from the library, looking forward to starting that - really in the mood for a good mystery I can disappear into!

Mar 23, 2013, 12:27 am

Just started listening to The Short Stories of Daniel DeFoe by Daniel Defoe.

Mar 23, 2013, 3:20 am

Due to insomnia, I finished listening to the Defoe collection. Most of the stories in this collection served as platforms for the author's political, religious, and life philosophies. Not my cup of tea. I prefer Defoe's more swashbuckling storytelling. However, if the reader is interested in Defoe, the man, then it may be a good selection.

Mar 23, 2013, 3:25 pm

Well, I've finally posted another review! Deep Tissue, a very powerful collection of stories about everyday life, reminds me a little of Tillie Olsen's subject matter but from a bitter place. Still, worth reading IMO. Review's in my #25.

Mar 24, 2013, 3:14 pm

I'm reading one of several collections by William Trevor that have been sitting sround here for awhile. It's really good and only 130 pages, so I should have a report soon.

Mar 27, 2013, 8:30 am

Going to get in one last collection here before the month's end, The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr.

Editado: Mar 28, 2013, 9:20 am

So far The Shell Collector is awesome. That guy can write, like the real thing!

Mar 28, 2013, 10:01 am

On my dog walk this am, I stopped at a neighbor's Little Free Library and found two short stories collections to take home with me:
The Thing Around Your Neck - which was on my wish list - bonus!
Flights of Love

In case you don't know what a Little Free Library is:
There are four of them within a two block radius of my house.

My husband I are thinking of putting one up this spring, if spring ever arrives.

Mar 29, 2013, 8:10 pm

Just had a look at the Little Free Library website - how cool is that!

Started Best American Mystery Stories 2011 - fantastic!

Editado: Mar 30, 2013, 4:45 pm

I finished up March, in the short story world, with a home run. I absolutely loved The Shell Collector: Stories by Anthony Doerr and just put up my 5-star review of it. This is one of those instances where it was good to judge a book by its cover. I am into botanical illustration (getting certified) and just loved the cover of beautifully rendered shells (from a 1758 plate - seemingly French). My local bricks n' mortar store has a teensy section where the only order select SS collections (a new discovery) and this was in there. I rarely buy new, and full price anymore, but this will certainly be an exception. Nice treat now and again. I've never known a store to put ss collections in one place like that. It's a wonderful place to sit and ponder.

Starting off April (or soon to be) with a bang as well, with a super strong start in the collection Black American Short Stories: A Century of the Best edited by John Henrick Clarke - came to me highly recommended from a friend. Even the introduction was an eye-opening education on Black Literature ... and quickly dispelled the notion that the African people were all of the "oral tradition" (as is always assumed from the slave peoples brought from the West coast) - not so - many countries and cultures were avid writers and written storytellers (especially from the Sudan and other African/Arab regions) - and came to the U.S. from different routes, e.g. Zanzibar (an Eastern slave port as big as the West Coast), to the Caribbean and/or U.S.

Mar 30, 2013, 11:51 am

Carolyn, I just thumbed your review of The Shell Collector: Stories. I own this book mainly because he's an Idaho author but I've never read it. I'm going to find my copy and start today!

Mar 30, 2013, 11:59 am

Thumbs-upped the review! And another author I need to read...what an encomium you gave.


Mar 30, 2013, 3:18 pm

I've reviewed the outstanding and beautiful first collection of Eudora Welty's stories, A Curtain of Green: And Other Stories, in my #27.

Editado: Mar 30, 2013, 4:11 pm

My library chain does not have The Shell Collectors however I have reserved another of this author's short story collections Memory Wall, it gets good reviews, from Goodreads.

Mar 30, 2013, 4:18 pm

Caolyn and Richard, I just thumbed both of your reviews. They were both excellent and I added both books to my WL.

Mar 30, 2013, 4:21 pm

>57 brenzi: Thanks, Bonnie! I think you'll enjoy the Welty a lot.

Mar 31, 2013, 7:43 am

Thanks guys! I am still thinking about many of the stories in The Shell Collector: Stories so I still feel solid giving it 5 stars. I always feel, for short stories, for 5 stars, I have to like ALL of the stories. Now, they don't all have to be 5-star themselves, but at least 4 ... and I would say these were that or more.

I loved your review too, Richard. I definitely will check out the Welty book.

I am on my way to another 5-star collection in Black American Short Stories: A Century of the Best edited by John Henrik Clarke ... not a dud in the bunch so far. I cannot put it down either. That my library system did not even have this makes me sad and frustrated. I will see if they will take my copy donated. I believe it is a text for some college courses, so it seems ridiculous not to have it handy.

Mar 31, 2013, 11:55 pm

>59 CarolynSchroeder: Wow Carolyn, are you ever on a roll! I'm so impressed.

I've put up the April thread for them as wishes to read along for another month.

Jul 12, 2013, 8:21 am

> 50


Did you and your husband ever put up your own Little Free Library? My husband is building me one right now...and I'm so excited!!

Jul 12, 2013, 8:40 am

No, we didn't. There are just so many in our neighborhood, I don't think it is worth it. I will use the ones that are already here. Can't wait to see a picture of yours and hear how it works for you!

Jul 12, 2013, 9:59 am

I can't wait either. We have *none* in my city.