Sample Sunday: Short story collections
For someone who has never been an eager reader of short stories, I have surprisingly acquired a large number of collections. They’re all sitting on the shelves in the hope I imagine that one day I will get to understand the attraction of this form. It’s time to consider whether they deserve space on my shelves.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (and other stories) by G K Chesterton
This was published in 1922 a collection of eight connected detective stories featuring Horne Fisher (the man who knew too much) and his political journalist companion. According to what I’ve read about this book, the stories have a bit of a feel of Sherlock Holmes and offer an interesting portrait of upper-crust society in pre–World War I England.
The Verdict: Keep. Modern day crime fiction often leaves me cold but I’m quite taken by the books written in the golden age of crime .
The Book of Tiblisi : Comma Press
This is part of the Reading The City series from Comma Press, featuring ten tales written by authors from Georgia. They are all connected with the country’s capital city of Tiblisi, showing how life has changed since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union. I’ve read a few of the other books in the Reading the City series (most recently The Book of Jakarta) but having dipped into this one I’m not feeling enthused.
The Verdict: Let Go
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
Few authors have made the short story form as much of her trademark as the Nobel Laureate Alice Munro. I was introduced to her work in one of my first ever book club meetings (the group no longer exists) when we read Dear Life. This is the last collection she has published. I could see the appeal, the writing had an understated style that was deceptively subtle. Though I wasn’t completely sold on her, I did buy an earlier collection: Too Much Happiness.
That was six years ago and I’ve never felt any pull to open the book in all that time. I think that’s a signal it’s time to let it go and I have the perfect new owner since my mum is very much a fan of short stories.
The Verdict: Let Go
What do you think of the decisions I’ve reached? If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.
13 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: Short story collections”
I really enjoy short story collections. I’ve been trying to read more of them this year with medium success. So far, I’ve read Calypso by David Sedaris and Tenth of December by George Saunders. I’m not familiar with any that you’ve mentioned but it sounds like you’ve made some good choices.
Is that the same George Saunders who wrote Lincoln in the Bardo? He has a series of essays published recently that sound interesting
Yes it is. My favorite collection of essays from him is called the Braindead Megaphone but Tenth of December is good just not as good as BDM in my opinion. He has a very distinctive voice—unlike anyone else I know.
I find myself more drawn to short story collections by a single author, as opposed to anthologies (unless I’m a particular fan of all/most of the authors, and there’s something really unifying tying them all together). One of my big problems is that Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado has set the bar REALLY high – every short story collection I’ve read since has just fallen a bit short…
I’ve just started reading an anthology. I like the fact that I can sample different authors and styles but I don’t really understand what the stories are all doing in the same collection; they don’t seem to have anything in common
Alice Munro is one of the masters of the short story I think, although I haven’t read that particular collection.
She doesn’t seem to have written anything for a few years now.
I’m the same way with short stories. I like them whenever I read them (usually in The New Yorker) but I rarely choose to start a collection of them. As I’m into the time of life when shedding stuff is more appealing than collecting stuff, I agree with your decisions, especially as one of them might find an eager reader (your mom)! Why not give her The Book of Tiblisi, too, while you’re at it, and see what she thinks of it? 😉
I’ll give it a go though I suspect the Tiblisi won’t be to her taste
I haven’t read that particualr Munro collection but she certainly knows how to turn a short story. Perhaps your mum might persuade you to try it.
She’s been doing her best to get me to read Raymond Carver who is one of her favourites. I did get around to one today that was in a compendium.
I would be inclined to keep them all because 1. I’ve read the Chesterton and thought it was great 2. The Tblisi sounds interesting 3. I’ve yet to read any Alice Munro. Sorry if that’s no help….
You’re not making it easy that’s for sure