This week, I had a couple of days where I didn’t read any short stories. This has been a rarity this year, but I’m trying to get through the new David Mitchell novel, and until about halfway through, it’s been a bit of a slog.

Anyway, we’re not here to talk about long-form literature. Let’s review the week.

3/1/20 Toward Happy Civilization Samantha Schweblin
3/1/20 You Can Find Love Now Ramona Ausubel
3/2/20 Delivery Jac Jemc
3/2/20 09. El Barril Cynthia Pelayo
3/3/20 Apple and Knife Intan Paramaditha
3/3/20 End of the Line Aimee Bender
3/6/20 The Nina Stories: Cradling Helen Dunmore
3/6/20 The Brother and the Bird Alissa Nutting
3/7/20 Evie Sarah Hall

61ileshgwilIf you’ve never read Samantha Schweblin, you need to rectify this immediately. Her debut novel, Fever Dream, is bonkers and beautiful, and I have absolutely no idea what it was about. Her collection of short stories, Mouthful of Birds, is even better, so I’m dragging it out for as long as I can. Toward Happy Civilization is a tremendously unsettling tale of a man stuck in a train station. The sense of unease, and seemingly inescapable circumstances, make for an incredibly memorable story.

Jac Jemc’s recent novel, The Grip of It, had some wonderful ideas, but didn’t get really capture my imagination until the final chapter. There are some images in those last few pages that I genuinely still think about. Jemc excels in briefer stories, and Delivery, from her collection False Bingo, is a bizarre little tale about a man who retreats to his basement and starts ordering way too many duplicates of electronic items.

One thing I enjoy about Kindle is that, when it comes to short story collections, you can usually get the first story as a sample. This was the case with Apple and Knife, by Intan Paramaditha. The titular story is an alternative telling of Cinderella by one of the “ugly” stepsisters. I’m really enjoying stories influenced by folk/fairy stories at the moment, and this story definitely made me want to grab the whole collection.

I picked up Aimee Bender’s collection, Willful Creatures, on a whim, while grabbing a pile of books at The Last Bookstore. I have no idea how I’d managed to avoid her for so long. End of the Line is an unusual story of a man who keeps a smaller man as a pet. There are part that are incredibly uncomfortable, but the images Bender creates are fantastic.

I also finally finished Sarah Hall’s collection Madame Zero. On initial reading, I didn’t think I enjoyed the final story, Evie, but I must admit, I’ve been thinking a lot about it since. The title character starts acting in an overtly sexual way, making her husband simultaneously aroused and troubled. I’m not really a fan of erotic stories; I just don’t find them particularly interesting. But on reflection, this story is about so much more than sex. I highly recommend you seek it out and judge for yourself.

Another week, another list of wonderful writers. I really think women authors are the real masters of the short story form. What do you think? Who are your favorite short story writers? Anyone you think I should have discovered by now?


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