Friday, January 9, 2009

#32 "The Best American Short Stories" ed. by Salman Rushdie

I'm pretty sure I came across The Best American Short Stories (2oo8) when I was browsing in the bookstore one day. I rarely read short stories, so I figured this book might be a nice change of pace and expose me to some new writers and writing styles that I've been missing. The 2008 edition of this series is edited by Salman Rushdie and consists of twenty short stories by twenty different authors. There are also short notes from the authors at the end of the book, which were helpful in getting the authors' reasons and inspirations for their stories. I haven't read any of Rushdie's books, but I've certainly heard of him, so I figured I could trust him to pick out some short stories for me to read.

I think I've decided that I'm not super excited about the short story format. There's no question that all the stories I read were good and many were moving and thought provoking. And I plan on reading the 2009 version of Best American Short Stories. I also appreciate how difficult it must be for writers to create characters and stories that mean something with so few words. On the whole, though, I think I prefer the depth and length of the novel, mainly because once I get invested in characters, I don't like to lose them again so quickly.

So, in the interests of time and space, I think I'll just mention some of my favorites stories. These were not necessarily the best written of the bunch, just the ones with the most relatable characters and stories that really spoke to me.

Child's Play by Alice Munro - This was probably my favorite story in the entire book. Munro managed to create full, believable characters and describe a life-changing event and its effects throughout their lives in one short story.

The King of Sentences by Jonathan Lethem - Two aspiring writers seek out their favorite author. This story made me laugh out loud, and was the one I had the most fun reading.

Puppy by George Saunders - One of the more complex and intriguing stories. Explores how people view themselves and how others view you all within the framework of a relatively disturbing tale.

Quality of Life by Christine Sneed - This one I found disturbing simply because of some parallels between the protagonist's life and mine. It was weirdly too personal at the beginning and kind of made me think about what I want to do with my life.

Missionaries by Bradford Tice - An interesting story. What I agreed with most was Tice's statement in the notes that, "[o]ne of the cheerless realities of organized religion, in my secular opinion, is that often its spokespersons, the advocates of faith, end up seeming like used-car salesmen, while the truly devout go voiceless." His story reflects this belief.

Some other notable stories include Admiral by T.C. Boyle and Man and Wife by Katie Chase, which both still have me thinking. I also enjoyed the characters, especially the main character in Virgins by Danielle Evans. The main character was likeable, strong, and understandable, even when she might be making mistakes.


Marra Alane said...

I haven't read any of Rushdie's books, but I've certainly heard of him, so I figured I could trust him to pick out some short stories for me to read.

I felt that way about Stephen King when he edited this anthology a couple of years ago, and I was disappointed. I love short stories, but I like them better when their either all written by the same author, so even though the characters change the style stays the same, or all have a similar theme.

Also, my word verification is mulet. Which is the best word verification I've ever had.

Book Blogger said...

Marra, you know that's a really good idea. I should try some short stories by the same author, and I might find that more satisfying. The jumping around in this book was a little difficult.