Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lady With Lap Dance and other stories

According to this post at the Guardian's books blog, short stories are back, bigger and badder than ever. Well, probably not bigger, for obvious reasons, but definitely badder. (Note to readers over the age of thirty: in this context, "badder" means "gooder" in much the same way "cool" can mean "hot" or "Paris" mean "slut". I know, I know: those crazy kids!)

I don't read many short stories, mainly because when I do I am often disappointed. Strangely, this disappointment is qualitatively different to that experienced when I read a poor or indifferent novel. Perhaps it's because I am experienced enough at reading novels to be able to articulate, if only to myself, what I like or dislike about a particular example. With short stories, as with poetry, I'm on less certain ground, which leads to frustration not only with the work, but with my own critical response. Then again, Borges is one of my favourite writers, and his fiction is all short stories, so maybe it's just that most other short story writers are shit. Yeah, that'd be it. (This is just the kind of flippant, ill-thought-out post that riles certain stuffed-shirt critics. I AM IN UR INTERNET RUINING UR CULTURAL DISCOURZE!)

It's a little early for New Year's resolutions, and I don't make them anyway because they're stupid, but if it was time for New Year's resolutions, and if I made them, then I might resolve to read more short stories. I might even resolve to read a short story each day, like this blogger, whom you'll note has only to read 165 short stories over the next twenty-four days to reach his goal.

And now, to round off this utterly pointless post in an utterly lazy way, I'm going to say hey, reader, why don't you tell me about your favourite short story/ies in the comments? And you're not allowed to say "Because it will encourage you to end more slapdash posts with ridiculous reader questions."

14 comments:

Tim said...

I have just realised that that link is to the blogger's 2005 short story reading. He's doing far worse this year.

Tim said...

Oh, and he's actually a she.

Anonymous said...

long time listener, first time caller.
i'd have to put a in vote for joyce's 'the dead'. actually makes me tear up from time to time.
do the short stories in 'the world according to garp' count? 'the pension grillparzer' is a definite contender too.

Anonymous said...

I AM IN UR BORGES F4LLIN AZL33P

Tim said...

anon 1: Yeah, "The Dead" is good, although I prefer George A. Romero's film adaptation.

anon 2: Goodonyer.

Anonymous said...

oh my god. Where to start....

no I really don't know where to begin.

TimT said...

Favourite short stories? James Thurber's fables, amongst others. And does The Brothers Grimm count?

Bumpkin said...

William Trevor: Anything in his book "After Rain" or "The Hill Batchelors" or whatever he publishes in the Noo Yoiker. He's a little genius for compressed emotion and the telling gesture.
Then read Alice Munro.

TimT said...

I must actually confess that it's the reverse with me; I'm not attracted naturally to all novels, but I love short stories. I love things that are terse, concise. It's not simply that I have a short attention span (that's a convenient excuse, really; people who claim to have a 'short attention span' are still able to sit quite patiently through some things), it's just that I like to be able to read things in a haphazard way. I like magazines where I can pick out articles and stories that I like - you might say that I read many things right through, from A to Z in a random way, starting at S and taking a random detour by way of F, admiring the Qs and Ps along the way.

That being said, I'm not sure how much of my reading matter for the past two years fits into this description. Could one really say that S J Perelman (a current obsession) writes short stories? My other obsession is with Chandler, but at the moment I've been focusing on his novels.

Anyway, I'd recommend Perelman, who writes hilarious and erudite short-whatevers. They're not quite stories, and they're not quite articles, and you sometimes have to look up every second word in the dictionary, but they're well worth it.

Anonymous said...

Raymond Carver! Genius. My favourite collection is "Cathedral", and "Short Cuts" is great too.

Tim said...

Thanks for some nice responses to a pretty lousy post. Perelman, Munro and Trevor have been added to my to-read list. Carver I love - I have almost everything he published. Richard Ford is in a similar vein, but you probably already knew that.

James said...

Though I subscribe to the Borgesian philosphy that it's madness to compose novels when you can descibe the idea perfectly well in five minutes and even the Nietzschien "saying in ten sentences what everyone else will say in a book"

I still find very few short stories appealing especially when taken in a large doses. An overindulgence in Ballard and Calvino resulted in severe indigestion so I parcel out precious Borges.

Vandermeer's are good like all of his stiff and obviously you should read, if you haven't already Edgar Allan Poe.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of stuffed shirts if you'd come to the blog meetup last night you'd have been able to join in looking out the corner of the eye at Peter Craven sitting two tables away. Now there's a man you'd be very brave to ask for reading recommendations

Anonymous said...

Right now, my favourite short stories are by Robert Walser: very short, honest, disingenous, self-conscious, evasive, bizarre and inscrutable. All at once. They read simply, but further contemplation of them can tie you in knots.

I think I got into Walser through reading about him in Guy Davenport's short stories. Or otherwise through Davenport's criticism: his fiction and non-fiction complement each other. The fun part of Davenport's stories is that the more you read, the more you realise how little of its material is of his own invention. That's meant as a compliment: his writing is almost always about giving context and structure to disparate incidents and people in history.