The Rise of the Short Story – Lori at The Next Best Book Club Blog

TheRISEoftheShortStoryWelcome to The Rise of the Short Story:  a series dedicated to exploring the short story  and its current renaissance.  To that end – all during the month of February some of my favorite bloggers and podcasters will stop by to tell us why they love (or hate) short stories, why they think they’re back into vogue and to (of course!) recommend some of their favorites.

Lori is a tireless proponent of indie publishers and authors.  Both at The Next Best Book Club, the wildly popular group she hosts on GoodReads, and at her blog.  At the latter she runs a monthly series called Tell Me A Story that “features previously unpublished short stories from debut and Indie authors.” 

Not only will Lori help you find your next best book – but she’ll also point you in the direction of the next big thing.  Case in point – she reviewed Glenn Duncan’s The Last Werewolf in April of 2011 – a full year before it hit bookstores in America.  She reviewed Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion that same month… and even had a link to his homemade trailer.  So, you’ll understand why I’m so excited to have her share her recommendations for short stories…

I used to avoid short story collections like the plague when I was younger. If I was going to read, I wanted the whole enchilada. Give me 300 pages of the same characters so I can nestle in and live alongside them for awhile, and I was happy. I wasn’t interested in getting to know a set of characters only to say goodbye to them a few pages later and start all over again with a whole new set. Short stories always seemed to be a mixed bag – sometimes I wanted them to keep going and would end up frustrated because I wasn’t ready to let the characters go yet, other times I wanted them to end immediately because I wasn’t connecting with it.

One of the first collections I reviewed for TNBBC was Ben Tanzer’s Repetition Patterns. And it opened my eyes to what short stories could be (and possibly had been the whole time I had been stubbornly ignoring them). The characters in his stories overlapped, they lived in the same town, they watched the same movies, hung out in the same places, sometimes at the same time, sometimes years apart. Alan Heathcock did something similar with Volt. This interconnectedness within the collections made it easier for me to sink into the stories, because even though the scene changes and the characters grow younger or older, it has that familiarity that I love so much in novels. I’ve read and enjoyed other collections over the years that contain stories that are tied to each other by theme, like Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas; collections like Please which feature multiple authors writing about one specific topic; and novel-in-stories like Molly Tanzer’s A Pretty Mouth.

My favorite short story collection, though, is Jose Saramago’s The Lives of Things. The king of allegorical fiction, Saramago manages to make each of the 6 stories in this collection feel like full length novels. He fleshes out each character – most of which are not even human! – while maintaining the punctuation-starved trademark run-on sentences that fans know and love.

Now that I read short story collections more regularly, it’s interesting to note just how many short story collections are being published each year. Does our addiction to technology (and presumed shortened attention span) have an impact on the success of the short story? How about the ever-changing digital publishing platforms? Do you think publishers and authors are simply reacting to the consumers’ desire to have more, faster, quicker? Or could it just be that people are more likely to pick up a collection vs. a full length novel out of sheer convenience? When you’re working full time and raising a family, sometimes it’s easier to sneak in a story or two than it is to try to invest time into a book that you may or may not get back to reading this week. It could be they just fit our lifestyle better. No matter what the reason, Go. Read. Get lost in a short story for a minute or two. You’ll be glad you did.

Lori recommends:  Ben Tanzer’s Repetition Patterns; Alan Heathcock’s VOLT; Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas; Molly Tanzer’s A Pretty Mouth & Jose Saramago’s The Lives of Things.

(And for even more recommendations you can follow Lori on Twitter at all hours of day and night @TNBBC.  And check her out in this article at the New York Times). 

Thanks Lori, for contributing to The Rise of the Short Story.

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Do you, uh, Goodread(s)?

Like a lot of people, I’m on Goodreads.  And thanks to Goodreads I’ve learned some unexpected things about myself.

For example:  I’m a biblio-polygamist.  Uh-huh. *Nods sadly* I, too, find it shocking.

According to GoodReads (and I have no reason to doubt them) I’m “Currently Reading” seven books.  SEVEN BOOKS!  All at once!  I obviously have commitment issues I wasn’t aware of.  Or A.D.D.  Or some kind of sleep disorder.  The possibilities are endless.  So if you’ve been wondering about the lack of posts and reviews last month… well there you have it.

Anywhere, here’s a few things to keep everyone busy while I’m playing catch up.

  • TNBBC on GoodReads is hosting a fantastic conversation with Alan Heathcock about his short story collection VOLT.  He’ll be answering questions and talking about his work for  the month of November.  VOLT is on the top of my “Currently Reading” pile.  It’s dark and creepy and emotionally devastating.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
  • Speaking of Lori over at TNBBC – she’s a huge supporter of Better World Books Getting a headstart on your holiday shopping?  This organization donates a book to a community in need for every book you purchase.  That’s 2 gifts for the price of 1 (Gosh you’re generous!). And then there’s the whole good karma thing.   Just follow this link to start shopping!
  • Read all about the Review Haiku at BOOKRIOT.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this – the Village Voice used to run film review haikus (usually for bad films).  They may still do.  It’s been years since I read the paper.  There’s just something about the 5-7-5 formula that lends itself to snarkiness, to paraphrase Amanda Nelson.  Here’s a link to her post. I highly recommend her haiku review for The Giver. Hilarious.
  • And KevinfromCanada has posted the results of the Shadow Gillar Prize.  And the winner is… not telling.  Go over to his blog and check it out.  Kimbofo at Reading Matters & Trevor at The Mookse and the Gripes (two of my favorite blogs) participated on the jury, so you can read more about the shadow jury & the selection process in their older posts.
  • And, please, use the comment section to share your story. Reading promiscuity is no joke!

Announcing ONE BOOK, TWO BLOGS

If you follow Lori at TNBBC (The Next Best Book Club) then you’ve already heard the news!  We will be co-hosting an in-person, face-to-face, mano y mano, non-virtual, everyone-in-the-same-room-talking-about-literature book club. Our first meeting is being held at the Moravian Book Shop, located in historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Thursday, September 1st at 6:30 PM.

You may have figured out from the HUUGGE picture above – we’ll be discussing the novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.  If you’re from (or just in) the area we’d love for you to join us.  Want to RSVP or stay informed of the latest One Book, Two Blogs news? You can send us an email at OneBookTwoBlogs@gmail.com, follow the hashtag #1B2B on Twitter or just continue watching our blogs for updates.

Hope to see you soon!