Short stories are generally considered to be short enough to be read in one sitting. They are longer than 1,000 words, or else they are considered ‘flash fiction’, but shorter than 10,000 words. They encompass all that is involved in your regular novel- from exposition to resolution- carried through in one swift story and far less complex than a full fiction novel.
The short story dates back to the traditional form of oral storytelling which, for obvious reasons, could not take hours to resolve. Long tales (such as Homer’s Odyssey) would be recited in sections- often with rhyme and rhythm to aid remembering each verse. Often separate short tales would be told but would be linked in some way (such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales).
2017 has seen this traditional form flourish still, and remain ever more popular. Perhaps modern life calls for shorter, snappier tales to fit in with our busy lives?
“In An Animal Called Mist, a book of six short stories, the Galician author Ledicia Costas (Winner of the 2015 Spanish National Book Award) walks the tightrope between fiction and reality in a superb and sometimes shocking narrative. She bases herself on real events in and after the Second World War – the Siege of Leningrad, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the interrogation of Italian partisans by the Banda Koch, the sexual exploitation of women internees in Nazi concentration camps, the trials of high-ranking Nazi officials – and then recreates them, changing and inventing biographical details, giving free rein to her writer’s imagination in order to produce a sequence of stories that look not so much at historical fact as at the essence of barbarism, the capacity of the human mind to conceive ways of torturing and tormenting fellow human beings.”
“Don’t Wait to Be Called is a collection of short stories that span the distance from Eritrea and Ethiopia, whose refugee populations author Jacob Weber worked with in 2013 and 2014, all the way to Rustbelt towns of Ohio, where Weber grew up in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These stories range from migrants fleeing for their lives and hanging on to what is left from the dangerous journey to “bros” lifting weights together who just want to get ripped. Weber also covers the 2015 Baltimore Riots through the eyes of a student (Weber’s wife was a Baltimore teacher at the time), a dying mathematician’s son who tries to master high school math before his father dies, and a single mother just trying to hold it together on a Sunday at the park. Weber twice hits on themes of surveillance, once in a very short story told through the eyes of an eavesdropping translator (Weber himself is a translator for a living), and again through a haunting story of a man who built facilities for the National Security Agency and now wants to spend his retirement in a bath house he built. But the heart of the collection are the four stories of “Habesha” immigrants–those who have come from Ethiopia and Eritrea to the United States to become a new kind of American–“American as Berbere,” as one story has it.”
“In this striking debut, of vivid characters and piercing situations, nothing is too insignificant for Pursell’s imagination–a wren on a branch, a hole in a sock, ginger tea–and nothing too dangerous–a girl hit by a stone, a mother and daughter struggling, a lip plump with blood. Intense insights are captured in superb concentrations of prose, with lyricism and flashes of brilliant detail applied to the small wonders of the world. In a matter of a few words, a few lines resonant as in the way of music, Pursell transports us. This dazzling collection of narratives, with its precise beauty and unsparing wisdom, is a fiercely sacred book, immense in its gifts, with a long, shimmering after-effect.”
“It is just after nine o’clock in the morning. Gidza will die in exactly forty-three minutes and thirteen seconds.”
“‘Rotten Row’ is the Criminal Division of Harare, and the courts and the unfortunates who pass through them are the subjects of this mesmerising collection of stories. In these portraits of lives aching for meaning and redemption, Petina Gappah crosses the barriers of class, race, gender and sexual politics in contemporary Zimbabwe, to explore the causes and effects of crime and the nature of justice.”
“Passion. Peril. Imposture. Shipwreck. Alchemy. Transformation. This is the stuff of Mary Shelley’s richly Romantic stories. Set against varying backdrops of medieval chivalry, the wars and revolutions of her age, and grandiose scenes of nature, her tales mark a high point in the Gothic storytelling art. Long out of print, these stories are made available once again in a meticulously annotated and corrected softcover edition.”
“‘Rain’ explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as clouds of nails spread out across the country and the world. Amidst the chaos, a girl studying law enforcement takes it upon herself to resolve a series of almost trivial mysteries . . . apparently harmless puzzles that turn out to have lethal answers.
In ‘Loaded’ a mall security guard heroically stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun movement. Under the hot glare of the spotlights, though, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it…
‘Snapshot, 1988’ tells the story of an kid in Silicon Valley who finds himself threatened by The Phoenician, a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid that can steal memories…
And in ‘Aloft’ a young man takes to the skies to experience parachuting for the first time . . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapour that seems animated by a mind of its own.”
Out in October (UK) /November (US) 2017:
“Profound, lyrical, shocking, wise: the short story is capable of almost anything. This collection of 100 of the finest stories ever written ranges from the essential to the unexpected, the traditional to the surreal. Wide in scope, both beautiful and vast, this is the perfect companion for any fiction lover.
Here are childhood favourites and neglected masters, twenty-first century wits and national treasures, Man Booker Prize winners and Nobel Laureates.
Featuring an all-star cast of authors, including Kate Atkinson, Julian Barnes, Angela Carter, Anton Chekhov, Richmal Crompton, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, Penelope Fitzgerald, Gustave Flaubert, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Ian McEwan, Alice Munro, V.S. Pritchett, Thomas Pynchon, Muriel Spark and Colm Tóibín, THAT GLIMPSE OF TRUTH is the biggest, most handsome collection of short fiction in print today.”