Category Archives: short stories

The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris

The Dinner Party

I have always greatly enjoyed Joshua Ferris’s writing: it’s clean, lucid, and reflective of a life that was familiar to me: the travails of the creative/professional class (and those who love them) in contemporary New York. This collection of stories seems drawn from disparate points along Ferris’s evolution as a writer. My least favorite story seemed like it had been written for a creative writing class a long time ago; my favorite story (“The Dinner Party”) amazed me when I first read it in the New Yorker years ago and, happily, it still held up on re-reading.

Ferris writes about men behaving badly, men who are careless and blind to their own selfishness. As I read these stories it struck me that he was writing about a very narrow slice of life experience, and I missed the breadth that he’s demonstrated in his novels. However, I enjoyed these stories (some more than others), and Ferris remains one of my favorite contemporary writers.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017

Large Animals by Jess Arndt

Large AnimalsLarge Animals is Arndt’s first book of short stories, fresh off the presses for this summer (published May 2017). There are 12 stories, all narrated in the first person (which is, objectively, the best voice for short stories). As with any collection of short fiction, it’s hard to make sweeping characterizations about all of them together— there’s a lot of variation. But overall, I found Arndt’s narrators meditative, sad, acerbic, and intelligent. The titular “Large Animals” is a good example, of a writer self-secluded in the desert of the Southwest, drowning in alcohol and confronted by bizarre, sexually-charged dreams of walruses. As that description implies, the stories often blend the character’s imagined or hallucinated visions with the materiality of bodies in the 21st century.

There’s a lot of plant and animals interacting with human bodies– from weeds and parasites to impenetrable, concealing hedges, to jelly fish and walruses. Like the narrators, these more-than-human participants in the stories are not your “charismatic megafauna”– the cute, cuddly, poster-children of a sleek marketing campaign. Everyone– human or non-human– speaks from a position outside the mainstream, outside of clear and accepted labeling and identity. There is a indeterminacy that hangs over the prose that makes one focus on the exact words of the narrators. And this is where I think Arndt excels– the narrators’ voices are each unique but exquisitely crafted. I wouldn’t mistake any of the narrators from each other, each is so well developed in short order through their particular voices.

Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017 by a small press.

Infernal Parade by Clive Barker

Infernal Parade

 

I found the dark fantasy novella Infernal Parade by Clive Barker in the “new releases” section of the Lexington Park Library. It is more of a collection of loosely tied together short stories rather than one story; it ends rather than concludes. I thought the stories/chapters ranged from OK to very good (I enjoyed “The Golem, Elijah” the most).

I recommend this book if (and only if) you are looking for a book of short stories.

 

Availability: COSMOS,
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: A book from the 2017

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

This is How You Lose Her

This is How You Lose Her is a collection of short stories chronicling love won and love lost by Yunior, a swaggering, science-fiction loving Dominican immigrant from New York who lives in the shadow of his beautiful older brother, Rafa. Through the stories, you cry, laugh, and root for Yunior, who watches his father and his brother philandering with other women, who cheats himself and then realizes the horrible consequences of his actions. The book is not only about Yunior’s search for love, but about Yunior’s ultimate choice: to let himself be vulnerable and completely available to one woman, or to hold up a mask and keep from getting hurt.

The last story, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”, is particularly fantastic. It starts out with Yunior’s confession: “Year O. Your girl catches you cheating. (Well, actually she’s your fiancée, but hey, in a bit it so won’t matter.) She could have caught you with one sucia, she could have caught you with two, but because you’re a totally batsh*t cuero who never empties his e-mail trash can, she caught you with fifty!”

For anyone who has found love and lost love, this book is for you. For anyone who has tried to win back an ex, this book is for you.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Andrea Gesumaria
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book Read in One Day

Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of short stories centered on Indian characters and their lives either in their native land or their stories as immigrants in the US. Lahiri captures the voice, history and personality of her characters beautifully. Some stories seem to be written in modern day with the only nod to India in the names or foods. Others take place during tumultuous times in India’s history. Lahiri has a great talent of pulling the reader into a story that might just be mundane or boring if penned by any other hand. Out of the nine stories, there were only two that I didn’t care for or connect with while reading.
Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Sandi Hauenstein
Rating: Recommended

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk After going to the Mark Twain Lecture with David Sedaris this year, I wanted to read one of his books very badly. His talk had been so insanely hilarious, captivating, and inspiring that I wanted to see if his books would be just as good. I must admit, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk was a little different than what I had expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Rather than personal stories or reflections on current events, Sedaris created a series of parodies and anecdotes using animals to make fun of and examine many of the actions, thoughts, and behaviors of humans. The only reason that I am recommending this book with reservations is because I’m not sure if it is the best book for those who are highly sensitive, easily offended, or unappreciative of crude humor. I don’t consider myself to be any of those things, but there were still instances and whole stories that had me shaking my head and remarking on how “just not right” certain statements were. However, many of the stories were, in my opinion, perfect analyses of American culture and human society and were explored in ways that were absolutely hysterical.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Submitted by: Breanna Thorne
Rating: Recommended with reservations

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress

Stone Mattress is a book of nine short stories that all revolve around someone of old age. While the first three stories are all connected, the following stories have no affiliation. However, running throughout every one of the nine tales is the theme of “wickedness,” and whether that be manifested in murder, haunting, or visions, the tales are riveting and short enough to be read in one sitting.
This is the second book I have read by Margaret Atwood, and I really enjoy her voice and sense of suspense. I will definitely read one of her other books.

Read reviews of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Penelopiad

 

Availability:  SMCM, COSMOS, and USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Jessie Vislay
Rating:  Highly Recommended