Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Shorts in the Summer from June 23, 2013 (updated, with an expanded book list) to get you ready for cool summer reading.
Summer calls for shorts. Not just the kind you wear. The kind you read. Winter is a good time to pick up a novel, a memoir, a complex text. Something you can sink your teeth into like a thick stew that fills you up with comfort through long, cold nights. But summer is all about brevity. A day at the beach. A cool mouthful of ice cream. Something comfortable you can dip into and out of. This doesn’t mean short stories are flimsy, fly-away and forgettable. Some of our greatest literature is found in the short stories of such authors as Fitzgerald, Poe, O’Connor, Chekhov, du Maurier, Asimov, de Maupissant… and my personal hero, O.Henry. The list could go on well beyond summer. Great writers understand the challenge and power of the short story.
It’s true that a full-length story establishes lasting relationships through details and complexities of plot that a short story lacks. But a well-crafted short story can stay with you far beyond its reading. If you think that fewer words mean less intensity, I offer up what is possibly the shortest story ever written and challenge you to remain unmoved:
“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” This six-word story is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, although it actually was scripted by someone else into a play about Hemingway. Does it matter? You get the point.
Several acclaimed contemporary novelists have collected short stories into books (check out the shorts of Harry Crews, Bobbie Ann Mason, Stephen King, Lorrie Moore, Jim Shepard, Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, and Annie Proulx). You can also find great short stories in literary journals such as Tin House, Granta, Ploughshares, Crazy Horse, Black Warrior, Prairie Schooner and Glimmer Train.
Want to read some classic short stories online? Check out the Classic Short Storiessite.
For a comprehensive list of the best literary magazines, visit Every Writer’s Resource.
Need some suggestions for story collections by individual authors? Powell’s Books offers a list of the best, from classics to contemporary.
Whether you pick up a collection of classic shorts or prefer contemporary fashions – it’s summer and you really should try on some shorts!