Savidge Reads Short Stories

Yesterday I mentioned in my review of ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill I mentioned the fact that the book made me think… a lot. It made me look at area’s in my reading that I am slightly weaker at, for example I am not big on science fiction and so maybe need to try a few choice authors in that field but that’s for another time and actually I have quite a few of those hidden away in my TBR boxes, plus I will be reading ‘1984’ in the next week or so for Book Group anyway. No there has always been a certain sort of books I’ve always had a problem with that Susan Hill’s latest book has given me an insight and enthusiasm for…

The short story! I don’t know why but I have always found short stories an interesting idea and then when faced with an entire collection either got bored, got very confused or found them all a much of a muchness. The only collections that haven’t done this were ‘The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secret’s’ by the wonderful Sophie Hannah, which I thought was superb and features the brilliant short tale The Octopus Nest and anything by Daphne Du Maurier. So the problem might be the authors I have tried in the past? Another problem might be the fact that I am reading the whole collection if it was a book (though I think with the Pulitzer prize winning Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout that is just what you are supposed to do) and that would sound like possibly an error of common sense and yet it took me reading Susan Hill’s words about taking a short story at a time.

So what I have devised on my bedside table (when you see the picture don’t judge me by the half empty mug as the photo was taken in the morning and I must have a coffee first thing or else) is an array of collections of short stories I have had on my TBR piles (not the boxes though will be having a rummage soon as have a fair few more) and so will be reading one or two a day before I go to sleep and gently working my way through the collections. So on the bedside table we have;

Bedside Short Reads

  • The Birds & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier (I know I will manage these)
  • Bluebeards Egg – Margaret Atwood
  • The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writing – Charlotte Perkins Gilman (from your recommendations and the library)
  • Mothers and Sons – Colm Toibin
  • Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories – Various (may have trouble with multiple writers so this is a test but its almost sensational reading)
  • Dancing Girls – Margaret Atwood
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Tales – Washington Irving
  • Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout (does this count though?)
  • Beginners – Raymond Carver
  • The First Person & Other Stories – Ali Smith 

I will keep you updated as to how I get on! I have also, partly from reading some of Susan’s book and seeing its fine to have books you haven’t read lingering for ages and feel no shame, decided for now to give up the Ulysses Challenge. I think if I am going to read it I need to just do it straight, the deviating isn’t working. Maybe I will play catch up over Christmas. There were some other interesting idea’s I had from HEiotL but I will leave those for future posts.

So now I want to know what your favourite short story collections are. Are the above collections good starts to short fiction? Do you read them all with no breaks or do you deliberate over a collection and read in bits when the mood takes? Which author writes the best short stories that I simply mustn’t miss? What is your most treasured short story?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Short Stories

45 responses to “Savidge Reads Short Stories

  1. Simon, apologies for my laziness but I am copying and pasting my comment from Kim’s recent post on short stories.

    I tend to buy a complete collection of an author’s short stories (Katherine Mansfield, Edgar Allan Poe, Flannery O’Connor, Colette) and dip in and out of them at random.

    I find that my interest isn’t sustained enough to read an entire volume of short stories at once so I like to have volumes that I can pick up again and again. One particularly good anthology I have found is That Kind of Woman: Stories from the Left Bank and Beyond.

    It is out-of-print but contains great short stories by great female writers. Another one I would recommend (although I didn’t like all of the stories) is Wayward Girls and Wicked Women edited by Angela Carter. Of course I would recommend Angela Carter’s short stories too and those by Neil Gaiman, Eudora Welty and Raymond Carver.

    … back to fresh comment.

    Katherine Mansfield, Colette, Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allan Poe are my favourite short story writers and I am enthusiastically adding to the list. I recently read Jhumpa Lahiri for the first time and loved her style so will be reading her volumes as soon as I can. Persephone also a number of short story volumes in their catalogue and some of the writers I have read in other volumes or instead their novels.

    I said in reply to Kim that I tend not to read a volume at once as it usually cannot sustain my attention but I have recently read one that did; Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off: Love Quarrels from Anton Chekhov to ZZ Packer was extremely good, collecting some wonderful writers (some of whom I have mentioned and others new to me). I will be reviewing it soon.

    • Oh no I am now hoping Kim doesnt think I have stolen her blog topic!!! Eek! I think her blog a while back must have lodged itself into my brain too and myabe thats why the topic stuck out so in HEiotL so much.

      No worries copying and pasting… and thank you for soooooo many recomendations. I have some lovely dipping into to do it would seem.

  2. Book Psmith

    I usually read short stories here and there but Olive Kitteridge I read in one shot and I usually read collections of Sherlock Holmes that way as well. I can’t recommend Roman Fever by Edith Wharton enough…her ghost stories are also very good. Another good ghost story for October is Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story. My two favorite short story writers are Bernard Malamud (The First Seven Years I think is his best) and P.G. Wodehouse (although Hill didn’t think them his strength). I recently read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and understand why it is considered a classic. My most treasured short story is Tolstoy’s Master and Man. I look forward to reading about your short story adventures.

    • I think I may not include Olive Kitteridge in this selection asn really its menat to be a novel in the form of short stories (hmmm) so will see how I get on with that one seperately!

  3. I am not a huge fan of short stories tho I have read those by DDM. I am however anxiously awaiting The virago book of ghost stories (ordered before my book buying ban!) which JoAnn has been blogging about recently; I think it will be great for Halloween!

    • I think Daphnes short stories are amazing and so clever. I do like the darker ones, she has also almost managed the rare feat of making me almost enjoy a book based on a submarine, who would have thought it?

  4. novelinsights

    I am curious about this Virago Book of Ghost Stories too. I think short stories that are good are great and ones that are not are awful. Is that stating the obvious? Short story writing is a bit of a skill I think. I read some of Haruki Murakami’s short stories and didn’t finish the book because in his longer tales he makes up for dreamlike / odd ideas with interesting plots but with his shorties I just couldn’t get engaged. I do love his novels though.

    I think it’s fun to dip in and out of short stories and not necessarily read them in order. Flick through and see which ones take your fancy. I also loved DuMaurier’s as you know, and also try Roald Dahl’s short stories as those are brilliant (Tales of the Unexpected / Henry Sugar).

    P.S. I sent you a little short-ish something. Has it arrived yet or are Royal Mail being b****r’s?

    • No I havent had a little parcel, how exciting! I might guess what it is I think! Royal Mail… its best not to get me started.

      The Ghost Stories book sounds very very intersting I may have to have a look into that, especially with the time of year as it is.

  5. I haven’t yet found any short story enjoyable, but I recently wrote a post about this and now have so many recommendations I don’t know where to start! I love Sophie Hannah, but haven’t got round to getting that book yet.

    I hope that you manage to find a good short story – let me know as soon as you do!

  6. Recently I read ‘The Boat’ by Nam Le which had some beautiful stories. I also liked ‘The Book of Other People’ edited by Zadie Smith. I’m a huge fan of historical mysteries so I have big collection of ‘The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits’ etc which are great to dip into.

  7. You MUST read Alice Munro, and Katherine Mansfield. The Persephone collection of Dorothy Whipple short stories is also excellent.

    I enjoy short stories and tend to read a collection one after the other, like a normal book. I like to see the recurring themes.

    You’ve got a great selection there – I just got a collection of Daphne Du Maurier stories from a charity shop and can’t wait to read them – Danielle at A Work in Progress has been raving about them recently!

    • I had an Alice Munro from the library and accidentally gave it back thinking it was the Georgette Heyer I wasnt loving so muhc and now someone else has pilfered it damn them!

      Looking forward to your thoughts on DDM’s short tales!

  8. I cannot recommend Ali Smith highly enough, and the collection you have, her latest, is her best so far. I wrote a review of it for The F Word (feminist website):

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one of my very, very favourite writers, so I do hope you enjoy that collection. I also recommend Open Secrets by Alice Munro, and the stupendous Loudest Sound and Nothing by Clare Wigfall.

    • I am an Ali Smith fan I have to say, though I will admit Hotel World I gave up on but must try again one day! Will pop and look at your link shortly thanks Kirsty.

      Am looking forward to The Yellow Wallpeper, it is a book I read before and didnt get but I think was not so appreciative then and have bought because it was short!

  9. I have read 50 Great Short Stories by Milton Crane, a great collection of short stories and I enjoyed the book very much. In general, I really like short stories, especially Victorian short stories.

  10. That’s three for the Virago Book of Ghost Stories…JoAnn is doing it great justice! I am somewhat inept with short stories, but I did so love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies to be breathtakingly beautiful and something that stayed with me for a long time.

  11. Only today someone was recommending Carver to me… As you might remember, I love Katherine Mansfield. Who else… Janet Frame is shaping up nicely, and Tove Jansson’s short story collection, The Winter Book, is stunning.

  12. The Virago Book of Ghost Stories has been perfect reading for the season! It appears that I may even be responsible for a purchase or two (sorry, Verity!). I prefer reading just one at a time…my favorite from this collection, so far, has been Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story.

    Olive Kitteridge will probably end up on my list of favorites for the year, but that is designed to be read straight through. Have also enjoyed stories by Edith Wharton, Jhumpa Lahiri , T.C. Boyle, and many others. Before last spring, I hadn’t read a short story since high school (and we won’t mention how long ago THAT was!), but they’re now a regular part of my reading.

    • You are now responsible for me having to make a mad dash to the library tonight hahahaha. Great recommendation and one I wouldn’t have heard of if you hadnt raved about it to everyone!

      Olive Kitteridge intrigues me!

  13. I have a hard time figuring out how to work short stories into my reading routine. I’m like you in that I end up reading collections as if they were novels. The stories often end up jumbled together. I’ve been thinking of pulling my collections onto a separate shelf, as you have done, and maybe reading one story a week or something.

    My favorite short story writer is Flannery O’Conner, particularly her collection “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Her work is dark and strangely but oddly funny. It’s also very embedded in Southern U.S. culture. I’d be curious as to how it translates across the pond.

  14. armen

    I loved Miranda July’s “No One Belongs Here More Than You”. the stories were wonderful and she’s a great writer besides being a filmmaker. the book has a very funny website.

  15. henrietta

    Short stories are for dipping into, and I often find them refreshing between big book reads, when it is hard to settle into something meatier. Also good for journeys where you have to change trains etc a lot, or have interrupting children accompanying you. I am very fond of the O’Henry stories, especially The Gift of the Magi. Saki too. I am shamed not to have read any on your list, not even “The Birds”.

  16. One thing I do is read two short story collections at a time so I can compare strengths and weaknesses of one writer compared to the other. I don’t try to make sure the authors are similar. In fact, I like the variety of reading two wildly different writers at the same time. Thus I’ll read perhaps one or two stories from one book then one or two stories from the other. I never switch in mid-story. Probably my favorite short story writer of all time is Maeve Brennan who wrote a lot for the New Yorker. One of her titles I would suggest is “Springs of Affection”. She only wrote three books during her lifetime, two short story collections and one novella.

  17. I read short stories every week for my own blog. I never read a single anthology straight through. The stories become too routine which is just what would happen if you read 10 novels by a single author in a row. No one could stand up to that test.

    I have twenty or so anthologies, read a couple from one and then move on to another.

    You’ve a very good list on your nightstand. I might add something by Eudora Wealty and The Interpreter of Maladies. I’ll also second the vote for No One Belongs Here More Than You.

    • I have seen that special selection of posts on your blog but think may have to re-read them all again now! Interesting about never reading one authors full anthology and I see your point!

      I think it might be a case of trying out different short collections and speeds of reading them and see what works.

  18. Simon, the only one I’ve read in your pile is the Toibin, which is nice. Nothing great, but nice.

    I usually have one collection of short stories by my bedside, but that’s a really good idea you have there, having lots, so that you could go in and out different collections, thus not getting bogged down with one voice.

    As you know, I recently enjoyed very much Alice Munro. My fave short story writers are Grace Paley (Enormous Changes at the Last Minute) and Milan Kundera (Laughable Loves) and Salman Rushdie (East , West). I’m sure there are more but they’re the ones I can think of at the moment.

    • Hmmm I have always been slightly mistrusting of the word nice Claire I have to admit. After Brooklyn though I am really eager to read more of his work.

      I think the aim is for me to simpy read the ones that I fancy suddenly there and then the only thing with short stories is the titles can be so misleading.

  19. I read a number of short story collections last year and somehow this year I havne’t been nearly as good!

    I loved Maupassant: he is seriously a master of the genre. As is Chekhov. Very good — just choose one and go and chances are it would be pretty great.

    I also enjoyed Nabakov’s stories. I read his entire collection and at 600 pages they become rather depressing as a whole. but one at a time it’s quite impressive writing. Not as light at Maupassant or Chekhov.

    Enjoy! I should get back to my short stories…

    • I do have a collection of Chekhov which I will happily admit I bought after seeing the film version of The Reader and the scene which involves The Lady and the Dog made me cry!

  20. Carolyn

    I know it’s been months since you posted this, but I just stumbled across your blog and had to comment. You couldn’t have picked better place to start than The Yellow Wallpaper. I wonder, have you read it yet? How creepy… but how amazing. I think I must have read it about 10 times over the past few years, and now whenever I stay in old fashioned hotel rooms with peeling off patterned wallpaper, I begin to worry I’ll start to lose my mind…!
    Anyway, on a lighter note, I thought I’d point you in the direction of David Sedaris. He’s an American writer who publishes collections of autobiographical short stories. My favourtite two books of his are ‘Dress your family in corduroy and denim’, and ‘Me talk pretty one day’. He has a very peculiar and dry wit. The first time I read him I had tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks.

    • Thank you very much for your comment Carolyn. I havent read it yet and have actually just renewed everything I have from the library as I have far too much from there I still havent read. I have got it on my mind to read it though.

      I tried Sedaris and wasnt too sold on Me Talk Pretty One Day. I might try more of his stuff in the future though.

      • Carolyn

        Well, I suppose Sedaris isn’t for everyone. Though, have you ever heard him read? He quite often reads his stories for American radio. After hearing him, you’ll read his texts in a totally different way, believe me. And speaking of audio versions of short stories, have you heard of Spoken Ink? They have a website from which you can download audiobook short stories. They have some great stuff on there. Perhaps if you’re finding you’ve too many books and never enough time to read them, you could ‘cheat’ and just listen to them. In fact, they’ve actually got The Yellow Wallpaper – problem solved!

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