Sunday, October 21, 2012

Best American Short Stories 2011

So, I bought this and promised myself I wouldn't start it until we were on the plane. We are not on the plane and I'm halfway through...

My favorite story so far is Caitlin Horrock's The Sleep. In some ways it reminds be of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery although it isn't creepy like that. It just has the same feel--this decrepit small town, this one idea, everyone sort of falling into it. And the characters--for a story in which the major action is sleeping, the characters are really identifiable. When the story started, I thought, oh, sleep, what a wonderful idea. But then, there are all these layers, and subtexts, and people's motivation for sleeping and staying awake--it's all so beautifully crafted. The story could have veered off into a fairy tale but Horrock keeps it grounded with the characters, which is something I struggle with and deeply admire in other writers.

I'm going to order her collection This is Not Your City.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gone Girl

For the first time in a very long time, a book gave me nightmares. Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is so creepy, so well-plotted, so full of unlikeable characters (my favorite kind) that it literally kept me awake at night, wondering what they were going to do next. 39-year-old rich girl Amy goes missing on the day of her five-year anniversary and husband Nick Dunne is the prime suspect. Told in alternating points of view from Amy (via her diary) and Nick, Flynn very carefully crafts a story in which the reader truly can't decide which character is worse. I can't say much more about this book without giving a lot away, which would ruin it. Don't read this book if you're looking for a hero or a happy ending. Read it if you want a mystery that doesn't rely on cheep tricks but unfolds as we discover more and more about these deeply-flawed characters.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A month!

I can't believe it's been a month since I've posted. I've been reading, but mostly books about writing. I finished Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer as well as John Dufresne's The Lie That Tells a Truth. I would recommend both for beginning or more advanced writers. Although Dufrensne offered more practical exercises and specific tips on the story, I liked the voice in Prose's a little better, maybe just for where I'm at with my own writing right now. I would call both essential for the writer's bookshelf.

In between all that, I've been reading a lot of short stories and the best one I've read recently is from the Five Chapters website: This is really good. And creepy.

Speaking of creepy, how is it possible I'd never read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery?" I know, shame on me. It was referenced all over the place in both writing books so I figured I'd better get to it. I read it yesterday and I'd say the hype is much deserved. (if you can call it hype after it's been out for years and years...maybe just hype to me because I hadn't read it?) Anyway, it's really worth the read if you, like me, are one of the only people on earth who haven't already done so.

I suppose I would be remiss to not mention my own story, Butterflies, selected to be excerpted on-air for NPR's three-minute fiction and featured on their website:

Right now, I'm about halfway through Chris Cleave's Gold. I'm a little disappointed. So far, it doesn't have the emotional resonance as Little Bee. But then, I know a lot of people who didn't like Little Bee because they felt it went too far...but I guess I'm partial to books that go too far.