Novels have always been my thing. I've never been crazy about all the poetry I studied over the years, and I tend to like short stories only a little bit more than I like poems. I think it all has to do with character development and my attachment to characters as a I read a book. Many times I've felt like I just didn't have enough time to get to know someone I suspect I'll really like before the story ends. It's kind of like making friends with a neighbor who has lived near you a long time, but you don't start to get to know each other until one of you is just about to move. I've recently read two short story collections that are about to make me change my mind about short stories and their characters.
I've been working my way through a book I won on Facebook, New Stories from the South 2010, published by Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill, NC. The 25 stories in this book feature memorable, hilarious, haunting, dramatic, crazy characters doing great things, dumb things and every kind of thing in between. They are in situations familiar to many of us, and those we should hope to never be in. Overall, the collection is a heavy one, so if you're planning to pick this up to read, pace yourself. Read one story at a time and take a break. Let the characters and their words, situations and actions sink in before you move on to the next one.
I also won the other short story collection through a Goodreads giveaway. It's called Quiet Americans by Erika Dreifus (bonus: she personalized and autographed my book!). It's a short read - just seven stories - but the stories also deal with big issues and require reflection on the reader's part. But my very favorite thing about this collection is that the seven stories are related to each other because the characters in each story are related to one another. I won't give it all away but once I figured out what was going on, it was fun to discover the connection each story had to the rest in the collection. All are beautiful tales of Jewish life: Berlin under Nazi power, an American Jew supervising German prisoners at a POW camp and the descendants of concentration camp survivors in New York City are just a few.
Like I said, these two short story collections have shed new light for me and I'm looking to find more good short stories to dive into. Any recommendations?