Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jackie's Been On A Short Story Bender Lately

It started with Jess Walter's We Live In Water, his first collection of stories.  These stories are all about men who are fringe or broken: criminals, con men, highly questionable husbands and fathers.  And they aren't getting any better.  But Walter can create a multi layered character in just a few pages that you will not easily forget.  I've got two favorites.  The first one is based in the near future and a zombie workforce--"Don't Eat Cat".  On the surface, it's hilarious.  But it has darker shadows of intolerance and prejudice when you actually stop to think about it.  My other favorite was more autobiographical for Walters, "Statistical Abstract For My Home Town, Spokane, Washington".  He begins with basic facts, and then goes on to tell what I have assumed are true experiences regarding these statistics.  He tells a story about a woman's safe house that was down the block that made me fall for him in a very hard way. I already liked the guy, but now I truly admire him.

I moved on the George Saunder's Tenth of December.  I felt like I had to read this book given the fact that every publishing related bit of email or Facebook update was talking about that book.  I'd never heard of him, and kind of went into the book with a attitude of "this had better hold up to the hype".  It did.  It really did.  While what he writes about is "out there" in a lot of ways, and was often miles away from my comfort zone, I hung in there because the writing was so wonderful.  He took me to horrible places with beautiful words, leaving me with a notion that I should say thank you for the experience.  I think of one of the stories, "Escape from Spiderhead", just about every day.  It taught me a whole new dimension in horror, introduced me to a hideous but terrifyingly plausible future.  And the whole book taught me the quality of Saunder's work, another thing I will not forget.  

I rounded off the binge with Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a collection of delightfully quirky stories that made me laugh out loud at times.  Her imagination is limitless, as is her ability to write an engaging tale.  There is so much magic and wonder in this collection I could not choose a favorite.  That being said, I know I will always smile at the mental picture I have of two geriatric vampires sitting on a bench sucking on lemons in beautiful Italy.



Mark Stevens said...

I loved Tenth of December ! And just reviewed it on my blog: http://markhstevens.wordpress.com/ These other recommendations look great, too. Also check out "Middle Men" by Jim Gavin...a terrific short story collection set in California. Amazing. Thank you, Jackie!

Jackie Blem said...

Thanks Mark! I haven't read The Middle Men, but one of my co-workers has--his review will be on the blog next week. Viva the triumphant return of the short story!