Short Stories

  • This Life She’s Chosen

    Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum

    I found it funny when one of the characters in an early story described a play as “very subtle … very oblique” — as it’s a pretty apt description of the stories in this collection. At first I felt annoyed that each one seemed to leave out a key detail I was wanting to know. But either I got used to it or the missing pieces were absent/less obvious. There’s a little Alice Munro in these stories, but they are a little less all-encompassing.

    I loved “Lucidity” about a couple going, unannounced, to pack up the husband’s mother Gisela to take her to an assisted living home, on their anniversary. Shifting between the perspectives of the wife and Gisela, their impressions of...more

  • The Push Man and other stories

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi

    If I’d paid better attention, I would have waited to read Abandon the Old in Tokyo in order to be properly anal and read the books in sequence. The introduction by Adrian Tomine is both a personal and technical opener to the series and how it came to be, including a note on the difficulty of translating the comics from Japanese — not necessarily the written words themselves but rather the format. The panels had to be re-arranged to flow from left to right as Western books read, with some frames mirrored in order to preserve the continuity inside dialogues.

    There was some suggestion in the second book that this first collection of stories (representing a collection of Tatsumi’s work from 1969)...more

  • Abandon the Old in Tokyo

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi

    I haven’t been keeping up with Adrian Tomine, or the last few issues of Optic Nerve for that matter. So that might be why I also missed hearing about this series of translations of Tatsumi’s work, which Tomine is editing/designing/lettering. This book represents work originally published in 1970 and the epitome of his “gekiga” style, somewhat the opposite of manga. Each story, while tinged with humor in parts, is generally bleak and includes some key unsettling or profoundly melancholy moment.

    The way Tatsumi’s male protagonists are all drawn similarly reminds me somewhat of Murakmai’s “Boku”—though the natures of protaganists themselves feel much different....more

  • No one belongs here more than you

    Miranda July

    It was a small thing, but it was a thing, and things have a way of either dying or growing, and it wasn’t dying. Years went by. This thing grew, like a child, microscopically, every day. And since they were a team, and all teams want to win, they continuously adjusted their vision to keep its growth invisible. They wordlessly excused each other for not loving each other as much as they planned to. There were empty rooms in the house where they had meant to put their love, and they worked together to fill these rooms with midcentury modern furniture. Herman Miller, George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames. They were never alone; it became crowded.

    Outwardly Miranda July’s stories are...more

  • Stranger Things Happen

    Kelly Link

    Once again, unable to finish a book before its due date back at the library. Part of it might have been that I liked some of these stories a whole lot better than others. The pseudo-modern-fairy-tale/mythology-retellings weren’t heavy on the clever for me. But I did enjoy the creepier stories, like the librarian in love with a lady whose family shares a serious sense of loss, namely limbs and noses. I didn’t get around to the story about the girl detective visiting the underworld to solve a case about tap-dancing bank robbers, so I guess I’ll have to scope out this book again sometime.more

  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

    Haruki Murakami

    I waited for months on the hold list from the library, only to be unable to finish all these stories before going out of town. Perhaps I should have just paid the few days of late fees I would have received if I’d taken it with me on my trip and returned it afterwards. I only got through half the book, but I might have gotten through more if I hadn’t been unable to resist re-reading the stories I’d caught in magazines previously.

    Even if you’ve read a lot of these already as well, it’s worth browsing this one for a few older stories from the 1980s as well as the forward by Murakami where he talks a bit about his...more

  • The Crooked Mirror and other stories

    Anton Chekhov

    I tried reading some Chekhov three years ago after a long stretch of short stories and just couldn’t do it. Being that I read with much less density these days, what I read has less to do with what I’ve read before it. And I guess not having read much short fiction lately at all gave me a prime opportunity to try again.

    Chekhov’s stories are pretty clever, many of them function as long jokes with a punchline at the end. But I think the part I most enjoyed in this collection were there selection from his writings about a journey out to Siberia, though the diary-like entries seemed to stop abruptly....more

  • Hotel of the Saints

    Ursula Hegi

    It’s been a long while since I even tried to read a short story collection—I read a lot of short stories in 2003 and I daresay it burnt me out. So I was glad that Melanie sent me this Ursula Hegi collection for my birthday. A nice reminder of my appreciation of the short fiction.

    Hegi is grounded in the exploration of moments, where a story can exist primarily to describe a single moment. I love when the development leads up to a final scene that delivers a simple truism. There’s a story by Ellen Gilchrist that perfectly illustrates this—of course, I read that book before I started keeping a booklog, so I’d have to dig around boxes for...more

  • The Dove’s Nest and other stories

    Katherine Mansfield

    This probably wasn’t the best book of Mansfield’s to get, as only the first group of stories are “finished” and the rest of the book is just fragments put together after she died suddenly. The stories are very short and concise, which was an interesting contrast to the Munro stories. But I’m not really into reading period stories sometimes.more

  • Runaway

    Alice Munro

    For the most part I felt disappointed with Munro’s new collection, though there are a few stories that I liked a lot. I’d read the title story in the New Yorker a few months ago, so perhaps that one just wasn’t as fresh in a re-reading. The trio of stories involving Juliet were pretty good as a set, but I felt that none of them would have stood up on their own without the other ones to give context. It took me forever to sort out the characters in “Trespasses” and by that point I’m sure I missed many of the nuances. “Tricks” was probably my favorite story, just how it successfully arcs across decades. Overall I kept feeling like...more

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