Short stories sought
November 15, 2012 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me up some short stories. Inside, I'll tell you what I likes and what I don't likes.

Alright, so I love reading short stories, they're great for reading in short bursts, or to fill in the gaps between reading longer stuff. I also find the form to be very thought-provoking and that it creates an intense emotional experience.

I seem to prefer things that are about being a person, and life's experiences. A couple examples here would be Raymond Carver's stories about blue collar America, and Junot Diaz's Drown collection. I also enjoy reading works that are more philosophical (like Notes from the Underground, except that's not a short story.)

Some other things I'd be interested in are: things which are more minimalist or experimental, or that come from cultures I'm not very familiar with (basically non-America/non-European), and well-done collections (for example, collections that are all in a specific style, or of stories that relate to a particular theme.) Apparently I haven't read as many female authors, so that would be a good gap to fill in as well.

Some stuff I'm not really interested in right now: Ted Chiang (I find his stuff gratingly simplistic, and dislike how it tends to have an explicit moral), genre fiction in general (unless the genre is just a tool to get at a philosophical issue), overly florid writing, humor (again unless it's just a way of getting at something deeper.)

Random list of authors I have previously enjoyed: Raymond Carver, Hemingway, Junot Diaz, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, Nietzsche (although I don't really want to read more Nietzsche right now--I'd love to read from folks after him), and Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by !Jim to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
If you haven't read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, it's worth crossing off your list.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:02 PM on November 15, 2012

Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" is European, but otherwise fits a number of your categories. Philosophical, intensely emotional, dealing with a life of a type of person you don't often encounter in fiction and can't encounter in real life.
posted by griphus at 10:07 PM on November 15, 2012

Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

We the Animals by Justin Torres
posted by thack3r at 10:08 PM on November 15, 2012

Also, if you'd like to try before you buy, I just remembered these are available online: the title story from In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, and "Reverting to a Wild State" by Justin Torres.
posted by thack3r at 10:13 PM on November 15, 2012

things which are more minimalist or experimental, or that come from cultures I'm not very familiar with (basically non-America/non-European)

Borges - Ficciones is the masterwork, but you really can't go wrong. There was a mega-compilation of his short stories, all put into one book, that came out about 10 years ago. He basically writes in two idioms: Argentinian knife-fighter tales, and odd, nearly sci-fi stories dealing with infinity or the tenuous nature of reality.
posted by LionIndex at 10:26 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ficciones, yes, absolutely seconded.
posted by griphus at 10:28 PM on November 15, 2012

My favorite short story is The Horse Dealer's Daughter by DH Lawrence.

Have you read Kafka? The Metamorphosis is his most famous work, but he has a number of short stories that will twist your brain up good.

T. C. Boyle's The Decent of Man has stuck with me for a good long time.
posted by willnot at 10:30 PM on November 15, 2012

A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, fits so many of your criteria. It's a collection that explores the lives of a bunch of interwoven characters with incredibly varied life perspectives and experiences. It's also experimental: The collection changes character perspectives and styles from story to story. One chapter is even in the form of a powerpoint presentation (sounds gimmicky, I know, but it worked for me).
posted by sashapearl at 10:30 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wallace Stegner's Collected Stories is excellent.
posted by jon1270 at 10:46 PM on November 15, 2012

You want to read a female writer, you want realism, you enjoy emotional catharsis after reading a short story - you want to read Alice Munro. Intense, intense stories.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:46 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

minimalist or experimental - Gahan Wilson's The Cleft and Other Odd Tales
posted by mannequito at 11:40 PM on November 15, 2012

Margaret Atwood's Good Bones is a collection of odd little experimental short stories, mostly retellings or parodies of myths, fairy tales and fables.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:56 PM on November 15, 2012

For 'life experience', I'd absolutely recommend the short stories of William Maxwell. There's an excellent collected edition of his work called "All the Days and Nights". For more recent (aned very different stuff), I'd also suggest George Saunders' collection "Pastoralia".
posted by hydatius at 12:07 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You want a handsome edition of minimalist, experimental short fiction about sharply-drawn characters and their lives, written by a female author.

You want The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:51 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

God is Dead wonders what the world might be like if God literally died(it happens in the first story). It's horribly depressing at times, but amazing.

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves looks at adolescence in a slightly-fantastical version of the world. No fairies or anything, just sort of…weird at times.

More conceptual/philosohpical:
Shining at the Bottom of the Sea is a collection of literature in various formats serving as the history of a fictional country.

Insurmountable Simplicities illustrates a bunch of philosophical problems via shorts.
posted by Su at 2:14 AM on November 16, 2012

Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman

How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

Nthing Alice Munro
posted by backwards guitar at 3:57 AM on November 16, 2012

Bernard MacLaverty is an Irish writer who's done a few short story collections that would fit. (And if you end up really liking him, his novel Cal is on the short side, and is absolutely heartbreaking.)

Also - the short stories that Stephen King have been doing lately have been not quite what you'd expect necessarily, and a handful of them may be intriguing; the story "All That You Love May Be Carried Away" especially.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:11 AM on November 16, 2012

For the Carver-esque category, I would start with Richard Ford's Rock Springs. I also just read The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake and was blown away.

My top female recommendations would be Gina Berriault and Lorrie Moore. This book by Melanie Rae Thon left a strong impression on me and I remember it being a bit more experimental, but it was "edgy" in a kind of '90s way that may seem a little overcooked today.

And if you want to hit three of your requirements at once -- female, foreign, experimental -- plus some serious obscurity points, I've just started The Bound Man by Ilse Aichinger after reading about it here, and I'm really enjoying it.
posted by pete_22 at 4:27 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also seconding George Saunders and Jennifer Egan as two suggestions that fit your criteria, with the caveat that Egan's Goon Squad felt more like a novel to me than separate stories. A good book either way, though.

And what about The Safety of Objects by A.M. Homes? Female and pretty experimental. You can read A Real Doll, (IMO) the best story from that book, here -- it's a real head trip.
posted by pete_22 at 4:37 AM on November 16, 2012

Robert Graves: The Shout
Flannery O'Connor: A Good Man is Hard to Find
Also nthing Lorrie Moore
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:57 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, for "more experimental," Donald Barthelme.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:59 AM on November 16, 2012

John Gardner, "The King's Indian: Stories and Tales" is mystifying and sweet and beautiful.

John Gardner, "The Art of Living and Other Stories" is, to me, more just mystifying but I liked it. I need to reread -- rereading his "October Light" this year made it clear to me that I was too young when I read most of his stuff.
posted by Infinity_8 at 5:02 AM on November 16, 2012

Bobbie Ann Mason and A S Byatt
posted by brujita at 5:33 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read David Sedaris' books! They are all short stories, and even though they are labelled "comedy", most of them are stories about his life, and besides being funny, they are also very insightful and moving. I love a lot of the authors you list, and I love Sedaris.

I would start with Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.
posted by coraline at 5:48 AM on November 16, 2012

Experimental: Julio Cortazar, especially Blow Up and Other Stories.
Being a human: Amy Hempel
Nthing George Saunders, who is an uncanny mix of experimental and extremely human.
You might also take a look at Angela Carter. Burning Your Boats, specifically.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 6:10 AM on November 16, 2012

I'll gleefully second Amy Hempel for capturing the truths of being human.
posted by a hat out of hell at 6:19 AM on November 16, 2012

Nthng Alice Munro. Seriously. She is a master of the craft -- writing stories about small places and small lives but making them so, so big.
posted by AmandaA at 6:20 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You *have* read Junot Diaz's "This Is How You Lose Her," right?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:48 AM on November 16, 2012

Blueprints for Building Better Girls, by Elissa Schappell.
posted by lyssabee at 6:55 AM on November 16, 2012

Beyond the Pale and Other Stories -- William Trevor.
posted by Kitteh at 7:34 AM on November 16, 2012

It sounds like you would like Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, and anything by Ben Greeman. Also, James Joyce's Dubliners arguably invented the thing you're asking for.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:42 AM on November 16, 2012

For an amazing female author, and very weird but beautiful and intense stories, you should read We So Seldom Look on Love by Barbara Gowdy. She has a real knack for making the incredibly strange seem very human and universal.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 7:57 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

+Nthing George Saunders
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:38 AM on November 16, 2012

Mortals - Tobias Wolff (from The Night in Question which is very good)
Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at Woodstock - Sherman Alexie (from Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven)
Amahl and the Night Visitors: A Guide to the Tenor of Love - Lorrie Moore (I can't remember the book this is from, but it's great)
The Golden Honeymoon - Ring Lardner
Tongues of Fire - Lee Smith
Pale Horse, Pale Rider - Katherine Anne Porter

Those are some of my faves. Sherman Alexie and Lorrie Moore (and Tobias Wolff) really are very good, especially if you like Junot Diaz and short stories in general.
posted by mermily at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2012

New book I've been recommending to everyone lately: The News from Spain, by Joan Wickersham. Looks like it's right up your alley. I found it delightful.
posted by RedEmma at 10:29 AM on November 16, 2012

I've been going through a phase of reading short stories that all take place in one area of the US and are about down-on-their-luck types. I can recommend:

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell (Michigan)
Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollack (rural Ohio)
The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake (West Virginia)
posted by jabes at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2012

The stories in Scott Wolven's Controlled Burn are set both in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom and out west. Lots of hardbitten characters...good stuff.
posted by PaulBGoode at 11:41 PM on November 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone, I've added so many things to my reading list from this thread!
posted by !Jim at 10:39 AM on November 17, 2012

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