Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer is Short, Read a Story!

HarperPerennial celebrates the short story this summer. Buy some. Read some. Talk some.

Do you have a favorite short story? Tell me which one it is and why you like it so much. Do you write short stories? If it's online, share the link with me. Do you advocate reading short stories? If yes, let us know why. I know a lot of readers who aren't great fans of the short story format, myself included, tell us what we're missing! Do you have a source for good short stories online? Share the link!

I’ve got a copy of Petina Gappah's "An Elegy for Easterly" to give away for the best comment.

Petina Gappah is the voice of Zimbabwe. In this astonishingly powerful debut collection, she dissects with real poignancy the lives of people caught up in a situation over which they have no control, as they deal with spiralling inflation, power cuts and financial hardship - a way of life under Mugabe's regime - and cope with issues common to all people everywhere; failed promises, disappointments and unfulfilled dreams. Compelling, unflinching and tender, "An Elegy for Easterly" is a defining book, and a stunning portrait of a country in chaotic meltdown.

Have a happy summer everyone!

An update:

Now you can all listen to Petina Gappah's interview on NPR. It also features an excerpt from everyone's favorite story, "The Mupandawana Dancing Champion" so you can get a feel for her writing style.

******* My sincere most apologies for taking so long to pick a winner, but with summer here the days tend to fly by so very quickly. There were so many good comments that I decided I had to draw for the giveaway, and the winner is.......... drum roll please............. Lorraine!*************

Lorraine, please write me with your address, so I can mail you out a copy as soon as I can, thank you!


Color Online said...

I've been reading here for a bit. I love your reviews and essays here. I appreciate a good short story, but like many readers, I don't have a long reference list of titles and there's always some novel I want to read next.

Very interested in multicultural literature so to say I'd love to win this is an understatement. I've linked to post here and you're on our blogroll. I know you did ask us if we're fans, but I am and I'd like to say thank you again for what you provide here.

Please join us at Color Online. Would love to have extended conversation with you. I can't seem to ever post when you're online. I keep hoping one day, you'll respond to a comment I've made here or you come by my space.

Lotus Reads said...

Hello Color Online!

I know you have been here before and I thank you, also, I apologize for not visiting you earlier. I am moved at the great work you are doing in Detroit...I am sure you are making a difference in many lives. There are quite a few books I would have been happy to donate to your library...sadly I can't afford the darn postage that Canada Post insists we pay. However, if I ever find myself driving down to Detroit, would I be able to bring you a box or two of books?

Since you're the only commenter at the moment the chances of winning this book are high! :)

I'll give it a few more days...

Rama Lekshman said...

Thank you.

apu said...


A topic dear to me - I am a big fan of short stories, and am also trying my hand at writing them. I believe the view of human nature that they can give you (and ultimately that's what most stories are about) within the space of a dozen or so pages, is unparallelled.

It is hard to pick out a few favourites, but mine include Somerset Maugham (whose work can be devastating in a gentle sort of way) and Margaret Atwood (subtle, yet so penetrating). A recent fantasy short story collection I picked up is Vandana Singh's 'The Woman who thought she was a planet and other stories', and her bringing together of fantasy with a sense of repression innate to Indian society, totally blew me away.

Curiously, in the case of two writers, whose work I otherwise enjoy very much, Gabriel Marcia Marquez and Haruki Murakami - their short stories failed to move me.

apu said...

And - btw, your blog no longer throws out a malware message :)

Unknown said...

I have two favorite short stories: A Rose for Emily and The Yellow Wallpaper. I love both of these stories and read them often, like once a month, and I make all of my students read them. I think A Rose for Emily is especially near to my heart because I remember being horrified by it for almost a year after reading it the first time. Every time I read it, I find Mr. Faulkner more interesting and more disturbing.

Dorothi said...

Short stories I think are the real test of the writer....its not a easy task to convey a lot in few and leave an haunting impression....a lingering pleasure or satisfaction and a want of having more even after the story has ended.And the greatest story tellers are our grandparents...listening those tales at night are the most beautiful memories of childhood.

Short stories are most enjoyable to read as well as write...I have tried my hand with some at my blog

My most memorable short story collection were Malgudi Days by R.K Narayan. Ordinary human life of a small community could be eventful and interesting. Narayan is a master craftsman in portrayal of human psychology and relations.

wordjunkie said...

I think the short story is a far tougher thing to craft than an entire novel. That being said, I can't think of a single author whose short stories I've found uniformly masterly. But here's my list - Joyce ('The Dead'), Gogol, Henry James, Saki, O Henry, Poe. And from more recent times, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mridula Koshy, Anjum Hasan, Vikram Chandra.

And great to read about Vandana Singh's book here, which I'm still looking out for .. she has a short story online called 'The River' which blew me away.

Lotus Reads said...

@Apu ~ To say I am thrilled to see you back here would be an understatement! So happy that the darn malware has vanished...not sure where it came from and I'm not sure where it went! All I will say is, good riddance!

I so agree with you about Maugham and Atwood...those two could write anything and I would be entertained and moved. This is the first time I am hearing of Vandana Singh so I am curious and excited to read some of her stories. Thank you for mentioning her.

As I mentioned in my post, I am not one who would race to pick up a book of short stories but when I do I usually find myself enjoying it very much. An author that I have enjoyed recently is Daniyal Mueenudin from Pakistan. He is a brilliant observer of people and landscapes and his prose is compassionate and precise.

I also love the short stories of Jhumpa Lahiri...she uses very simple, yet elegant prose and being an immigrant I tend to connect so well with her characters, finding their situations achingly familiar.

Lotus Reads said...

Angela, after that ringing endorsement you can bet I am going to seek out "A Rose For Emily". I love that you read it over and over. Do you find that you see something new or different every time you read it? In the past I have come across some really lovely short stories in the New I wish I had jotted down the authors'names and the titles because I just can't seem to recall them now.

Lotus Reads said...

@Dreamer ~ Hello! You are so right about a short story - especially one that aims to leave a long and memorable impression - being difficult to write. It is quite a task to employ the same elements that a novel or a nouvella uses but in probably a tenth of the number of pages. I guess a writer of short stories has to learn how to make sure not a single word in her or his prose is a wasted one. I can't wait to read one of yours, Dreamer, thanks so much for including your blog address!

And, true, who can forget RK Narayan? Which reminds me, I really need to get myself another copy of "Malgudi Days", the one I have now has been loved so much, it's falling apart! Do you know if any of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay's short stories have been translated into English?

Lotus Reads said...

Word Junkie ~ Thank you for your list! I may have read a few of Poe's short stories and some of Gogol's but that would have been a long,long time ago! I thought Anjum Hassan's name looked familiar and then I remembered she was on the "Man Asian Literary Prize" longlist -wasn't she?

Will look for "The River", I'm glad you mentioned it's online.

wordjunkie said...

Oops, I goofed.That story is called 'The Dream' and not 'The River' .. here's the link..

Singh has a set of stories called The Myths of River Sky (I think) up at Strange Horizons, which is this wondrous collection of speculative fiction online that I am addicted to. Do visit.

Yup, Hasan made the long list.

CocoDivaDog said...

Hi there Lotus,
Today I went to Barnes & Noble and picked up a copy of China Dog, a collection of short stories by Judy Fong Bates. I'm not familiar with this author. She immigrated to Canada from China.
I rarely read short stories, but I do enjoy them because they are quick reads.

CocoDivaDog said...

This comment is off-topic...but did you read that article in the NYTimes about the Biblio Burro? You can find it at

I just love this story!

Suchitra said...

I love short stories as they encapsulate the essence of life in a few pages. Some of my favourites are by Jeffrey Archer, R.K.Narayan, O'Henry, Jhumpa Lahiri and Oscar Wilde. My all time favourite short story would be "The last leaf" by O'Henry as its a story of courage, determination, love and humanity. I read it whenever I feel low and it instantly lifts me up. We also have so many lessons to learn from this simple yet profound story. The last leaf can be found here -

rads said...

These days when my time's rushed and crowded, short stories satisfy my need well. I tend to dabble a bit myself..

Unknown said...

Always wanted to visit the site and finally did. I have read short stories by Tolstoy, Maugham, Lahiri and a few more authors I cannot remember. I remember reading Tolstoy's short stories as an introduction to his other great works like Anna Karenina, War and Peace.

I like short stories mainly because if they are tedious to read then skipping the story does not make me feel as guilty.

Zibilee said...

I haven't dabbled much in short stories, but one collection that I try to read every year or so is Self Help by Lorrie Moore. I find her stories in that collection to be both rich and infused with a beautiful sadness at the absurdity of life. If you haven't read this collection, I highly recommend it.

Aarti said...

I never thought I even liked short stories until I read some great ones recently. My favorite set that I think you'd really enjoy is In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. Fantastic!

iselldreams said...

Although i am not much into reading short stories, i myself do write time to time...i guess i find it more joyful to write one rather than reading:) And you know where to find them:)

Lotus Reads said...

@Dog Girl ~ Yes! I've heard of Judy Fong, she's also written some full-length novels...I think you summed up what short stories mean to so many of us, a "quick read"! Tks for the link, will get to it now!

@Suchitra~ Welcome! I don't believe I have read "The Last Leaf" by O Henry, but now, thanks to you, I shall! I have been enjoying the comments and contributions, thank you so much!

@Rads ~ Thanks for the link, I look forward to reading your work!

@Lorraine ~ So glad you visited, thank you! Yes, it is rare that I will read a book of short stories from cover to cover. I read, I would say, about 80 % and yes, like you, I don't feel guilty when I leave out a couple! :)

Niranjana said...

Hey Lotus,

Coming here late, but I had to talk about Alice Munro, who often conveys more in a short story than most novelists do in their doorstoppers. Her world is not a whit less richer for its brevity.

And Lorrie Moore, the wittiest story writer alive in the English speaking world, who deserves every superlative I could possibly coin.
Every sentence of hers is a miracle of cleverness. Not to be missed.

Suzanne said...

Right now I'm reading a collection called SPRINGTIME ON MARS by Susan Woodring, which has this cool retro vibe to it. A lot of stories are about space or the Cold War or the death of Kennedy. I love reading short story collections, and I usually read them from start to finish because I know that writers and editors put thought into the story order, and also because if I didn't, I probably wouldn't finish the collections either.

Rambunctious WhipperSnapper said...

I started reading short stories about a year ago and I must credit Jhumpa Lahri for that because I somehow found Unaccustomed Earth to be quite interesting. Depending on the author, short stories can be like little, small enjoyable pieces or rarely can be a drag. It's perfect for when you commute shot distances or for a quite Sunday evening at home.

Besides Jhumpa, I have read "The Book of Other people" which is not short stories strictly, but it is a variation of the same concept. Also, I picked up "The Best American Short stories 2008" which is part of an annual collection and this year the stories were selected by Salman Rushdie.

Although, not everybody can do them well. I hated the Japanese Wife so much, it is the second book in my whole life which I have started reading but gotten so bored that I left it midway.

Sorry for hogging your comment space.

Cheers . . .

Lotus Reads said...

@Zibilee ~ Thank you! I am making a note of Lorri Moore's "Self Help", I am as pleased as punch at all the wonderful suggestions I have been receiving, thank you!

@Aarti ~ That's one of my favorites too! Moiuneedin and Lahiri...what a terrific collection of short stories from each!

@Choti ~ Yes! What would I do without your blog and your posts! I love my little corner of Turkey...just wish I had time to come there more often!

Lotus Reads said...

@Niranjana ~ Better late than never! :) This is the second great endorsement I have received for Lori Moore, I will have to get my hands on one of her collections. And yes, I was hoping someone would mention ALice Munro...the only woman to have won the Man Booker International Prize. She is, incidentally, one of the first Canadian women I ever read!
Thanks so much for the visit.

@Suzanne ~ Thanks for the recommendation....I will be looking for "Springtime on Mars". Do you remember when Readers' Digest used to publish their bound short story collections? Maybe they still do...those were such treasures!

@Rambunctious ~ Don't worry about taking up comment space. You're welcome to have as much of it as you like! I have to agree with you about "Unaccustomed Earth", I am not a huge fan of the short story, but UE had me in its grip right from page 1. I usually use short stories as a palate cleanser between big reads. They work best for me that way.

I read "The Japanese Wife" (the short story, not the collection) and enjoyed it a lot, however, I couldn't read a single other story in the collection!!!

The New Yorker is a great,great magazine for discovering new talent.

A Writer from India said...

I too, fall in the category of readers who prefer novels over short stories.

Favourite short stories that come immediately to mind are of the masters like O.Henry, Ruskin Bond, R K Narayan (but of course), Guy de Maupassant and Somerset Maugham. The macabre, dark stories of Graham Green, Roald Dhal and Muriel Spark. My favourite of all short story writers would be Saki -Stories like 'The Schartz-Metterklume Method' and 'Mrs. Packletide's Tiger', that blend an accurate insight into the human mind, with delightful, if sometimes dark humour.

Saki's stories can be read online at:

An Elegy for Easterly sounds interesting, as do many of the other books you have recently reviewed.

Madeleine said...

Hi Angelique (truly a beautiful name if I haven't told you before)

I am making note of this book and will look up some short stories to break up the 550+ pages I seem Ihave been reading lately.

Will be back to tell you about it, I have quite a few shortstory books in my TBR, good ones

Enjoy this cming week and yes this Sunday to :D

Saaleha said...

The stories that have stayed with me from my childhood days have been the short stories of Herman Charles Bosman from a collection entitled Bosman at his Best.

When my parent's moved to Zeerust, I felt close to the writer each time we passed Groot Marico, where the stories were set.

I love writing short stories. There's something about condensing a life, or consuming a slice of it in the space of a couple of thousand words that is just so appealing.

I see you're as busy as ever. Way to go Lotus :)

karmic said...

Hi Lotus, Am late to the party as usual. But would not have entered the drawing. Don't want to win a book and then put it on the shelf to admire. :-/
The summer unfortunately is quite busy, so no reading time.
But I always love to read what you have to say about books and thus do some of my reading via your wonderful book blog.
I love short stories due to the unique challenges it offers given the format.
I loved Lahiri's "Unaccustomed Earth".. "Hell-Heaven" and "Hema and Kaushik" were my fave.
Petina Gappah's book sounds like a good read. Thank you for sharing, for this wonderful post.
Do you have a favorite short story?
Have a great summer.

kareena said...

Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it. I will be back for more!

Id it is said...

O'Henry is the name that comes right up! They were and still are my gavorites in that genres. However, there have been and are other short story writers I have enjoyed like Jacob's "The Monkey's Paw", Sirley Jackson's "The Lottery", Guy de Maupassant's "Gift of the Magi" & "The Necklace", Flaherty's "The Sniper" and so many more that I read in The New Yorker which I really enjoy and promise to remember...

Thanks for bringing this up Lotus!

...I have often wondered why the 'short story' genre never got a lift off it always seems to have been relegated to the back bench, much like a country cousin to the novel...

Kripa Nidhi said...

I too, do find Maugham’s collections contain stories that are consistently good. Someother authors with good consistent record in the short-story department that comes to mind are O Henry and Chekhov. And JD Salinger’s Fanny and Zooey series…

In recent times, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of … had some good ones. And some of PG Wodehouse collections – especially the Jeeves one – are consistently good. And funny. But if I were to pick the best short story I’ve ever read I think it will have to be Edith Wharton’s Roman Fever. In fact that one collection of hers, contains a handful of stories that are good.

That said, in my unbiased, objective and impartial assessment, my pick for the best collection of short stories ever published will have to be The Silence of Time and other stories! Seriously, no kidding! ;-)


Kripa Nidhi said...

Maugham’s collections contain stories that are consistently good. Some other authors with good consistent record in the short-story department that come to mind are O Henry and Chekhov. And JD Salinger’s Fanny and Zooey series…

In recent times, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of … had some good ones. And some of PG Wodehouse collections – especially the Jeeves one – are consistently good. And funny. But if I were to pick the best short story I’ve ever read I think it will have to be Edith Wharton’s Roman Fever. In fact that one collection of hers contains a handful of stories that are good.

That said, in my unbiased, objective and impartial assessment, my pick for the best collection of short stories ever published will have to be The Silence of Time and other stories! Seriously, no kidding! ;-)


notablyindigo said...

I love short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, and my favorite of hers has to be "The Third and Final Continent". It's pithy, but the characters still have wonderfully developed, unique voices and experiences. On top of that, the story itself is one that my family relates to (that is, the experience of an expatriate), so it resonates with me very strongly.
I write in my spare time. Writing short stories is one of the toughest things for me to do.

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Laura's Reviews said...

I love short stories. I have MANY favorites. A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner is one of my favorites. While I actually am not a fan of Faulkner's novels, his short stories are well crafted. A Rose for Emily is a suspense story written in a nonlinear fashion. It has a surprise ending and was a thrill to read.