I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections lately. In a range of genres from general fiction to horror to science fiction. I’ve enjoyed the rapid reading of short, though-provoking pieces. These are a couple of the best:
Black Vodka: Ten Stories is a short collection by the accomplished London-based author, poet and playwright Deborah Levy. Levy is best known for her novel Swimming Home that was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In this collection, she creates interesting, provocative characters and details their sometimes strange, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes triumphant relationships. My personal favorites are “Stardust Nation,” about a damaged but successful ad exec and his overly empathetic employee; “Placing a Call,” about loss and heartbreak; and the title story, about a deformed man and the erotic curiosity he inspires.
Games Creatures Play is a collection of stories by various science fiction and mystery authors, including the editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner, as well as Jane Burke, Brendan Dubois, Mercedes Lackey, and others. Each story features a game that the characters play, from dodgeball to fencing to the actual Olympic Games. I was first drawn to this collection because it contained a story featuring Harris’ most popular character, Sookie Stackhouse. And, frankly, her story was one of my least favorites. Not because I didn’t care for it but because there are so many amazing stories in this book. Some of my favorites include “Hide and Seek” by William Kent Krueger, about the evil in this world and the imprint it leaves behind; “Dead on the Bones” by Joe. R. Lansdale, about family, growing up, and getting what’s coming to you; and “Ice” by Laura Lippman, about the struggles of childhood and the suffocating power of stories.
Let the Old Dreams Die is a collection by John Ajide Lindqvist, the Swedish author of Let the Right One In and Handling the Undead, both of which have a sequel story in this collection. These eerie and often uncomfortable (in a good way) stories explore the fine lines that separate our everyday lives from the terrors that lurk all around us. The author says it best (as the good ones do):
“The membranes that separate us / from insanity, from the fall, / the monsters, are so thin. / Only paper walls.”
Some of my favorites, not including the two sequel stories, are “The Border,” about an unexceptional woman with an exceptional ability and the confounding man who sees her full potential; “Equinox,” about a bored, possibly sociopathic, woman who needs a stubborn zombie to bring her to life; and “Tindalos,” about an emotionally stunted woman who is quite literally haunted by her past.
Our library is filled with short story collections. Some in fiction or genre fiction, like these. Some we have on the second floor, cataloged by Dewey decimal. You can find literature in the 800s (American short stories in 813’s and British in 823’s…or 839.7 for Swedish). Ask any friendly librarian to point the way!