May 30, 2020
At the Center for Fiction, we are forever extolling the virtues of the short form. The ability to capture a life, an entire landscape, a range of emotions, a fully formed character, even a whole world in few pages has always seemed remarkable artistry. Here are some recent collections, filled with gravity, humor and playfulness—some harrowing, some poignant, all imaginative and inventive.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Lorrie Moore
Published by Everyman's Library
This handsome edition marks the first time Moore’s stories have been collected. With an introduction by Lauren Groff, it is essential for any good reader. Her subversive humor, and ability to make small moments seem intimate yet somehow encompass larger issues has made her one the most beloved story writers of our time.
Sorry for Your Trouble
By Richard Ford
Published by Ecco Press
A new Ford collection is always an opportunity for applause. These stories come especially alive when you have heard him read his own work (try here), but still and always that distinctive style of melancholy and plain-speaking leaps off the page into your psyche. Here, concerns of growing older and attendant matters are beautifully rendered.2 .
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
By Bette Howland
Published by Public Space Books
Howland, a MacArthur ‘genius’ and friend to Bellow, fell into obscurity after acclaim in the 70s. Lucky for us, her stories have been rescued (like the writer Lucia Berlin, to whom she could be compared). Her observations of domestic life, urban Chicago and the rural areas beyond, people on the verge of sanity, and the working class, are delivered with a trenchant wit.
By Jasmon Drain
Published by Random House
An 80s public housing project in Chicago becomes a microcosm of life—of poverty, crime, and hopelessness. But the young boy at the heart of these stories shows us that anywhere you are is home. Lauded by Sandra Cisneros, this debut volume of connected stories leavens deprivation with deep empathy, like the paintings of Kerry James Marshall.4 .
We Had No Rules
By Corinna Manning
Published by Arsenal Pulp Press
Manning’s work has been acclaimed and anthologized, but this is their first solo collection to be published. Their queer characters—living across modern America during the last couple of decades—confront challenges of identity with both revolt and compliance, finding the path to survival in a world where there are no rules.
Machines in the Head
By Anna Kavan
Published by New York Review of Books
French-born British writer Kavan was, like Leonora Carrington, both a fiction writer and an artist. Spanning her career from the 40s to the 60s, these stories illuminate her craft in various forms—psychological, experimental, feminist, sci-fi, auto-fiction. Kavan’s wide travels and history of depression inform these richly imagined stories. Bonus: Kavan’s paintings illustrate the stories.6 .
Sansei and Sensibility
By Karen Tei Yamashita
Published by Coffee House Press
A perfect introduction to this enormously gifted National Book Award finalist. Her two-part collection combines the best of Yamashita’s earlier stories about immigrant life, mixing fiction and nonfiction, with a revisiting and reinvention of Jane Austen’s six and a half novels, showing off her extraordinary ability to dazzle with style. You’ll be thoroughly entertained!
St. Christopher on Pluto
By Nancy McKinley
Published by West Virginia University Press
Who wouldn’t want to open a book with this title? Take a journey on a girls’ road trip across a depleted rural Pennsylvania with two old friends who went to Catholic school together and now work at a down-and-out shopping mall. McKinley’s humor is deadpan and the connected stories within the collection have a refreshingly optimistic outlook.8 .