alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions

Try Something New – Short Stories


A few days ago, I realized I needed to get over this silly thing about not reading short stories…especially now that I’ve been writing them for the last 3 years. I feel like one of those people who shows up in every workshop, who ‘wants to be a writer’ but hasn’t read a book since ‘Flowers in the Attic’ in the 7th grade.

I read plenty of canonical short stories in undergrad, and even plenty that I remember with fondness or appreciation. Stories like “A&P” by John Updike, or “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, or Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” – okay, I didn’t like that one, but I remember it.

After college, I voluntarily read the entire book of Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and, in the throes of a reader-crush, a book of Haruki Murakami’s short stories while I waited for his next novel to be translated. Both experiences were pretty positive, but hmm, that would be about 10 years ago.

Since then, I tried Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners, because she very unhelpfully hasn’t written a novel yet and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I kind of liked the one about the zombies and the convenience store, but mostly I kind of just didn’t get it, and I only read a few of the stories.

But, there’s always room for improvement, so I’m going to give it another try. In fact, I already have. I read a story last week (review to come), and now I have signed up for the Try Something New mini-challenge.

Author: Alisa Alering

I write stories. I read stories.

13 thoughts on “Try Something New – Short Stories

  1. You know, I used to be the same. I made a conscious effort to get into short stories some 3-4 years ago, and it actually worked! I hope you enjoy the mini-challenge 🙂

  2. We’ve discussed this.

    like it or hate it there is something there….

  3. If you’d like some good short story collection suggestions, here are a few from me:

    Jeffrey Ford, “The Drowned Life”

    Aimee Bender, “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt”

    George Saunders, “Pastoralia”

    Kelly Link’s first collect “Stranger Things Happen” (I think they’re less mystifying than her second collection, which I do like, but I understand there are two different kinds of short stories, ones that resolve and ones that don’t but feel like they end anyway, and her second collection is more of the second type, and I think you might enjoy the first if you didn’t like the second as much).

    Karen Joy Fowler, “Black Glass” (may be out of print, but can order used online, I’m sure).

    M. Rickert, “Map of Dreams” (not out of print, but small press, so you might have to order online nonetheless).

    Hope one of them works for you!

  4. Robb, When we talked about this before I tried reading the one about the blind guy but I honestly don’t think I finished it. What is it you like about Carver? Is it the style or the story?

    Despite past failures, I am now on a mission, and I will add “Carver, Raymond” to the list.

  5. Chris,

    I think some of these suggestions may be right for me — your list has reminded me that I have read a few other short stories recently that I liked:

    –Jeffrey Ford’s “Boatman’s Holiday” – wonderfully described,and a perfect ending.

    –Something by Saunders that I just cannot remember the name of. Reading it (and him) for the first time, I was blown away by what a short story could, at least occasionally, do.

    –I tried a couple of Karen Fowler’s stories last summer after having a class with her and watching open-mouthed at the precision with which she took others’ stories apart and put them back together. But I’m afraid the ‘Elizabeth Complex’ was still over my head. I’ll try Black Glass.

    Talking about all the different stories, is making reading them seem like a more attractive proposition. So… thanks.

  6. Robb,

    What was the name of the Saunders story? I know you sent it to me. It was about some teenagers’ and marketing, and um, the girl gets pregnant. That probably describes all of his stories, but I’m sure you know the one I mean.

  7. Nymeth,

    Do you read short stories all-in-one sitting? Or piecemeal like you would a novel?

    I’m sure stories must have something to offer, and the deficiency lies in my reading of them.

  8. “The Elizabeth Complex” is a very difficult story, and it requires the reader to have intimate knowledge about all of the Elizabeth’s that Karen is referring to in the story. It’s not really fun unless you do. But some of her other stories do have less requirements of the reader. I had no idea what to do with many of Karen’s stories until I brushed up on a lot of subject matters after reading them and not knowing what the heck they were about until I looked into their particular histories. One of the things Karen’s stories do is encourage or force a reader to look into information that they have not previously encountered.

    Jeff Ford’s stories don’t. I think you’ll like any of his collections, not just the one I listed. He has three. And many novels.

    And Saunders is just hilarious.

  9. the story that i think that you would like by Carver is “fat,” which I cannot with all my netchops find online to link to. It is in _Will you please be quiet, please_, which I used to have but loaned years ago… I’ll see if I can get another copy today and OCR the story for you.

    • It looks like there’s a copy of “Please” at my library. I’ll pick it up this weekend. It’s helpful to have a specific story, instead of just stabbing around in the dark.

  10. i like to listen to the Selected Shorts podcast while doing the dishes, also. Or walking home from work. Good actors reading good stories most every time.

  11. Also: The Voice Imitator by Thomas Bernard. The stories are very short. Might be one of *those* books, though. I never really feel like we have much overlap.

    For good Science Fiction stories there is Stanislaw Lem’s A Perfect Vacuum, which has some really good stuff in it.

    And Borges, right? The Library of Babel is my favorite, along with Tlön Uqbar…, both well-translated in _Labarynths_.

    But I think that you might be talking about the other kind of short stories where things are real-ish.

  12. If the story isn’t very long I’ll read it all in one setting, but I read books of short stories much more slowly than I do novels. Ideally no more than 1-2 stories a day, or else I run the risk of getting tired of them, no matter how good the author is. Of course, this happens more with collections than it does with anthologies. For example, last year I ruined the second half of M.R. James’ Collected Ghost Stories for myself by not taking a break when I clearly needed one.

    I see that you got lots of recommendations…I’m taking notes of them myself.

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