Edgar Award finalist Patricia Abbott, author of Shot in Detroit, Concrete Angel, and a new collection of short fiction, I Bring Sorrow and Other Stories of Transgression, has written more than 150 short stories that have appeared in print and online publications. She won the Derringer Award in 2008 for her story "My Hero." She is co-editor of the anthology Discount Noir. She has published two previous collection of short stories, Monkey Justice and Other Stories and Home Invasion. She also maintains one of the most entertaining blogs around, Pattinase, which features everything from author interviews, to a regular Friday column, "Forgotten Books." I don't know anyone I'd rather talk short stories with. Here are her favorite picks today.
My Ten Favorite Short Stories (today)
Since I have spent most of the last twenty years writing short stories, I also read a lot of them. For me, a good short story is closer to a good poem than a good novel. It manages to tell you something, hopefully something important, in a few pages. I always read them in one sitting. (Except perhaps here for the Munro story which is quite long.)
Here are a few of my favorites. Ask me next week and they might change but for now this is the ten. Incidentally nearly all of them are available in PDFs online.
1. So Much Water, So Close to Home, Raymond Carver
A group of men on a camping trip stumble on a dead girl as soon as they arrive, but do not let this detail interfere with their good times. Truly a chilling story and there is a good film of it called JINDABYNE.
2. A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Flannery O'Connor
A family outing turns dark when some escaped criminals stumble upon them on the road. The worst road trip ever. And the most annoying grandmother.
3. New York Day Women, Edwidge Danticat
A daughter spots her mother on the street and is astonished at how her mother's public persona deviates from what she sees at home. Here's a college professor analyzing the story.
4. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, Joyce Carol Oates
A young girl, home alone and feeling cocky, flirts with a passerby. (Also a movie called SMOOTH TALK with Laura Dern). Truly scary and I think Oates' best.
5. The Enormous Radio, John Cheever
When a man's radio breaks, he buys a new one that magically picks up conversations in neighboring apartments. His wife becomes a constant listener to the detriment of their marriage.
6. The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Alice Munro
Seemingly about dementia, this story is really about the complexity of love and sexuality. Became the film AWAY.
7. The First Day, Edward P. Jones
A girl starting school learns some new facts about her mother. (This is from the collection LOST IN THE CITY, which may be my favorite collection ever.)
8. A Temporary Matter, Jhumpra Lahiri
A four-day blackout allows a couple to face some truths about their marriage. The video adaptation is available on YouTube.
9. Ballroom of Romance, William Trevor
The story of Birdie, about to qualify as a spinster to her family, who goes back to the ballroom of her youth in hopes of finding the right man.
10. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
Looks at the rucksacks of soldiers fighting in Vietnam for the variety and similarity of what could be found in them.
Even as I type this dozens of other stories flood my head. What a great art form it is.