What do we have this month? Four collections that were longlisted for the world's richest short story prize, the Frank O'Connor international short story award:
- Vanessa Gebbie's Words from a Glass Bubble,
- Booker winner Anne Enright's Taking Pictures,
- Niki Aguirre's 29 Ways to Drown and
- Richard Bardsley's Body Parts.
There is an added dimension here: Niki Aguirre, whose collection is reviewed by Sarah Salway (whose own collection, Leading the dance, we reviewed several months ago) herself reviewed Vanessa Gebbie's collection, and both are interviewed on their Author Pages.
I wondered about whether to run these both in the same issue, and then I thought that they could be seen as short story writers who have never met, communicating through their writing. For example, if you combine their interviews you can almost hear them chatting:
TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?Alongside these four collections, we have: uncanny and quirky stories from Richard Matheson (Button, Button) and Aimee Bender (Willful Creatures). Aimee is also interviewed about the book, her second collection. Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things are a little too fragile and fleeting for our reviewer, a Gaiman fan, and the Sea Stories anthology didn't go down swimmingly. 2007's Best of American Short Stories was rather hit and miss, despite being full of big names.
Vanessa Gebbie: Something that takes you out of yourself for the duration of the read. Something that leaves you thinking or wondering. Asks the question, 'What if?' I found this quote the other day by the late Bryan Robertson OBE, curator of the Whitechapel Gallery. It sums up what I look for in a story, however long it is, flash, short, novella or novel... "What I look for is…a transcendent ability to soar above life and not be subjugated by it." Isn't that perfect?
Niki Aguirre: ... due to my upbringing, I prefer those that are rich in the oral storytelling tradition. The best ones are the ones you get lost in: multilayered, babbling and chaotic, not necessary neat and linear. If you think about it, when you are sitting in a café or a pub telling a story, it seldom goes from point to point: the little asides are the best parts. Stories are often desperate things, dying to be voiced and heard -- nothing calm and organised about that. Although I admire people who can write succinctly and in an orderly fashion while still maintaining a good level of excitement. That’s something to strive for.
So, some hearty recommendations and some rather more wary reviews.
And: following the poll on this blog, where a majority voted for having direct links from reviews to booksellers (as long as it isn't to just one seller), you can now click straight through from the new reviews to buy the book from the publisher's and author's websites (if available), Amazon, AbeBooks and BetterWorldsBooks.com (used and new) and there is a friendly reminder to visit IndieBound.org to find your nearest independent bookstore (if you live in the US). We hope that this makes your Short Review reading experience richer... but don't forget, pass those short story collections around!