Sometimes you don’t have the time to read through a whole novel, even a relatively short one. Sometimes all you can muster attention for is a short story or two, and when you’re in that kind of mood, come and check out our new collections of short stories. Some of the collections are all stories by one author, while others contain stories by numerous different authors on the same theme.
Ann Beattie is famous for her short stories, which have won her international acclaim and awards ranging from an award for excellence from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters to the PEN/Malamud award for excellence in the short story form. Her newest book is called The State We’re In: Maine Stories, and the stories are limited in geographical scope (mostly to Maine) and in character (the main characters are all women), and one character, Jocelyn, a teenager attempting to make sense of the world around her, is a focal point or a connector for many of the stories. But within those limitations, Beattie manages to illuminate many aspects of the human condition with her famous dry wit and eye for the telling detail.
A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin, showcases the talents of another top notch short story writer, though one who’s much less famous than Ann Beattie. Lucia Berlin’s stories take place mostly in the Southwestern United States, and her characters tend to be hard living women, trying to get by in difficult circumstances: working as a cleaning lady, going through drug rehab, abortions, affairs with the wrong people, poverty. Her stories shine with brilliant language, the perfect choice of words ( young teenagers blowing smoke “like petulant dragons”), and a deep abiding sympathy for the characters and their predicaments.
For a change of pace, the book Press Play to Start, edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams, is a collection of stories by different authors with a single theme: video games of all sorts, from the oldest text based kind to the most modern multiplayer ones. The authors include some famous names, both in and out of science fiction: Andy Weir, author of The Martian, Hugh Howey, author of Wool, Holly Black, Ken Liu and T.C. Boyle, to name a few. If you’re of a certain age and/or an aficionado of various types of video games, you’re sure to find stories in this collection that speak to you and bring back memories (or creep you out).