Let’s face it.  Sometimes you just can’t summon up the energy to start a whole novel.  Maybe you don’t have time to dive into something really complicated.  Maybe your brain is fried by work and you can’t keep track of subplots and multiple characters.  You still want to read, you still feel you need to read, but you just can’t see yourself getting engrossed in even a fairly short book.  

That’s where short story collections come to the rescue.  A collection of stories by one author gives you an opportunity to appreciate the writer’s vision and skills, his or her breadth of ideas and characters and plots. If one story doesn’t quite do it for you, there are others available, so you don’t have to give up on the author or the book just because of one near miss.  A good story collection is like a smorgasbord, letting you taste all kinds of different possibilities without filling you up.  And if this sounds intriguing to you, great, because we have some new collections of short stories by famous (and less famous) writers here at The Field Library for you to sample.

Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Middlesex,  and he’s also known for his book, The Virgin Suicides, later made into a movie, but until now his short stories have never been collected in one place before.  In his new book, Fresh Complaint,  he writes about a young woman who’s decided to impregnate herself with sperm from a donor, and the reaction of her ex-boyfriend to that decision, about two elderly women who have been friends for decades facing the early dementia of one of them, about a clavichordist who’s forced to sell his beloved instrument due to financial problems, and about an immigrant who finds an unusual escape from an arranged marriage.  Two of the stories feature characters from his books, so if you’re already a fan, you have some old friends to meet again in different circumstances, and one of the short stories was selected as one of the best of the year.

T. C. Boyle is known for his short stories, which are often published in places like The New Yorker magazine.  His latest collection, The Relive Box and Other Stories, contains twelve stories showcasing his range and his writing chops.  One story is about a widower who falls for the old “Nigerian Prince” scam, written realistically.  Another is in the realm of magical realism, about a man who’s trying to make a five pound burrito, the resulting success of his restaurant and the price he has to pay for that success.  The title story is almost speculative fiction, about a box that allows its users to re-experience any moment of their lives, a story that turns out to be more about memory and its power over us than the technology being used.  

Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado, is another can of worms altogether, a National Book Award Finalist containing stories that blur the boundaries between speculative and realistic fiction, between fable and horror, comedy and fantasy.  One of her stories reminds you of the old “woman with the ribbon around her neck” horror story, but deeper and stranger.  Another one reinvents the television show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit with a warped perspective of almost fairy tale horror.  Another story twists the idea of weight loss surgery and body image into something memorable and creepy.  This probably isn’t a collection for someone who doesn’t like horror or creepiness, but it might be just the book for a feminist looking forward to Halloween who wants to experience something new and disturbing.

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