“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.”
― Lorrie Moore
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories (Barnes and Noble Modern Classics edition) by Flannery O’Connor (Georgia Author and winner of the National Book Award for The Complete Stories in 1972)
My review: 5 of 5 stars
With authentic southern dialect, O’Connor manages to shock the reader in a way so matter of fact that the effect is stunning. Good and evil, religious themes, and the dark side of humanity are explored and exposed, but not without a healthy dose of dry humor. Readers will appreciate her excellent use of imagery, metaphor, and personification, all of which magically convey character, tone, and theme in a few short pages. I believe O’Connor is the foremost example of a short fiction writer, particularly of southern writers. She’s a master of the form. Highly recommended!
“In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (p. 2, A Good Man….).
“They looked like the skeleton of an old boat with two pointed ends, sailing slowly on the edge of the highway” (p. 22, The River).
“True genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind” (p. 134, Good Country People).
The Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg
My review: 4.5 of 5 stars
The Isle of Youth is a collection of short stories featuring a variety of women mired in secrecy and deception. Most live quiet lives of desperation. The female characters are well-imagined with much depth. Each story contains conflict and tension. Many of the women make bad choices and must live with the consequences. This collection is imaginative and sensual with an immediate sense of conflict and tension in each. The characters are unique. These are not stories of the average woman in normal situations. Such is the draw and fascination with this collection. Definitely recommended.
“Other people’s lives were no less impossible to understand than my own” (p. 15, I Looked for You, I Called Your Name).
“We knew what it was like to want something so badly, it burned a whole inside you” (p. 33, “OPA-LOCKA).
“It was a terrible flaw, our ability to see where our lives were leading us” (p. 62, OPA-LOCKA).
“It felt very strange to not know where I was in time” (p. 121, Antarctica).
Voice of America by E.C. Osondu (Nigerian author and Winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing)
My review: 4 of 5 stars
In this collection of stories, Osondu portrays Nigerians (both in his homeland, and here in America) in an honest, unflinching light. He uses fascinating details to underscore the violence and desolation like how displaced children in refugee camps, the result of civil wars, name each other by the T-shirts they receive from foreign aid workers offering help. He offers intimate portraits of desperation and judgement, as well as insight into cultural differences and beliefs. He highlights the differences between Americans and Nigerians that result in cultural misunderstandings, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the problems in Nigeria. An illuminating read. Strongly recommended.
“Any white man that eats peppers must return to Lagos” (p. 31, Our First American).
“…the sky was wide enough for many birds to roam without their wings touching each other” (p. 36, Jimmy Carter’s Eyes).
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (3 starred reviews and winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
My review: 4 of 5 stars
Olive Kitteridge is unique among short story collections because the stories are connected by a single character; Olive links everyone together. Except for the fact that each story has its own beginning, middle and end, Olive Kitteridge could just have easily been read as a novel. While the writing is excellent, and the characters well crafted, the pace of the book is rather slow. I think the short story format slowed it down. Rather than one chapter pulling the reader greedily into the next, stories played out individually and made the book easy to set down. On the other hand, each story captivated the reader. So, I enjoyed the read; it just took me awhile to complete it. Though I will say that the clever use of foreshadowing created some suspense and helped to move the book along.
Olive Kitteridge is a book for people who enjoy short fiction and character driven stories. The stories are about the people in a small town in Maine and how their lives intersect with Olive. Depending on the point of view, Olive can be seen as judgmental, rude, and bitter while at other times she is sympathetic, honest, observant, almost wise. She is a complex woman, and as such, opinions vary widely about her. Crosby, Maine is also a character shaping the lives of those who live there. The author captures the sounds, the smells, and the essence of this small coastal town.
quiescence: dormancy, inactivity
corporeality: existing in bodily form
“He wanted to put his arms around her, but she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away” (p. 6, Pharmacy).
“You get use to things, he thinks, without getting used to things” (p. 16, Pharmacy).
“–oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on” (p. 47, Incoming Tide).
“People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it” (p. 162, Tulips).
HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’ May Be The Best Depiction Of Marriage On TV
I remember when I was first introduced to Flannery O’Connor’s writings my first year in college and after reading just two of her stories, they left me pondering about life, people and morality, and I wanted to read more of her work. I need to revisit her writings! Thank you for posting this.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Erica. I somehow missed Flannery O’Connor in college despite the fact that I was an English major. A recent writing instructor pointed to O’Connor as the quintessential short fiction writer, so I borrowed a collection from the library. She’s definitely a master of the form, and I agree with you that her stories give the reader much to think about.