How do you read you shorts ?


Just a quick question .I’m wondering how does every one read their  short story collection ,.Over last few years I have been collecting a number of collections of short stories mostly of course in translation , as I want to add a side section of short story reviews from next year now I usually read a collection cover to cover reading one story at a time , say one in the morning and one in an evening then maybe move on too something else this seems to work but I’m still tied to start to finish and one book at a time , I wonder is every one the same or is it ok to pick one story here and there ? Do you want a selection of short stories in translation ? I for one am a novel reader but love listening to short stories and love certain collections and want to discover more and promote more in translation here . So rather like Bart Simpson would say how do you eat your shorts ? Do you have a favourite short story writer in translation ? For me I love Borges and Neuman but want discover more from around the world .How would you like short stories reviewed , I used love Fobaroundbooks daily post on short stories and have missed them . What length I feel couple hundred words on a short is ok , maybe as I do more reviews this may grow .

OUP Teales series of translated tales

25 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dagny
    Jun 29, 2015 @ 21:47:57

    I’m not fond of short stories either. If the collection was by one author, I’d definitely have to break it up with other reading in between. When I was proof-reading Balzac’s Droll Tales, they got very old. They’re too repetitive anyway. It might be different with an author who wrote more varied tales.

    I don’t read a lot of short stories either. If I had to pick favorite author, it would be Lovecraft and Poe. I haven ‘t read all that many authors who only specialize in short stories. For Maupassant, who wrote over 300 short stories, I’ve read four of his six novels and not many more than four of his short stories.


  2. Lisa Hill
    Jun 29, 2015 @ 22:53:25

    I’m not fond of short stories either, but whereas a few years ago almost no publisher was issuing them, now there are dozens of collections and more coming out all the time. I don’t know who’s reading them, I never see anyone reading them on the train or in a waiting room but somebody must be or publishers would give up on them. To me they’re like short films, briefly engaging but then I forget about them. There’s nothing to hold on to.
    I prefer novels: I like the way authors use character and plot to explore major issues and I love the inventiveness that a greater length can bring to structure and style. On the rare occasions I read a collection of modern shorts, I find it hard to think of anything to say about them for a review. If I read ’em over a period of time I forget about them, if I read them one after the other I find myself discontented at having read a whole book and not getting anything out of it.
    Balzac’s stories are, as Dagny says, a case in point. I haven’t read Droll Tales but I have read the entire Comedie Humaine, over a period of about three years with breaks in between. Sometimes I read one a week, sometimes I drifted away for a few months. So I came to them fresh, and usually enjoyed them. There are a few that are truly memorable like the one about the old man who was haunted by having been the executioner of the king. But it took a good while before I began to see patterns and continuities of themes, and to ‘know’ Balzac as a writer. What made Balzac interesting was that he was writing about a different place and time but modern writers going on about modern life hamstrung by the shorter length is just frustrating IMO.


    • winstonsdad
      Jun 29, 2015 @ 22:58:22

      Yes I’m under the belief that The rise in collections is the growth in readers on the commute to work even an app here can do a story for the length of journey . I wonder if there is a golden era of short stories out there Borges wrote for a long time but he must have read a lot of shorts to write just shorts .I like collection by place with more than one writer myself I read a couple of the Moscow tale stories and one I really loved .


  3. jeff_lyn
    Jun 29, 2015 @ 23:10:58

    I enjoy shorts , with my strange work hours it’s good to be able to dip in and out whenever I get a free ten minutes or so. Maupasssant was one of my favourites but I tend to read more contemporary stuff now,especially Latin America, lots of choice out there, Words without Borders has a brilliant range.Or if you fancy real shorts Sudden Fiction International is a great collection, again great to dip in and out of between longer reads .


  4. Romy Paris
    Jun 29, 2015 @ 23:20:09

    In case you haven’t read these short story collections par excellence. In addition to du Maupassant:
    John Cheever
    William Trevor
    Heinrich Boll
    Moravia’s Roman Stories if you can find them
    Fallada Tales from the Underworld


    • winstonsdad
      Jun 29, 2015 @ 23:21:51

      I’ve read maupassant not all though a lot of Trevor have two chekhov collections and have roman tales on shelf as well not the fallada must look for that


    • winstonsdad
      Jun 29, 2015 @ 23:22:01

      I’ve read maupassant not all though a lot of Trevor have two chekhov collections and have roman tales on shelf as well not the fallada must look for that .


  5. Tony
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 02:37:12

    I’ve read a fair few over the past few years, and often I use them as a change of pace between longer works. As you said, the electronic age is bringing a revival in the form (just as singles have benefited over albums from digital downloads). I quite enjoy reading stories at times, and some cultures preference the shorter form anyway. Still, I do enjoy a good long novel…


  6. WordsAndPeace
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 04:06:55

    I usually have a hard time with shorts stories, they often leave me wanting for more, though I recently read 2 by the Japanese master of short stories, just to be a bit more acquainted with another Japanese author.
    Though I am considering reading some in Spanish or Italian, to keep up with these languages – more for language literacy than for the sake of reading short stories!


  7. Jonathan
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 07:11:16

    I glanced at the title of your post and read it as ‘how do you read IN shorts?’ 🙂

    I think that a good short story is better than a long novel. It’s just that it’s more difficult than it appears. Often when a novelist tries to write a short story they pick out what might be a scene in a novel, which doesn’t usually work; the most important thing about a s/s is that it should have a reason to exist, it mustn’t just be miscellaneous scribblings that couldn’t find a home elsewhere.

    There are too many great s/s writers to mention but Americans are particularly good in this form, e.g. Lovecraft, Poe, Flannery O’Connor, Sherwood Anderson, Philip K Dick, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, etc…


  8. Rob Burdock (@RobAroundBooks)
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 07:23:35

    Thank you for the mention, Stu. I miss posting about short stories, too, but I’m about to make a deafening comeback, so watch this space.

    I look forward to seeing you branch into the short form, and really you could cover this in so many ways. You could do what I do and map collections/anthologies story by story in presented order, but as thorough as this method is, it really is a long drawn out process, as you so rightly state yourself.

    You could of course summarise, writing a review on a collection/anthology, speaking about your favourite and non-favourite stories, but you would still need to methodically work your way through the collection/anthology.

    The other way is to dip in, reading random stories. This is how many people read and cover collections/ anthologies, but for me it’s a bit haphazard and random, but then I’m a bit of an OCD completist weirdo :).

    You mention struggling with the sameness of stories in a collection, and I can see where you’re coming from, and while I don’t mind this – for me ‘sameness’ only amplifies a particular theme of a collection, or the style of an author – I agree with Dagny in suggesting that breaking up the reading of a collection/anthology with other reading helps (although I’d suggest sticking with other collections/anthologies in slots you’ve set aside for this kind of reading).

    I wouldn’t really sweat it about how you read collections/anthologies and just go with whatever you want. I choose to be thorough, because for me every short story is an entity in its own right, and I feel that I owe it to the author of a collection, or the compiler of an anthology, to read everything as a whole. Sure, it’s laborious, but it gives me an overall sense of why a collection/anthology has been put together the way it was, and whether the collection/anthology is successful.

    Your method of reading one story in the morning and one in the evening is a good one. You’re giving yourself time in between each story to think about what you’ve read, and it’s quite easy to slot the reading of them into your daily routine. I like to start the day off with a short story, and then also fit one in at breakfast time. Depending on what I’m doing that day, I may also slip two or three throughout mid morning to early evening. I also ensure that I tick another off close to bed. There’s nothing better than falling asleep thinking about a story you’ve just read.

    The primary advantage of short stories though, as you and your lovely commenters suggest, is they are the perfect form for ‘dipping in’ – for consuming at opportunistic moments – and you should use this fully to your advantage. Always have a collection/anthology at hand, so if you find yourself waiting on the wife getting ready, if you’re standing in a post office or supermarket queue, if you’re ‘pit stopping’ in a cafe, if you’re waiting on a bus/train etc. etc. you can tick off a story.

    Finally a quick comment for those who ‘don’t get short stories’ or ‘find themselves wanting more’. What you have in short story if it’s written well, is everything you need to bear witness to a fleeting moment. Short stories offer a snapshot which capture and present the minutiae of a given situation, and nothing more. When you happen upon a situation in the street – a road accident say – you watch the drama unfold before you without having any thought for the people involved, or their backgrounds etc. This is basically how a short story works, too. It swoops in dropping a morsel of life, before flying off again leaving you thinking about it.

    The perfect story will live on in your head, making you continue to think about it long after you’ve read it. The perfect short story plants a seed which grows inside you away from the page. And if you think about this when reading short stories and – this is very important – give yourself some thinking time after you’ve read a story, then you will usually understand the story’s raison d’être.

    Good luck with this, my dear friend.


  9. Mariano
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 09:14:58

    Borges blew my mind when I first read some of his short stories – “Ficciones” – when I was travelling round Argentina. Borges never wrote stories longer than 10 pages. And when I read novels, most of the time I think Borges is right ‘ this novel could have been a wonderful short story’, why the author have to write extra 300 / 400 pages. But maybe I think like that because in latin america, the short story is part of the tradition: we read them, we consume them, we write them, and we have great authors: Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Horacio Quiroga, Clarice Lispector, Luis Loayza, Juan Rulfo, Julio Cortázar, Roberto Arlt, Rubem Fonseca..( to named few).

    I usually read the collections of short stories from beginning to the end, one story at the time. Best. Mariano


  10. Jonathan
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 12:26:01

    I actually find novels easier to dip into as I can either read a few pages or 50 pages. A short story really needs to be read in one go I feel.

    I also find it difficult reading through short stories one after another as I feel I need a bit of time between them. I wonder if it’s fast readers who don’t like s/stories? Maybe they just break the reading flow too much.

    It’s funny you had this post at this moment Stu, as I have been thinking of concentrating on s/s more.


  11. Caroline
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 13:28:18

    I read a lot of short fiction but hardly ever review it because I tend to dip. Read a couple in one collection, then some in another one. I like it when people review a collection – give the feel of the whole and then focus on a few favourites.
    There are too many short story writers I love.
    Dino Buzzati wrote great short stories. You might like him as well.


  12. Frances Evangelista (@nonsuchbook)
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 14:22:17

    I frequently read short stories but not just in collections and extremely rarely a whole collection at a time. I find that type of immersive short reading a little jarring – detracts from the pleasure of small pieces. Especially enjoy the short works of Maugham, Lydia Davis and George Saunders.


  13. Lucy
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 17:20:31

    I love short stories, and have ever since I was quite a young kid and came across an anthology that included both a Graham Greene story (whose name I’ve forgotten) and Joyce’s “The Dead”. For me, the Joyce story is the perfect riposte to anybody who finds the short form unsatisfying: it’s powerful, poignant, immensely rich and never fails to move me regardless of the fact that I’ve read it more times than I can remember in the ensuing three (nearly four) decades. My interest in short form writing was fed when I moved to Mexico in the 90s and discovered (belatedly!) Cortázar and Borges. And when I started learning Norwegian five years ago, I found that some of the authors who most fired me up were short story writers – most notably Kjell Askildsen* and Hans Herbjørnsrud, who couldn’t be more dissimilar but are both absolutely masterly. The list of the authors whose short stories I’ve admired or enjoyed is vast, but a few that I would mention in addition to those above are Atwood, Lessing, Mansfield, Bharati Mukherjee, Lori Moore, Will Self (I like his novels but love many of his short stories), Carver and Heinrich Böll (translated by the wonderful Leila Vennewitz, my first ever translation heroine). Oh, and I mustn’t forget my childhood loves, Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft.

    If you fear you will find collections by single authors samey, it’s always worth trying anthologies: one that I couldn’t put down when I first found it was a collection of fantastical writings put together by Alberto Manguel, called “Black Water”.

    I read a lot of novels too, and wouldn’t say I have a preference for one form or the other. However, I have more often been disappointed by novels than short fiction. And I’ve found a lot more bloated, self-indulgent and under-edited writing in the long form than the short.

    *There’s a very short collection of Askildsen’s stories available in English: Selected Stories, pub by Dalkey and translated by Sean Kinsella.


  14. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 18:08:10

    I love short stories but I tend to have to read the whole book in one go or I never go back to them. This is ok if they’re a brilliant writer, or if it’s one of the “City” collections (I’ve read Paris and Moscow so far) and they’re by different writers. Collections of slightly indifferent writers – it’s not so easy!


  15. BookerTalk
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 21:22:28

    The short answer to your question on shorts is I don’t. By that I mean I tend to steer clear of short stories because I;m just getting interested when crash, they’re done. I’ve only just got introduced to these people and suddenly I’m into the divorce. I do try periodically – currently reading Chimamanda Adichie’s collection which I’m enjoying so maybe that might turn the clock for me. i know I have to dip in here and there however, rather than starting on story one and getting to the end


  16. tolmsted
    Jun 30, 2015 @ 22:47:12

    I change my modus operandi for reading short stories depending on the collection. Sometimes it takes a little research. For example, I am currently reading Naja Marie Aidt’s Baboon. My first instinct would be to read these stories at random, but I listened to a podcast where Aidt insisted that she was very specific in the order she chose for the stories and so out of respect for her preference I am reading it straight through. Another book – Post Exoticism in 10 Lessons: Lesson 11 – I started out reading straight through. But then I heard Chad Post, the publisher, say that it might make more sense to read Lessons 1-10 (which appear as sidebars in the book) and then go back and read straight through from the beginning to end, as lesson 11 is the actual body of the remaining book.

    I like when an author has a plan for how short stories should be read. I’m in complete agreement with Rob that a short story is a snapshot – but a collection of short stories can be something more. It can be an abstract collection of individual impressions and perspectives curated – something like a museum exhibit – to highlight an idea or world-view. Which is a good thing, since In a review it’s difficult to give each and every story the proper attention it deserves – but sometimes you can impart a sense of the whole by highlighting some carefully chosen parts.


  17. roughghosts
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 05:44:27

    I am reading more and more collections of short stories. I prefer contained works by a single author to those with a variety of authors (unless there is a very strong unifying theme) or “the Collected Works of…” type of things. I approach the work as I would a novel and read them, in order, straight through. A good short story manages to do something that a longer work cannot and allows the sort of open ends I so love. I also have enjoyed collections that include a novella and a number of stories. because it can make for a nice mix and range of the author’s style and talent.


  18. beckylindroos
    Jul 15, 2015 @ 20:32:41

    I read the occasional collection, Alice Munro or someone, and I usually read them like I listen to a CD, as a group, with a theme. T.C. Boyle and some others have huge collections, though, as does John Cheever and they’re different. i’ve read huge chunks of each but never finished. I don’t think Chekhov’s stories were put together by him so that’s different and I’ve read collections as well as dipped in. But the collections of Faulkner and Joyce are wonderful either way. Love those two.


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June 2015


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