I had the pleasure of listening to the panel discussion “The Short Story: Dead or Alive (We’d Like to Know)” at Books by the Banks this year, moderated by Jason Gargano, with panelists Donald Ray Pollack (Knockemstiff, Doubleday 2008) and Moira Crone (University Press of Mississippi, 2006). After verifying that there were in fact two living breathing short story writers in the room, who by their presence affirmed that the short story is still alive, the discussion turned to why short stories aren’t really all that popular, why novels are, unlike short stories, so long and full of unecessary stuff, and why they are preferred by publishers when it comes to selling copies. They went on to discuss the short story’s decline from popularity in America (the heyday of the Saturday Evening Post et al), to it’s rather awkward current state of affairs: widely taught in creative writing courses because of managable length, but, other than occasional movie deals, utterly commercially unviable. It is true that short stories aren’t as popular as novels here at the Mercantile, but we do get a collection once in a while. Fans of this particular form might be interested in a recent spike in the arrival here of short story collections:
Best New American Voices 2009, edited by The Mercantile’s Own (by which we mean she spoke here) Mary Gaitskill. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in MFA seminars, this is a completely inaccurate representation because it represents high quality, diamond polished work.
The Best American Short Stories 2008, edited by The Mercantile’s Own Salman Rushdie. This fabulous series is widely utilized by MFA aspirants, and for good reason.
The Boat by Nam Le–Keep an eye on Nam Le.
Yesterday’s Weather by Anne Enright–A retrospective short story collection from a Booker-winning novelist
Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano–This is a New Directions title. I actually own a New Directions t-shirt and tried to buy one for Norm. Either they never sent it (or for that matter responded to my inquiries), or some unethical New Directions press fan in the Postal Service absconded with it. Whatever the case, I don’t know how Bolano gets away with writing about writers, but it seems to be a part of the Latin and South American tradition. “Naturally he is a failed writer, barely scraping a living in the Paris gutter press . . . ”
A Night in the Cemetery and Other Stories of Crime and Suspense by Anton Chekhov. Needs no explanation. “My story begins, as do most traditional well-written Russian stories, with the phrase ‘I was drunk that day.” -Ed Scripsi