Friday, May 16, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/16

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press is proud to introduce Short Story Fridays: every Friday, all May long, we will be posting lists of some of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP.

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading.

The Short Stories
by Langston Hughes, ed. Baxter Miller & Introduction by Arnold Rampersad

For the first time in many years, Langston Hughes's published collections of stories are now available in a single book. Included in this volume are: Ways of White Folks, originally published in 1934; Laughing to Keep from Crying, originally published in 1952; and additional stories from Something in Common and Other Stories, originally published in 1963; as well as previously uncollected stories.

These fictions, carefully crafted in the language Hughes loved, manifest the many themes for which he is best known. We meet and come to know many characters—black and white, young and old, men and women—all as believable as our own families, friends, and acquaintances. Hughes's stories portray people as they actually are: a mixture of good, bad, and much in-between.

The Other Door
by Karen Heuler

Although many of the stories in The Other Door have qualities reminiscent of traditional fables, they are perhaps more fabulous than fabular. They are contemporary folktales, at times venturing into fantasy while retaining the details of everyday experience and psychological authenticity. As in the best folktales and fables, symbols and suggestions come to life and are often linked to the powers of imagination and memory as a means of reconciling the characters to cycles of life and death.

Marvelously crafted, slyly sidestepping the reader's expectations, the characters in Karen Heuler's stories respond to the unexpected events in their lives, accepting and then rising to the challenges, no matter how strange. For them, reality requires invention.

No Visible Means of Support
by Dabney Stuart

In No Visible Means of Support, Dabney Stuart's stories turn within themselves like trapeze artists passing each other in midair. Stuart works without a net, using anagrams, iconographic details, and dreams to imply connections and resolutions, only to shift focus and veer off into new configurations. This collection is complex yet direct, funny yet profound, emotional yet clever. Despite all their narrative sophistication, these stories always concern themselves with basic human predicaments: the sorrow of loss, the mysteries of creation, the persistence and resilience of the spirit.

While each story connects on different levels with the others, none of them presents an easy way out of the difficulties that compose these fictional worlds. A storytelling master, Dabney Stuart threads the implicit sources of help for his characters into their intriguing, earthbound lives.

A Visit to Strangers
by Gladys Swan

In A Visit to Strangers, Gladys Swan's characters inhabit slightly alien, off-center worlds as they struggle to achieve some sort of permanence or stability. Strangeness of situation, environment, and relationship prevents them from taking refuge in worn-out pieties and false values.

There are no easy solutions. Several stories portray disenchanted people who have failed to commit themselves at key moments and end up abandoning their lives to "the stream . . . in which lost things lie." But in others, direct interaction with strangers offers enlightenment to the characters, who are often strangers to themselves.

Perfection in Bad Axe
by Craig Bernthal 

Set mainly in the Midwest, these tales are inhabited by ordinary, decent people who, often to their surprise, find joy and meaning under difficult circumstances. Many of the stories depict isolated moments of perfection in a world that routinely forces its imperfections on us. A teenager wrestles with guilt over an accident he caused in “Perfection in Bad Axe.” In “A Knight Pursued,” a young prosecuting attorney confronts on the same day his first autopsy and his wife’s unexpected desire to have a baby. A devout, hardworking business owner is drawn into a lawsuit that threatens his marriage and leads him to question his most deeply felt principles. “Center of Gravity” finds a middle-aged law professor overcome by his chaotic life and searching for a degree of peace. These are the finely developed characters of Bernthal’s stories—people we recognize, but who never seem overly familiar.

Interesting, substantial, and utterly engrossing, each one could be just like any one of us, an ordinary Jane or Joe, trying to maintain or find order in a life sometimes filled with disorder.

Four Decades: New and Selected Stories
by Gordon Weaver

Gordon Weaver has long been admired as a fiction writer. This collection of new and selected short fiction provides a retrospective of Weaver's illustrious literary career, which has spanned four decades and earned him many awards.

Beginning with his first published story, "When Times Sit In," vivid, authentic characters enliven this collection of a dozen of Weaver's stories, including three previously uncollected works. With the compilation of these stories in one volume, the reader is treated to some of the best writing available today.

Limited Lifetime Warranty
by Nance Van Winckel

When a boat carrying two passengers capsizes in a logjam on Lake Coeur d'Alene, it is Martha, the narrator and central character of the interrelated stories of Limited Lifetime Warranty, who hears the strangers' cries for help from the bow of her family's own boat. In the aftermath of the rescue, she and her father, mother, and older sister retell the story again and again. It is an evening that forever defines the constellation of their family. "So I became the heroine of hearing," Martha says. "I hear tragedy coming, and I point the way to rescue." Her mother became the bearer of light, and her father, who steered around the treacherous logs, became "the one who kept us afloat."

Filled with unforgettable characters and language as true as life, Nance Van Winckel paints a stirring portrait of one remarkable woman.

The Bedquilt and Other Stories
by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, ed. Mark J. Madigan

Dorothy Canfield Fisher, the prolific author of more than forty books, including translations, juveniles, and nonfiction, as well as novels and short-story collections, was one of the most popular and engaging American writers of the first half of the twentieth century. Although her work has been unduly neglected for several decades, it is currently enjoying a revival of critical attention. This colorful collection ranges in subject from New Englanders to the Basques of France to the struggles of African Americans to gain equal rights. Through her stories, many of which received literary awards, Fisher examined the complexities of modern life in the United States and abroad.

Costly Habits
by Peter Makuck

A father on vacation nearly loses his eye on an ocean fishing pier while trying to escape the demands of his family. A systems analyst, embittered by the loss of his job and resentful of a seemingly carefree neighbor whom his estranged wife admires, becomes obsessed with catching squirrels in a box trap. A woman married to a former police detective festers with anger and plots revenge after a confrontation with a restaurant owner. A recent widower tries scuba diving with his difficult teenage children as a way to galvanize the family and regain control of his life. These are some of the people who inhabit the richly textured worlds of Peter Makuck’s Costly Habits. In many of his stories, individuals find themselves in situations where moments of clarity arrive, moments that disclose perspectives of possible change or ways to accept things as they are.

Be sure to keep checking back every Friday during Short Story Month for a new list! 

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