Friday, May 30, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/30

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press has been posting lists every Friday of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP. We hope you've enjoyed Short Story Month as much as we have, and thanks for being here with us for it!

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 as we wrap up Short Story Month in style.

The Later Simple Stories
by Langston Hughes, ed. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper

In Volume 8 of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, the genial Harlem everyman, Jesse B. Semple returns with his more cosmopolitan bar buddy, Ananias Boyd. Social climber Joyce Lane is now Mrs. Jesse B. Semple, and Simple has minimized his flirtatious contacts with other women. Despite these ongoing characters, the later Simple stories are very different from the earlier Simple tales. The later stories evoke the historical and social context within which they were written, a politically dangerous time for the fictional adventures and fantasies of the main characters.

The Later Simple Stories rounds out Hughes's presentation of Jesse B. Semple and the various people of his world. Simple and his foil still make us chuckle, but more important, they make us think. While these episodes often focus on particularities of the times, they also articulate broader truths that remain valuable.

Joe Baker is Dead
by Mary Troy

"He seemed empty, a tube of toothpaste squeezed dry, a flattened and shriveled pod with no peas." Meet Joe Baker.

In this lively and appealing debut work, Troy explores life in all its offbeat and often tragic moments. She presents characters who are searching for solutions to dilemmas only partly of their own making. They are connected to others by weaker bonds than they want or need and, though intelligent, are often guided by attitudes of acceptance and fear. Yet instead of leaving the reader with pathos, Joe Baker Is Dead finds humor in a world with little hope, proving that "all was as it should be. It was possible to go on."

Lost Women, Banished Souls
by Garnett Kilberg Cohen

In Lost Women, Banished Souls, Garnett Kilberg Cohen captures the voices of a variety of women who share one main characteristicthe sense of loss. Although most of these women are like the ones we see every day without giving much thought to the undercurrents of their lives, Cohen shows us how women who appear ordinary on the surface often live extraordinary private lives. With the activities and relationships of her stories' characters, Cohen demonstrates how fragile life is, how everyday decisions can change the direction of one's life, and how much more painful our failures of ourselves can be than our failures to meet others' expectations. 

These stories also explore such social issues as domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, and child-rearing after divorce. Cohen's language ranges from lyrical evocations of the past to the informal, conversational style of folk tradition.

Marked Men
by Michael C. White

From Michael C. White, the author of the critically acclaimed novels A Brother's Blood and The Blind Side of the Heart, comes a new book, Marked Men. It is a gripping collection of twelve wide-ranging stories about those unexpected moments in our lives when the layers of our defenses are peeled away, one by one, and we are left with the harsh inevitability of our fates. Touching on themes of loneliness and isolation, Marked Men deals with characters who have been alienated from society, from family and friends, from their past, and sometimes from their own feelings.

These are powerful and moving stories told in White's distinctive style. Engaging the reader from the first line, White provides a suspenseful and surprise-filled journey as his characters face and resolve their conflicts.

by Nance Van Winckel

Unforeseen and unavoidable shocks not only alter our lives but send tremors into the futures of many others. In this intriguing collection of five individual yet interconnected stories, Nance Van Winckel chronicles the ripple effects that one life or action can have on the lives of many seemingly unrelated people.

A tapestry of interwoven destinies, of loves lost and lives rediscovered, Quake will pull the reader deep into the intensity of Van Winckel's fictive world.

Walking on Ice
by Susan Hubbard

A mother hires a sinister baby-sitter. An Irish innocent embraces the ambiguities of Belfast. A university professor welcomes a houseguest and finds himself a stranger in his own home. Two young women seek romance along the Canadian border. . .

Winner of the Associated Writing Programs' Award in Short Fiction, Walking on Ice depicts a world in which human relationships grow ever more fragile and trust is tentative at best. In these stories men and women confront the unexpected risks of everday life in Boston, Northern Ireland, Connecticut, the Scottish Highlands, and upstate New York. With subtlety and wit, Susan Hubbard explores the tensions of our times.

The Stone Child
by Gary Fincke 

A university maintenance worker and his wife decide to give birth to their anencephalic baby and to accept all the consequences that will follow. During summer vacation, a journalism student trysts with his girlfriend at her suspicious father’s house and soon witnesses the ultimate in paternal vengeance. A schoolboy faces peer violence while his mother struggles with cancer, each relying upon a hopelessly misplaced faith. In The Stone Child, Gary Fincke presents characters at turning points, where the effects of their decisions will ripple throughout the rest of their lives.

Fincke brings great humanity to his characters and displays a sharp and wry sense of humor; his sense of place is strong, his stories richly textured, and his prose a joy to read. Primarily meditating on the viewpoints of male characters, Fincke gives us stories with beginnings that pull us right in and endings that won’t let us leave the world of the story until long after we have finished reading.

Boys Keep Being Born
by Joan Frank

Lately, time seems to have taken on an amusing eternal quality. Outer-space time, quick-and-never; a slow wheeling of which Melinda, moving at whatever speed, is more and more aware she has been accorded the briefest, briefest slice. She finds herself now moonwalking through the strange region of not young, not a mother, not married, unlikely to marry. She will have to work until she dies. She will have good friends who'll keep an eye on her, of course; some of them women much like her. She will float toward and finally past the margins of sexual viability, and never have enough money for a facelift.

In Boys Keep Being Born, Joan Frank's subject matter is stark; her style, wry and lyrical. Her characters ask point-blank questions of the lives in which, willingly or not, they find themselves. The answers they devise—or settle for—may surprise you.

Thank you all for joining us during Short Story Month!

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