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 City of Refuge: The Collected Stories of Rudolph Fisher
ed. John McCluskey, Jr.
One of the premier writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Rudolph Fisher wrote short stories depicting the multifaceted black urban experience that are still acclaimed today for their humor, grace, and objective view of Harlem life. Through his words, wrote the New York Times Book Review, “one feels, smells, and tastes his Harlem; its people come alive and one cares about them.”
A definitive collection of Fisher’s short stories, The City of Refuge offers vibrant tales that deal with the problems faced by newcomers to the city, ancestor figures who struggle to instill a sense of integrity in the young, problems of violence and vengeance, and tensions of caste and class.
The Palace of Wasted Footsteps
by Cary Holladay
Images of dancing and the theme of survival connect the stories in Cary Holladay's latest fiction collection, The Palace of Wasted Footsteps. These images may be explicit, or understated, as in "Mayflies," which suggests the glorious yet frantic dance of brief, intense lives. Yet each story depicts men, women, and children partnered with death, love, or strange, wonderful chance.
The rituals, struggles, and triumphs that the various characters experience are personal yet universal. At the same time, they capture the subtle echoes of the American South and its literary tradition. Like glorious mayflies, Holladay's characters are forever enthralled in the frantic dance of life—their passions are strong, their fates inevitable.
News from the Volcano
by Gladys Swan
News from the Volcano is a collection of five poignant stories about wanderers and outsiders, people searching for an unnamed something that is missing from their lives. Set in the Southwest, a landscape of vivid contrasts and powerful forces, the stories unravel the struggles of these who find themselves in extreme situations, looking and listening desperately for whatever might save them from self-destruction.
All of the characters are crafted with the remarkable realism readers have come to expect from Gladys Swan. The stories are gripping and their resolutions powerful. Taking the reader on tough journeys through rough country, both physically and psychologically, this is a masterful collection by an exceptional writer.
by K.A. Longstreet
A small Jewish boy’s life during the Nazi era grows rich with the sounds and sights of the Arabian Desert when he finds an aged copy of Travels in Arabia Deserta in an Amsterdam cellar. An effete and scholarly collector begins to imitate Van Gogh, the painter he worships. An old woman’s life is shaped by remembrance as she lies in her hospital bed and recounts a voyage through the Greek Islands during World War II. A reporter remembers his part in a college rape as he interviews a Serbian general being held for war crimes in a Dutch prison. A housekeeper embroiders her deepest yearnings into the laundry of the residents of a rooming house.
Each of the stories in Night-Blooming Cereus is set in a different place and time, yet they all deal with the same underlying theme: how the imagination, in its infinite variety, seeks to transcend external events.
Pale Morning Dun
by Richard Dokey
In the thirteen stories of Pale Morning Dun, Richard Dokey endeavors to suggest common truths that uncover the human reality any time, in any place. He explores the ephemeral nature of life through an assemblage of characters as diverse as the settings they inhabit: from a beggar on the streets of San Francisco, “The West Coast Coliseum of Consumption,” to a boy and his brother fly-fishing in a peaceful mountain stream, unaware that they have stumbled upon the threshold of a horrific crime; from a desperate husband pursuing his estranged wife into the bloody arena of a bullfight, to a lakeside cottage where two lovers reveal perhaps too much of themselves. Each uniquely rendered character faces a dilemma that leads him beyond what he knows of himself, forcing him to new insights. The characters’ struggles, though distinctively their own, reveal universal truths about human nature and the transient quality of life. Employing an inspired blend of humor, irony, and imagination in seamless narration, Dokey allows one to enter readily into these idiosyncratic lives, inviting the reader to explore his own capacity to be human, to empathize and respond.
by Gerald Shapiro
To say that this past year had been a bad one would be to insult all the other bad years of Levidow's long life. As he was apt to tell anyone who would listen, every day fresh misery poured on his head. Fruit spoiled as he carried it home from the market. Cars splashed mud and slush on him, even on the sunniest afternoons. . .
"What are you doing to me?" he moaned toward heaven. "You've got the wrong man."
When God tells Levidow to buy a big blue car and get out of town, he dares to think that his suffering might be over. Instead he begins a journey that will put him out on the open highway with a reincarnation of himself as a much younger man, a hideous woman, and an oversupply of Dr. Brown's soda. His is just one of the journeys undertaken by the characters of From Hunger. With wit and irony, Gerald Shapiro leads us from a London park to the streets of Chicago, from the Vietnam War Memorial to a New York art gallery, as his characters search for sustenance in a world full of hunger.
by Gordon Weaver
Last Stands presents people at crucial moments in their lives, the moments in which ultimate challenges are confronted, ultimate questions are asked, and definitive judgments are made. Weaver’s characters may flounder, and fail, but they are redeemed by their courage and their honesty.
A hired assassin ponders his self-worth, a bartender takes his only chance for worldly success, a man buries his mother, another talks with the dead, yet another attends his high school reunion determined on vindication, and a war-weary Vietnam vet finds a place he can call home. These are stories that do not shun the darker side of Weaver’s characters, but seek the illumination of the insights needed to make their lives meaningful, if only to themselves.
by Susan Hubbard
A union organizer returns to her hometown and her high school sweetheart, only to discover unexpected peril. A middle-aged man walks to meet his wife at work one day and loses her forever. A young writer's stage fright destroys her work and her marriage but offers her a new life. Susan Hubbard creates a world in which the most ordinary things can be magical, and the most ordinary people can be extraordinary.
Strangers appear and disappear in Blue Money. Shoes charm and cure. A soiled shirt conjures conscience, and a clean one promises new identity. Hubbard brilliantly weaves these fantastic elements into the fabric of her fiction.
by Gary Fincke
Troubled relationships between parents and children, most of them adults or at least in their late teens, provide the framework for many stories in this collection. In "Faculty X," a middle-aged son witnesses his mother's fixation with death and her attempt to cope with senility. Both "Callback" and the moving title story, "Emergency Calls," explore the anxieties of parents trying to balance the need to protect their teenage children with the task of making them accountable for their own often self-destructive actions. "Darwin in the City" centers on a man's paranoia and anxiety attacks over everything from hearing his wife gurgle her last breath into her pillow to the impending blindness that he knows will be his fate.
With vivid description and compelling dialogue, Gary Fincke pulls the reader deep into these stories and into the lives of these unforgettable characters.
Be sure to keep checking back every Friday during Short Story Month for a new list!