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Throwback Thursday: In Praise of the Short Stack

Eleventh Stack began publishing content in 2008. That’s eight years of awesome content! We’re highlighting some of our old favorites for Throwback Thursday. The post “In Praise of the Short Stack” originally appeared on January 13, 2014.

One of the many things I love about CLP – Main (oh, let me count the ways …) is how we feature new short story collections in their own special place.

When I first visited CLP – Main with my family, I was sold for many reasons (the coffee shop, the grand architecture and spaciousness, the history, the plethora of bestsellers and the friendly staff), but discovering that short stories had a section right there on the First Floor was like my personal nirvana.

I adore short stories. Adore them. Alas, from talking with my bookish friends, I know that sentiment isn’t shared by every reader: they’re very much of a you-either-like-’em-or-you-don’t kind of genre.

Here’s why I love them, along with some of my favorites.

  • Short stories can be read … well, quickly. They’re the perfect length for reading before bedtime, while waiting for someone, during lunch breaks, while sitting at a child’s sports practice and during your daily commute on public transportation.

Cover for 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

Given that the Library has quite an abundance of short stories in our collections (and in many formats), it can be hard to know where to begin. That’s when good short story anthologies like The Best American Short Stories or  The O. Henry Prize Stories can be great. These are published each year with a guest author or two curating the best of the best from literary magazines and the like.

My inspiration for this post is that today happens to be the birthday of author Lorrie Moore, whose short story “People Like Us Are the Only Ones Here” immediately landed her a solid place on my Favorite Writers list. (Yes, like love at first sight, I’m a believer that you can fall in love with a writer after just one story).  When I asked my husband to buy me a copy of Birds of America for Christmas that year, he was rather perplexed; he thought I’d developed a new ornithologically-focused hobby. Now, it’s one of my Going With Me to a Desert Island books, even with that nondescript cover.

For fellow devotees of Ms. Moore, her first short story collection in 15 years, Bark, came out on February 25, 2014. I’ve already placed my name on reserve and cannot wait to sink my teeth into these eight tales. (Ba-dum-bump! I’ll be here for the whole blog post, folks.)

Also sharing a birthday with Lorrie today is bookish bad-boy Jay McInerney, who is always one of my guilty literary pleasures. Escaping into a McInerney story, such as the 26 that he offers up in How It Ended is like spending time with that friend of yours, The One Who Has A Life, while you’re in your PJs by 7 p.m.

cover for The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Conner

Before Lorrie and Jay, there was Flannery, who I met in a college class called “Faulkner, O’Connor, and Morrison.” I hadn’t read anything by Flannery O’Connor until then, and my literary life hasn’t been the same since. I highly recommend The Complete Stories.

Last year, George Saunders was the buzz of the best-of lists with Tenth of December. That collection deserves its many kudos and got me interested in reading Mr. Saunders’ previous work. Truth be told, I liked In Persuasion Nation even better. Now that’s a cover!

After reading  Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, I became drawn to the idea of interconnected short stories. If you like this format, consider trying Mrs. Somebody Somebody by Tracy Winn or When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald (the same one many of us remember from the ’80s).

Even when I read the classics (which isn’t too often), the short stories are more my cup of tea. For example, I’m the only person I know who didn’t  love Little Women — but give me The Early Stories of Louisa May Alcott, and I’m in heaven.

My favorite short stories are ones that deal in the minutiae of the everyday, life’s universal little moments. They provide that burst of reassurance, that moment of levity, that glimpse of understanding or that much-needed perspective.  A short story by an author you haven’t read before is like a gold nugget from a treasure you’ve just discovered. A story from an author you know is like a conversation with an old friend.

Do you enjoy reading short stories? If so, I’d love to hear your recommendations!

– Melissa F.

You Definitely Want to Bark Up This Tree

Read Lorrie Moore's Short Stories

Melissa F. loves short stories (especially ones that are interconnected), literary fiction, memoirs, poetry and creative nonfiction. A native of Philadelphia, Melissa loves everything about Pittsburgh, especially working for the Library as Manager of Grants and Research.

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