We've got more, too: Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove has made a huge splash, as has Yoko Ogawa's Revenge. Recently when I was on Facebook, I saw NPR Books not just recommending I read Claire Vaye Watkins' Battleborn, but yelling at me to do it. "YOU MUST READ THIS NOW!" (They really used all caps: it worked. I obeyed.) Junot Diaz, a mainstay of The New Yorker's fiction section, recently released This Is How You Lose Her, to gushing praise. Alice Munro's Dear Life has been called "stunning," "masterful," and "brilliant," by various major reviewers, with Munro herself enthusiastically labeled "the best short-story writer in English today" by Booklist. It's not just that novelists are putting out a few short-story collections: these are writers who specialize in the short story. And it's working for them. Their collections are selling.
What is going on? Ten years ago, I never read short stories. I didn't see them on bookstore shelves, and nobody was talking about them. I'm not sure they were really being made, except singly for publications like The New Yorker and The Sun. The last time most of us read short stories regularly was in high-school or college, when we were assigned them. Why the resurgence? Shorter attention spans, perhaps?
So apparently I love short stories. I love to read them, and I enjoy writing them. Some people don't. I think I get the reasons for both: on the pro side, they are bite-sized. I love reading fiction in general because I love exploring alternate realities, other lives, and I get that many more of said with a collection of short stories. All those worlds, all those ideas, all those characters: it's like a feast of a thousand appetizers!
But I get the complaint, too: all that work to get to know a new world and a new set of characters, and just as you get attached, the thing ends. To return to the food analogy, sometimes you don't want a thousand appetizers, you want a gigantic pot roast, or a tub of Ben & Jerrys. One delicious thing that you can savor for a long, long time.
So now I turn it over to you: has anyone else noticed an uptick in short-story collections? Do you like reading them? Prefer them to novels? Prefer writing them to novels? Why?