Short stories get a lot of shit, but only because most of them are terrible. Your average writer is more inclined to slap 1,000 words on a page and call it a day than he is to write 50,000 — and when you let anyone on the field, you get intramural soccer. But a short story, done well, is perhaps only rivaled by good poetry. As William Faulkner said in an interview with The Paris Review, “Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t, and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And, failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.” This is because poetry and short stories get their power from the reader’s ability to consume them, uninterrupted, in a single sitting. Thanks to talented contemporary authors like George Saunders and Jennifer Egan, short stories have recently been getting good press. Here are five more authors who honor the form, all of whom released a new collection in 2014.
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|Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis
It’s no longer cool, edgy or experimental for an author to write a chapter in a single sentence, but an entire story? That’s the unique skill set of MacArthur “genius” Lydia Davis. Not every story in her fifth collection is super short, though all of them derive power from being pretty short; each word seems carefully considered, bringing new meaning to Hemingway’s creed of conciseness. As for her subject matter, Davis tends to focus on little life details that we all experience but few notice.
Don’t miss: “A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates” $19
|Redeployment, Phil Klay
Not since Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried has a short story author been able to portray the hardships of war so vividly. Although Klay’s own war experience was characterized by “long hours at a cheap plywood desk in a cheap plywood hut”, he manages to transport his readers to the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq, and back again.
Don’t miss: “Prayer in the Furnace” $21
|The Other Language, Francesca Marciano
Marciano crafts nine short stories about women on the cusp, each one so full of life that they all seem to come from personal experience. But how is it possible that one woman should inhabit so many heads, or be able to transport us to so many locales? Although Marciano primarily writes for a female audience, any reader will be able to identify with the culture and confusion found in these vibrant tales.
Don’t miss: “In the Presence of Men” $16
|Bark: Stories, Lorrie Moore
The queen of witty one-liners is back with her first short story collection in sixteen years. Join Ira, a Jewish divorcee, as well as Kit and Rafe, a married couple who want to kill each other, as they navigate the turbulent waters of adult life. Readers familiar with Moore’s work might be shocked, as there’s an unfamiliar, detached sadness in these stories.
Don’t miss: “Debarking” $19
|Leaving the Sea: Stories, Ben Marcus
Speaking of writing a chapter in a single sentence, see the six-page, titular story in this collection by Ben Marcus. Marcus starts the collection on familiar ground before taking his readers on a surreal journey through a dark, paranoid landscape. Of particular note is, “I Can Say Many Nice Things”, the story a washed-up writer who teaches creative writing on a cruise ship.
Don’t miss: “I Can Say Many Nice Things” $20