Blah Blah Blah, I’ve raved and ranted about time (and the lack thereof) and short stories a thousand times. So I’m not going to repeat any of that today. I know, I know – the power of your collective sigh of relief actually just blew the papers off of my desk. Instead I’m just going to give you a link to read my previous words on your own if you so desire, and am going to give synopses of the books themselves today, rather than an exegesis* on how I feel about the genre…
We’ll see if you like this format better, equally, or at all by the comments, I suppose, which will give me some hints on how to proceed in the future. Hooray – market research, and I don’t have to spend a penny! Bully for me… 😉
Please note that, as usual, these aren’t in any particular rank-order.
Top 10 Books of Short Stories or Essays
- Wry Martinis – Christopher Buckley: I love Christopher Buckley. I’ve met him and he’s as charming and urbane in person as he is in print. This is my favorite collection of his essays. He always knows just how to turn a phrase and how to make politics (both the political and the social kind) intriguing and exciting and just a little bit naughty-feeling – in the best possible (and completely non-threatening) way. His fiction is fabulous too, especially “Thank You For Smoking.” And don’t judge it by the movie; the movie stunk up the joint. The book, on the other hand, is artful and perfect.
- Complete Stories – Dorothy Parker: Has any woman ever managed to combine the perfect sense of ennui with everything in the entire world that Dorothy Parker has? Has any man, for that matter? Well, maybe Oscar Wilde. They’re quite well suited, now that I think about it. Parker’s stories are extra dirty vodka martinis, with double olives. They are decadent and dry and witty and snarky and pitch-perfect.
- So Many Books, So Little Time – Sara Nelson: This is a sweet book about reading books. Sara Nelson’s task, to chronicle a year’s worth of reading, is one I can only dream that a publisher would set me on. Her tales about tales are enjoyable, will introduce (or reintroduce) you to some great books, and will charm the pants off of you.
- Stiff – Mary Roach: Speaking of pants-less-ness (now THERE is a segue you don’t get to use everyday!), Mary Roach’s “Stiff” is a tale of cadavers and the unbelievable things that happen to, for, and with dead bodies in America. It’s eerie and creepy and sometimes downright disgusting, but fascinating at the same time – the literary equivalent of a train wreck or Jerry Springer…
- The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writings – Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The title story is probably my all-time favorite short story by a female writer. The descent into madness (or is it really a descent – maybe she started there to begin with…) is such a spot-on encapsulation of the challenges women faced in a time when men ruled their every waking moment. It’s disconcerting and discomfiting and darkly gripping – and I dare you to not get annoyed (if not actually furious) at her husband and physician for their dismissive attitudes…
- The Myth of Sisyphus – Albert Camus: I was a philosophy major in college. Camus is, by far, my favorite philosophical writer. His theories on absurdity (as laid out in the title tale), as well as the evil inherent in (and unbidden by) man (in his novel-length works) are intriguing, beautifully composed, and clearly delineated. This is art-as-theory for me, and I could not enjoy it more.
- The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings – Edgar Allen Poe: The original master of horror himself is, of course, not to be left out of any top ten list of shorts… I’ve been to the Poe house in Washington, DC – and have heard that the Baltimore house is in danger, which is a true tragedy. Poe was one creepy dude. There’s a lot of extraordinarily bizarre stuff in his real life, which rather perfectly explains where his mind went in his stories. I’m quite surprised there isn’t a Tim Burton bio-pic yet; Johnny Depp was tailor-made to play Poe – a combination of Edward Scissorhands and Barnabas Collins if ever I imagined one…
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote: Okay, I admit it, I actually prefer the movie. But ONLY because I love love love Audrey Hepburn and the thought of a young, pre-A-Team, George Peppard. Still, the short story is also extraordinary, even if I can’t always help but feel a tish disappointed because the ending doesn’t track the movie, as George Costanza oh-so-painfully learned …
- Leftover Shorts – Amy Neftzger: Make sure to check this one out – she’s a writing friend with a great short collection of shorts, full of snark and wit. I’ve reviewed this collection before so won’t repeat myself, but guarantee it’s worth the time. And yes, I do think it sits comfortably well between P.J. O’Rourke and Truman Capote – and not many things can.
- Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut – P.J. O’Rourke**: To many, P.J. O’Rourke may be a relic of a time gone by: the days of Republicans who weren’t crazy, a government with money (even if it was only borrowed and/or mortgaged on the future), and a universe that praised wine, women, and song – but I still find him relevant, interesting, and entertaining. This is my favorite collection. Not only because of the snarky title, but because it so perfectly chronicles the world from the 1970s through the publication date in the mid-1990s.
* I LOVE this word and never get to use it, since it usually is supposed to refer to the bible, but I don’t get to reference the bible very often in my line of work, so I’m goint to use it today anyway. Hooray for me!
** Nothing in particular to say here. I just felt like one footnote looked silly. Teehee.