Thursday, February 26, 2015

New and Novel: The Short Form - Essays and Stories

Short stories may have grown out of the fables of Aesop in the 6th century BCE, or out of the oral storytelling tradition. Up until the 18th century in Europe, a popular short story form was the anecdote ["a brief realistic narrative that embodies a point", Wikipedia]. However, the first proper collections of short stories were thought to have appeared in the early 1800s. In the early 1900s, short stories were flourishing due to publication in periodicals such as The Strand, the Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic Monthly, and others. Since 1945, short story collections continue to be published, but their popular readership has declined. Alice Munro brought the form back into the spotlight with to her 2013 Nobel Prize win. In an interview, Munro said:

Interviewer Adam Smith: And the award will bring a great new readership to your work ...
Alice Munro: Well I would hope so, and I hope this would happen not just for me but for the short story in general. Because it's often sort of brushed off, you know, as something that people do before they write their first novel. And I would like it to come to the fore, without any strings attached, so that there doesn't have to be a novel.
Essays, on the other hand, can be directly traced back to their French origin - Michel de Montaigne was the first to popularize this term in the 1500s, from the French "essayer" [to try or to attempt]. Since this term came into fashion, in the 18th and 19th centuries, many essays were written for public consumption, and may have contributed to the rise of magazine publication. Essays have been used a forum for politics, literary criticism, and more, and have found a place in education, with students being assigned essays to improve their writing skills.

At abcreads we have a romantic vision of both these forms - Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner publishing their short stories during the Jazz Age; Southern story writers such as Katherine Anne Porter and Flannery O'Connor at work in the 1950s, Porter writing amidst her travels and O'Connor, debilitated by lupus, writing from her family farm in Georgia; Thoreau and Emerson's Transcendentalist essays celebrating nature; philosophers such as Voltaire, Francis Bacon, and Samuel Johnson scribbling their essays by candlelight during the Age of Enlightenment.

All that said, we hope you'll find something to enjoy from this list of some of the new and novel offerings of the short form, essays and stories, from the library catalog.

Essays and Miscellany

Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid

The Expo Files: Articles By the Crusading Journalist Stieg Larsson by Stieg Larsson

Short: An International Anthology of Five Centuries of Short-Short Stories, Prose Poems, Brief Essays, and Other Short Prose Forms edited with an introduction by Alan Ziegler

Ham - Slices of a Life: Essays & Stories by Sam Harris

What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Jo Walton

I See You Made An Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories From the Edge of 50 by Annabelle Gurwitch

Study in Perfect: Essays by Sarah Gorham

100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl

Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy

The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontes, and the Importance of Handbags by Daphne Merkin

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit

Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping edited by Kerry Cohen

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair edited by Graydon Carter

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East by Nathan Deuel

Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm

Short Stories

Lucky Alan: And Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem

A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction by Terry Pratchett

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

High Crime Area: Tales of Darkness and Dread by Joyce Carol Oates

Karate Chop: Stories by Dorthe Nors

The Strange Case of Rachel K by Rachel Kushner

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

Wallflowers: Stories by Eliza Robertson

The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons by Heather A. Slomski

Now We Will Be Happy by Amina Gautier

American Innovations by Rivka Galchen

The Wilds by Julia Elliott 

Crow Fair: Stories by Thomas McGuane


A Short History of the Short Story [Prospect]

A Brief History of the Short Story in America [Critical Mass]

In Praise of the American Short Story [New York Times]

A brief survey of the short story [Guardian series]

17 Personal Essays That Will Change Your Life [Buzzfeed]

150 Great Articles and Essays [The Electric Typewriter]

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