How do you read Short Stories?

This month, short story month, has been a new and intriguing experience for me.

I, like many of our readers (we have noticed the lower hits!), have never really been that into short stories. Sure, I like fairy tales and myth, but they aren’t quite the same as a whole anthology of 20-40 page stories written by a bunch of different authors (some known and some not). In fact, before this month I don’t think I’d ever read a short story anthology from cover to cover before, only single stories for classes or from online (I’ve read some Neil Gaiman short stories, for instance) but a whole book? Never.

To date now, I’ve read a small, but a fairly varied selection…

In every one of these books there were stories that riveted me (and not always by the headlining author) and there were stories that were just good or O.K. But there was always at least one story that (to be brutally honest) that was just terrible i.e., not on theme, not fully rounded out (plot, characters, pacing), badly written/illustrated and even, at times, too critical and mocking of the form itself (see: Gregory Maguire’s dialect and story in After for an example). The art of the short story is so tricky, it has to come full circle and have a well developped concept or character or plot (or all) and well, it has the expectations as a novel only in less space – which, to me, sounds terrifying.

These anthologies are just curious creatures. And I still have no idea how to tackle them.

They are these shambling masses of a cobbled together theme. In a way they are wonderful and inspiring because they contain so many contrasting interpretations of ideas (my mind if still wondering what I would write for After or Diverse Energies for example) making them interesting writing prompt and classroom tools. They also introduce authors, meant to be paired with similar authors, to readers (I know that I’ve met a few!). Furthermore, they give new and upcoming authors a chance at publications as well, and at experience with the editing and publishing world and process. Yet, on the reverse, they are terribly hard to get published and to sell – probably because what is within them is of such variable quality.

Then, of course there are the short story anthologies created by a single author which have a kind of cohesion that a collection just cannot (kind of like a picturebook created by an author/illustrator as opposed to an author being paired to an illustrator and never speaking).

There is a cohesion that is just so appealing to these few and far between collections. While I enjoy reading them cover to cover a lot more, I also find that they lack a little spark, because they come from one mind and they tell a very rounded story there is no diversity in intention and creativity – I guess, in a way, they are less inspiring.

What I really wanted to post about today was actually a posting of a question.

How do you guys read short stories?

Do you read from cover to cover? Do you read only the stories you are interested in, or only those by an author you know? Do you skip a story after a certain point?

And, if you do, why do you read short stories? Why not? Do you, or would you, prefer anthologies by one author, or by a collection of authors?

I, traditional book lover that I am, read from cover to cover. I can’t help it. It feels wrong to skip ahead. I will admit to skimming once I realize that don’t care for a story, but I still read it out. I am a little torn on which kind of anthology I enjoy more, I think, for a reading experience I really enjoy the anthologies by one author, but in terms of thought provoking and interest (despite the bad, because sometimes you read a bad story and go… “that could have been SO MUCH BETTER!” and in that way the story was actually, kind of good) I think I’m leaning towards the collections of stories by various authors.

🙂 Cheers guys and thanks for joining us for short story month!