3 Sharp Short Story Collections
In my January stack of new books is a delicious little volume of short stories with an intriguing cover entitled American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis. Love the cover, and while I can’t say I curl my hair or file my nails wearing my readers, this book found its way to the top of the pile and into my hands. I fell asleep reading “The Wainscoting War,” a clever email exchange between two neighbors about the decoration of their common hallway, and as soon as the kids were on the bus I began “Dumpster Diving with the Stars,” reading until I could no longer put off getting ready for and heading to work. It is that kind of book. I am not always in the mood for short stories-if they are good I wish for a novel-but these stories I think I would always be in the mood for. They allow you to get the quick and dirty-the most important details with minimal commitment. They are witty and clever, satirizing today’s woman and yet appreciating her at the same time. I can’t wait to get back to it…
In fact, it reminded me of another volume of short stories I devoured over the summer: Single, Carefree and Mellow, a collection of short love stories by Katherine Heiny.
Single, Carefree and Mellow offers us character studies of women in various stages of relationships. No matter what they have gotten themselves into, you root for them to get to their best outcome. Some of the characters appear in more than one story, so that just as they fade from immediate memory, they are back with another installment and a chance to know them a little better. This book can be appreciated whether you in fact are single carefree and mellow, an American housewife, or somewhere in between. In reading about the author, I learned that she published her first story in the New Yorker (what a place to start!) 25 years ago, then wrote young adult fiction. Hooray readers! she finally came out with her first book for adults and has another on the way in 2016.
Single, Carefree and Mellow reminded me of a late summer read: Almost Famous Women, stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman.
The title tells it: these are fantastic stories of women whose brush with fame, or with the famous, is deserving of some attention in the chronicles of history. These women are heroines and heiresses, daughters and wives, lovers, performers, movie stars. The “almost famous” seems to mean not so much is known, rather than not so much accomplished, so Bergman ingeniously imagines what happened and the result is a second life for women whose names we know or sound familiar, but whose stories are overshadowed by the others in their lives. Full disclosure: I love the fictionalized biography and memoir. I love to juxtapose what I know or think I know with what an author finds important. I like the legend; I like the myth. Bergman demonstrates compassion in revitalizing the women who didn’t quite get their own chapters in history.