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Tiny Windows Into Other Worlds: Notable Short Story Collections of 2023

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Tiny Windows Into Other Worlds: Notable Short Story Collections of 2023

short story collections 2023

Neil Gaiman has said that “Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds, and other minds, and other dreams. They’re journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.” So today, in celebration of “National Short Story Day,” here are some of the collections of “tiny windows” that were published in the past year– all of which you can check out with your Livingston Library card.

(Descriptions provided by the publishers)

roman stories

Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

Rome–metropolis and monument, suspended between past and future, multi-faceted and metaphysical–is the protagonist, not the setting, of these nine stories. In “The Boundary,” one family vacations in the Roman countryside, though we see their lives through the eyes of the caretaker’s daughter, who nurses a wound from her family’s immigrant past. In “P’s Parties,” a Roman couple, now empty nesters, finds comfort and community with foreigners at their friend’s yearly birthday gathering–until the husband crosses a line. And in “The Steps,” on a public staircase that connects two neighborhoods and the residents who climb up and down it, we see Italy’s capital in all of its social and cultural variegations, filled with the tensions of a changing city: visibility and invisibility, random acts of aggression, the challenge of straddling worlds and cultures, and the meaning of home. These are splendid, searching stories, written in Jhumpa Lahiri’s adopted language of Italian and seamlessly translated by the author and by Knopf editor Todd Portnowitz. Stories steeped in the moods of Italian master Alberto Moravia and guided, in the concluding tale, by the ineluctable ghost of Dante Alighieri, whose words lead the protagonist toward a new way of life.

Disruptions by Steven Millhauser

Here are eighteen stories of astonishing range and precision. A housewife drinks alone in her Connecticut living room. A guillotine glimmers above a sleepy town green. A pre-recorded customer service message sends a caller into a reverie of unspeakable yearning. With the deft touch and funhouse-mirror perspectives for which he has won countless admirers, Steven Millhauser gives us the towns, marriages, and families of a quintessential American lifestyle that is at once instantly recognizable and profoundly unsettling. Disruptions is a provocative, utterly original new collection from a writer at the peak of his form.

The People Who Report More Stress by Alejandro Varela

A collection of interconnected stories brimming with the anxieties of people who retreat into themselves while living in the margins, acutely aware of the stresses that modern life takes upon the body and the body politic. In “Midtown-West Side Story,” lvaro, a restaurant worker struggling to support his family, begins selling high-end designer clothes to his co-workers, friends, neighbors, and the restaurant’s regulars in preparation for a move to the suburbs. “The Man in 512” tracks Manny, the childcare worker for a Swedish family, as he observes the comings and goings of an affluent co-op building, all the while teaching the children Spanish through Selena’s music catalogue. “Comrades” follows a queer man with radical politics who just ended a long-term relationship and is now on the hunt for a life partner. With little tolerance for political moderates, his series of speed dates devolve into awkward confrontations that leave him wondering if his approach is the correct one. This collection of humorous, sexy, and highly neurotic tales about parenting, long-term relationships, systemic and interpersonal racism, and class conflict from the author of The Town of BabylonThe People Who Report More Stress deftly and poignantly expresses the frustration of knowing the problems and solutions to our society’s inequities but being unable to do anything about them.

Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go by Cleo Qian

The electric, unsettling, and often surreal stories in Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go explore the alienated, technology-mediated lives of restless Asian and Asian American women today. A woman escapes into dating simulations to forget her best friend’s abandonment; a teenager begins to see menacing omens on others’ bodies after her double eyelid surgery; reunited schoolmates are drawn into the Japanese mountains to participate in an uncanny social experiment; a supernatural karaoke machine becomes a K-pop star’s channel for redemption. In every story, characters refuse dutiful, docile stereotypes. They are ready to explode, to question conventions. Their compulsions tangle with unrequited longing and queer desire in their search for something ineffable across cities, countries, and virtual worlds. With precision and provocation, Cleo Qian’s immersive debut jolts us into the reality of lives fragmented by screens, relentless consumer culture, and the flattening pressures of modern society-and asks how we might hold on to tenderness against the impulses within us.

Holler, Child by LaToya Watkins

In Holler, Child‘s eleven brilliant stories, LaToya Watkins presses at the bruises of guilt, love, and circumstance. Each story introduces us to a character irrevocably shaped by place and reaching toward something-hope, reconciliation, freedom. In ‘Cutting Horse,’ the appearance of a horse in a man’s suburban backyard places a former horse breeder in trouble with the police. In ‘Holler, Child,’ a mother is forced into an impossible position when her son gets in a kind of trouble she knows too well from the other side. And ‘Time After’ shows us the unshakable bonds of family as a sister journeys to find her estranged brother-the one who saved her many times over. Throughout Holler, Child, we see love lost and gained, and grief turned to hope. Much like LaToya Watkins’s acclaimed debut novel, Perish, this collection peers deeply into lives of women and men experiencing intimate and magnificent reckonings-exploring how race, power, and inequality map on the individual, and demonstrating the mythic proportions of everyday life.

missing morningstar

The Missing Morningstar and Other Stories by Stacie Shannon Denetsosie

Stacie Shannon Denetsosie confronts long-reaching effects of settler-colonialism on Native lives in a series of gritty, wildly imaginative stories. A young Navajo man catches a ride home alongside a casket he’s sure contains his dead grandfather. A gas station clerk witnesses the kidnapping of the newly crowned Miss Northwestern Arizona. A young couple’s search for a sperm donor raises questions of blood quantum. This debut collection grapples with a complex and painful history alongside an inheritance of beauty, ceremony, and storytelling.

Onlookers by Ann Beattie

A collection of extraordinary stories about people living in the same Southern town whose lives intersect in surprising ways. Peaceful Charlottesville, Virginia, drew national attention when white nationalists held a rally there in 2017, a horrific event whose repercussions are still felt today. Confederate monuments such as General Robert E. Lee atop his horse were then still standing. The statues are a constant presence and a metaphoric refrain throughout this collection, though they represent different things to different characters. Some landmarks may have faded from consciousness but provoke fresh outrage when viewed through newly opened eyes. In “Nearby,” an elderly man and his younger wife watch from their penthouse as protestors gather to oppose the once “heroic” explorers Lewis and Clark depicted towering over their native guide, Sacagawea. A lawyer in “In the Great Southern Tradition” deals with a crisis on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, while his sister and nephew plant tulip bulbs at her stately home. These are stories of unexpected relationships that affirm the value of friendship, even when it requires difficult compromises or unexpected risks. Ann Beattie explores questions about the nature of community, and “proves her herself up to the task of pinpointing America’s contradictions.

White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link

Finding seeds of inspiration in the stories of the Brothers Grimm, seventeenth-century French lore, and Scottish ballads, Kelly Link spins classic fairy tales into utterly original stories of seekers—characters on the hunt for love, connection, revenge, or their own sense of purpose. In “The White Cat’s Divorce,” an aging billionaire sends his three sons on a series of absurd goose chases to decide which child will become his heir. In “The Girl Who Did Not Know Fear,” a professor with a delicate health condition becomes stranded for days in an airport hotel after a conference, desperate to get home to her wife and young daughter, and in acute danger of being late for an appointment that cannot be missed. In “Skinder’s Veil,” a young man agrees to take over a remote house-sitting gig for a friend. But what should be a chance to focus on his long-avoided dissertation instead becomes a wildly unexpected journey, as the house seems to be a portal for otherworldly travelers—or perhaps a door into his own mysterious psyche. Twisting and turning in astonishing ways, expertly blending realism and the speculative, witty, empathetic, and never predictable—these stories remind us once again of why Kelly Link is incomparable in the realm of short fiction.

Fat Time and Other Stories by Jeffery Renard Allen

Jimi Hendrix, Francis Bacon, the boxer Jack Johnson, Miles Davis, and a space-age Muhammad Ali find themselves in the otherworldly hands of Jeffery Renard Allen, reimagined and transformed to bring us news of America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Along with them are characters of Allen’s two teenagers in an unnamed big city who stumble through a down-low relationship; an African preacher visits a Christian religious retreat to speak on the evils of fornication in an Italian villa imported to America by Abraham Lincoln; and an albino revolutionary who struggles with leading his people into conflict. The two strands in this brilliant story collection speculative history and tender, painful depictions of Black life in urban America are joined by African notions of circular time in which past, present, and future exist all at once. Here the natural and supernatural, the sacred and the profane, the real and fantastical, destruction and creation are held in delicate and tense balance. Allen’s work has been said to extend the tradition of Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Henry Roth, and Ishmael Reed, but he is blazing his own path through American literature. Fat Time and Other Stories brilliantly shows the range and depth of his imagination.

Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has established herself as a beloved cultural icon and one of the most visionary and canonical authors of her generation. In this collection comprised of fifteen extraordinary stories–some of which have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine--Atwood speaks to our times with her characteristic wit and intellect. Of special significance are the seven works revolving around the long-term married couple Tig and Nell. Acting as bookends for the collection, these stories look deeply in the heart of what it means to spend a life together, with the four stories in Part I relating tales from their married life, and the three stories at the end showing Nell’s reality in the aftermath of Tig’s death. In other works, two sisters grapple with loss and memory in “Old Babes in the Wood”; “Impatient Griselda” reprises the folkloric role of Griselda in Bocaccio’s The Decameron, exploring alienation and miscommunication; and “Evil Mother” touching on the fantastical, examining a mother-daughter relationship in which the mother purports to be a witch. Returning to short fiction for the first time since her 2014 collection, Stone Mattress, Atwood’s storytelling gifts and unmistakable style are on full display.

every drop is a mans nightmare

Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare by Megan Kamalei Kakimoto

Megan Kamalei Kakimoto’s wrenching and sensational debut story collection follows a cast of mixed native Hawaiian and Japanese women through a contemporary landscape thick with inherited wisdom and the ghosts of colonization. This is a Hawai’i where unruly sexuality and generational memory overflow the postcard image of paradise and the boundaries of the real, where the superstitions born of the islands take on the weight of truth. A childhood encounter with a wild pua’a (pig) on the haunted Pali highway portends one young woman’s fraught relationship with her pregnant body. An elderly widow begins seeing her deceased lover in a giant flower. A kanaka writer, mid-manuscript, feels her raw pages quaking and knocking in the briefcase

The Best Short Stories 2023: O. Henry Prize Winners guest edited by Lauren Groff

Contains twenty prizewinning stories chosen from the thousands published in magazines over the previous year. Guest editor Lauren Groff has selected an exciting and engaging variety of stories by an international array of both celebrated and emerging writers. The winning stories are accompanied by an introduction by Groff, fascinating observations from the winning writers on what inspired their work, and an extensive and useful directory of magazines and literary websites that publish short fiction.

The Best American Short Stories 2023 selected by Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee, author of the highly acclaimed National Book Award Finalist Pachinko, selects twenty stories out of thousands that represent the best examples of the form published the previous year.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions

 

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