Friday, January 15, 2016

Short Stories 2015

Waaaay back in November, I mentioned that I had finished up the short story project, 'Deal Me In'.  (If you don't remember, the idea is to select 52 short stories and then match each one up with a card from a normal deck.  Each week you read the story that matches the next card.)  Well, I didn't quite stay with the plan.  I had some free time in November, so I finished up early.  Unfortunately, I never wrote anything about what I'd read.
Here is the quick list:

Star CafeCaponegro3 clubsok
Secret Life of Walter MittyThurber8 diamondsvery good
Eternal LifeAleichemQ heartsgood
Good man is Hard to FindO'ConnorQ diamondsvery good
Short Happy Life of Francis McComberHemingway7 diamondsexcellent
The Man Who Slept Through the End ofNadir3 heartsdelightful
Harvey's Dream KingQ spadesvery good
King DragonSwanwickJ spadesexcellent
How much Land Does a Man Need?TolstoyJ diamondsexcellent
GooseberriesChekovQ clubsvery good
In a Far CountryLondon10 diamondsvery good

That's how it all finished up.  The idea behind this project was to expand the quality (and number) of short stories that I had read.  To do that, I choose 52 stories that I'd never read before.  13 of them were from a book of stories translated from Yiddish.  13 were from a recent Sci-Fi/Fantasy collection.  13 of them were from a book where established authors suggest short stories that have touched them.  And the last were recognized classic shorts.
I enjoyed the entire project, though there were some stories that I liked more than others.  (I believe some of the idea of the project is to review them as you read them.  Cleopatra does a very good job of this.  Frankly, that's unrealistic for me.)  In general, the classic short stories were consistently the best.  I guess that means that they've faced the test of time.  The Sci-Fi/Fantasy stuff was also very good, though that may be nothing more than a matter of taste.  I enjoyed the Yiddish stories but they were more interesting than great.  (I suspect that would have been true of any set of stories all translated from the same source.)
The worst of all, for me, was the selections from the suggested stories.  This could be a matter of taste as well, but I suspect that it is something different.  Those stories are are ones selected by writers and almost all of the introductions focused on construction above all.  As a reader, I'm far more likely to look at things like message and plot.  Sometimes a turn of phrase strikes me, but not as often, or at least not in the same places, as it did for the authors that inspired this collection.
Fair enough.

Did I enjoy it?  Very much so.  Am I doing it again?  Yes.  In fact, I'm a few stories in already.  (I'll try to find some time over the weekend to put the list in front of you.)  If you enjoy short stories and have some anthologies laying around, I highly suggest you try this out for yourself.


  1. Ah, thanks for the compliment, Peder! I did a good job at the beginning of the year, but I really fell off quickly. I hope to be more consistent this year. You at least are finishing the challenge! Bravo! I have a Chekhov and an O'Connor on my list for this year's challenge.

    1. Thank you for introducing me to the concept. I've gotten great joy from this project!