Sunday, January 07, 2007

Short but sweet

I am currently reading Userlands, a compilation of little known writers. The same editor released a similar volume in the 1990s that included future success stories like David Sedaris, the very angry Dale Peck, and Dorothy Allison.

Short story anthologies are a challenge. Very rarely will you like every story. I for one will drop a story if I dislike the voice or the direction. Short stories have to work a lot harder than novels. You can forgive a 30 page digression in a novel, but everything has to work perfectly in a short story. But even the best falter. My absolute favorite short story collection has a few clunkers in it.

This is all to say that I am not shocked that I don't like all the stories in Userlands. Some of the writers just seem too green and inexperienced to have a whole lot to say. Others don't say it very well.

I was going to say that some of the authors are too young, but one of my favorites was a story about the downward spiral to suicide. That one was written by 20-year old Mike Kitchell. The concise descriptions and key repetitions made it seem like a Neil Young song. I also quite like a story called Three Untitled Stories About Smoking. This one had a Carver like capture of the emotional moment. Another standout told the sad story of the angry Barnes and Noble clerk and his battle with the customers. Sure, it is a Clerks re-tread, but it is funny nonetheless.

So, if you are tired of the same old, same old you might find something to your liking here. There are some really good stories from interesting folks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know Mike and he is personally nothing if not a concise, repetitious version of Neil Young.