Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Your Favorite Collection of Short Stores-Single Author

Yesterday Dennis Lehane chose his favorite short story collections--an excellent list.

There are so many short story writers, I revere: Andre Dubus, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Antonya Nelson, John Updike and Cheever, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor to name a few.

But when I was beginning to think about writing in a more serious way, this was the book that most inspired me. SHILOH AND OTHER STORIES, Bobbie Ann Mason.

I know Mason is now disparaged for an overuse of brand names and such, but she wrote about the people I was interested in reading about--not the country club set, or those on the Upper East Side. Real people who have trouble paying their bills and staying out of trouble.

What single-author collection of stories do you like most? What one do you come back to?


Anonymous said...

Patti - Oh, really interesting question!! Hmm.... the single-author short-story collections I like best are Agatha Christie's and Dorothy Sayers'. Both wrote a variety of different kinds of short stories, and I really like their approaches.

Todd Mason said...


runners-up include (I suppose career retrospectives are not quite fair play--begone, THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER):
Muriel Spark, THE GO-AWAY BIRD
Jorge Luis Borges, THE BOOK OF SAND (THE ALEPH AND OTHER STORIES being a career retro of sorts, likewise LABYRINTHS)
Damon Knight, IN DEEP
and so many more

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love Muriel Spark and I have her collected stories as well as Cheever.

Chris said...

I grew up reading the stories of Robert E. Howard, and I will go to my grave with his work as my favorite. I really like Flannery O'Connor as well, and recently Bonnie Jo Campbell really blows me away too.

Anonymous said...

Good question! I like Mason too, as well as Dubus. Most of mine would probably be collections:

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (or The Nick Adams Stories)
Raymond Carver, Collected Stories
John O'Hara, Collected Stories
Andre Dubus, Selected Stories
Chekhov, 201 Stories
David Gates, The Wonders of the Invisible World
Richard Yates, The Collected Stories
Flannery O'Connor, The Collected Stories
Tobias Wolff, Our Story Begins: New and Collected Stories
Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Graham Greene, Complete Short Stories

And then there are the mysteries...
I'd go with the complete Sherlock Holmes, the Rumpole stories of John Mortimer, Hammett's stories, Michael Gilbert's Calder & Behrens stories, Ed Hoch's Dr. Sam Hawthorne collections and various Ed Gorman collections off the top of my head.

Jeff M.

Dave Zeltserman said...

All of Hammett's Continental Op collections

From from the City of Class by Bruce Jay Friedman

Lost Writings by Jim Thompson

as a kid I loved Robert E. Howard, but I've been rereading his works recently, and while still somewhat enjoyable, somewhat stiff.

I used to also like HP Lovecraft a lot, but it's been too long since I've read him, and not sure if I'd still feel the same way.

Same with Poe. At one point I went through everything Poe wrote, and some of the stories were great, but again, that was over 30 years ago, and not sure how I'd feel about them now.

Todd Mason said...

Career retros really do seem rather a cheat in a list like this...a Desert Island list, OK.

TELL ME A RIDDLE by Tillie Olsen is a brilliant collection, as is Ron Goulart's GHOST BREAKER, but if I could take instead WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?, the first career retro for JC Oates and THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SAKI, they might well supplant the first two slim volumes in the survival box.

Why, thank you, Jeff, I like you, too.

Todd Mason said...

I suspect, Dave, that Poe will hold up better than Lovecraft. Poe actually could write prose. However, I might not suggest revisiting "The Gold Bug" except for historical interest, both good (as a pioneer use of ciphers in fiction) and bad (for a display of pandering to racism).

Todd Mason said...

I like BA Mason, too (no relation I'm aware of)...she doesn't clumsily over-employ brandnames in the place of character development, a la BE Ellis. O'Connor, Friedman, Hammett, Alexie, and Chekhov are all necessary.

John Kenyon said...

Off the top of my head:

The Coast of Chicago, Stuart Dybek
Troublemakers, John McNally
Greasy Lake and Other Stories, T.C. Boyle
I Hate to See that Evening Sun Go Down, William Gay

I'd also second Yates and Gates.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Jeff-we have the exact same taste. Just haven't read the Gates.
How could I forget Bonnie Jo? Anyone who likes noir must read that collection.
Have never read Bruce Jay Friedman. Big gap there. I wonder why?
Stuart Dybeck. I have two of his collections.
How could I forget Lorrie Moore, Jean Thompson, William Trevor.
I used to love the Irish writer, Mary Lavin. Anyone read her?

Chris said...

Good call on Sherman Alexie. I don't enjoy him nearly as much anymore, but that Lone Ranger & Tonto collection is essential.

Ed Gorman said...

The Collected Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Collected Stories of Ernest Hemingway
The Collected Stories of Richard Yates
The Collected Stories of Carson McCullers
The Collected Stories of Wm Faulkner
The Collected Stories of Raymond Chandler
The Collected Stories of Dashiell Hammett
The Collected Stories of Sherwood Anderson
The Collected Stories of John O'Hara
The Collected Stories of Dorothy Parker
The Collected Stories of Richard Matheson
The Collected Stories of Robert Bloch
The Collected Stories of Raymond Carver
The Collected Stories of Anne Beatty

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow. Anne Beatty doesn't get mentioned nearly enough, does she? She was the most popular short story writer in the seventies. My favorite Yates collection was Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and I think he could have actually come up with more. Sad life.
Megan just read Winesburg, Ohio and was blown away. No one today knows how great a writer O'Hara was. Great list, Ed.
I have read no Alexie. Shame on me.

Ron Scheer said...

Thanks for remembering Bobbie Ann Mason. Growing up on a farm in the midwest, I understood her characters almost perfectly - and what the brand names are about. She once said that the people at the New Yorker weren't sure whether her stories were meant to be humorous or dead serious.

What a pleasure to read through so many different lists of short story writers. It's probably Carver for me. For two nobody's probably ever heard of I'll mention Jon Billman's WHEN WE WERE WOLVES and John McNally's TROUBLEMAKERS.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Both new to me, Ron. Thanks.

Loren Eaton said...

Ray Bradbury's The October Country. It certainly isn't perfect, but many of the shorts nail the perfect blend of sentimentality and horror. There are even a couple crime tales in it.

Jerry House said...

Todd Mason took my first choice with the Avram Davidson. Most of his other choices would also be on my list. Adding Richard Matheson to the list is a no-brainer.

To those collections already suggested, I would add anything by P. G. Wodehouse.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

The Specialty of the House and Other Stores by Stanley Ellin
Nine Hundred Grandmother by R.A. Lafferty
Collected Stores-Flannery O'Connor
Complete Stories of JG Ballard
Virtual Unrealities by Alfred Bester
Stories-TC Boyle
I could go on and on

michael said...

Favorite book of short story collections:
Big Knockover by Dashiell Hammett.

Favorite short story writer:
Paul Cain

Favorite editor of short story collections:
Otto Penzler

pattinase (abbott) said...

Specialty of the House is a complete homerun. Never forget the first time I read it.
Humor is so hard to do and Wodehouse did it so well. Few writers if any can match him.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Michael-Heard about Paul Cain for years but have never run into his work.
Of course I am peppered with Penzlerbilia. He is an industry.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I did read that one, Loren. He is brilliant at any length at any time.

Anonymous said...

There were several other that I forgot or meant to mention, including the Wodehouse.

Yes, ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS was the first one I read, but I reread all his stories in the collected edition. Yates did have a very sad life.

I have read Anne Beattie and thought of mentioning her.

Patti, you definitely need to read that Alexie book. Fantastic.

Jeff M.

Nigel Bird said...

there have been so many mentioned already, but i'm diving in:
Knockemstiff, Donald Ray Pollock
Maupassant because the story The Necklace blew me away as a teenage reluctant reader who was forced into it.
Revenge Of The Lawn, Richard Brautigan as it's one of my favourites.
For Esmee...outstanding.
Welcome To The Monkey House, kv, for brilliance and variety.
The Queen Of Spades, Pushkin
Close Range, Annie Proulx
Sony Liston Was A Friend Of Mine, Thom Jones

and Lorrie More

pattinase (abbott) said...

I had CLOSE RANGE in my hand an hour ago. She is brilliant. Vonnegut was amazing at any length.
I will look for Alexie.

John McFetridge said...

Around the time I first read Bobbie Anne Mason I was also reading ROCK SPRINGS by Richard Ford. A lot of women I know don't like his writing (especially THE SPORTSWRITER which is a pretty male novel) but I still do.

Todd Mason said...

How you can idolize Vonnegut and Bradbury but have not dipped (much?) into Sturgeon almost puzzles me...his two most prominent disciples, albeit hands on he actually pushed fledgling writers Anne Rice (I know, too bad) and Elizabeth Engstrom into their first flights, from workshops he instructed.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love Richard Ford although I haven't been able to make myself read the final book in the series that began with The Sportswriter. Prostate cancer is too real. Couldn't bear to watch Rabbit die either. Rock Springs is terrific.
Todd, I think that the average middlebrow reader has never heard of Sturgeon. I am sure it is my loss, but I never once heard his name at the time I was reading Vonnegut and Bradbury. They made the transition to the more general reading public, I think, along with Ursula L, and a few others.
I travel in an outer circle in science fiction more than you. Only read a handful.
I was not seduced to reading it in depth, I guess. My loss, I am sure.

Richard Robinson said...

Rymond Chandler tops my list of mystery authors, then Sherlock Holmes, Michael Gilbert's Calder & Behrens stories, (really good), the Rumpole stories of John Mortimer (also really good), and Hammett's Continental Op stories.

More literate collections would be John Steinbeck, Hemingway, Paul Theroux, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad.

pattinase (abbott) said...


Todd Mason said...

A loss you can rectify. I'm not sure you will enjoy Alexie more, though you might...and you might not. Sturgeon was in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES well after Bradbury (whose "The Big Black and White Game" in the 1946 volume largely sparked his crossover) but before Vonnegut, iirc, with "The Man Who Lost the Sea" in the 1960 volume, and he had a short story in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 1964 (as an example of how he Got Around--I'm not sure how much other fiction they've published), as well as writing one of Ellery Queen's novels (THE PLAYER ON THE OTHER SIDE), but yes, that's why I noted Almost surprised...he didn't get the same crossover support outside fantastic fiction as have Karen Joy Fowler, William Kotzwinkle (THE HOT JAZZ TRIO), Le Guin (THE WIND'S TWELVE QUARTERS), Michael Shaara (THE KILLER ANGELS, not immediately relevant as a novel--but his short fiction seems to be uncollected, astoundingly), Walter Tevis (the major collection FAR FROM HOME, and of course the novel THE HUSTLER, the source for the film, and its sequel, THE COLOR OF MONEY, likewise), Richard McKenna (collection CASEY AGONISTES... and historical novel THE SAND PEBBLES), among others...

Kent Morgan said...

W.P. Kinsella's collections about natives, read Indians, in Alberta are even better than his baseball short stories.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I loved Box Socials but doubt that's the one.
Isn't it strange what we have and have not read. I have at least 500 books in my house that fall in that latter category.

Todd Mason said...

I've been meaning to read more Kinsella.

Come to think of it, between Sturgeon writing two of the better STAR TREK episodes and E.T. being a dumbed-down ripoff of an early story of his, perhaps more people have experienced at least some sense of his work than have either Bradbury or Vonnegut...

George said...

If you haven't read Harlan Ellison's DEATHBIRD STORIES, you're missing work by a master short story writer. I'm reading William Trevor's just published SELECTED STORIES. Just brilliant!

John McFetridge said...

The first few WP Kinsella short story collections, Dance Me Outside, Scars and right up to The Fencepost Chronicles are really, really good. But some of the baseball stories are also really, really good.

It did get a little frustrating that Silas Erminiskin was writing so many stories and not getting any better, but maybe that's because he was still hanging around with Frank Fencepost.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Mark Helprin, THE PACIFIC

pattinase (abbott) said...

Tremendous oversight to miss Nine Stories, thanks. All good choices, of course.
I am convinced about Sturgis and will look for him.

pattinase (abbott) said...

John, I thought that was a joke until I looked it up. What names!

Todd Mason said...

DEATHBIRD STORIES is probably the best Ellison collection...though SHATTERDAY is close. (Both retrospectives!)

Likewise, Alice Sheldon ("James Tiptree, Jr."/"Racoona" Sheldon) published several collections of stunning virtuosity. TEN THOUSAND LIGHT-YEARS FROM HOME was the first, the porous memory tells me.

Manly Wade Wellman, JOHN THE BALLADEER
Dennis Etchison, THE DARK COUNTRY

Todd Mason said...

I've been sending Patti (and a guy named Bob Meyer, who was blown away by "Bianca's Hands") via email the Vonnegut and Bradbury introductions to the Sturgeon Project colletions, and the various-writer blurbs...they are pretty persuasive, and I can't imagine that George, at least, might not chime in. As to which collection...well, hard to go very wrong, but, say, THE GOLDEN HELIX or (from the project) THE MAN WHO LOST THE SEA or AND NOW THE NEWS are probably excellent introductions...E PLURIBUS UNICORN, too.

Anita Page said...

So many of my favorite writers have already been listed. I'll add:

Elizabeth Strout
Grace Paley
Donald Westlake
James Joyce

pattinase (abbott) said...

Almost listed Olive Kitteredge. An amazing way of telling a story. The Dubliners is a great collection.
Anita-I don't have my list here. Have you ever written a forgotten book review? You can see why I like the topic-so much is forgotten by me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ROCK SPRINGS is a favorite of mine too, as are Annie Proulx's Wyoming stories. Also Stanley Ellin. And the Dennis Etchison book Todd mentioned. And Grace Paley.

And I felt the same as you about Rabbit dying.

Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

Ambrose Bierce

A few oldies:


Lord Dunsany

Henry James

M. R. James

Algernon Blackwood

and so many more.

John Kenyon said...

I'll add Chris Offutt's THE KENTUCKY STRAIGHT to the list. Anyone who loves Daniel Woodrell (and everyone should) ought to read Offutt's work. This debut collection is probably his strongest.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lord Dunsany is new to me.
Offutt I hear all the time but have yet to read.

John McFetridge said...

Also, Roddy Doyle's short story collection, The Deportees is very good. The stories are all around 800 words and were first published in a magazine started in Dublin by some immigrants from Africa.

I hadn't thought about it till now but I guess it was one of the first collections of flash fiction I've ever read. One of the stories has the characters from the Barrytown Trilogy (one of which was made into the movie The Commitments).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love to get that one. Maybe the university library has it. Off to check.

Paul D Brazill said...

Late to this but off the top of my head I'd second Rock Springs,Elephant by Raymond Carver, Tales Of Ordinary Madness by Charles Bukowski, Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor, In The Devils' Territory by Kyle Minor -hey, they're all septics!

pattinase (abbott) said...

All good and I adore Kyle's book. He is the real deal.

Mike Dennis said...

Patti, I would have to go with Vicki Hendricks' FLORIDA GOTHIC STORIES.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Just bought that at Noircon and my husband spilled water all over it so I am trying to dry it out. Just love Vicki.

SteveHL said...

If I had to pick one Sturgeon collection, it would be Selected Stories of Theodore Sturgeon from 2000.

The stories are:

Thunder and Roses
The Golden Helix
Mr. Costello, Hero
Bianca’s Hands
The Skills of Xanadu
Bright Segment
The Sex Opposite
The [Widget], the Wadget], and
A Way of Thinking
The Man Who Lost the Sea
Slow Sculpture

Now if they had just included “The Other Celia” and “And Now the News” and “Bulkhead” and “The Comedian’s Children” and “The Other Man” and “Shottle Bop” and…

pattinase (abbott) said...

Checked both my university and local library and the best I could do was stories of his in other people's anthologies. How quickly they forget.

Todd Mason said...

Insane. And North Shore has been putting the earlier Sturgeon Project collection out of print, and the speculators are having a field day, $300 pricetags and such on the first several volumes.

Todd Mason said...

"It Wasn't Syzygy"...

Todd Mason said...

Well, how about that...North Shore has put the earlier volumes back into print as of today.