Monday, December 15, 2014

The Curse of the Short Story

I'm drawn to short story collections. A few years back I made a deal with myself that I couldn't continue to read them back to back. I'd lose details. I wouldn't be able to keep up with who wrote what, or what stories went together.
What I was really trying to save myself from was mediocrity.
I really do love short stories. I think they are art and do not get nearly the praise they deserve. That is until certain collections get too much praise.
As I write this I have read five collections in 2014 and have left two more unfinished. I guess that is one of the blessings of this medium. You can stop anywhere and still get a mostly full narative. But I come across the same issue every time I pick up a new group of stories, and it's a problem that stems from running this blog.
How do I write about them?
This year alone I've forced out "reviews" for No One Belongs Here More Than You and One More Thing. One collection I a loved and another abhorred. Even with strong feelings I had a difficult time articulating them. 
For instance in the summer I read The Other Language and Can't and Won't very close to each other. The Other Language reminded me why I invest in $20 hardbacks, but Can't and Won't made me regret buying an ebook. I never got around to reviewing either collection. In the end I was tired of trying. Do I talk about every story or just the ones that really made me think? Is it wrong to focus on a piece that may not represent the collection as a whole? 15 good pages doesn't make up for 300 bad ones and vice versa.
I've seen other reviews handle books like this with grace. There are bloggers who seem to just know how to talk about short story collections, even when they're not part of their regular reading experience.
I wish I had a solution. I'm several stories into Hilary Mantel's The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher right now and to be honest I'm not a fan. I could talk about the writing style or the themes that just aren't capturing my attention, but nothing feels trailered enough to address my issues with each story.
So this is me saying I'm sorry for messy reviews of story collections, and warning you that there may be more coming. I finished My True Love Gave To Me a month ago and it is one collection that definitively deserves to be highlighted on this blog. I promise I'll try to get over my review issues soon.

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