Sunday, May 20, 2007

Two short story collections

Having been recently reminded that my exposure to the contemporary short story is woefully deficient, I’ve been trying to fill in the blank of this gaping hole in my repertoire by reading stories by two virtuosos of the form, Deborah Eisenberg and Stuart Dybek.

Twilight of the Superheroes—don't let the silly comic-book cover fool you as it did the many people who chose to comment on my reading material. (“Wow, that looks like a fun book,” exclaimed the cafe server as she set my sandwich down. “Yes, well it’s actually…. You know what, it is fun,” I sighed.) Deborah Eisenberg is indeed fun, but also among the most important fiction writers working today, according to... well, people who know. Her stories are funny, sad, scary, and wise—amazingly insightful and masterfully crafted. I don’t have the energy to do these stories justice (seriously, the food poisoning has left me so lethargic I can barely hold my hands up to the keyboard), so just read the NY Times review and know that I heartily recommend this collection or any of Eisenberg’s stories to my lovely sisters.

I took Stuart Dybek’s 1990 collection, The Coast of Chicago, with me on a recent trip to the Windy Cty, and it was perfect—just the right mood, and it was so fun for me to read about places I was seeing. But this book is wonderful no matter where one reads it. These are beautiful, beautiful stories, by turns poetic, fantasmic (possibly not a word, but whatever), gritty, nostalgic, even sexy. Again I don’t have the brain or muscle power to do more than refer you to the NY Times, but I will say that these two collections contain stories I will want to come back to again and again. Also ought to put in a plug for the short story form itself, which seems to be regrettably undervalued by readers, publishers and booksellers. So check out these two, or do some discovering of your own.