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Ah, the short story. Those little bursts of literary goodness that fill the in-between time, somehow packing all the drama, laughter, mystery and sadness of a novel into a shortened word count. The author who can properly execute a compelling tale in the confines of the short story format is one I admire and aspire to be.
Like a lot of people, I first felt the effects of a short story's power when I read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson in high school. Jackson's writing grabbed my attention right off the bat and the suspense she built throughout the short story had me racing to get to the grisly ending.
In fact, when "The Lottery" was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, the magazine received an overwhelming amount of reader mail, with some people even believing the work of fiction had been based on a real event -- and shockingly, asking where they had to go to attend. You can read the story online here, if you haven't already.
After my short story interest was piqued by "The Lottery" so many years ago, I went on to seek out collections of shorts to capture my imagination. It would be selfish to keep my finds to myself, so I decided to share two of my favourite collections with you all. Hopefully it gets you in the mood to discuss your own favourite shorts, short story authors, and collections. Let's go!
I feel like a terrible Canadian, but I have to admit that I didn't start reading Margaret Atwood's work until college, starting with "The Handmaid's Tale." Now, however, I am hooked. This collection of short stories is a great place to begin for those in the same boat as me, or for anyone who has interest in Atwood at all. The stories deal frequently in the day-to-day lives of people, mostly women, and while that may sound like some pretty mundane subject matter, Atwood has a way of making their thoughts and feelings just as intriguing as reading the diary of a stranger. With plot-lines covering everything from the bittersweet collapses of relationships to the sinister breaking points of the human mind, each new paragraph serves as a reflection of the reader. I tell myself that I'll read only one story a night before bed, but constantly get sucked into reading the next and relating with something on every page I read -- at this point, nearly every other page of my copy is dogeared.
Some of you may know Joe Hill as the son of Stephen King, and keeping in line with his father's tradition of scaring the pants off people comes this collection of spooky short stories. Ranging from the traditional ghost story of a lonely lover to tales of vampires, giant bugs, masked fetishists, serial killers and even an inflatable child (seriously), this collection taps into the most common fears and insecurities without ever getting gimmicky or falling on old stereotypes.
When I first read this collection, I was staying at my uncle's house out in the middle of the country and frequently found myself wide-eyed in the wee hours of the night trying to tell myself that what I was reading was just make-believe. The stories are as addictive as they are creepy, rich in detail and surprisingly full of heart. I highly recommend to anyone who likes a healthy dose of feelings with their horror.
Now, tell me your favourites! Links to stories that can be found online are much encouraged.