As some 1book140 followers have already noted, the only surprising thing about our choice of theme this month is that it took us this long to get to the short story. One could argue that the short story is the quintessential literary form in the so-called American Century, serving the modernists--think Sherwood Anderson, Katherine Anne Porter, Ernest Hemingway--as the novel served the realists. But what's amazing, and what we're hoping to highlight this month, is the extent to which the short story remains relevant, and a vital form of creative expression. As such, we eschewed the classics this time around so that we might focus on some of the wonderful contemporary collections nominated this time around. Voting will end Thursday at 5 p.m. EST. The contenders:
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
In the New York Times Book Review, Joy Williams wrote of Vampires: "Fiction is by definition unreal, and Russell takes this coldly awesome truth and enjoys fully the rebel freedom it confers." Russell's novel Swamplandia! was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, though no prize was ultimately awarded. Vampires, Russell's latest collection of absurdist fiction, has made quite a splash since its release in January.
Tenth of December by George Saunders
Named one of the best writers 40 and under by The New Yorker in 2002, George Saunders is no stranger to fiction, but his stories have stayed fresh. If you choose The Tenth of December, we'll read about some heavy topics (abduction, rape, suicide) through the modern lens of a depressed economy and a decade of war. The harshness of these stories is redeemed for some readers by Saunders's keen ability to find bright spots in the darkest of tales--an ability that's led some to compare him to Kurt Vonnegut.
Middle Men by Jim Gavin
Gavin's debut collection has deep concerns: the Catholic educational system, gas stations, and the lives of plumbers. Despite this solid focus on the timeless and the profound, it's also a deeply, disturbingly funny book, is getting a ton of buzz and has already made some writers' "best-book-of-the-year" list. It is also--because we're nothing if not transparent here at 1book140--written by a friend of Jeff's, some writer.
Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman
Binocular Vision, Edith Pearlman's fourth collection of short stories, was a darling among critics, taking home the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Wallant Award and the MEN/Malamud Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Pearlman's stories take place in the world she lives in, often exploring the lives of well-educated, cultured Jewish characters.
Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie
Native American issues may not have been a hot issue in last year's elections, but Sherman Alexie reminds us in Blasphemy that those issues are still very real. The National Book Award-winning author raises hard questions about that it is to be a Native American in an America so far removed from its pre-Columbian past. Perhaps @Sherman_Alexie himself will help us answer them.
Selected Stories by William Trevor
One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2011, William Trevor's Selected Stories is a collection of 48 stories set mostly in the United Kingdom. Trevor has been an award-winning author since his first novel, The Old Boys, won the 1964 Hawthornden Prize for Literature. If you choose this book, plan to read, as The Washington Post's Ron Hansen put it, "wry, wistful, slice-of-life stories that have been likened to those of Anton Chekhov because of their acute observations, limpid prose, and subtlety of presentation and their focus on neediness, loss and heartbreak."