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Thread: A short-story reading challenge in 2019

  1. #1
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    A short-story reading challenge in 2019

    I’ve just about hit my 2018 Goodreads challenge target, which I set at 52 books (I should get there by the time the clock strikes on the 31st). Pondering 2019, I thought that rather than increase the target number of books, I’d leave it at 52, but add a separate challenge for myself: read 52 short stories as well.

    I’m keeping the ground rules simple and forgiving: Any short story counts, except ones I’ve written myself; critiques and beta reads can count provided it’s a complete story. Any source will do; the New Yorker, any anthology, websites of markets I’m scouting for my own submissions; if I happen to read a book that is a collection of short stories, I can double-count it on both the Goodreads list and the short-story list (the goal is to read more stories, not kill myself to death).

    And if 52 starts to look like not enough challenge, I might push the goalposts back for myself partway through the year.

    Who is in with me? How many short stories do you want to read in 2019? State your goal here and then come back and tell us what you’re reading.

    There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily. --Anthony Trollope

    My short story "The Candlestick" is published in GNU Journal's Winter 2018 issue.

    Absolute Write let me write a book review: Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

  2. #2
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    Wow, a book a week? Impressive! :hail: [I can never get the smilies on the "more" page to insert on the tablet in Opera]

    This sounds like fun. I'll chip in with a round goal of 52 stories. I kind of feel like I'm cheating slightly, as there are a couple anthologies I buy every year. Pushcart Prize usually has that many on its own (especially if you include the poems, which I usually skip).

    Out of curiosity, what about poems? Do they count? What about essays and creative non-fic? If so, what about blog posts (today's popular version of essays), or feature articles in Washington Post or other "newsy" places? I'll propose that poems count; as do essays, creative non-fic, blogs and feature stories as long as they tell a story and not just report the facts of the day (for example, a history of the ISIS conflict in Syria counts, but not "World Leaders React to US Pullout.")
    Last edited by Chris P; 12-23-2018 at 06:09 PM.
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  3. #3
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    Well, my particular purpose is to study short stories, so I’m not going to count poems or essays or nonfiction, which are distinct writing forms with distinct characteristics from one another and from short fiction. I’m interested in developing a better understanding of the short story form, since I’ve been trying to write such stories and get them published. So, I’m going to focus on short stories and I hope that others will talk about the short stories that they are reading.

    That said, you can structure your own challenge however you like, of course. If you’re more interested in a generic “written pieces that aren’t long” challenge, if that helps you meet some goal of yours, who’s going to tell you no? But personally, it’s not what I’m aiming for.



    ETA: Buying anthologies is in no way cheating, as one still has to read them.
    There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily. --Anthony Trollope

    My short story "The Candlestick" is published in GNU Journal's Winter 2018 issue.

    Absolute Write let me write a book review: Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

  4. #4
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    Excellent point; short fiction is a completely different set of skills from other types of "stuff that isn't long." I've always loved reading and writing short fic, and being more focused is beneficial. And more of a challenge!
    The 2019 Reading Challenge is underway. Join any time! Click for details

  5. #5
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    Glad to have you aboard Chris P. I hope others will join in once the year opens up. I am still trying to finish up two books to meet my 2018 Goodreads challenge but I'm lining up short stories to read after the New Year. I look forward to talking about them here.

    There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily. --Anthony Trollope

    My short story "The Candlestick" is published in GNU Journal's Winter 2018 issue.

    Absolute Write let me write a book review: Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

  6. #6
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    I'm looking forward to it too! I treated myself to one of the anthologies I pick up most years, and it's killing me to wait until Tuesday to get started. I tend to read shorts in spurts between novels (plus I'm knuckling down on a long-stalled writing project, yay!) so I might be hot and cold on posting.

    But what fun! It will probably force me to expand my reading, which is always a good thing.
    The 2019 Reading Challenge is underway. Join any time! Click for details

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    I'm happy to join. I already follow quite a few online literary magazine so I end up reading short stories and flash fiction pretty much every day. There are so much material out there to read. I'm also part of a short story club where we meet about once a month to discuss a short story we have read beforehand. The last one was The Metal Bowl by Miranda July (that can be found in The New Yorker).

  8. #8
    deceives Tocotin's Avatar
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    Count me in, please!

    I need to read more widely about the area/period I'm writing in, and short stories by various authors would be perfect for that. I have already found a few short story collections at home, wiped the cobwebs off them and can't wait to start reading
    Tokyo 1886-1888

  9. #9
    partial to Tigers in shorts ajaye's Avatar
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    Sounds like a great idea. I'm in, and will aim for a minimum of 52 for the year.
    come and join the fun in the Flash Fiction 2019 Countdown Challenge (password: flashed)

    (witless) twittering @manicol1



  10. #10
    Benefactor Member mrsmig's Avatar
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    I'm in, too. I used to read Daily Science Fiction and enjoyed it, but got out of the habit. I'd like to write more short fiction myself, so making a point of reading it may be a good prod.






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  11. #11
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    I’m delighted that you are all in. I think first up for me will be a 1948 Jean Stafford story that was reprinted in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago, when they put together an issue entirely from their archives.

    There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily. --Anthony Trollope

    My short story "The Candlestick" is published in GNU Journal's Winter 2018 issue.

    Absolute Write let me write a book review: Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW
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    The next short story on my list is Daisy Johnson's The Spring, published in the last issue of "Somesuch Stories", which I am really forward to reading it as she is one of my favourite writers.

  13. #13
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    Yay! It's 2019! Time to get reading.

    Most of my short stories are going to come from the final 100 or so pages of the 2019 Pushcart Prize anthology, the 2018 Best American Non-required Reading anthology, and the 2018 Caine Prize for African Fiction anthology. I'm sure I'll pick up a few here and there, inspired by what you folks are reading
    The 2019 Reading Challenge is underway. Join any time! Click for details

  14. #14
    Benefactor Member mrsmig's Avatar
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    My first story for 2019 was from Daily Science Fiction: Cookies for Ghost by Emily McCosh. A little horror short-short that turned rather sweet at the end.






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    And the occasional Tweet.





  15. #15
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    1. Acceptance Speech, by David Naimon (published in Boulevard)

    Give this slow starter of a story a chance! The set up is the transcript of a speech by a local garden club award winner that starts off as an over-ambitious treatise on soil bacteria, but the story itself starts on the second page as she begins relaying a seemingly innocent anecdote about her and her husband's not seeing eye to eye on gardening issues, and goes progressively wonky-bot from there. What makes his story work for me is the structure. Seemingly irrelevant bits mentioned earlier come back to drive the story, which ends up with an almost sci-fi/paranormal feel. The puns were a little too forced in many cases, but a story that could have wandered didn't, and ends up somewhere.
    The 2019 Reading Challenge is underway. Join any time! Click for details

  16. #16
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    Here we go!

    1. “Children Are Bored on Sunday,” Jean Stafford. From The New Yorker, 1948 (reprinted in the December 3, 2018 issue).

    Starting the year off with a story that could not have been more in my wheelhouse - I am a complete sucker for stories of anxious young women kicking around New York City in the late 1940s. (This felt as much written for me personally as Shirley Jackson’s “The Tooth,” published right around the same time, which includes an inventory of the contents of one such woman’s handbag. A perfect gift!) The entire story takes place inside the protagonist Emma’s head - very little actually happens. But it’s replete with ruminations on the nature of the New York intellectual, snarky descriptions of their cocktail parties, and Emma’s own feelings of inadequacy among them despite her own education and apparent intelligence. There’s a mingling of wryness and sadness to Emma’s thoughts (and to the story’s end that has her heading off for a much-longed-for drink with a particularly shabby representative of that world) that is familiar to me from reading the work of Stafford’s contemporaries like Jackson, and Grace Paley, and others. Right up my alley.

    Last edited by Lakey; 01-01-2019 at 08:08 PM.
    There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily. --Anthony Trollope

    My short story "The Candlestick" is published in GNU Journal's Winter 2018 issue.

    Absolute Write let me write a book review: Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

  17. #17
    Benefactor Member mrsmig's Avatar
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    Now I have to read "The Tooth!"






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    And the occasional Tweet.





  18. #18
    deceives Tocotin's Avatar
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    My 1000th post! Woo!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lakey View Post
    The entire story takes place inside the protagonist Emma’s head - very little actually happens. But it’s replete with ruminations on the nature of the New York intellectual, snarky descriptions of their cocktail parties, and Emma’s own feelings of inadequacy among them despite her own education and apparent intelligence.
    Lakey, this sounds so intriguing! I love snark about balls and cocktail parties.

    My first short story of the year:

    1. “Ginza Journal” by Seki Kenshi, 1882. From “The Tokyo Centennial Tales vol.1”, an anthology of literary works set in Tokyo, or about Tokyo, printed in October 2018. (It contains some essays and other non-fiction as well, but I’m going to count short stories only.)

    I planned to start with a different story collection, but on December 30th I went to a bookstore to buy a calendar, and spotted this volume. It has a gorgeous cover, is about Tokyo, which I love, and about Meiji period as well (it covers the years 1868 – 1909), so I had to buy it straightaway.

    “Ginza Journal” is the first short story in the anthology, in itself being a collection of funny sketches about the fashionable Ginza neighborhood and various types of people spotted there (the author was one of the first Japanese journalists). I liked the sketches a lot for their vividness and cheerful atmosphere, and particularly because the author seems to be making fun of country bumpkins who come to see the capital, when in fact worldly Tokyoites don’t fare much better. There is a story of the overloaded horse-drawn streetcar, where the operators trick the passengers into paying much more than they should, only to be stopped by a policeman and told to pay a steep fine for cruelty to animals. My favorite was a story about a man who shows up in an inn with a young woman, who he claims to be his sister. He gets angry at the clerk for asking him too many questions; the clerk explains that the details are required by the police, to make sure that the inn is not a house of assignation – he uses a term “hell inn”, which is a slang for such a business. The guest proudly declares that he’s not scared of anything, and asks the clerk what type of hellish creatures are to be seen in “hell inns” of Tokyo. The clerk, suppressing laugh, sends them upstairs to their room, where the young woman clings to her companion, praises his bravery and says she would go with him anywhere. The scene concludes with the author telling the readers: “Are these two true siblings? Who knows?” Old-fashioned stuff, but very pleasant.
    Tokyo 1886-1888

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW
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    My first story of the year is Daisy Johnson's Spring.

    A dystopian tale where a catastrophe has occurred and is always lurking but never explained. As usual with Daisy Johnson the prose is absolutely breathtaking. The story is bleak and heartbreaking but even with the unhappy ending there is some kind of hopefulness to it.

  20. #20
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    Yay, I'm so glad folks are reading and talking about short stories here. Great start to the year.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrsmig View Post
    Now I have to read "The Tooth!"
    I think everyone should read Shirley Jackson's stories - the collection The Lottery and Other Stories (which contains "The Tooth") is a touchstone for me. Jackson is so good with deceptively simple prose, startling images that sneak up on you - "The Tooth" has some especially arresting examples that stick with me. (For example: A woman with amnesia looks into the mirror in a public restroom, examining the faces of the women standing at the line of sinks, trying to guess which of the faces belongs to her.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tocotin View Post
    My 1000th post! Woo!
    \o/

    “Ginza Journal” is the first short story in the anthology, in itself being a collection of funny sketches about the fashionable Ginza neighborhood and various types of people spotted there (the author was one of the first Japanese journalists).
    This sounds delightful and as directly up your alley as my first story was up mine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elle. View Post
    A dystopian tale where a catastrophe has occurred and is always lurking but never explained. As usual with Daisy Johnson the prose is absolutely breathtaking. The story is bleak and heartbreaking but even with the unhappy ending there is some kind of hopefulness to it.
    Sounds wonderful.

    There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily. --Anthony Trollope

    My short story "The Candlestick" is published in GNU Journal's Winter 2018 issue.

    Absolute Write let me write a book review: Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

  21. #21
    partial to Tigers in shorts ajaye's Avatar
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    From one of my bookcases I've unearthed 'Classic Stories from Around the World' -- neither Australia nor New Zealand are in this world, apparently -- so I'll start off by reading some of these.

    1. (Italy) The Stone of Invisibility by Giovanni Boccaccio

    Quite a short short story about a dim-witted painter who is duped into believing he can collect stones from a particular place that will render him invisible. I read along, expecting to see an underdog make good and turn some tables. Instead, his supposed real friends (and others) play along with the charade, and when the painter goes home thinking he's invisible but his wife sees him, he beats her up. His friends arrive and the painter explains, 'as you well know, women have a way of making things lose their virtue'. Friends manage to refrain from laughter to stop him from beating her up again (yay?) but rather than tell him the truth, friends say it was the painter's fault because he didn't command the wife to keep out of his presence all day.

    Um.

    So yeah, didn't think much of this one.

    It was written in the 14th century. That's no excuse.

    (I won't normally go into such detail but this one deserves a spoiler or two, I reckon.)


    ETA I came back to this again, looking for something below the surface that I possibly missed. Haven't found it. Doesn't mean it isn't there. I did discover this tale is part of 'The Decameron', which apparently inspired Chaucer. Perhaps this story doesn't standalone well? Dunno. But even wife treatment aside, I find this one far too mean-spirited, and rather pointless (what is clever about fooling a fool?).
    Last edited by ajaye; 01-03-2019 at 04:20 AM.
    come and join the fun in the Flash Fiction 2019 Countdown Challenge (password: flashed)

    (witless) twittering @manicol1



  22. #22
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lakey View Post
    I think everyone should read Shirley Jackson's stories - the collection The Lottery and Other Stories (which contains "The Tooth") is a touchstone for me. Jackson is so good with deceptively simple prose, startling images that sneak up on you - "The Tooth" has some especially arresting examples that stick with me. (For example: A woman with amnesia looks into the mirror in a public restroom, examining the faces of the women standing at the line of sinks, trying to guess which of the faces belongs to her.)
    "The Lottery" is a classic, although the ones that jnfluenced me the most are "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce and "The Bottle Imp" by Robert Lewis Stephenson. "Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry influenced a lot of people, although I didn't care for it. "The Ransom of Red Chief" is one of his best. But like so many, I cut my teeth on Edgar Allen Poe. All of them
    Last edited by Chris P; 01-03-2019 at 03:15 AM.
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  23. #23
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    If you wqnt to see what other AWers see as great shorts, check out this thread (not sure why it's closed)
    Last edited by Chris P; 01-03-2019 at 03:21 AM.
    The 2019 Reading Challenge is underway. Join any time! Click for details

  24. #24
    partial to Tigers in shorts ajaye's Avatar
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    2. (Hungary) The Room With Forty-Eight Stars - Maurus Jokai (1825-1904)

    This one I loved, from the opening lines where the narrator reveals himself as conceited yet endearing, to the ending I didn't see coming. Funny and satisfying.

    (Faith renewed in this collection.)
    come and join the fun in the Flash Fiction 2019 Countdown Challenge (password: flashed)

    (witless) twittering @manicol1



  25. #25
    figuring it all out
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    I'm going to join this challenge. I've always told myself I should read more short stories.i write them, so I should definitely read more.

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