I feel like I should open this post with a confession; I haven't read Alice Munro. Nevertheless, her just-announced Nobel Prize has got a lot of people talking, and one thing in particular seems to be coming up again and again - the fact she wrote short stories.
Lots of writers write short stories, of course (or short fiction, or stories, or whatever you wish to call them). Munro simply wrote more short pieces than anything else. She has one novel, but ten collections. That's hard to do in a world that equates length with quality.
Why, though? Some of the best writers I know have put out short story collections. Some did so at the beginning of their careers. Others had to rely on success to convince publishers to 'risk' such a venture. So many collections are such fun, but the genre / form sometimes fails to attract enough attention or support. The Internet and changes in publishing may well see the short story rise again, as the cost of paper and printing becomes less of an important factor, but there's still an attitude change that needs to happen.
Either way, congratulations are due to Munro for a lifetime behind the pen, and it's the perfect time to share some of my own favourite collections. They're a mixed bunch, but they all made an impression on me.
The Facts Behind The Helsinki Roccamatios - Yann Martel
I found this is a library after Lifer of Pi brought Martel to much wider fame. It's an odd mixture of realism, magic and genre-bending experimental pieces, but it's well worth a read, and the title piece has stayed with me for years - what greater praise can I give?
Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman
Gaiman collected together a range of pieces published elsewhere and wrote a thoughtful and eye=opening introduction, along with a few other surprises. It's a good display of his talents. Not all the pieces wowed me, but style-wise there's a lot that I stole from this, in all honesty.
Dubliners - James Joyce
My first exposure to Joyce as part of my undergraduate studies. I was hesitant - we'd all hear the rumours about Ulysses - but his writing, harsh and generous at the same time, made the stories leap out, and his insight into people's lives in all their complexity is hard to beat.
Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri
Bought on a whim while I was in Tokyo - the English language selection being a bit limited - this was my first time reading Lahiri, and the fact I left this book behind is a constant annoyance. Hopefully someone else will find it, read it, and love it just as I did. Colorful and moving.
Vintage Murakami - Haruki Murakami
Not technically a collection of short stories, fine. It's a sampler, really - extracts from longer novels that can act as shorter pieces to give you a taste of his style. Bleak, sure, and spare at times, but there's something uniquely magical and relaxing in Murakami's worlds, even when horrifying things happen (which they do, believe me).
Have any favourite collections of your own? You can find some of my pieces under the 'Short Stories' tab at the top of this page.