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Book Group > July 2012 - Short Stories

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message 1: by Kate (last edited Jun 11, 2012 01:40PM) (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments Hi everyone! Welcome to our July book discussion!

Each month we'll announce the theme and you choose the book you want to read. At the beginning of each month, the discussion questions for the month and the theme for the next month will be posted.

For July we'll be reading and discussing short stories. They may not seem like obvious summer reads, but I've always felt that short stories were perfect for picking up and putting down between dips in the ocean, or reading outside on your lunch break.

Below are some reading suggestions for the month, though you're welcome to choose anything that catches your fancy. You can find more titles available at DCPL on the group's Short Stories bookshelf.

Please post a comment letting us all know what you plan to read and suggesting any good books of short stories you've read...

- The Best American Short Stories
- PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories
- Best African American Fiction
- The Best American Mystery Stories

Masters of the Form
- O. Henry
- Guy de Maupassant
- Edgar Allen Poe
- Raymond Carver
- Alice Munro

- Etgar Keret
- Dan Chaon
- Lorrie Moore
- Edward P. Jones
- Amy Hempel

message 2: by Kate (last edited Jun 14, 2012 12:18PM) (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments I'm going to try What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories. I heard a great interview with the author, Nathan Englander, and I've been curious about his work for a while.

Anyone else ready to make a pick? (No rush though, we're only half-way through June.)

message 4: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (abrakebarbara) | 17 comments I read Edward P Jones'Lost in the City last month and it was great. As I was reading I realized I was sitting in the DCPS school that Jones talks about in one of the first stories (granted a restructured + renovated version of it...) I definitely suggest this for anyone looking for a summer-in-DC read!

message 5: by Maria (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace has been sitting on my shelf for years. Time to finally read it!

Also, Kate, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories has to be the best title for a book ever.

message 6: by Sam (new)

Sam (salmonsam) | 4 comments As a new DC resident, I will take Bobbie's suggestion and give Edward P. Jones's Lost in the City a try - looking forward to it!

message 7: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments Rachel - I added Natasha and Other Stories to our bookshelf. I noticed that the author has been compared to Nathan Englander, whose book I'm reading and enjoying right now, so I'll be curious to hear what you think.

Bobbie - Thanks for the recommendation! I've been meaning to read All Aunt Hagar's Children, but maybe I'll try Lost in the City first.

Maria - I read most of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men a few years ago and have been meaning to go back and finish it. At some point I want to tackle Infinite Jest, but these stories seemed like an easier intro to David Foster Wallace. And yes, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories is a fabulous title. It's a reference to a Raymond Carver story, which I now feel like I need to go read.

Sam - Welcome to DC and our little group here! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Lost in the City!

message 8: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 3 comments Bobbie -- Edward P. Jones is one of my favorite authors! I hope there is a new novel or collection of short stories from him soon...

Also, isn't Eugenides supposed to release a collection of short stories this year?

message 9: by Jane (new)

Jane Lightfoot | 1 comments I was going to read Dubliners by James Joyce, but does that count since it all kind of adds up to one story?

message 10: by Maria (last edited Jun 25, 2012 08:21AM) (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
Jane - Dubliners definitely counts! Also, this isn't school so if you think something fits and you want to read it, go for it!

Kate - Infinite Jest is one of those really big books that I've been meaning to read forever and that I sort of hope I'll catch a painless disease that leaves me bedridden for a few months so I can actually get to read it one day. Other books on that list are Mason and Dixon, Don Quixote, In Search of Lost Time, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

message 11: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments We just got in three interesting looking collections of short stories by DC area writiers, all edited by Richard Peabody:

Enhanced Gravity: More Fiction By Washington Area Women

Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction By Washington Area Women

Stress City: A Big Book Of Fiction

Maria - I've always wanted to be bedridden too! Which sounds horrible, I know, but it really does seem like a good way to get a lot of reading done. There's a great part in The Partly Cloudy Patriot where Sarah Vowell expresses her jealousy of Teddy Roosevelt's sickly youth because he read so much during that time.

message 12: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments Alright everyone, July is here! Let us know what you've decided to read, or please feel free to ask for suggestions!

Some things to think about while reading/discussing:

- How did the stories work together as a collection?
- Were there common themes? Common characters?
- Did you have a favorite story? Why?
- Were there any stories that could be expanded into full length novels?
- Did the stories have similar endings? Did they have a complete narrative arc, or were they more like snapshots?

message 13: by Maria (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
For those of you who are reading or considering reading Etgar Keret, this week's episode of "This American Life" features one of his short stories, plus a discussion of how he wrote that story, plus the episode opens with a weird anecdote about Keret and Ira Glass getting tricked at a museum. It's really good!

The episode is called "switcheroo" and it is currently on the podcast or you can get it here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio...

message 14: by Erissa (new)

Erissa | 9 comments I'm a little late to join the discussion this month, but I have been working on some selected stories from The Complete Stories of Elizabeth Bowen.

message 15: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments Erissa - I love Elizabeth Bowen's novels, but I've never read any of her short stories. I'm looking forward to hearing about them!

message 16: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments I read Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories. Though the styles of the stories jumped around - some realism, some surrealism, some allegory - they all dealt with cultural, spiritual and political aspects of Judaism. As someone who is Jewish and has traveled in Israel, I found the stories very interesting and relatable. I would be curious to hear the reaction of someone with no connection to Judaism, though.

The title story, the best in the book, is about two middle aged Jewish couples, one American-secular and one Israeli-Orthodox, getting together after many years apart. Tensions build around their differing attitudes towards relationships, parenting, religion and politics. Their positions are put to the test, and some are found wanting, when they play a "game" in which they have to decide who would hide them and who would turn them in if there was ever a second Holocaust.

While I could imagine some of them being expanded into novels, they all felt self-contained and complete as short stories.

message 17: by Sam (new)

Sam (salmonsam) | 4 comments Kate - was that title story published in the New Yorker? It rings a bell - quite a tale!

message 18: by Claire (last edited Jul 13, 2012 11:23AM) (new)

Claire  (museful) | 7 comments Ok, I give up. I've had a copy of A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor on my shelf since I took a short story class about two years ago. I was going to read it, really. And the writing is entrancing....but it's SO DEPRESSING. The body count after four stories was 6 people, and several of them children...I just couldn't do it.

I wish i could keep going - the writing is incredibly vivid, the characters unusual, and deftly painted - but I cannot get beyond the subject matter.

Now for something completely different.

message 19: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments Sam - Yes, it was in the December 12, 2011 issue. And as it turns out, two of the other stories were published there as well. Free Fruit for Young Widows was in the May 17, 2010 issue, and is available for free on their website. "Peep Show" was published there July 16, 1999. The library has access to The New Yorker through the General Reference Center Gold database, but that doesn't seem to include all of the fiction, unfortunately.

Claire - Sorry your pick didn't work out for you, at least not right now. One of the nice things about books of short stories, though, is that you don't have to read them all at once. Next time you're in the mood for a little bit of something super depressing, you'll know exactly what to pick up :) Of the stories you read, were there any that particularly stood out?

message 20: by Erissa (new)

Erissa | 9 comments I have to confess that I did not make it through very much of my book, The Complete Stories of Elizabeth Bowen. The book was divided by time period and I started with the first story from the "early years" section. I did not love the way that section was reading (as I only got through a couple of stories), and put it down for a little fully intending to pick it back up and start on a later section only to have the month rapidly come to a close. I do plan on picking it back up as I really enjoyed The Death of the Heart, I just don't think I'll get back to it before this month is out.

message 21: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments Thanks everyone for another great discussion! Just because July is over, though, doesn't mean our discussion of short stories has to stop. If you didn't quite finish your July pick in time, if you read more great short stories in the future, or if you're looking for a short story suggestion, please post here!

Also, don't forget to let us know what your celebrity memoir pick is for August!

message 22: by Sam (new)

Sam (salmonsam) | 4 comments Thanks for the reminder - August crept right up on me! I am not going to be able to fully complete Lost in the City, but it was a great read - thanks for the recommendation!

As a geographer/urban planner new to the city I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the micro-neighborhoods that bound each story's characters. Overall, these are strong stories told from diverse narrative perspectives - a well wrought collection of polished work.

message 23: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (abrakebarbara) | 17 comments So glad you enjoyed it. Did you have a favorite story? Lost in the City is definitely a must read for planners especially!

Sam wrote: "Thanks for the reminder - August crept right up on me! I am not going to be able to fully complete Lost in the City, but it was a great read - thanks for the recommendation!

As a geographer/urban..."

message 24: by Sam (new)

Sam (salmonsam) | 4 comments @Bobbie - that is a tough call -- I have taken the book back already so can't call out an official title, but I think the one about the fellow who took over the grocery store over a period of time resonated the most with me. I appreciated the sweep of time the story covered - the majority of the tales were short and concise, so perhaps it was the contrast. Thanks again for the tip!

message 25: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments I finished Suddenly a Knock at the Door by Etgar Keret yesterday, and I think I liked it. While I was reading it I was definitely entertained and engaged by the stories, but having put the book down, none of them particularly stands out. Each story is a darkly funny snippet from someone's life, rarely covering more than 4 pages. Many of them have an emotional resonance, but they are so short that I was finished and on to the next one before anything had time to sink in. I almost want to go back and read it again.

message 26: by Kate (new)

Kate (kisigler) | 101 comments This Saturday, October 20th, at 6pm Politics & Prose, arguably DC's best independent bookstore, is celebrating Edward P. Jones and the 20th Anniversary Edition of Lost in the City. See their website for more details.

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