Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Short stories strike again

It occasionally happens that a number of books I've been waiting for are all published at once, so I come to the library and am greeted by seven or eight books on the hold shelf, each crying desperately to be read. This is how I got to the situation I found myself in last night: 19 books waiting for me, each one sounding more appealing than the last (I know, I know: file it under First World Problems). My family laughed as I sat in the midst of a pile of books comparing blurbs, reviews, synopses, and due dates trying to figure out which one to tackle first. Finally, my husband (whose head wasn't quite as clouded by bibliophilia as mine at that moment) picked up the smallest book and asked, "Why don't you read this? You'll finish it sooner and be able to knock one off your list faster." (Ability to solve my reading dilemmas? Never doubt, dear readers, why I married him.)

And so I ended up with the very small, slim collection of short stories by Seth Fried called The Great Frustration. It was a big mistake only in that I had been hoping to read for a few minutes and go to bed. An hour later, I forced myself to close the book. I will warn you: it's weird. There are mythical stories and technical stories and there are stories of middle school plays. There is nothing that ties them together but a sharp writing style and an undercurrent of wit that evidences itself to varying levels. Some, like The Mystery of the Conquistador, are poignant and heart-rending. Others have a humor that feels wrong. Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre begins with "Last week the people in charge of the picnic blew us up. Every year it gets worse. That is, more people die." And yet, I found myself giggling throughout that story even as I admonished myself that I ought not to be laughing.

Every time I pick up a collection of short stories, I have to convince myself that I don't really hate them. And I am so often glad I did. Not only did I just get 11 wonderful stories to consider, but I can now quickly move on to the other 18 books waiting for me.

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