Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Short Story Collections Build Strong Bones

Salon asked a dozen writers to name their favorite books of 2008 and two have chosen short story collections. Curtis Sittenfeld has picked Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's Ms. Hempel Chronicles and Meg Wolitzer has selected Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge (which is moving up along the outside post as a dark horse contender in my overall tally of yearend best mentions).

In the case of both of these books, by the way, the publishers are rather cagey, identifying them on the cover as neither novels nor short story collections--which is what they are in my estimation. But this is nothing new. In the first year of The Story Prize, all three of our finalists (The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat, The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day, and Ideas of Heaven by Joan Silber) fell into the category of connected stories or novels in stories and only one (Silber's) had the word stories on the cover. Why fudge it? Because novels supposedly sell better than story collections. It's kind of like those vitamins for kids--if they think it's a gummy bear, maybe they'll eat it.