28th November 2019
Summer Reads: Short Stories
Short stories can be a fun way to experience a range of new worlds and characters. Check out some of these new and upcoming collections!
Grand Union – Zadie Smith
‘”And the crazy thing is,’ said the Professor of the Philosophy of History to the Professor of the History of Philosophy, ‘how difficult an easy life is! I mean, imagine what a difficult life feels like!’ A nearby graduate, Zenobia, presently assembling a sly dinner out of Philosophy Department canapés – while simultaneously trying to disguise the look of actual hunger in her eyes – took a moment. Suddenly she was overcome by the sense that none of this was real. Not the canapés, not the professors, not the Philosophy Department, nor the whole city campus. (Zenobia has ninety-six thousand dollars in loans. She is studying Philosophy, period.)
Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically-respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. With ten extraordinary new stories complemented by a selection of her most lauded pieces for The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Granta, GRAND UNION explores a wide range of subjects, from first loves to cultural despair, as well as the desire to be the subject of your own experience. In captivating prose, she contends with race, class, relationships, and gender roles in a world that feels increasingly divided.
Nothing is off limits, and everything–when captured by Smith’s brilliant gaze–feels fresh and relevant. Perfectly paced, and utterly original, GRAND UNION highlights the wonders Zadie Smith can do.
Verge – Lidia Yuknavitch
“And to everyone anywhere who lives in the in- between of things: I get it.”
An eight-year-old trauma victim is enlisted as an underground courier, rushing frozen organs through the alleys of Eastern Europe. A young janitor transforms discarded objects into a fantastical, sprawling miniature city until a shocking discovery forces him to rethink his creation. A brazen child tells off a pack of schoolyard tormentors with the spirited invention of an eleventh commandment. A wounded man drives eastward, through tears and grief, toward an unexpected transcendence.
Lidia Yuknavitch’s bestselling novels The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children, and her groundbreaking memoir The Chronology of Water, have established her as one of our most urgent contemporary voices: a writer with a rare gift for tracing the jagged boundaries between art and trauma, sex and violence, destruction and survival. In Verge, her first collection of short fiction, she turns her eye to life on the margins, in all its beauty and brutality. A book of heroic grace and empathy, Verge is a viscerally powerful and moving survey of our modern heartache life.
Picnic in the Storm – Yukiko Motoya
“Life’s not worth living if you’re not tending to the whims and demands of a high-maintenance lover!”
A housewife takes up bodybuilding and sees radical changes to her physique–which her workaholic husband fails to notice. A boy waits at a bus stop, mocking businessmen struggling to keep their umbrellas open in a typhoon–until an old man shows him that they hold the secret to flying. A woman working in a clothing boutique waits endlessly on a customer who won’t come out of the fitting room–and who may or may not be human. A newlywed notices that her husband’s features are beginning to slide around his face–to match her own.
In these eleven stories, the individuals who lift the curtains of their orderly homes and workplaces are confronted with the bizarre, the grotesque, the fantastic, the alien–and, through it, find a way to liberation. The English-language debut of one of Japan’s most fearlessly inventive young writers.
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
“Amma then spent decades on the fringe, a renegade lobbing hand grenades at the establishment that excluded her
until the mainstream began to absorb what was once radical and she found herself hopeful of joining it”
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
Teeming with life and crackling with energy – a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood + joint Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2019.
Black Light – Kimberly King Parsons
“Suki and me, we’re hungry and mean. We’ve got bitter jewels buzzing in our guts. They’re bright and gaudy, and we couldn’t ignore them if we wanted to. We don’t want to. It’s the starving that makes us glow–the gimcrack ache, that’s what Suki calls this.”
With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.
Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, bitter, and wise. Black Light contains the type of storytelling that resonates somewhere deep, in the well of memory that repudiates nostalgia.
Salt – Bruce Pascoe
“ We cannot build our individual and national castle on the sands of a fabricated history … or we will be condemned to self-congratulation for the rest of our lives – a nation without modesty, without compassion, a spoilt and selfish people forever chortling about goodness and mateship … If Australia cannot learn about the past and the descendants of those who once owned the land, it is doomed to a shallow, friable national intelligence. Where there is sand, there is little rock.”
A collection of stories and essays by the award-winning author of Dark Emu, showcasing his shimmering genius across a lifetime of work.
Bruce Pascoe has been described as a ‘living national treasure’ and his work as ‘revelatory’. This volume of his best and most celebrated stories and essays, collected here for the first time, ranges across his long career, and explores his enduring fascination with Australia’s landscape, culture, land management and history.
Featuring new and previously unpublished fiction alongside his most revered and thought-provoking nonfiction – including extracts from his modern classic Dark Emu – this collection is perfect for Pascoe fans and new readers alike. It’s time all Australians saw the range and depth of this most marvellous of local writers.
Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow
“As she gave the great push that thrust her first child into the world, the first to carry her squirming daughter was not a human being but a drone, using a plastic scooper as its long sharp knife cut the cord. When the drone placed the child in Anwuli’s hands, she looked down at her daughter’s squashed, agitated face. For several moments, she stared, unmoving.
“Don’t you want to cry?” she asked the snuffling infant.
“Mmmyah,” the baby said, turning her head this way and that.
“She’s breathing strongly already,” Obi 3 said. “Maybe she does not need to cry.”
Future Tense Fiction is a collection of electrifying original stories from a veritable who’s-who of authors working in speculative literature and science fiction today.
A disease surveillance robot whose social programming gets put to the test. A future in which everyone receives universal basic income—but it’s still not enough. A futuristic sport, in which all the athletes have been chemically and physically enhanced. An A.I. company that manufactures a neural bridge allowing ordinary people to share their memories. Brimming with excitement and exploring new ideas, the stories collected by the editors of Slate’s Future Tense are philosophically ambitious and haunting in their creativity. At times terrifying and heartwrenching, hilarious and optimistic, this is a collection that ushers in a new age for our world and for the short story.
A partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University, Future Tense explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live, in reality and fiction. Featuring Carmen Maria Machado, Emily St. John Mandel, Charlie Jane Anders, Paolo Bacigalupi, Madeline Ashby, Mark Oshiro, Meg Elison, Maureen McHugh, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Hannu Rajaniemi, Annalee Newitz, Lee Konstantinou, and Mark Stasenko.
Homesick -Nino Cipri
“It is easy for him to imagine the worst things. Trying to see exactly what’s in front of him is harder. A plastic container full of living fruit. The streetlight shining through the window. The dangling thread of wool on his suit, the shiny black buttons. His cheap apartment, his silent and spectral roommate, the letter confirming his academic suspension, his infatuation with someone who switches out their gender like it’s an attractive but itchy sweater, his mother’s disappointment, his dwindling savings.
And the one thing he can’t see, can’t imagine: his future. That’s the monster, really, that’s lurking at the corner of this painting.”
Dark, irreverent, and truly innovative, the speculative stories in Homesick meditate on the theme of home and our estrangement from it, and what happens when the familiar suddenly shifts into the uncanny. In stories that foreground queer relationships and transgender or nonbinary characters, Cipri delivers the origin story for a superhero team comprised of murdered girls; a housecleaner discovering an impossible ocean in her least-favorite clients’ house; a man haunted by keys that appear suddenly in his throat; and a team of scientists and activists discovering the remains of a long-extinct species of intelligent weasels.
In the spirit of Laura van den Berg, Emily Geminder, Chaya Bhuvaneswar, and other winners of the Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize, Nino Cipri’s debut collection announces the arrival of a brilliant and wonderfully unpredictable writer with a gift for turning the short story on its ear.
Keen for more recommendations? Check out the other reading lists in our Summer Reads Series!
- Summer Reads 2019/20: Get Your Life Together
- Summer Reads 2019/20: Memoir
- Summer Reads 2019/20: Mystery & Thriller
- Summer Reads 2019/20: Short Stories
- Summer Reads 2019/20: Sci-Fi
- Summer Reads 2019/20: Fantasy
- Summer Reads 2019/20: Fiction
- Most Popular Books of 2019
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