Alice Munro is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature

Syndetics book cover
Canadian Short Story Writer Alice Munro has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Chosen from a group of ten international writers, that included Haruki Murakami, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Pynchon and Peter Nadas, she joins only twelve other women to have been awarded this very prestigious prize. In 2009 Alice Munro won the £60,000 Man Booker International Prize for her body of work, which was judged “practically perfect”. Her last collection of stories titled Dear Life, included four biographical short stories and was published in 2012. Her first collection of stories, titled Lives of Girls and Women was published in 1971. Now aged 82 she has recently announced her retirement from writing.

February’s Other Genres, this month Short Stories

An exciting selection of Short Story collections make up this month’s fiction Other Genres section. Highly recommend reading, from well know fiction writes including Emma Donoghue, Sue Grafton, Joanne Harris, and Alice Munro.

Syndetics book coverAstray / Emma Donoghue.
“The fascinating characters that roam across the pages of Emma Donoghue’s latest fact-inspired fictions have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, drifters. They cross other borders, too: those of race, law, sex and sanity. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress.” (adpated from book cover)

Syndetics book coverKinsey and me : stories / Sue Grafton.
“Kinsey Millhone, PI, captures vengeful murderers, exposes elaborate scams, and outsmarts the criminals in her usual witty, lovable way in nine stories written between 1986 and 1991 and first privately published in a limited edition of 300 copies. These tales are every bit as engaging to read as Grafton’s full-length novels. The second section of this collection features the character of Kit Blue as the author herself, writing a fictionalized history of her own difficulties growing up as the child of alcoholic parents.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA cat, a hat, and a piece of string : stories / by Joanne Harris.
“A second short story collection from Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Peaches for Monsieur le Curé. Stories are like Russian dolls; open them up, and in each one you’ll find another story. Conjured from a wickedly imaginative pen, this is a new collection of short stories that showcases Joanne Harris’s exceptional storytelling art.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverReality, reality / Jackie Kay.
“These stories are about memories, love, sex and the power of the imagination to see us through the most difficult times. The women of Reality, Reality are mesmerizing, whether in love or in solitude. Grace and Rose, glowing with pride, are the first to marry on Shetland; Hadassah, named for the Morning Star, burns as brightly. Margaret, alone in her care home, places her hope in a cherry red cardigan; Elina Makropulos, whose voice is the toast of generations, is desperate to be allowed to grow old. Stef cooks for made-up judges on the TV show in her head. Pat diets for one hundred and forty-three days to find her ‘Mini-me’. Dionne longs for a child; Mrs Vadnie Marlene Sevlon for her husband. And Elizabeth Ellen carries her new baby into a future she didn’t know could be hers. In these fifteen extraordinary stories, Jackie Kay celebrates the richness and power of dream-life to inspire, to repair, and to make real.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverLet the old dreams die : and other stories / John Ajvide Lindqvist ; translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy.
“From the author of the acclaimed vampire novel, Let the right one in, this collection of stories show John Ajvide Lindqvist’s rich imagination. They are about love and death and what we do when the two collide and the monsters emerge.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverLove is murder / edited by Sandra Brown. Love Is Murder
“Love Is Murder is the third Thriller anthology written exclusively by members of International Thriller Writers, Inc., that has 1635 members representing 28 countries worldwide and over three billion books in print. This anthology features 30 tales of suspense from very popular writers such as Lori Armstrong, Lee Child, and Sherrilyn Kenyon, The action spans the globe, imparting a real feel for locales as diverse as the Mexican jungle; Halifax, Nova Scotia; London, England; and south Texas.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThe midnight promise : a detective’s story in ten cases / Zane Lovitt.
“John Dorn is a private investigator. Just like his father used to be. It says private inquiry agent in John’s yellow pages ad because that’s what his old man called himself, back before his business folded, his wife left him and he drank himself to death. But John’s not going to end up like his father. He doesn’t have a wife, or much business. He doesn’t really drink, either. Not yet. In each of these ten delicious stories Zane Lovitt presents an intriguing investigation filled with humour and complex, beautifully observed characters. At their centre is John Dorn, solving not so much crimes as funny human puzzles; but the crimes, and the criminals, are forever lurking nearby, taunting him from the city’s cold underworld.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverDear life / Alice Munro.
“Alice Munro captures the essence of life in her brilliant new collection of stories. Moments of change, chance encounters, the twist of fate that leads a person to a new way of thinking or being: the stories in Dear Life build to form a radiant, indelible portrait of just how dangerous and strange ordinary life can be. Many of these stories are grounded in Munro’s home territory, the small Canadian towns around Lake Huron. The book ends with four powerful pieces, ‘autobiographical in feeling’, set during the time of Munro’s own childhood, in the area where she grew up. Munro describes this quartet as ‘not quite stories’ but ‘the first and last and the closest things I have to say about my own life’.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverSignificant objects / [edited by] Rob Walker & Joshua Glenn.
“Can a great story transform a worthless trinket into a significant object? The Significant objects project set out to answer that question once and for all, by recruiting a highly impressive crew of creative writers to invent stories about an unimpressive menagerie of items rescued from thrift stores and yard sales. That secondhand flotsam definitely becomes more valuable: sold on eBay, objects originally picked up for a dollar or so sold for thousands of dollars in total making the project a sensation in the literary blogosphere along the way. But something else happened, too: The stories created were astonishing, a cavalcade of surprising responses to the challenge of manufacturing significance. Who would have believed that random junk could inspire so much imagination?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSunscreen & lipstick / stories by Kim Scott … [et. al.] ; [introduction by Liz Byrski].
“From the mad excitement of first love to the grief of losing a parent, this is a summer collection about mums, daughters, wives and girlfriends from some of Australia’s best-loved writers. Included are stories by Elizabeth Jolley, Liz Byrski and Joan London.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

New short story collections: Lovecraft, meditations on silence, and stories from three decades of American life

Enjoy short stories? Here are ten collections of short stories new to our shelves this month. Included are stories by Don Delillo, Richard Matheson’s classic Real Steel, and stories from the brilliant, late David Foster Wallace. There’s a collection of six classic horror stories by H. P. Lovecraft all set in his (fictional – thank goodness!) Massachusetts city of Arkham – and at the other end of the spectrum, a heart-warming collection of Christmas stories from Cathy Kelly. Plus, astronauts in space, a new collection from Jeanette Turner Hospital, and more. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverThe angel Esmeralda : nine stories / Don DeLillo.
“A collection of nine stories written between 1979 and 2011 that chronicle three decades of American life from the perspective of a range of characters, including a pair of nuns in the South Bronx and two astronauts orbiting the Earth.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSilence : (fictions) / Rodney Hall.
“Silence is an exquisite, poignant collection of ‘fictions’ by one of Australia’s finest writers. Each piece has its own startling imagery. This is a book that constantly surprises with its echoes of famous voices, and how the astonishing breadth of material, historical, personal, imagined, is held together by its central theme and by a web of subtle connections.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverForecast : turbulence / Janette Turner Hospital.
“Violent weather pervades this breathtaking collection, reflecting the cataclysmic emotions swirling through the lives of the protagonists. A loner becomes obsessed with the face of a beautiful neighbour whom he has never actually met, though his fantasies about her, unwisely shared with others, lead to his being falsely accused of her murder. Two feisty yet fragile teenagers meet in the prison where they are forced to visit their abusive stepfathers. The upward trajectory of talented and academically successful sisters takes a nose dive following the terribly public exposure of their father as a paedophile.” (adapted from Book cover)

Syndetics book coverChristmas magic / Cathy Kelly.
“Cathy Kelly, has created her first collection of heart-warming short stories. From Dolores and Genevieve, two spinster sisters who must finally break free from their mother’s powerful personality, to Alice, who is facing having to open her home and her heart to the one visitor that she doesn’t want this Christmas, from a captivating family story triggered by a letter to Lily’s disastrous arrival at her best friend’s wedding, these are stories to make you laugh, cry and nod in recognition.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverHorror out of Arkham / tales by H.P. Lovecraft ; [illustrations by menton3].
“One of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous creations, the city of Arkham, Massachusetts, plays a prominent role in many of the influential author’s tales of the macabre. This collection of six classic tales of horror all feature the Lovecraft Country locale. “ (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSteel, and other stories / Richard Matheson.
“Richard Matheson’s classic short story is the basis for Real Steel, a gritty, white-knuckle film starring Hugh Jackman. But “Steel,” which was previously filmed as a powerful episode of the original Twilight Zone television series, is just one of over a dozen unforgettable tales in this outstanding collection, which includes two new stories that have never appeared in any previous Matheson collection. Also featured is a bizarre satirical fantasy, “The Splendid Source,” that was turned into an episode of “The Family Guy.” (adapted from Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverThe corn maiden and other nightmares / Joyce Carol Oates.
“A volume of six stories and novellas by the National Book Award-winning author of We Were the Mulvaneys includes the title story, in which the disappearance of a sweet blonde-haired child is linked to her mother’s indiscretions, a too-obvious schoolteacher and an older student with a fascination for a Native American legend.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlueprints for building better girls : fiction / Elissa Schappell.
“From the acclaimed author of Use Me, eight provocative and darkly funny linked stories that explore the commonly shared, but rarely spoken of experiences that build girls into women and women into wives and mothers, mapping America’s shifting cultural landscape from the late 1970s to the present day.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBrief interviews with hideous men / David Foster Wallace.
“David Foster Wallace has made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets near. In this exuberantly acclaimed collection of twenty-two stories, he combines hilarity and an escalating disquiet in stories that astonish, entertain, and expand our ideas of the pleasures that fiction can afford.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGirl with curious hair / David Foster Wallace.
“This collection could possibly represent the first flowering of post-postmodernism: visions of the world that re-imagine reality as more realistic than we can imagine. From the eerily “real,” almost holographic evocations of historical figures like Lyndon Johnson and over televised game-show hosts and late-night comedians to the title story, where terminal punk nihilism meets Young Republicanism, Wallace renders the incredible comprehensible, the bizarre normal, the absurd hilarious, the familiar strange. “ (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award

Edna O’Brien was recently announced winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for 2011 with her new collection of short stories, titled Saints and Sinners. Chosen from six shortlisted collections that included works by Colm Toibin and previous winner Yiyun Li, Irish author Edna O’Brien receives €35, 000. Her first novel The Country Girls was published in 1960 and she has since published 20 other works of fiction, drama and biography. Previous winners include Jhumpa Lahiri, Miranda July and Haruki Murakami.

New genre fiction: Short stories

Enjoy short stories? Try these collections of gravedigger’s tales, New Zealand speculative fiction, hardboiled British crime fiction, fairytales from the Romantic Movement, and more…

Syndetics book coverPulse / Julian Barnes.
“The stories in Julian Barnes’ long-awaited third collection are attuned to rhythms and currents: of the body, of love and sex, illness and death, connections and conversations and range from the domestic to the extraordinary, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in winter Each character is bent to a pulse, propelled on by success and loss, by new beginnings and endings.” (adapted from Amazon)

Syndetics book coverGryphon : new and selected stories / Charles Baxter.
“From a writer whose work reminds one of how broad and deep and shining a story can be (Alice Munro) comes a selection that gathers the best from his four earlier collections as well as seven previously uncollected stories.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe best American short stories 2010 : selected from U.S. and Canadian magazines / by Richard Russo with Heidi Pitlor ; with an introduction by Richard Russo.
“Edited by the award-winning, best-selling author Richard Russo, this year’s collection boasts a satisfying chorus of twenty stories that are by turns playful, ironic, somber, and meditative.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe gravedigger’s tale : fables of fear / Simon Clark.
“Every gravedigger has a story to tell. Some are humorous, some poignant. But most gravedigger’s tales have to be placed firmly in the category of horror. Join Simon Clark as he presents an array of ghosts, eerie encounters and haunted landscapes to astonish the imagination and invoke shivers aplenty.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA foreign country : New Zealand speculative fiction / edited by Anna Caro and Juliet Buchanan.
A Foreign Country brings together the work of established authors and fresh new voices to showcase the range of stories produced by New Zealand’s growing community of speculative fiction writers. Humorous, disturbing, intriguing, cautionary, and ultimately hopeful, these tales tell of  different worlds,  situations and possiblities.” (adapted from the book cover)

Syndetics book coverA darker shade of blue / John Harvey.
“John Harvey has been described as the master of British crime and in A Darker Shade of Blue he has collected together some of his very best writing. From the killing fields of the East Midlands to the mean streets of London, from the jazz clubs and clip joints of Soho to the barren fenlands of East Anglia, this is a world of broken families and run-down estates, revenge killings and prostitution, drugs, guns and corruption; a world of overstretched police forces and underpaid detectives, men and women who strive nonetheless for a kind of justice; a world in which everything, even friendship, has a price.” (adapted from Amazon)

Syndetics book coverGold boy, emerald girl / Yiyun Li.
“In this collection of spellbinding stories, the acclaimed author of “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” delivers exquisite fiction filled with suspense, depth, and beauty.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVoice of America : stories / E.C. Osondu.
“Set dually in Nigeria and America, this electrifying debut story collection from the 2009 winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing moves from the fears and dreams of boys and girls in villages and refugee camps to the disillusionment and confusion of young married couples living in America.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPhiladelphia noir / edited by Carlin Romano.
“This collection of 15 original crime stories follows on from  Detroit Noir, another volume set in a less glamorous metropolis.” (adapted from Syndetic summary)

Syndetics book coverRomantic fairy tales / translated and edited by Carol Tully.
“This collection, vividly illustrating the development of German Romanticism, presents four of the genre’s key texts that still have the power to enchant and disturb. Goethe’s The Fairy Tale (1795) is an ethereal story of prophecy and resurrection that helped establish of the genre. Ludwig Tieck’s Eckbert the Fair (1792) is a dark story of incest and murder. Friedrich de la Motte Fouque describes the unhappy fate of a wood nymph with the soul of a woman in Undine (1811). In The Tale of Honest Casper and Fair Annie (1817), Clemens Brentano tells the tale of young couple destroyed by a false sense of honour.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Shorter stories make better films?

An average film is about 2 hours long; the average novel is at least 50,000 words. Film adaptations of novels are plentiful, with some good, some bad, and some ugly, and nearly all having someone leaving the theatre suggesting “the book was better”. Is this because films struggle to do justice to so many words, and if so, is a shorter story therefore a better bet? Here are ten films, and the novellas and short stories they are based on, including some classics (both literary and celluloid). 

  1. Angels and Insects (1995) – ‘Morpho Eugenia’ by A S Byatt, in Angels and Insects (1992). A young naturalist marries into an aristocratic family in England in the 1800s.
  2. Apocalypse Now (1979) – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1902). The horror! Amazingly, a novella just over 100 pages long still manages to contain a story within a story.
  3. Away from Her (2006) – ‘The Bear Went Over the Mountain’ by Alice Munro, in Carried away: a selection of stories. Julie Christie was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007 for her portrayal of Fiona Anderson.
  4. The Birds (1963) – ‘The Birds’ by Daphne du Maurier, in The Birds and Other Stories. Classic Hitchcock!
  5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (1958). Capote created Holly Golightly, but Audrey Hepburn cemented her place in pop culture.
  6. Brokeback Mountain (2005) – ‘ Brokeback Mountain’ by Annie Proulx in Close range: Wyoming stories (1999). More than just gay cowboys. Ang Lee won the Oscar for Best Director in 2006.
  7. The Dead (1987) – ‘The Dead’ by James Joyce, in Dubliners (1914). A Christmas dinner in turn of the (20th) century Ireland, starring Anjelica Huston.
  8. The Killers (1946, 1964) – ‘The Killers’ by Ernest Hemingway, in The Collected Stories. The DVD contains both the 1964 version starring Lee Marvin and the 1946 version with Burt Lancaster.
  9. Minority Report (2003) – ‘Minority Report’ by Philip K Dick, in Minority report. The three “precogs”, Arthur, Dashiell and Agatha, are named for legendary mystery writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Dashiell Hammett.
  10. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’ by Stephen King, in Different Seasons. I prefer the story title: Rita Hayworth is indeed the key.