Encouraging Words On Short Story Collections
What was my favorite part of Curtis Sittenfeld’s review of Rebecca Curtis’s Twenty Grand: And Other Tales of Love and Money in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review? Well, as someone who still has some hope of seeing her own short story collection published someday–and has been cautioned against certain aspects of “sameness” that may characterize it–I nearly cheered aloud when I reached this part of the review:
I have heard some collections criticized for featuring stories that are too similar to one another in terms of setting, character or tone, and while I can imagine this criticism being leveled at ‘Twenty Grand,’ it’s not one with which I’d agree. In fact, I’m suspicious when stories in a collection aren’t particularly similar because it makes them seem like soulless pastiche; if you want stories with entirely different sensibilities, why not just read books by different authors? With Curtis, there’s no doubt you’re entering the world of a particular writer’s preoccupations.
I’ve seen some other coverage of Twenty Grand, too, but Sittenfeld’s review finally moved me to put it on my TBR list, partially inspired by the aforementioned snippet, but also encouraged by Sittenfeld’s discussion of both the realist and not-so-realist elements of the collection. Elsewhere I’ve seen much more emphasis on the “surreal” qualities of Curtis’s writing, and while I certainly have something to learn from that as far as my own fiction writing is concerned, it’s not typically the kind of writing I enjoy reading.
But it’s going to be quite awhile before I get to any of the new additions to my pleasure reading list. I have piles of books here (and more on the way as the NYPL meets my many requests) for a very fun magazine assignment. I’ll tell you more about that when I can!