Saturday, April 13, 2013

20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker, edited by Deborah Treisman

20 Under 40: Stories from The New YorkerFrom "Birdsong": A woman, a stranger, was looking at me. In the glare of the hot afternoon, in the swirl of motorcycles and hawkers, she was looking down at me from the back seat of her jeep.

The only reason I got this book is that there is a short story by Tea Obreht in it, and also one by Karen Russell. But I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of the other stories as well. They were mostly really dark, but still compelling. The writing overall was really good, though I hadn't heard of most of the authors. The New Yorker mainly chooses good pieces of fiction.

That being said, I didn't love any of the stories in particular, and none of them just wowed me. For example, I wasn't compelled to look up any of the authors in the collection. The stories were enjoyable, but nothing more than that. I wasn't expecting to be amazed, but it would have been nice to. Still, two weeks later, none of the stories particularly stand out.

That's not to say the stories weren't good; the only one that I didn't like was "The Pilot". Also, "The Erkling" was eerily familiar; I guess I probably read it when it was printed in the New Yorker. Tea Obreht's story, "Blue Water Djinn", was really good, though it was very different from The Tiger's Wife. Completely different. I preferred The Tiger's Wife, certainly, but "Blue Water Djinn" was an interesting story, and the writing was really good.

Other reviewers have commented on this, but this collection feels like it lacks balance. Almost all of the stories are really, really dark. Can we please have something lighter? Apparently not. Many of them are disturbing, and there aren't really any more optimistic stories in this collection.

The problem with reading short stories all at once is that they tend to blur together, which is exactly what happened here. Many of the specifics from each story were lost two or three stories later. The ideal way, I think, to read a collection like this, is to read one or two, put it down, read something else, then go back to it. And you don't necessarily have to read it in order, either.

This was a good, but not exceptional, book of short stories. A rather long book of short stories.

Read 20 Under 40:
  • if you like short stories
  • if you like any of the authors included
  • if you like The New Yorker
424 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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