Muscle

The author of "The Night Inspector" and "Don't Tell Anyone" picks five story collections with ideal physiques.

Topics: Readers and Reading, Books,

Muscle

Story collections are hard to build. They require a design, often one the reader isn’t conscious of — but which the reader feels, like muscle under smooth skin — and they require confidence on the part of the writer. After all, you’re showing off perhaps a dozen or more of your beloved children. Which will the reader delight in? Toward which demanding, yet very vulnerable, child will the reader show impatience? Here are five examples, for readers and writers, of brilliant storytelling in well-built books.

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze by William Saroyan
This collection, still in print, thank goodness, was published in 1934 by the 26-year-old Armenian-American from the West Coast. It is a brash book, alive with the author’s unabashed attention to himself — “(I am writing a very serious story, perhaps one of the most serious I shall ever write … my laughter is rather sad)” — and it is full of humor and darkness. Each story is lyrical, a love song to writing, to victimized women and harried old men, to the magic in books, to the promise of America.

The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert: 21 Stories and Novellas by Ward Just
The superb novelist about power, politics and their relationship to erotic life has also, all along, been a first-rate writer of stories. In this collection you get the title story and “Honor, Power, Riches, Fame and the Love of Women,” famous among story writers, as well as several guides to the secret life of Washington that will not reassure you. The prose is absolutely lucid and controlled, as befits the work of one of the great correspondents of the Vietnam War.

Park City: New and Selected Stories by Ann Beattie
In this book you hold a feast: the collected stories of one of the finest writers of her generation or any other. Yes, it amounts to a history of the folks who went from smoking hemp to wearing hemp-soled sandals to their children’s orthodontist. But it’s also a history of loving — tales of characters who were compelled to give their hearts over to be broken — and of recovering from love; the “cure,” if there is one, resides in the language, which suggests that the teller is wounded exactly as you have been, and which makes you think about courage.



Mary and O’Neil by Justin Cronin
Cronin is a new writer, but he is going to be known and praised. This collection will be published in February, and readers will be grateful. In musical, precise prose, this youthful writer does justice to age, celebrates the flesh as a young man should, and gives his readers remarkably interesting characters in strong stories which, linked as they are, add up to a novel’s-worth of family life.

The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
It is always time to applaud Grace Paley, and to give thanks for her stories. She writes of politics in love, though not of love in politics, and she does so with the muscle of a stevedore and the delicacy of a surgeon. Here are the great stories of men and women who are prisoners of love, of children who hold them hostage and of the author unashamed to admit that her stake in the lives of her characters is immense. Remind yourself how grateful you are for her huge moments such as the one about the little boy whose hand is on his mother’s breast as “through the short fat fingers of my son, interred forever, like a black and white barred king in Alcatraz, my heart lit up in stripes.”

Frederick Busch's most recent novels are "Girls" and "The Night Inspector." His story collection "Don't Tell Anyone" has just been published.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>