A collection of first-rate collections

Over the last few weeks I’ve been fortunate to read three outstanding short story collections (one from ’09, the others from ’10); each of them weird, dark, horrific, and beautiful. Each with their own voice and distinct feel.

Tina May Hall‘s The Physics of Imaginary Objects

Winner of the Drue Heinze Literature Prize, Tina’s 15 stories (including one novella) challenge narrative form/style as it plays with dreamlike perceptions and observations. Gorgeous imagery and unsettling weirdness abounds. My favorites include “How to Remember a Bird,” about a town with a bottomless hole that opens up, and the stunning novella “All the Day’s Sad Stories,” which is told in a long series of vignettes, and is about a young couple trying to have a baby, trying to save or understand their own relationship, and everything else, really.

Matt Bell‘s How They Were Found

This collection is one of 2010’s favorite discoveries for me. One of the best collections of dark/horror fiction as well. In his best stories, Matt’s unsettling premises with their unreliable narrator’s build to climaxes that are as devastating as they are oddly personal. Must reads include “The Receiving Tower,” a story about an army isolated by snow and ice, its members slowly losing their memories, and “Dredge,” which is about an unforgettably tormented man named Punter, who finds a drowned girl in a pond, takes her home and keeps her in the freezer, and decides to find who killed her.

Blake Butler‘s Scorch Atlas

Highly stylized (both in terms of prose and it’s packaging: the paper the book is printed on is ash grey, as if printed on the only paper left after the end of everything) and unrelenting, the world ends over and over again. Houses and towns drown in mud, people simply disappear, a desperate story told through an insurance claim form, in Scorch Atlas the end is bizarre, horrific, never-ending, and you can’t take your eyes off it. “In the Year of Cyst & Tremor” and “Water Damaged Photos of Our Home Before I Left It” are exceptional on their own and within the greater landscape of the book.

As someone who loves the short story (and dabbles in the form every so often), it’s encouraging to see such original work being done. The best books of 2010, without a doubt, came from the ranks of short story collections.





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2 responses to “A collection of first-rate collections

  1. Richard Thomas

    For sure, three great collections. Glad that you enjoyed Hall’s book, it was one of my favorites of 2010, and I know I’ve been talking about it a lot.

  2. thelittlesleep

    I read Tina’s book because of your review, Richard! So, thank you for the rec.


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