Short Stories

My reading life came to a screeching halt about 6 weeks ago. That’s when I started my historiography course. This professor is a little crazy, in an abusive relationship kind of way. He’s made me cry with his mean words and lack of guidance, yet I repeatedly find myself trying to impress him with my work. And I do impress him with my work. He’s told me this before, then immediately followed up with, “But you did the assignment all wrong.”

I prefer to live my life with the belief that he’s forgotten what it’s like to be a student.

Anyway, thanks to him and his excessive reading assignments, I haven’t read anything for fun in almost a week. The last thing I read was “The Night of the Satellite” by T.C. Boyle. That was on Friday night of last week.

Another short story I recently read was “Winter Break” by Hilary Mantel. It’s from her short story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher and the absolute first time I’ve read any of her work. I’m not sure how I feel about her writing just yet, but the last sentence of “Winter Break” made me gasp in shock. I’ve taken that as a sign to read more Mantel.

About a month ago I decided to keep tabs on how much I read – for fun and for school, although most of it is for school. There are chapters to study, academic articles to deliberate, journals to peruse for usefulness, primary sources to interpret, etc.

In a one-week period, I’d read 322 pages for one class alone (thankfully my other instructor requires very little from me in the way of readings – maybe 40 pages a week). I was able to get 135 pages of fun reading in. Altogether, that equals around 500 pages. In one week.

I became overwhelmed. Not in a panicky way, but in the way that made me reconsider all the other ways I spend my time. I decided to make some changes. I went through my to-read list of books and tossed out about 400 titles I’ll probably never get to. I’m getting better at asking my husband to help with housework or make dinner a few times a week. Today I broke down and bought ready-to-bake cookies. Proof that when shit gets real, I’m a master of time-management and efficiency.

This means short stories have found a place in my life. I’d never really considered reading them too much before, simply because I’d always had the time to devote to a novel or two a week. That’s not the case anymore. At least I can throw away the academic journals and histories every night before crawling into bed with a good 13-page story. Whatever works, right?

Recommended short story collections:

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

The Best American Short Stories of 2014 edited by Jennifer Egan

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey

As always, feel free to recommend something.

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4 thoughts on “Short Stories

  1. I’m with you in spirit. I lucked out that finally – FINALLY – I’m reading a novel for one of my classes that I actually like. Why did it take me so long to get around to The Hobbit? (If it weren’t for the movies, I never would have read it – fantasy is not in my wheelhouse. But I love it!) It’s my “crawl into bed with a fun read to cleanse the palette from the history of the English language” reading.

    • I’m hoping to read Station Eleven soon! But I bought a ton of books last month (including Geraldine Brooks’ March) that I can’t wait to get to. Also, Louisa May Alcott is finally getting some representation at our library – so many of her unknown works are on the shelf. I was smart, though, and chose one of my research topics to cover women authors and how literacy helped spur the women’s rights movement. I’ll get to that in December!

  2. I wouldn’t be so eager to impress a professor that left me headless. Screw that! I’m a little tiffed that you raised my eyebrows with “the last sentence of ‘Winter Break’ made me gasp in shock” since I’ll never get around to it but I understand the decency of not giving it away. Years ago, I started keeping an annual Reading Journal.

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