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Friday, December 05, 2008

Best Short Stories

I was sent a short story by my friend Julie Marden, an up and coming writer and another by Bill Austin, another Calgary based writer. Both were really wonderful to read. It's great to see people forming style and voice.

That said I'm really here today to unequivocally tout the person I think is the best short story writer out there. Yeah, tough to say, problematic, probably wrong. Still I've been reading Joy Williams again, and you know there is something I must be missing. She's entirely straightforward but nothing thrills me. I'm beginning to question why she gets every MFA graduand gushing. So, the person not getting the press and who I think tops the list is Leonard Michaels, 1933-2003.

I've spoken of him before but I'm still reading him. Every time I pick up the book of his stories and read an old or new one, I just flip out. They are amazing pieces of writing: brilliant, sharp, speedy, unexpected, smart, and crafted to precision. They blow nearly everyone out of the water. End of short story. I can't laud him enough.

Reading them gets me thinking that maybe there are too many books on how to write short stories out there, that maybe this is why stories today are so conventional. Tackle a problem 3x, build to a moment of revelation, and so on, the rules have formed a norm. Frankly it gets dull.

Take my prescription: go out and buy the collected stories of Leonard Michaels, NOW. Sit down and read it. Read it again. Now think about why he has not changed the overall nature of short story writing.

There is some information about him on then net. Poke around at wikipedia and follow the links at the bottom of the page.