Short Stories for Christmas: a Conundrum and a Question

We’re currently at my inlaws, comfortably snuggled and watching the snow. Merry Christmas to you all!

This year I’m offering less books than usual, with a major exception: my younger brother recently took an interest in short stories and specifically asked for some collections, a wish than I am very happy to oblige! (Whenever he reads, he’s normally into Proust or highbrow experimental French lit, just to give you an idea – and he doesn’t read English, so I can safely blog about it here!). Because I was short of time, I found myself in one of these mega-bookshops that I enjoy so little, looking for a book… no, a full bookstack, inspired by Bloglily’s generous gift idea.

My challenge was to find something that he wouldn’t choose by himself, but that he would eventually enjoy… I had a hard time coming up with actual books, because all those I’d thought before entering are either untranslated into French or plain unavailable on short notice in such a bookstore. My first idea was James Salter and Ethan Canin, both authors being very strong on subtle male psychology. But both were missing from the shelves. What a shame! If a French publisher reads this blog (just by chance), I’d recommend to translate them both right away.

I’d given up on Proulx and Alice Munro, because I wasn’t sure the American West would appeal to my very French brother, and I found Munro a bit too.. feminine perhaps? Then I thought of Somerset Maugham (I loved his Far-Eastern tales), but only his novels were in French. Connecting Maugham to Proust for a special turn-of-the century feeling, I arrived to… Edith Wharton. I grant you this, hers is also a very feminine perspective, but I thought that my brother would enjoy a glimpse on Old New York.

Then I moved on to the opposite and looked for something contemporary, dark and strong. I remember my brother’s taste for Humphrey Bogart 1950s mysteries. I wanted noirs and thrillers, but just a few pages long. Did it exist (and in French?) A nice saleswoman in the mystery corner introduced me to the translated Best American Mystery Stories. I chose the collection edited by James Ellroy. I have no idea if he will like it, but I’m sure he’ll get to know a few new writers on the way.

I couldn’t resist and added a few others mysteries to the stack, a Belgian one and an Israeli one by Batya Gur, but these are novels and not short stories, so I won’t go into them here. Do you have suggestions? I recently read that short stories were a female forte, and while I don’t really believe in such a statement, I indeed see that female writers jump to my mind more easily than male ones — What short stories would you recommend for a young man?

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4 thoughts on “Short Stories for Christmas: a Conundrum and a Question

  1. I’ve read a couple of short stories by Jim Shephard that were pretty good. Jonathan Letham has also written short stories. Oh and ther is Borges too. And Italo Calvino.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Stefanie – oh how could I forget Borges!? I’ve yet to try some Shepard and Letham, I will add them to my own list for 2010

    Dorothy – Carver indeed! I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with his stories, I definitely have to try.

    Pete – I’m happy to see my gut feeling contradicted, imagining that a man perhaps wouldn’t relate with Munro’s stories. If my brother wants some more stories, I’ll try her collections then.

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