Last October, I went the predictable route with a collection of horror stories for Halloween. This month, let’s turn to fairytale retellings, one of my favorite fiction sub-genres. As with many readers and writers, fairytales, with all their enchantment, magic, and fantasy aspects were my first thrilling introduction to storytelling. And these retellings for adults not only subvert the usual, tired tropes — the damsel in distress, the wicked witch, the handsome prince, the evil giant, etc. — but give us more complex and nuanced worlds and characters. Many famous writers have tried their hand, through novels and short stories, at both revisionist retellings of ancient fairytales and creating original ones of their own. We’ll get to the latter another month. For now, let’s take a look at the traditional, well-known ones that have been retold and made entirely new by these writers: Angela Carter, Susan Scarf Merrell, Robert Coover, Jennifer Wortman, and Michael Cunningham. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads for October 2017
This month’s selection of stories is to do with the theme of getting older. The Oxford English Dictionary and the US Census define the midlife period as between the ages of 45 and 65 years and I am beginning this phase of my life this month. So I went looking for stories specifically about what I call “Middlescence.” Here are some of them by Yiyun Li, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Karen Shepard, Jon Hickey, Anushka Jasraj, and one of my flash stories from earlier this year. As usual, they are all free to read online by clicking on the titles below. Enjoy. [NOTE: For regular readers: You may have noticed that I tend to share stories by Alice Munro and Grace Paley quite frequently. Both of them have, of course, written many terrific works on this theme. I tried to mix it up a bit this time.] Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads for September 2017
In recent weeks, President Trump’s administration announced major changes to the US immigration system. Politically, immigration in the US has always been a hornet’s nest with both the Left and the Right using conflicting arguments to suit their specific agendas at any given point in time. Brexit has highlighted how immigration has become more than a deep-rooted concern in Europe. In his essay, Reflections on Exile, Edward Said described different immigrant categories — exile, refugee, expatriate, and émigré. Whatever category an immigrant may fall into, he/she has to constantly redefine and renegotiate his/her socio-cultural and geopolitical identities. This ongoing complex, scary, and messy tussle is both personal and political and is often not explicitly understood by even the person trying to cope with it. Here is a stellar collection of short stories — by Bernard Malamud, Amy Tan, Anzia Yezierska, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Oindrila Mukherjee — revealing and highlighting exactly this dynamic. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads for August 2017
This month’s collection of short stories is related to travel. There are five new stories and five that I have featured in past months and am resharing in case you missed them earlier — all free to read online, just click the titles. The traveler-writers included here: Jack London, Virginia Woolf, John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, Nanjil Nadan, Joy Williams, Reem Abu-Baker, Meron Hadero, Goli Taraghi, and one of my own published earlier this year.
For me, travel has always been a more purposeful endeavor beyond a change of scenery or relaxation or checking off a to-do hotspot — beyond “tourism,” really. This is also why solo trips work best for me (and I know they also work best for my family members.) In these times, going somewhere new ought to be about a deeper personal transformation and not simply about eating, shopping, and being waited upon while rushing from one place to the next taking a gazillion photos. We can do most of this now from the comfort of our homes. Global cuisine is now delivered or cooked locally, Amazon offers everything from all corners of the world, a tap of a phone app brings an army of service providers to our doorsteps, and Google/Flickr has a treasure trove of photos better than anything a layperson can manage.
Taking in an underground play in East Berlin shortly after the Wall came down, cruising the Loch Ness at midnight, driving cross-country through national parks and small-town USA, sharing bread and cheese with a French gardener in a near-deserted country chateau in Dijon, meeting writers from around the world at the Jaipur Literary Festival, practicing Yoga in the mountains near the Himalayas — these are the kinds of travel experiences where I have met the most interesting people, collected fascinating stories of past and present, and, most importantly, learned more about the world and myself in conscious, mindful, and transformational ways. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads for July 2017
Facebook reminds me that last year, about this time, I was complaining about how there were several writers of Indian origin winning literary awards, being reviewed favorably, etc., but all were men. This year, the tide has turned just a bit. Here are some terrific recent releases on my radar by women writers — Indian or of Indian origin. And they have all tackled weighty, important themes beyond immigration/assimilation. Note: I tend to favor the literary adult genre, as you may know if you follow my writing here. Though mostly fiction, the list also has a couple of essay collections and a historical non-fiction book. No short story collections, interestingly, though. Continue reading Marginalia: 10 Indian (or Indian Origin) Women Writers for 2017