This month's short stories column is now up at PopMatters. Inspired by Vera Tobin's recent book, Elements of Surprise, about the "well-made" surprise in fiction (books and movies), these five literary selections give us unexpected surprises or twists done skillfully. As always, the stories are free to read online and by these terrific writers: Alice Munro, Jorge Luis Borges, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lee Martin, Jennifer Lynne Christie.
Throughout time, the large-scale violence that entire groups of people inflict upon other groups has been depicted in all forms of art. In the literary arts, in particular, the aesthetics of war have long been glorified or explicated through tales of heroes and tales of disillusionment, chronicles of fighters and resistors, historically accurate accounts and revisionist retellings . . . With the short story form, there have been some game-changing, award-winning collections, from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), about Vietnam, to Phil Klay's Redeployment (Penguin, 2014) about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These have not sought to glorify violence but to show us the many individual and heartbreaking ways that wars are waged, witnessed, and resisted.
For those of you following along, I had been posting a monthly short stories column here for the last 1.5 years. It has now transitioned over to the PopMatters website. You can read it here. This month's theme is 'Souvenirs' — the things we collect throughout our lives and why. All three short stories (see below) are free to read online, as always. I have added annotations/notes on the theme and each story too.