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.
Last month, 108 contributors — journalists, academics, writers, literary critics, etc — from 35 countries were invited by BBC Culture to share their list of five stories that they believe have shaped our world. Not favorites, mind you, but stories that "have had the most impact on shaping ideas and changing minds throughout history." I was honored to be among those invited. Below, I am sharing my five picks and the reasons why. Also, at the end, you can check out the final published lists at BBC Culture's website. Please do share your five stories that you think have shaped the world in the comments if you are so inclined.
My review of Curtis Sittenfeld's first short story collection (after five novels) is up at PopMatters. Sittenfeld writes primarily about the urban Midwestern girl/woman. Here, they are mothers, wives, middle-aged career professionals — all trying to reconcile their Midwestern values with an evolving realization of their places in the world. Having lived in the Midwest for ten years myself, I know these girls and women well — they were my friends, coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and more. Some of these stories are set around the time of the US presidential election, so they are rather interesting in how they play external politics into private politics. Reese Witherspoon is producing an Apple TV show from these stories. It will star Kristen Wiig.