Our final guest post of the month, not our longest, not the most in-depth, but one that I love in that it's simply done in a manner to praise some writers and collections that the author, Kathy Anderson, (also the author of Bull and Other Stories from Autumn House Press) admires and hopes others will give a read--which certainly embodies National Short Story Month and what we've tried to do here this month at the EWN. Also, a little symmetry, Anderson's mini-essay was the first one we posted this month.
Kathy Anderson on Amy Bloom, Dinah Cox, and Lori Ostlund
Once a woman tried to woo me with an Amy Bloom short story. It worked. The story was "Love Is Not a Pie" and I was so impressed by the woman's taste in literature that I overlooked the million other reasons that I should not be dating her.
I loved that Amy Bloom story so much because it made me feel so much. That's the very simple standard that I read by. Does this story make me feel something? If it leaves me cold, I'll leave it behind, unfinished, in a flash. Life is too short to talk myself into loving something because all the reviewers praise it or the scholars analyze it.
"Love Is Not a Pie" is full of love and sex and death and joy, subjects that I can recognize and use to help me figure out my own messy life. In short stories, I crave realism. I want to see people I know or could know. I need to read about people falling down and getting up. I need the author to reach inside me and touch my heart. I want to feel so deeply that I am changed. It's a miracle that all this can happen in so few pages, but it can, in the hands of a great short story writer.
Here are two short story collections that are wonderful examples of what I look for as a reader and aim for as a writer – Dinah Cox's Remarkable (BOA Editions, 2016) and Lori Ostlund's The Bigness of the World (University of Georgia Press, 2009; Scribner, 2016).
Both writers have been compared to Flannery O'Connor, for good reason. They can make you gasp and laugh at the same time. Their people stay with you as you ride the bus, work in the yard, go to the store. Their stories are packed – with depth, emotions, whole histories. And when you finish a Dinah Cox story or a Lori Ostlund story, you damn well feel something – outrage, elation, pain, solidarity, tenderness – and you understand something differently about yourself and the people around you.
Kathy Anderson is the author of Bull and Other Stories (Autumn House Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Autumn House Press Fiction Prize. Her book was also a finalist for the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, the New Rivers Press Many Voices competition, and other contests. Recent and upcoming short story publications include Jabberwock Review, Kenyon Review Online, Tahoma Literary Review, and Barcelona Review. She lives in Philadelphia, PA. kathyandersonwriter.com; @anderson_kathy