“The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor” by Flannery O’Connor (FSG Classics, 1971)


There aren’t many authors whose entire oeuvre can be read in a relatively short amount of time. J. D. Salinger comes to mind, and Flannery O’Connor is another. Other than the couple books she published, her short stories are what she is best known for and this collection brings all thirty-one of them together for the first time, including twelve that didn’t appear in her two published short story collections.

In “The Crop,” we learn about a writer writing about a share cropper and as she’s writing, she becomes part of the story in a great example of meta fiction. “A Stroke of Good Fortune” is a moving story about a woman dealing with an ailment that she does not realize is in fact her blossoming pregnancy. One of her best known stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” features a family on a day trip who hear about an escaped killer on the loose and how their lives are irrevocably changed when they coincidentally meet up with said killer.

The stories cover Connor’s entire career in chronological order with something for everyone; whether you’re trying her for the first time or giving her another chance after some required college or high school reading.

Originally written on December 4th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2015)


To date, Stephen King has published seven short story collections, proving that the prolific writer is still a big fan of the short form. This latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, has perhaps one of the more horrifying and chilling covers to grace the front of a book in some time. But this makes sense, since many of the stories in the pages of this collection are both chilling and horrifying. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is perhaps King’s best collection of stories since his debut collection Night Shift.

The anthology kicks off with “Mile 81” where there is an old abandoned vehicle at a defunct rest stop that has a tendency to absorb everything that touches it; one might even say eats. In “The Dune” a man can see people’s futures written in the sand. “Morality” is the story of the collection that really makes you think, as a couple must decide whether they will perform a certain act for a large amount of money, and whether their relationship can survive because of it.

What happens when you die? King decides to present his thoughts in “Afterlife.” In “UR” an ereading device has special powers. “The Little Green God of Agony” is a story about pain in its many forms and if it had a physical presence, what it would look like. “Obits” is a story about a journalist who causes bad things to happen to people when he writes their obituaries. The collection also features King’s novella “Blockade Billy” in its entirety, about an old baseball player who had certain “abilities,” as well as King’s most recent short story published in the summer of 2015, “Drunken Fireworks.”

For those wondering why so many readers love everything King does, the many great stories in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams makes it easily convincing. The anthology has a little bit of everything: ghost stories, psychological thrill rides, captivating thrillers, and moving stories of fiction. You will not be disappointed.

Originally written on January 17, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Writing Goals for 2016

This year I’m expecting something to happen which will lessen my job work and give me more free time to do things like write. The problem is while I’m pretty sure this thing is going to happen in 2016, I have no idea when. So for now – and I know I say this every year I set my writing goals – I’m going to keep it short and sweet for goals with hopes of completing them all.

  1. Olague: My novel Olague is going to be my main writing focus for the year. I’d like to throw out something like “get half the book written” or even a third, but I know this is neither likely nor feasible with my current work and life schedule (of course, if the above thing happens that was hinted at that will change things a little). So I’m just going to say: get more writing done with Olague. Even if it’s just another chapter, at least something; though I hope it’ll be a lot more than one additional chapter.
  2. Stories: I’ve got two short story ideas kicking around in the noggin that I jotted down a few notes for in case they disappear entirely from my head. I’d like to get those two stories written in some form this year.
  3. Submit Stories: Continue submitting stories for publication each month, including editing and getting the long story that was written in 2015 submitted to at least one publication by the end of the year.
  4. Ostium: This is my podcast series I’m working on with a friend. The first episode script is written and ready and now it’s just a case of getting it recorded. For 2016, I’d like to get the first episode recorded and ready, and the scripts for the second and third episodes written.
  5. BONUS: So here’s a bonus goal, should I need something extra to work on. My novel White Horse is completed in first draft and has been waiting for some editing for a few years now, but I’ve never quite found the time to get around to it. I think the reason for this is because I felt it wasn’t quite right as the novel that it is. It’s taken me a while to figure out what this means and I think I finally have. I originally started the book as a novella, but then it grew into a novel. Now thinking on it for the last few years, while it was fun and interesting writing the whole book, I believe it still wants to be a novella, and needs to get edited down to that. So that can be the extra credit project for the year.

“Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances” by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2015)

Trigger Warning
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In Neil Gaiman’s third short story collection, fans can expect a similar collection to the last, Fragile Things, with an introduction explaining the origin and history of each of the works, a wide selection of short stories and poetry they have likely not read before, and a nice thick novella set in the world of American Gods. The title, however, may have been in poor choice for, while he does talk about it in his introduction, the more correct and appropriate meaning of the term has little to do with being scared and/or entertained with some stories.

The collection runs the true gamut, showing Gaiman’s breadth and spectrum as a writer, and would make an ideal introduction to the author for anyone wanting to read him for the first time. “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” is the haunting story of a dwarf in search of a guide to take him to a cave where riches lie. “The Sleeper and the Spindle” is a fairytale that blends Snow White with Sleeping Beauty. “Nothing O’clock” is an original Doctor Who story from Gaiman. “The Case of Death and Honey” looks at an aging Sherlock Holmes looking to solve one last mystery.

No two stories are alike in Trigger Warning, which is what you really want in a short story collection. The stories here cover all the genres and take the reader to interesting and unusual places. There is joy and sadness and everything in between.

Originally written on April 18, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Trigger Warning from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“After the Quake” by Haurki Murakami (Knopf, 2000)

After the Quake
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Murakami are, unsurprisingly with the title, set in February 1995 after the devastating Kobe earthquake.  The stories don’t deal completely with the after effects of the quake, but in the classic Murakami style, the characters have had their lives altered in various subtle ways by this natural disaster.

All six stories are told from the third person perspective, which is a change for Murakami and his usual first person point of view.  The stories each have their own unique feel, presenting an unusual situation that continues to get weirder until the end, when the reader is left deep in contemplation and wonder.  There is the story of the man who is an electronics salesman and finds one day that his wife has left him; when he agrees to deliver an enigmatic package, he finds out more about himself and who he really is than he ever thought he knew.  A religious man follows the pursuit of another elderly gentleman, believing he might be his long lost father.

The highpoint of the collection is with the wonderfully amusing “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo,” which is about exactly what the title says.  A man meets a giant frog who tells him a giant worm beneath the city will destroy everything if they don’t stop it.  Taking some time, the man eventually believes the super-frog, but just as they are to venture beneath the city, he has an accident and ends up in the hospital.  Thinking he can no longer help his new froggy friend, he later discovers he has helped in more ways than he knows.

With such a short collection, the stories have a way of growing on the reader, as opposed to other longer collections, where by the end readers can forget some of the earlier stories they’ve read.  For anyone looking to try the great Haruki Murakami for the first time, After the Quake is a great start.

Originally written on May 16, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of After the Quake from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales” by Yoko Ogawa (Picador, 2013)

Revenge
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For Haruki Murakami fans who enjoy his unique blend of the dark and bizarre, Yoko Ogawa is definitely an author you’ll want to check out.  Revenge, a collection of eleven of her short stories, reveals that this is a genre of Japanese literature that will grab you with its claws and suck you in.

A young nurse in love with a brilliant surgeon threatens to kill him if he does not leave his wife.  A writer living in a strange apartment block learns that the landlady is a murderer.  In the most moving tale of the collection, a woman with the unique condition that her heart is on the outside of her body needs a special bag to contain and protect it; a unique bag tailor must create the perfect vessel for it and becomes obsessed with the project.

Each of the stories in this collection becomes linked with the next, whether through a minor detail, a character, or a related event, stringing the collection together into a beautiful and dark web.  While a short read, readers will nevertheless be spirited away with these creepy, unforgettable tales.

Originally written on December 4, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Revenge from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain” by Mark Twain (Everyman’s Library, 2012)

Mark Twain
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For anyone who’s grown up in the United States, you’ve more than likely been exposed to Mark Twain in one form or another, whether it’s having read one or more of his books in high school, seeing a biographical story about him on TV, or hearing one of the many hundreds of references about him; to many his is the quintessential “Great American Author.”  And just a little over a century after his passing, Everyman’s Library has released a beautiful hardcover edition collecting all of his short stories.  What makes these different stories compared to his novels?  Twain is freer and seems to have more fun with his short stories, being more uproarious, satirical and rollicking in the short prose than with the long.  This is the Twain that many may not be as familiar with, but it is well worth the read.

There is the strange tale of “The Facts in the Great Beef Contract” about a debt owed to a family by the US government for beef, and how as each family member passes without the payment being fulfilled, the next member ventures forth to try and get back what was owed.  There is the famous “Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” set in the familiar Northern Californian “Angel’s Camp.”  “Journalism in Tennessee” is about a journalist taking on the agriculture section of a local newspaper, even though he knows nothing about farming, and proceeds to spew complete lies and fiction, incurring the ire of the local farmers.

Collectingall of Mark Twain’s sixty short stories, this collection shows the great author’s full breath from writing entertaining fiction, to travel pieces, to contemplative nonfiction; the only problem is that at times the line between fiction and reality becomes somewhat blurred.  But with Twain’s conversational and comforting voice, readers will be welcomed and taken on a truly great adventure.

Originally written on September 13, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Complete Stories of Mark Twain from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.