In December, people on the Internet lost their minds over a New Yorker short story about contemporary courtship—yes, a short story!—called “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian, an author yet to publish her debut book. As a debate about that story raucous enough to make Chekov blush raged on Twitter, Roupenian scored a seven-figure, two-book deal. Her collection won’t hit bookstores until 2019, but whether your interest in the short story form was piqued by the “Cat Person” furor, or if you’re an old short story head who can name the last three editors of the Best American Short Stories without Googling, there are lots of fantastic collections to look out for this year. Here are six notable collections that will hit bookstores during the first half of 2018.
The Love of A Bad Man, by Laura Elizabeth Woollett
Melbourne, Australia-based writer Laura Elizabeth Woollett lets her imagination roam across history and the globe, lingering especially in the darkest places, in a collection she describes as “fictional imaginings of the real-life wives and girlfriends of notorious ‘bad’ men.” Her narrators include Eva Braun and Myra Hindley, the wife of a British murderer, once called “the most hated woman in Britain.”
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, by Denis Johnson
Speaking of the Best American Short Stories, the title story of this collection by acclaimed fiction master Denis Johnson appeared in the 2015 edition, and it was a stunner. The dreamlike tale contains a series of vignettes involving an older gentleman reflecting on his life, incorporating folklore and unexpected humor. “This morning I was assailed by such sadness at the velocity of life—the distance I’ve traveled from my own youth, the persistence of the old regrets, the new regrets, the ability of failure to freshen itself in novel forms—that I almost crashed the car,” Johnson writes. Johnson died in May of 2017, but left this last book for his many fans to relish.
Back Talk, by Danielle Lazarin (February 6)
Danielle Lazarin’s debut collection features stories of marriage, families, love, and loss that emit a vibe so low-key and unrushed at the outset that they startle when their depth of characterization, insight, and feeling dawns. Take “Appetite,” about fifteen-year-old Claudia, who has just lost her mother to lung cancer, and meets an infinitely charming young man, George, at a party. George beguiles her by getting every word and gesture precisely right during the time they spend together—like some teenage Cary Grant whose uncle owns a New York City diner—and yet Charlotte knows she can’t hold on to him. “I lay claim to George for a little while,” she explains, “and then I let him go because I think it’s good practice for the rest of my life, because I think the longer you love someone the more it hurts, the more you have to imagine them in places they’ll never be again.”
Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, by Kelly Barnhill (February 20)
Kelly Barnhill enchanted young audiences with her Newbery Medal-winning 2017 novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon (as well as several prior middle grade fantasy novels). Now she’s set to conquer readers of adult literary fiction who enjoy fantastical stories with her debut collection Dreadful Young Ladies. If you’ve ever wanted to see a widow pursue romance with Bigfoot (“Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”) this is the collection for you. It includes Barnhill’s World Fantasy Award-winning novella “The Unlicensed Magician.”
Awayland: Stories, by Ramona Ausubel (March 6)
Ramona Ausbel’s second short story collection continues to prove her a surprising, funny, and deft fabulist. In “Freshwater from the Sea,” Ausubel tells the story of a mother who gradually dissolves into mist after returning to her home country, Lebanon. It captures the feeling of displacement and longing for a homeland—as well as the yearning for connection with one’s own unknowable family members—more precisely than a strictly realistic account ever could. Even when Ausubel is at her most playful, as in “You Can Find Love Now,” told from the perspective of a Cyclops as he fills out an online dating profile, the bizarre and fantastic elements of her stories heighten that sense of connection-seeking common to all humans—and apparently Cyclopses. “Everyone has had good times,” Cyclops insists. “Everyone has a picture of himself in front of a pinkening sunset with a glass of white wine. Choose them if you want to. Choose me if you want someone to hold you above his head in the moonlight, bite your wrist until the first rust comes out.”
Heads of the Colored People, by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (April 10)
Thompson-Spires’ debut delves into the lives of contemporary black women in witty, up-to-the-minute social satires featuring YouTubers, anime cosplayers, and people who eat only fruit. This book comes recommended by master short story craftsman George Saunders, who wrote, “Vivid, fast, funny, way-smart, and verbally inventive, these stories by the vastly talented Thompson-Spires create a compelling surface tension made of equal parts skepticism towards human nature and intense fondness of it. Located on the big questions, they are full of heart.”
Which short story collections are you looking forward to reading?