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rrlevarIn honor of Reading Rainbow‘s 30th anniversary (yes, that was this summer), I am playing Levar and dishing out a list of good reads for short story lovers.

If you follow me on Twitter (and you should be following me on Twitter @bonesparkblog), then you already know that my library recently brought in a whooping stack of short story collections.

There were well over a dozen. Some were older, some newer, most were (surprisingly) by females. I diligently waded through this stack to bring you the best of the best. So without further ado, my selections:

color master“The Devourings”–from Aimee Bender’s The Color Master.

This story tells the tale of a homely woman who finds love with an ogre. After he accidentally devours their children, grief forces her out of their home for a time, but ultimately she returns. Bender has a way of weaving real pain with fairytale settings.  Did I mention that there’s a magical cake involved?

happiness“Bad Boy Number 17”–from Lucia Perillo’s Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain

This story is part of a three-story arc featuring two sisters, one of which suffers from Down’s syndrome. It stands alone as well as a linked narrative. With its Pacific NW setting and the dark edge Perillo brings to it, I am reminded of Sherman Alexie, but without some of the pathos. Interestingly, both Alexie and Perillo are poets.  I think that the lyricism in the prose is what draws me to her work. This is a great new find for me, and I look forward to more from this author.

birds of a lesser“Saving Face”–from Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Birds of a Lesser Paradise

This is another writer I was happy to discover. I liked most of the stories in the collection, but I really loved the tension in this one. Here we encounter a women struggling within herself to regain her confidence. She has lost part of her lip to an animal that she had been treating in her vet practice. That pulling, that inner wrestling, is something that every woman experiences at some point in her life. Interesting to see her try to work out what part of her self is tied to her appearance. This one will stay with me.

gulf“Audacious”–from Brock Adams’ Gulf

Reading through this collection, I am reminded of Michael Knight’s Dogfight, which is set roughly in the same region. Adams, of course, gives this space a whole different slant. His work has a noir element that is intriguing. Surprisingly, my favorite story from the book is set in an unnamed Northern town with a frozen lake and cold subway platforms. It’s the story of a pick-pocket and a widower each longing for a deeper relationship.  This was released in 2010. Hopefully, Adams’ will have some new work coming soon.

aero“What to Do with Henry”–from Tania James’ Aerogrammes

Wow! This one really gripped me. There were so many things going on it in, but it all was woven together so perfectly. Henry, a chimp, comes to Ohio from Sierra Leone along with the newly adopted Neneh, who is the illegitimate daughter of Pearl’s husband.  The three form a strange alliance that is deeply affecting even after Pearl’s death. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but be ready for tears. Haunting.

hannah“Love too Long”–from Barry Hannah’s Long, Last, Happy

Well, what can I say about Hannah? I’d call myself a feminist, but I have to say that I have a soft spot for his overwrought fiction. His work oozes testosterone and not always with a good outcome for him or his protagonists. There is just something about his ballsy-ness that speaks to me. I have been in love with it ever since I first read this story while studying at Hollins (it was originally included in Airships). I would liken it to Neruda, if Neruda wrote fiction and was from the South. It makes me feel what the narrator does when he says, “my head’s burning off and I got a heart about to bust out of my ribs.”  I’m going to want my own copy of this one.

Now if only I can talk those librarians into ordering more poetry.