Monday, July 6, 2009

Megan Vs. Short Story: Round 2

Speaking of rarely recurring features, it's time for the bi-yearly return of "Megan Vs. Short Story" the origins of which you can read about here. In a nutshell, it's me, the self-confessed non-lover of short stories, occasionally attempting to read and review short stories to see if I can "beat" them...AKA like them.

Needing a break from the densely packed parts of Updike's chunkster, In the Beauty of the Lilies and a break from the far-fetched ramblings of Bob Moore in Don't Call Me a Crook!, I picked up the New Yorker's fiction issue (June 8 & 15, of this year, no less), and delved into the first story I happened upon therein. The story is "The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht, and I'm happy to report that I actually liked it. The story begins with a caged tiger near death during the chaos of a World War II bombing. Instead of dying however, the tiger is loosed upon the countryside of some unnamed Eastern European country (the former Yugoslavia, perhaps?) where he soon becomes an object of myth and superstition as well as some unfortunate realities among the local villagers.

Now, this, in my humble opinion was a good short story. Starting off with the thoughts of the tiger rendered starkly against the destroyed city as seen through his eyes, the story progresses to a village where the tiger serves as the centerpiece of a puzzle. In only a few pages, Obreht introduces a full cast of characters and gives us a tantalizing little taste of each one's nature. Obreht skillfully uses the tiger to reveal the heart of the village with its gossip and its social outcasts, with its superstitions, struggles, and dreams. The writing has a strikingly vivid quality, and Obreht skillfully weaves together several important themes.

Now, I was all set to award myself a point in the Megan vs. Short Story game, but my curiosity about this author who, I think, must have a promising future prompted me to seek out some further information about her. Imagine my excitement, mixed with disappointment when it comes to the game, to visit Tea Obreht's website to find that what I've read is but an excerpt of her debut novel of the same name, to be published in 2010. Methinks this may call into question my point considering this isn't quite a short story after all, but I'll give myself a 1/2 point because it could be and console myself with thoughts of this future novel which I am already looking forward to reading.

Oh, by the way, I did look to see if this was available among the New Yorker's many free online options, and it does not appear to be. Just so you don't think I'm holding out on you - I totally wish I could link it for all five of you loyal readers of my blog and further share my joy at having enjoyed short fiction for a change. ;-)

Short Stories: 1, Megan: .5


  1. Personally, I think you deserve the full point. I mean, it's not like you MEANT to read an excerpt.

  2. The story does sound good! I'll have to make note of the author and look for the book when it comes out.

    I read a short story anthology once that included a few by authors I was already familiar with. I was particularly excited about one of the stories--only to discover it was an excerpt from the novel I'd just read by the same author. I was so disappointed. I'm not as eager to read anthologies like that again, however unfair that may be to the other authors who contribute to them.

    I agree with Elizabeth though. You deserve a full point for the story you read. If you thought you were reading a short story, then you were for all intents and purposes.

  3. You should read Adichie's stories for free on the New Yorker. :)

  4. I'm so proud of you, Megan, for continuing the battle! And you know what...I whole-heartedly agree with Elizabeth!

  5. I used to hate reading short stories too. By myself at least. I think it may have been because I associated short stories with those high school years when we did one every week and accompanied it was a nice, lengthy essay. But, I've come to enjoy reading them now (if they're good). They're nice to bring for a commute (you can read it in one sitting) and you can think about it the rest of the way home.

  6. Oooh, this sounds like a story/novel-to-be I'd REALLY enjoy.

  7. "A" for effort, you know? You read what you THOUGHT was a short story and you LIKED it! Hopefully, you will continue this feature...I love short stories and I enjoy watching others come to love them, too.

  8. I'm a short story fanatic actually, but I understand it's something of an acquired taste. (In contrast - I've never really been able to get into poetry. Go figure.) But a lot of short stories do later develop into novels: an author just gets a good idea and runs with it. A notable example is Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," which originally was a short story from "The Elephant Vanishes" by the same name. It's an interesting and curious phenomena.

    I'd suggest giving Kelly Link a try - she's a fabulous writer.