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Not just getting high on the fumes of others’ oppression

4 August 2011

A friend visited a few weeks ago, so I took her to the library and let her pick out some books from the new releases section. (Any books she wanted! Who says I don’t know how to show a good time?) Among others, she chose Sefi Atta’s short story collection News from Home.

I read just the first bit of all the books, not because they weren’t good, but because I work 80 hours a week.

I didn’t intend to finish News From Home either, but once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. After I finished, I staggered to the computer and sent off an email, profusely thanking my friend, then I passed out for an hour before my alarm went off.

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Short story collections tend to annoy the crap outta me. Too many writers find a formula that works, more or less, and then do the same thing over and over. It doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad writers, but it sure makes for a tedious reading experience.

I’m also leery of a certain type of literature that’s currently popular. I’ve seen enough poverty that I don’t find it charming or even interesting. Nor do I equate honest (aka shocking) writing with successful fiction. Atta’s work, mercifully, doesn’t rely on these shortcuts.

Her descriptions and style are masterful, but the true magic comes from her impeccably rendered characters. Few writers can so convincingly portray such a wide array of humanity. I kept trying to analyze how she pulled it off, but then I’d get sucked into the story again.

Recommended to lovers of artful literary short stories, fans of O’Connor and García Márquez, writers who have soured on short story collections.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 September 2011 09:42

    Properly put from a great blogger

  2. 29 August 2011 12:46

    LOL, Are you serious?

    • 31 August 2011 23:38

      Yer comment got caught in my spamfilter. To answer your question: Yes.

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