The first half of 2014 has seen a number of impressive short story collections, from an always-exciting new book by Lydia Davis to The Office star B.J. Novak’s critically-acclaimed literary debut. But with so many good short stories in circulation, it can be hard to decide which to read, or at the very least, which to read first. If you consume collections the way many do—by sampling one entry at a time—it can be helpful
The New Yorker relaunched its website today with a complete makeover, signaling the first step in the magazine’s new focus on the web.
Part of that initiative is the magazine’s decision to open up its archives to the general public for the rest of the summer. Until the website puts up its metered paywall sometime in the fall, the New Yorker editors will be releasing curated collections of stories periodically.
We pulled out a selection of our favorite stories from the archives that you should definitely check out while they’re free.
Read nearly any critical commentary on James Joyce’s Dubliners, his 1914 collection of short stories that chronicle the lives of ordinary Irish residents of the title city, and you’re sure to come across the word “epiphany.” This is not some academic jargon, but the word Joyce himself used to describe the way that each story builds to a shock of recognition—often in the form of painful self-awareness—for key characters.
Lydia Davis, who was awarded the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, has been publishing short stories utterly unlike anyone else’s for almost 40 years. Sometimes as brief as a sentence or several paragraphs, they dispense with conventional narrative and character in favor of astringent wit and aphoristic insight. Davis’s commentary on these two drafts of an early story reveals that every word is ripe for scrutiny.