I find short story collections difficult to read. Perhaps because I read quickly, I come to the end of a story and feel unsatisfied. With novels, especially long ones, we’re given a cast of characters that we get to know over the course of time, but with short stories, I feel like I barely know them by the time the story ends. A good collection of stories for me then must make me feel satiated by the end of each story. Luckily, I’ve read two such collections over the past month.
First is Alan DeNiro’s Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead. He’s a writer who doesn’t stick to one genre. He infuses some of the stories with science fiction and fantasy usually to delve into larger issues. The title story, set sometime in twenty third century Pennsylvannia, turns out to be the college application essay of the narrator. It also explains why they shouldn’t expect him anytime soon as he tells how he met Jane, who lives in the Lake of the Dead. DeNiro’s stories with elements of the bizarre and the fantastic are original and clever without being overdone.
The second collection I enjoyed was Scott Snyder’s (you may have read this nice review by Andrew Sean Greer in the NYT). Snyder’s imaginative stories deal with people displaced by something in life. Some of them seem sepia toned, set back in the early twentieth century. The last story “The Star Attraction of 1919” beautifully tells the story of a barnstormer who accidentally crashes a wedding. When the bride insists on running away with him, he finds her a marvelous companion. It was my favorite story in the collection. Dark, yet whimsical, the stories and characters capture your imagination.