Shelf Life Book news, reviews, trends, and talk

Tag: Short Stories (11-20 of 20)

'Pariah' author Bob Fingerman reveals his five favorite tomes of terror

bob-fingermanImage Credit: Jeff WongBob Fingerman says that during his spell dwelling on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the mid-’90s he came to the conclusion the area was not exactly the liveliest place on earth. “It felt zombie-like in a lot of ways,” says the writer and artist. “You’d see lots of old women eating alone in diners. There seemed to be a quality of just waiting for death.” Way to big the burg up, dude! “This is why I don’t work for the Upper East Side Board of Tourism,” laughs the now Upper West Side-dwelling Fingerman.  “‘Come and see the living dead!’”

The author’s old neighborhood provides the setting for his new book Pariah, in which the inhabitants of an apartment block attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse. While the novel is not short of gore—the very first page finds the driver of a colliding taxi cab bursting through his windshield “like a meat torpedo”—the result is as much social satire as it is splatterfest. “The living grow accustomed to the zombies,” says Fingerman. “I think New Yorkers are very resilient and that carried through to these characters. The other thing is that I figured, ‘The ones who weren’t resilient? They’re all dead.’ They got eaten!”

Fingerman has considerable experience in the horror genre. Pariah is actually an unofficial sequel to Zombie World: Winter’s Dregs, a comic book miniseries he wrote in the late ‘90s, “back before zombies were cool.”  He also penned the 2007 vampire novel Bottom Feeder and has a short story featured in the new collection The Living Dead 2, alongside contributions from Max Brooks and Walking Dead scribe Robert Kirkman.

Who better then, as we drag our zombie-infected carcasses towards Halloween season, to recommend five horror novels? You can check out Fingerman’s picks after the jump.


EW picks Daniyal Mueenuddin and Dave Eggers' titles as the best books of 2009: What's your fave?

It’s that time again: As 2009 draws to a close, we’ve been given the formidable task of culling the finest literature from the year. As always, it was tough picking out the best from a bevy of books published in the last 12 months. But who won? In the fiction category, it was Daniyal Mueenuddin’s collection of short stories, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. As for nonfiction, the always reliable Dave Eggers topped the list with his Hurricane Katrina-centric book, Zeitoun. (For EW’s complete list of the top 10 fiction and nonfiction titles of the year, pick up a copy of our year-end Best & Worst double issue, on newsstands now.)

But that’s just EW’s opinion, Shelf Lifers. Tell us, which books top your 2009 list?

'Ice Storm' author Rick Moody Tweets a short story!

Why write another novel when novelty beckons? Rick Moody, the author of novels like Garden State and The Ice Storm, will be tweeting his newest short story in a series of 140-character bursts for the online zine Electric Literature. Beginning Monday, Nov. 30, Moody’s “Some Contemporary Characters” will be “published” over the course of 153 tweets, sent out over three days. (Moody fans and the curious can subscribe to Electric Lit‘s Twitter feed at its Twitter page.) “It really was like writing Haiku,” says Moody of the story, which follows the relationship of an older man and younger woman. Here are the first two tweets of “Some Contemporary Characters,” which Electric Lit shared with EW exclusively:

There are things in this taxable and careworn world that can only be said in a restrictive interface with a minimum of characters:

Saw him on OKCupid. Agreed to meet. In his bio he said he had a “different conception of time.” And guess what? He didn’t show.

How did Moody come to tweet a work of fiction? Credit the clever folks at Electric Literature, whom we’ve written about before (most recently for a Michael Cunningham story in the premiere issue). “We approached Rick Moody because we admire his writing, and knew he has an inventive side,” explains Electric Lit co-founder Andy Hunter via e-mail. “The Twitter story was his idea. In a lot of ways Rick is the perfect writer to take on the project of writing a story specifically for Twitter. He’s a great storyteller who has often set formal constraints for himself in the past, particularly in his short fiction. … Some of his other stories have eschewed certain important punctuation marks, like the period. In a way, the Twitter story helps to highlight the extreme attention to language a great short story writer is likely to pay.”

Are you curious enough to read more?

Photo credit: Thatcher Keats/Retna

Neil Gaiman and BBC will let you Twitter a story for them

Neil-Gaiman_l2 B, or not 2 B, that is the question. LOL!

If only the Bard were lucky enough to have had a Twitter account. Since he didn’t, we’ll just have to rely on BBC Audiobooks and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman to bring us the latest development in Twitterature. Tomorrow at noon, the Coraline author will tweet the first sentence in an interactive storytelling experiment, with the hope that fellow Twitterers (Twits?) will pick up the thread and spin the rest of the story 140 characters at a time. The final product will eventually be compiled into a short story, recorded as an audiobook, and made available on iTunes for free. Starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to add to the story here.

It’ll be interesting to see if average Twitterzens will be able to maintain a functioning narrative in this mass game of exquisite corpse, or if it will inevitably devolve into “And then a comet hit the planet and everybody died!” or “A giant poo-monster came out of nowhere and swallowed dear Esmeralda whole,” as mine always did. Some hope can be gleaned from the recent success in London of the Royal Opera House’s first tweet-based opera, Twitterdammerung, which actually got some decent reviews. We lose Miley, but gain Wagner. Seems like a fair trade.

Tweets probably won’t be replacing conventional book-writing anytime soon, but it is an interesting glimpse into the possibility of open-source literary collaboration. Will BBC be able to separate the tweets from the chaff, or will we perhaps realize that all that Twitters is not gold?

Photo credit: Eric Fougere/VIP Images/Corbis

New Oprah Book Club pick: 'Say You're One of Them' by Uwem Akpan

say-youre-one-of-them_lOprah Winfrey announced her new Book Club selection today and the choice, as many had predicted, is Uwem Akpan’s debut story collection, Say You’re One of Them. EW critic Jennifer Reese had named Say You’re One of Them, made up of five fictional accounts of modern Africa from the point of view of child protagonists, as her top fiction title of last year. “The book should be depressing, but the blazing humanity of the characters and the brilliance of Akpan’s artistry make this one of the year’s most exhilarating reads,” Reese wrote in her review. Expect Akpan, a charismatic Nigerian-born Jesuit priest, to make a striking impression on Oprah’s audience — and to echo the host’s long-standing interest in the often strife-torn continent; she has already built two schools for South African youth.

The selection is another windfall for Akpan’s publisher, Hachette, which is already flush from the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series as well as this week’s publication of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s memoir, True Compass. A spokeswoman for Hachette’s Little, Brown confirms that it’s releasing 650,000 copies of an Oprah edition of Say You’re One of Them.

Hollywood screenwriters keep pulp (short) fiction alive

The short stories in places like The New Yorker can be lovely, evocative pieces — but they don’t usually involve an insanely jealous trapeze artist or a serial killer escaping from the back of an FBI agent’s sedan during an earthquake. That’s a pity. But pulpy, plot-driven tales about circus artists and killers (and killer circus artists) are the main offering at Popcorn Fiction, a month-old literary site where a bunch of Hollywood screenwriters are trying to revive a languishing genre, one story at a time. As with most anthologies, the stories are a mixed bag. But early highlights include “Lightning in a Bottle,” a variation on the old saw about a jazz musician (this time a drummer) who sells his soul to a mysterious stranger for the perfect jam, by Craig Mazin (a co-writer of Scary Movie 3 and 4), and “A Best Friend Named Rick,” about a newly sprung ex-con struggling to stay straight, by Nichelle D. Tramble (a story editor on the NBC drama Mercy).

The idea for Popcorn Fiction grew out of one screenwriter’s love for old-fashioned storytelling. “I had been listening to satellite radio and I started listening to these old great ’50s radio programs like X Minus One, The Shadow, and Have Gun Will Travel,” says site founder Derek Haas, an L.A.-based scribe whose credits (with writing partner Michael Brandt) include 2007′s 3:10 to Yuma and 2008′s Wanted. “And I thought, nobody writes these kinds of things anymore, or if they do, they’re not easy to find. So I started knocking the idea around with some screenwriting friends and said, ‘What if I started commissioning screenwriters to write short stories?’”

Haas, who’s collected stories mostly by word of mouth and says he is not (yet) seeking general submissions, posts a new tale on the site roughly once a week. This week’s new entry: “Hours,” set in a hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, by Eric Heiserer (2010′s A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot). In coming weeks, Haas promises a yarn by Emmy winner Leslie Bohem (Dante’s Peak, TV’s Taken), a “funny little vampire story” by actor-comedian Patton Oswalt (Big Fan), and a crime tale by Oscar winner Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River).

You might think that Haas and his screenwriting pals would use the site to fish for movie deals. You’d be right. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer just bought Haas’ own story “Shake,” an adrenaline-charged but implausibly over-the-top thriller about an FBI agent with Parkinson’s chasing a serial killer during an earthquake in L.A. (Check it out here.) Curiously for a website founder, though, Haas has no plans to profit from Popcorn Fiction: Authors maintain all copyrights to their material. “I’m trying to help writers push new ideas in such a tough spec market,” says Haas, whose second novel, Columbus — a sequel to his 2008 thriller, The Silver Bear — is due in bookstores this November. “Every day you read on Ain’t It Cool News or one of those sites that Hollywood has run out of ideas, that all they can do is take these old films or these old TV shows and make them into movies. And I’m like, Wait. There’s a way to get new ideas into the system.” Now the rest of us don’t need to wait for a studio greenlight to see some of these ideas come to life on the screen — our computer screens, anyway.

Oprah's new Book Club pick: Let the guessing game begin!

oprah_lLate last night, Oprah Winfrey tweeted that she will be announcing her new Book Club selection on Friday, Sept. 18 and that she’s “never made a selection like ‘this’.” Ron Hogan at MediaBistro’s GalleyCat blog has already begun snooping on Amazon and to guess the title based on his knowledge of the publisher (Little, Brown) and the suggested retail prices ($23.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in trade paperback). His best guesses: James Collins’ 2008 debut novel Beginner’s Greek and Uwem Akpan’s remarkable 2008 story collection Say You’re One of Them (which EW’s Jennifer Reese ranked the best fiction title of last year). Akpan, a Nigerian-born priest who writes eloquently and movingly about the harrowing effects of AIDS and genocide on Africa, would seem to be a perfect author for Winfrey given her long-standing interest in the continent. (She has opened two schools for South African youth.) One thing’s for sure: The folks at Little, Brown, which is anomalously flush as the publisher of Stephenie Meyer, must be very happy campers.

'New' Agatha Christie story: Secret inspiration for 'Inglourious Basterds'?

Last week, London’s Daily Mail printed a previously unpublished Hercule Poirot story by Agatha Christie from 1939, “The Capture of Cerberus.” The story hit the same day that Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds landed in theaters, a curious coincidence since both imagine the same ahistorical event: the assassination of Adolf Hitler. (A belated shout-out to Sarah Weinman’s Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind blog for tipping me off about this.)

In Christie’s story, Hitler is a war-mongering dictator named “August Hertzlein” and Poirot is approached by the father of a Nazi soldier who he believes has been falsely accused of killing the leader at “a monster meeting of the Brothers of Youth.” Unlike the celebratory fantasy of Hitler’s assassination in Tarantino’s Basterds, Christie has a far darker read on the same imagined occurrence: “With dismay, the peace lovers realised that Hertzlein’s death had accomplished nothing. Rather, it had hastened the evil day.” Moreover, as A.N. Wilson notes in his introduction to the story, “Christie expresses the naive hope that Hitler could have been converted to Christianity and begun preaching love and peace.” It’s no wonder that the Strand magazine rejected Christie’s story when it was submitted in 1939 as one piece of her “Labours of Hercules” series featuring the Belgian detective Poirot. (Christie later used the title “The Capture of Cerberus” for a completely different short story in 1947.)

This is one two unpublished Poirot stories discovered by writer John Curran in 70 some blue-lined notebooks that Christie left behind after her death in 1976. (HarperCollins is publishing Curran’s Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks next month.) Almost as fascinating as the new story is A.N. Wilson’s thoughtful introduction in the Daily Mail, defending Dame Agatha against “literary snobs.” It’s fun to imagine a conversation between Christie and Tarantino. Both are popular entertainers who disdain the highbrow. Both are keen students of narrative structure — though Tarantino usually finds a way to subvert it. But I suspect that only Christie ever chloroformed (lightly) a hedgehog that got trapped in a tennis net in order to set it free.

Michael Cunningham on horror movies, Nicole Kidman, and his new novel

Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer-winning author of The Hours, hasn’t published a book since 2005′s Specimen Days. His next novel, tentatively titled Olympia, doesn’t have a release date — but he published an excerpt from the work-in-progress in a new online/download-friendly literary magazine called Electric Literature, founded by Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum. Cunningham’s moving 19-page story charts the relationship of two brothers growing up in 1970s suburban Milwaukee, the flamboyantly gay Matthew (he even figure skates!) and his younger brother, the presumably straight Peter. It’s a self-contained gem that’s  filled with wonderfully evocative descriptive passages like this one: “Their father, handsome but a little blank, unfinished-looking, vaguely Finnish, never fully adapted to his good fortune in marrying their mother, and lived in his marriage the way an impoverished relation might live in the spare room.” I caught up with Cunningham by phone from his home in Provincetown, Mass., at a particularly opportune moment in his creative process.

EW: How are you doing?

Michael Cunningham: At the moment, I just finished a chapter. I’m about two-thirds of the way through a new novel. I’m juggling that with the final drafts of two screenplays, a little thriller for Screen Gems called Beautiful Girl and the Dusty Springfield movie with Nicole Kidman. The Dusty Springfield film, as they say in Hollywood, just went into turnaround at Fox 2000, which is probably best all around. I like all the people at Fox 2000, but it’s probably not the right studio for this film. So now it’s just Nicole and me and Dusty. And we’ll try to find another home for it.

EW: Beautiful Girl is a thriller about a high school English teacher who exacts revenge on everyone who was cruel to one of his students. Let’s just say it does not sound like you at all.

Cunningham: Actually, I’ve always been a huge fan of horror films. I’ve seen all the horror movies. I have no limits when it comes to that. I’ve seen all the Saw movies. Do you know the writer Amy Hempel? She and I will go to any hack-’em-up movie, the gorier the better. So the genre has always appealed to me. Now, I should say that I have the highest respect  for those who teach English literature, particularly in high school. But this individual is just a psycho. [he chuckles] READ FULL STORY

Book trailers: New Jim Shepard story for 'Electric Literature' makes me forget how much I hate book trailers

I’m not usually a fan of book trailers, which are generally more slipshod than your average piano-playing cat video and considerably less entertaining. But this one — for a new short story by Jim Shepard (Project X) titled “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You” — caught my attention. It’s included in a new ‘zine called Electric Literature, a bimonthly anthology of short stories that’s available in a unique multi-platform distribution system: You can pick up a paperback edition via print on demand ($9.95 from Amazon); or download a copy to your iPhone or Kindle ($4.95); or just read it online as an e-book ($4.95). The debut issue includes an excerpt from The Hours author Michael Cunningham’s forthcoming novel, Olympia, as well as stories by Lydia Millet (My Happy Life), T Cooper (Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes), Diana Wagman (Skin Deep). The trailer for “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You” captures all the intrigue of a good NPR narrative piece and the spare wit of really strong animation.

Latest Videos in Books


TV Recaps

Powered by VIP