I'm currently reading Let The Great World Spin, a collection of linked stories by Colum McCann. This book won the National Book Award, was a big bestseller, and also has a really cool cover design. I should also say that I'm enjoying it immensely and it is--so far--an amazing book.
But it is not a novel. When I picked it up at the shop I knew nothing about Let the Great World Spin except that it had won the NBA and that lots of people had read it and that it was highly recommended by some sites I respect. I thought it was a novel about Manhattan, and when I realized it was a dozen stories and not a novel, I was disappointed. "Oh," I thought. "Another one of those."
Don't get me wrong. I've read some fine books of stories lately. Jhumpa Lahiri's The Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer; so did Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. Antonia Byatt has written several collections of linked stories (Little Black Book of Stories, Angels and Insects, The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye and The Matisse Stories). And there is a fairly well-established tradition in literary fiction of authors writing books of linked short stories. Yes, agents all say they don't want to see any of them, but they keep getting published, don't they?
What I was wondering, though, is if this tradition extends past literary fiction. I can think of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, and that's as far as I can get. I am aware that there are piles of collections of SF/F and mystery and horror and other types of fiction, but those were collected from a variety of sources and are from a wide group of authors. What I mean is, do genre fiction authors write sets of stories that are all published together as a single book, and are all connected thematically? If so, have these been popular? Do you read them?
As I say above, I was put off when I saw that Let the Great World Spin was a collection. At the end of the first story, I felt cheated. "Hey, what's this? You mean that's all? You mean I have to start over again with a new story? That's not what I signed on for, mister." As a rule, I choose novels over short stories (though I have a collection of stories at my bedside that I read from most every night; so much for my rules). Happily, all the stories in Let the Great World Spin are truly pretty great and I have forgiven Mr. McCann his transgression.
So tell me about story collections in the genres. Also, tell Lady Glamis how much you like the new look of the blog. I didn't know where I was when I first logged on today, but I like it a lot. Thanks, Michelle!