Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Linked Stories

I've been dwelling on linked stories lately; you know, the kind of book where a minor character in one story appears as the main character in another, or some plot method is used to link up seemingly disparate stories. I tend to really like this type of fiction, with the possible exception of stories that are themed around "who owns this object," the most prominent of which I remember disliking being E. Annie Proulx's Accordion Crimes.

Recent books in this vein that I've liked include Joan Silber's Ideas of Heaven: a ring of stories and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. My friend Ami is currently writing a beautiful collection of linked stories, two of which I've felt lucky to get to read in (close to final) draft versions. Maybe I'm just a copycat, but it occurred to me recently that if I find the form so appealing, maybe I should try it myself. I have a whole bunch of different fictions started and abandoned; much of what those files contain is crap, but there are parts that I simply know are good. And I'd like to rescue them from the rest of the gunky story in which they are wallowing--to steal Joan Silber's term "a ring of stories" might be just the form I've been looking for.

So, I'm looking for more quality examples of this form of fiction to read; I'm planning on creating some writing time for myself this summer (maybe I'll be crisis managing a little less with Ian out of school, though that might be naive of me to think so), so until I have liberated that space in my schedule, I plan to pursue a study of the form. I'm looking for suggestions for linked stories that you have read--whether you enjoyed them or hated them (I learned a lot from Accordion Crimes though I didn't enjoy reading it); please send the titles my way.

8 comments:

Saltwater purls said...

Scott really like Cloud Atlas as well. See I can act all knowledgeable and such about books because he reads them and tells me about them.

mary jean said...

Hi Kate.

Interestingly, this very topic was just being discussed on the Warren Wilson alumni mailing list (along with the supposedly provocative quotes now appearing on Starbucks cups). Some titles that were mentioned:

"Marine Life," Linda Svendson
"Lives of Girls and Women," Alice Munro
"I Sailed with Magellan," Stuart Dybek
"The Dew Breaker," Edwidge Danticat
"Mary and O'Neil," Justin Cronin "Come to Me," Amy Bloom
"Men Giving Money, Women Yelling," Alice Mattison
"Go Down Moses," Faulkner
"The Golden Apples," Welty
"The Murphy Stories," Mark Costello
"On the Border," Robert Hemenway

Good luck. May you find ample time for writing this summer, or even before then.

mary jean said...

PS -- Oops, just noticed the "that you have read" requirement. So I should say I haven't read any of those titles above (except maybe some of the Munro stories). I do know that Ami's read the Justin Cronin book, though.

Anonymous said...

The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day.

Ami said...

Aww, Kate: Thanks so much for the kind words about my writing. Let's see...I know you've read "Mary and O'Neil." How about "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. I haven't heard many writers talk about that book as a linked collection but that's how I remember those stories.

Anonymous said...

Ender's Game
Ender's Shadow
- Orson Scott Card

Likely outside of the books you normally read - but the best linked stories I've ever read. The second half of Ender's Shadow is the same story as Ender's Game, but different perspective.

Stella said...

How about Lost in the City by Edward Jones? I love these loosely linked short stories. Also high on my list is a collection by Joyce Carol Oates called Assignation.

Dutch said...

mitchell's entire oeuvre seems to work this way; even some of the characters in his latest have connections to cloud atlas.

but his ghostwritten is the ultimate if you like this kind of fiction.