A Year in Reading: Jeff Martin

December 18, 2011 | 2 min read

coverConfession time. I’ve never been an avid reader of short stories. Nine StoriesDubliners, yes, I’ve read those. And I enjoyed them. It’s not that I really have anything against the form itself, I’ve just historically been more drawn to essays and longer works of fiction. A matter of taste, I suppose. But as someone interested and somewhat involved in the literary world, I have always felt a great deal of intellectual inferiority for my lack of knowledge regarding the contemporary short story. For my birthday last July, my wife gave me a subscription to the tablet version of The New Yorker. I’ve been a subscriber to the print version forever, and its presence in my life was a valued, consistent, and enjoyable one. Over the years, my reading of the New Yorker short stories was quite inconsistent. If I heard a rave review from a friend or if the author was a writer whose work I already enjoyed, I might give it a try. But sadly, those moments were few and far between. With the interactive features provided by the tablet version, including the occasional option of an audio version of the story in the author’s own voice, I began a reappraisal of my interest in stories. The story that permanently transformed me into a borderline-obsessive story consumer was “Sun City” by Michigan-based author Caitlin Horrocks. “Sun City” is the story of a young woman in Arizona cleaning out the belongings of a recently deceased grandmother. Emotional without even a touch of sentimentality, the piece perfectly captures the questions, assumptions, and mysteries that arise from combing through the material past of a loved one. Since this great find, I have also read Horrocks’ equally compelling collection, This Is Not Your City (Sarabande Books, July 2011). 2011 is the year that I rediscovered the short story. And when I think of the infinite pages (or screens?) that await me, both past and future, I am completely, and happily overwhelmed.

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is an author and editor. He has written for publications including Publishers Weekly, Poets & Writers and GOOD, among others. His latest book is The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books. Jeff lives with his wife in Oklahoma.

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