Flat- Pack Stories (not quite the Booker prize)

When I get a piece of flat-pack furniture home, I always reach for the instructions. My friend on the other hand dives in, and as a result, many of her creations don’t look like they should do.

I suppose I take the same approach with writing. I wouldn’t dream of writing a novel without reading widely and daily.

Now that I want to write more short stories I’ve been on a mission to read as many as I can. It’s not that I’ve avoided reading them, I have, it’s just I read more novels than shorts.

To mark progress on this quest, I’ve decided to produce my own Flat-Pack Stories/not quite the Booker prize long list of short stories that I’ve enjoyed the most, so far.

I think I share Nicholas Royle’s view of Flash Fiction. I’m always left wanting more. However, on my long list are some flash fiction stories I’ve found interesting.

Nicholas Royle says:
‘I can count on one hand the number of writers whom I have read who have published pieces of genuine merit that come in under, say, 1000 words.’ (The Best British Short Stories 2013)

I naturally seem to favour longer stories, but the flash fiction stories on my list made an impact and moved me. It shows that if the writing is good it doesn’t matter if the story is one paragraph,one page or a hundred pages long.

I hope you agree with my long list. If you feel I’ve missed out any story or think I should read any other collections, do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

The Long list

Lydia Davis – Kafka Cooks Dinner (The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis)

David Constantine – Tea at the Midland (Tea at the Midland)

Anthony Doerr – Memory Wall (Memory Wall)

Ricardo Lisias – Evo Morales (translated by Nick Caistor and in Granta: The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists)

David Gaffney – The Man whose Head Expanded (Sawn-off Tales)

Sarah Hall – The Beautiful Indifference (The Beautiful Indifference)

George Saunders – Tenth of September (The Best American Non-Required Reading 2012)

Tania Hershman – My Mother was an Upright Piano (My Mother was an Upright Piano)

F.C. Malby – Blood Red

Deborah Levy – Black Vodka

David Foster Wallace – Little Expressionless Animals (Girl with Curious Hair)

Alison Moore – The Smell of the Slaughterhouse ( The Best British Short Stories 2013)


13 thoughts on “Flat- Pack Stories (not quite the Booker prize)

  1. Katie says:

    Hi Ruth.
    Great blog post I like your list.. I think I will try reading some of them. I also love short stories and read one not so long ago called… A Factory Story: Caitlin’s Baby by Thind, Rajiv.
    I think like that throw the instruction aside and hope for the best its the tinkering fun when it comes to somethings. But I agree some things need research and planning of some kind before falling in and getting stuck.
    I think you are right it doesn’t matter how long or short something is if it gripping and you enjoy reading it then its done its job as a story.
    Well done you on writing some short pieces sounds great.
    Take care.

    1. electrasmoped says:

      Hello Katie,
      Thank you so much on commenting, your story suggestion sounds interesting so I will look it up. Yes, planning to some degree helps, but you can only break the rules of writing when you know the rules in the first place, which is where reading can be really helpful for writers.
      Thanks again on a really thoughtful reply!

  2. fcmalby says:

    Hi Ruth,
    It’s a really good post and I agree with Nicholas Royle’s quote about the length of fiction. The SALT Best of British Short Story Books are excellent. Have you read Alison Moore’s Pre-War House collection? I have a review of it on my blog. It’s very intense. I also enjoyed David Gaffney, Lydia Davis and Tania Hershman’s short fiction pieces. Have you read any short fiction from Paraxis? These are worth reading: http://www.paraxis.org/pages/p04/contents.html
    Thanks so much for including me in the list. I feel very honoured to be among such great writers. I’m reading Levy’s Swimming Home, very belatedly, and it’s powerful and sharply observed.

    1. electrasmoped says:

      Hi, many thanks for the link, I’m trying to read as many short stories as I can, so any recommendations I follow definitely follow up. I love Swimming Home and will pop over to your blog to read your review of Alison Moore’s Pre-War House collection. Many thanks again!

  3. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    What a list! It is now my list and i look forward to reading every story on it – I’ll let you know how I get on! ps totally different, but what did you think of “May We be Forgiven”? I loved the writing but somehow lost a bit of my interest towards the end. Thanks again for a great list!

    1. electrasmoped says:

      Thanks Marianne,
      Yes, I was a bit the same. Great humour but I didn’t really care enough about the story and it did seem to drag towards the end. Can see why it won though some fab writing. I never knew there was an illness called I.ED!!

    1. electrasmoped says:

      Hello Taylor,
      Thanks for looking at this post and for following this blog. Yes, these stories are some of my favourite, favourites! There are so many short stories, but these stood out for me, and made a lasting impact.

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