It’s not exactly vindication, but I did hear a woman on the CBC the other day explaining that people don’t really like to read or buy volumes of short stories—even if they are by the venerated Margaret Atwood.
A short story writer herself, the person talking seemed sympathetic but also tried to convince people that short stories are dramatic! Exciting! Fun. To. Read.
Her discussion came on the heels of the success and infamy of ‘Cat Person’, which was published by the New Yorker and got people super riled up in mid-December. And Vox got on the bandwagon to then explain why people (men) were so riled up about it. Read that article here.
So short stories are enjoying a moment in the sun instead of being pushed to the back burner. (Double cliche bingo). While this was all happening, I was reading A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma. Right off the bat it exempts itself from being part of the discussions about millennial selfishness, fat shaming and white privilege (all of which was encircling the talk about ‘Cat Person’) because the majority of the stories are set in India and are about people from that country who are still there or who have been transplanted to America.
And as far as short stories go, Sharma offers a different perspective on life, at least for Canadians who were born and grew up here. Like many short stories authors, he writes about life and its minutiae. It’s just that the slice of life is so different. Arranged marriages, marriage dowries, community structure, what to do with wives who drink too much, living situations—Sharma reflects a different culture’s reality. He also reflects our first world differences back to us in a way that fosters understanding and compassion. People are people. They want the same things, more or less. It’s just harder to get those things in some parts of the world.
I actually found his stories dramatic. And fun to read.