short stories

Short Story Spotlight: “Proving Up”, by Karen Russell

I’ve been on somewhat of a binge diet of short stories lately, consuming a few collections a week on average, as well as nibbling from the sundry literary journals floating around the house. The idea was to keep my reading sessions brief and uninvolved in order to maintain focus on my own novel, while at the same time absorbing and learning new styles and voices from writers of the highest caliber. But as I’ve progressed in my reading (everything from the classics – Gogol, Chekhov, Hemingway – to highly lauded contemporary collections – George Saunders, Karen Russell) I’ve stumbled upon some astonishingly brilliant, profound, mesmerizing stories that pack more punch in 20 pages than many novels do in 200. Some of these have left me awestruck, dizzied, unspeakably jealous. They’re too good not to share, to shout from the rooftops, “Read them! Read them! It takes less time than a rerun of Seinfeld!”

So in this new section, The Short Story Spotlight, I will do just that. No in-depth reviews – I don’t want to spoil these babies. Part of the magic of a great short story is that it sneaks up on you, often being buried in a collection without a blurb of its own or appearing in a journal without fanfare or press.

This first story I’ll feature is Karen Russell‘s, “Proving Up”

This story, first featured in Zoetrope under a different title, “The Hox River Window“, won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction, and I now know why.  (more…)