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I bought this book about thirty years ago, mainly because I had the attention span of a gnat. Reading long-form literature was an absolute chore for me (though I forced myself to do it), and the concept of this book, "Short Shorts," pulled me towards it like a magnet. What it is, is a tiny little paperback, composed of the absolute shortest stories I've ever read - some of them only several pages in length - by some of the most famous authors in history. The range in this book seems almost random, as the authors range from Leo Tolstoy (who offers the shortest story of them all: "The Three Hermits" - an absolutely jaw-dropping tale that's about three pages long) to Sholem Aleichem (with his twisty tale, "A Yom Kippur Scandal"), and even includes a couple of clunkers (Sherwood Anderson's "Paper Pills" - perhaps if I read this again, I'd enjoy it, but at the time, I was bored senseless even though it was only about ten pages long - of course, anyone who wrote "Winesburg, Ohio" isn't the first person I'd think to go out and do tequila shots with). Even though there are a few stories in here you won't love, the anthology as a whole is a fantastic introduction to 38 authors - all of whom are talented; many of whom are legendary - and you can read even the longest story in less than twenty minutes. You can put the book down at any point, and pick it back up five years later without missing a beat. There appear to be some used copies available on Amazon, and even though I probably paid less than five dollars for this when I bought it, I think if you can find it right now for under $10-15, you should nab it. It's great fun, it's great reading, and it's *perfect* for people who have trouble suffering through longer works of literature. From what I see, you can currently buy this for as little as one penny, and just pay $3.99 for shipping and handling (I did this with a book before, and it actually works). Don't worry about the condition it's in - it's not a keepsake, but it is something you'll want to keep.
If anyone could commit to being my reading-discussion partner with "Runaway," I'd love to do something similar to what we're doing with "Troilus and Cressida" over in the theatre forum. Obviously, the more the merrier, but I need at least one person. I'd never read Alice Munro before she won last year's Nobel Prize for Literature (*), but from what little I've read so far, she is an astounding, amazing, unique writer - as Cynthia Ozick states in something of a hyperbolic fit: she is "Our Chekhov." Or, as Jonathan Franzen writes: "Runaway is so good that I don't want to talk about it here. Quotation can't do the book justice, and neither can synopsis. The way to do it justice is to read it ... Which leaves me with the simple instruction that I began with: Read Munro! Read Munro!" The eight stories are between 33 and 65 pages long, depending on which edition you have. This book is easily found in Barnes and Noble, and can be ordered in paperback from Amazon (the book pictured is the exact edition I have). Having recently spent some time in Vancouver and Victoria, BC, this book is especially meaningful to me because Munro writes about "little things" from small-town British Columbia (this "Impressionist-like" celebration of local, ordinary life is what inspired Ozick's Chekhov comment, although Munro's laser-like prose is certainly not Impressionistic). Unlike Shakespeare, we can't copy the text here which is a shame, but it's all we have to work with. Who's in? Let's begin with story #1: the eponymous "Runaway." (*) It's such a shame Eudora Welty passed away before she, herself, won the prize.