Black Dahlia

Joyce Carol Oates’s Book Bag: 5 Short Story Collections

The master of the American Gothic returns with Black Dahlia & White Rose, a new book of tales that surveys how America reflects the dark ripples of its people’s souls. She's also edited a new edition of The Oxford Book of American Short Stories. She picks five short-story collections that have inspired her.

09.11.12 8:45 AM ET

A novel is an entire world, a short story is a glimpse into a world. But in the very best short stories a glimpse can be a totally memorable experience—in fact, magical.

While Banks's ambitious novels are critiques of class in America, his short stories often take for their subject American masculinity, about which the writer is both enormously entertaining and relentless.


Seemingly "Minimalist"—some are as short as three pages—these stories suggest the delicacy and beauty of Monarch butterflies. But one should remember—Monarch butterflies are long-distance travelers, possessed of extraordinary strength and resilience.


Stories From Another World
By Sheila Kohler

Literally, some of these stories from a South African–born writer are from "another world"—South Africa, Italy, France. Less literally, they are set in the labyrinthine world within.


What Edgar Allan Poe did for the psychotic soul, Burgin does for the deeply neurotic who pass among us disguised as so seemingly "normal" we may mistake them for ourselves.


The Age of Grief
By Jane Smiley

Smiley is excruciating in her examination of a disintegrating marriage in which a husband and a wife so fear intimate knowledge of each other, they find that it might be easier to break up than to risk vulnerability.