The popularity of short stories is growing, according to commentators on the New York Times Book Review podcasts. They cite recent titles, such as Tenth of December by George Saunders, which have become best sellers in a market that is usually dominated by novels. Long a short story fan myself, it is a trend I welcome. The latest collection that I have enjoyed is Aerogrammes and Other Stories by Tania James.
If her stories may be used as evidence, James has wide-ranging interests. Her stories include wrestling, scriptology, Indian classical dance, chimpanzees, and ghosts. Most involve immigrants from India or their children living in the United States or Great Britain, and all have uncommon problems. How can serious wrestlers win respect in a country where wrestling is scripted farce? How can a young girl cope with a grandfather who thinks she is his deceased wife returned to her youth? How can a down-on-her-luck widow adjust to a new marriage to a wealthy Louisville ghost?
Aerogrammes and Other Stories is not a book full of happy endings. Most of the stories conclude with characters facing truths they have previously ignored or denied. Readers may think James a bit hard on her creations, but if readers care so much, the author has succeeded in making her stories believable. Let readers look beyond the endings and imagine what the characters can now do with their new-found knowledge.
James, Tania. Aerogrammes and Other Stories. Knopf, 2012. 180p. ISBN 9780307268914.