Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jhumpa Lahiri debuts at #1 of NYT bestsellers this week

Here's the Papercuts article.

This is why this matters, and why I care.

1) As the article mentions, this is the first time a piece of serious hardcover fiction has debuted at #1 in a reeeeeally long time.

2) This is a short story collection! Not just a short story collection--a SECOND short story collection. And modern wisdom runs that no one buys short story collections (not just modern wisdom--also modern sales figures. Trust me, I promise.).

I am doubly gratified. First, I'm glad to see "serious literature" can also be popular literature. I really do think there are a lot of readers who really do want to think. There are. Go us.

Also, it's nice to hope for a rising trend in short story compilations--perhaps they will become less difficult to publish. As just about any aspiring, struggling, wannabe, or soon-to-be writer who reads this blog (or anyone else who reads this blog who has at one time been one of those writers!) knows, most published authors spend grueling years honing their craft on short stories and trying to get them published in journals and magazines before they can attract a book deal of any kind. It's sad that these stories--among them often many true gems--never see the light of day (or not much of it, anyway). The short story is an art form and I would love to see it appreciated.

I haven't read the new one yet, but I loved INTERPRETER OF MALADIES and I liked THE NAMESAKE a whole lot. I found, furthermore, with the NAMESAKE that the impression it made on me has grown (as opposed to eroded) with time (I was actually pretty lukewarm on the book when I first read it). I remember plot details and, especially, themes very clearly. I think that is testimony to the fact that it was a very powerfully executed book.

8 comments:

pacatrue said...

I was once doing some work on a short story collection, but it was hard to get excited about its publishing prospects, since everyone says that no one buys short stories. And then I found Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies sitting there. Not just a successful story collection but winner of the Pulitzer! It continues to give inspiration to us story writers in the world.

Hm. Maybe I need to pull that collection of stuff out again.

Sarahlynn said...

I get so tired of defending the value of literary fiction. I'm very glad to hear that it's not dead after all!

Sarah Hina said...

I'm in the middle of the third story right now. She deserves every accolade they can throw her way. I had this latest one pre-ordered for months, and it was worth the wait.

Yay, Jhumpa! :)

Josephine Damian said...

Moonie: NAMESAKE is when I stopped believing Kakutani's rave reviews. My book club read it (because Michiko loved it) and we all thought it was bad... meandering and badly plotted. Jhumpa can't handle the long form..... she needs to stick to shorts (and her shorts are wonderful).

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm with you on hoping for a revival of short fiction and that the markets and pay scales will improve for short story writers. It truly is its own art form and is very difficult. But I personally find it very rewarding emotionally. Money? Not so much.

ChristineEldin said...

Thanks for this post! I am just becoming acquainted with the world of short stories.

a. fortis said...

Just found your blog via Fuse #8. Thanks for the tip--can't wait to read the new short story collection!

Aparna said...

Thanks for this wonderful news, lunar rascal!