Author Top Five:
Jem Calder’s Favourite Short Stories

Jem Calder, 20 May 2022

Jem Calder, author of the ‘exhilarating and beautiful’ (Sally Rooney) collection of short fictions, Reward System, shares five of his favourite short stories.
‘Starving Again’ by Lorrie Moore (from Collected Stories, Faber)

Lorrie Moore knows how to have fun in her writing, and the chatty, charming ‘Starving Again’ is among her funnest stories. Some of her lines are so simple and well-judged they achieve a kind of mind-bending formal perfection.

‘Nilda’ by Junot Díaz (from This is How You Lose Her, Faber)

Yunior, the repeat protagonist of Junot Díaz’s two collections of short stories, runs into Nilda, his recently deceased brother’s ex-girlfriend. Tensions simmer, things get weird, and the whole thing ends with a last line so asphyxiatingly good I can remember exactly where I was the first time I read it.

‘The Feminist’ by Tony Tulathimutte (from n+1, Online)

A difficult and frequently ugly story from one the most exciting writers around right now. A young man descends into resentment after a lifetime of poorly-handled rejection and internet-enabled self-delusion. Tony Tulathimutte raises the bar for every contemporary writer.

‘Passion’ by Alice Munro (from Runaway, Vintage)

Alice Munro’s stories are of such consistent quality and deal with themes so similar it’s hard to pick a specific one to recommend. That said, certain details in ‘Passion’ stick out in my mind above the rest. Here, a young woman is tempted by her fiancee’s brother with predictably unpredictable Munrovian results.

‘Saying Goodbye to Sally’ by Richard Yates (from Collected Stories, Vintage)

Richard Yates’s thinly-veiled self-insert protagonist goes to Hollywood to screenwrite, and ends up just drinking and beginning a half-hearted, emotionally complicated affair to pass the time. Depending on how you responded to that synopsis, you’ll either love or hate this story. In my opinion, it doesn’t get much better.

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