At some point while I was writing the stories that would become 'Objects of Desire,' a friend admitted to me that he found short stories almost unbearably frustrating. The problem was that, at first, he liked them–really liked them, actually. But then he’d get to the end and think: wait, it’s over?! He wanted to keep turning the pages, to keep spending time in the lives and worlds of the characters. The truth is, I know exactly the feeling he was describing. But, as both an author and a reader, I think of it as the opposite of disappointment. In fact, I think it’s one of the most extraordinary powers—and pleasures—of fiction: to make us feel this much curiosity about people and places that do not, in any strict sense, exist.
I think of this curiosity as a kind of intimacy, and I can’t get enough of it. To feel that you know a character doesn’t require spending four hundred pages with her; we start caring about characters when we start wondering about them, when we realize that we can’t get them out of our heads. Above all else, short stories invite that sort of wonder. Paradoxically, the compression of these narratives opens up a vast sense of possibility: there’s a world in and beyond the brief span of one story—and you’re being invited in.
Here are six of the short-story collections that lingered long after I put them down.