Check It Out: Hidden little gems at the library

Short stories, those hidden little gems, have defined, entertained and reflected people's lives for many centuries. Cavemen painted stories of successful or memorable hunting trips on cave walls. Ancient Greeks and Romans produced hundreds of short stories about the gods and goddesses they worshipped, and their mythology is still widely read today. In Native American cultures, it has been common to gather around a wise storyteller who relays stories about animals and dreams often associated with the land. Stories told as well as written throughout time have never been extremely long or complicated, otherwise the listener or reader might become confused or lose interest. Hence, we have the beauty of the short story. Check out these shining jewels:

"Prizes: The Selected Stories of Janet Frame" by Janet Frame: One of New Zealand's most distinguished writers, Frame's book was published posthumously. It includes five short stories never published. These chosen pieces reflect her brilliant literary talent in which realistic situations are portrayed in a lyrical, magical style. Frame spent her early childhood years in various small towns in New Zealand and later began training as a teacher. Although she suffered psychological strains throughout her life, she won the Hubert Church Memorial Award, which at that time was one of the nation's most prestigious literary prizes.

"The Love Song of A. Jerome Minkoff and Other Stories" by Joseph Epstein: This collection of 14 short stories depicts successful, contented Jewish men who find themselves in situations that test their character through complex love affairs, rivalries, and private disappointments. Set in Chicago, Epstein relays his characters' emotions in a distant, matter of fact manner. A native of Chicago himself, Epstein is an essayist, short story writer and editor and is best known as a former editor of the Phi Beta Kappa Society's "The American Scholar" magazine. He is also noted for his observations of American culture.

"A Life on Paper" by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud: A celebrated French author, Châteaureynaud crosses genres and often presents a wry, gentle view of life. However, he also examines the cruelty people sometimes inflict on each other despite our capacity to react in humane and touching ways. Châteaureynaud is a founding member of the contemporary movement "La Nouvelle Fiction." Translated as "The New Fiction," it is defined as such because it rose up against the prevailingly minimalist and confessional tendencies of recent French writing and thus restored myth, fable and fairy tale to a place of primacy in francophone fiction. He has received prestigious French awards for his work and his stories have been translated into 14 languages.

"Ghosts of Wyoming" by Alyson Hagy: Each of these eight stories either have ghosts in them or else have characters who are haunted by their past. Hagy is adept at historical settings and achieves a depth of characterization in which she creates believable ghosts born out of the often bloody history of Wyoming. Hagy lives in Laramie, Wyo. and also teaches at the University of Wyoming.

"Burning Bright" by Ron Rash: Set in Appalachia, these stories span the years from the Civil War to the present day. Although his suspenseful and realistic characters dwell in a stark landscape and often mirror the harshness of their surroundings, they also convey a sense of exceptional beauty and promise. Rash's family has lived in the southern Appalachian Mountains since the mid-1700s and this region tends to be the focus of his writing. His poetry and fiction have appeared in more than 100 journals, magazines, and anthologies and he has received numerous awards for his writing talent.

Similar to these authors, our own experiences and traditions are often relayed to each other in short stories, most often in an oral retelling of an event. Along with one's personally shared stories, a visit to the Newport Beach Public Library will expose you to other people's perspectives and pearls of knowledge available in a variety of resources. So, come "Check it Out" and discover treasures to adorn and inspire your mind!

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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