Review: In Short – edited by Judith Kitchen & Mary Paumier Jones

In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction – edited by Judith Kitchen & Mary Paumier Jones

Where to start…

First, this is one of those W.W. Norton & Company anthology publications that end up on so many college textbook lists. This one Justin used when attending Ohio University-Chillicothe, and I absconded with it when he was finished with it. I guess I’ll have to return it to him now.

Second, I absconded with it because I have always loved the short form; be it fiction or nonfiction. I didn’t admit it back then, but for me reading essays in high school was the most enjoyable part of my literature classes. It is a rare thing to find collections of a single author’s short essays, and even rarer to find an anthology of them that includes 90 different authors. I just had to read it.

Finally, Justin had me read an essay or two, and I was impressed at how much can be said in 2000 words or less. I figured that in the 90 shorts included in the book there should be some very good ones. I was right! I would say a full 80 of the essays were what I consider very good, with about 25 being excellent. A handful stand out and have me curious as to those authors’ other works. I am not going to review each of the ninety essays. I think that would ruin the overall effect for me. I do want to touch on a few things about the book as a whole.

The editors, Kitchen and Jones, did a remarkable job. This anthology does not have a single theme, however they did come up with a way to keep the collection from feeling disjointed and jarring as subject matter changed from short to short. The best description I can come up with for what they did, is that each short had a connection of some sort with the one that preceded it. For example, one essay would be about the out of doors, and would mention running. The next would be about running and mention respect. The next would be about respect and mention loneliness. And so on… It was quite clever and made it easy to flow from essay to essay with out feeling things were jumping around too much.

Many of the shorts were descriptive essays, and an equally large number were autobiographical. I have written a few autobiographical shorts and just wonder where the market would be for such things. I wrote them because I felt I had to. Many of the essays in this anthology were seeing their first publication. I guess there is not much of a market for this type of work unless you have a gig as a magazine editor or column writer for a newspaper. Or a blogger…

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. If you are interested in modern nonfiction essays, head over to that local college bookstore and see if they have a used one on the shelf.


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