One of my most recent reads is Pam Houston's collection of short stories Cowboys Are My Weakness. Houston lives and writes in the American west, and the landscape and lifestyle feature prominently in all of these short stories. More than giving you a vacation to the Rockies, she makes you feel like one of the locals, or at least someone who's finally, grudgingly been accepted by the locals.
The collection was published in the early nineties but that doesn't change how entertaining or accessible these stories are. And accessible is the key word here. So many contemporary short stories shoot for this over the top level of abstraction that you finish reading and wonder what the hell was that about? Houston's work has none of that. Yes there's a deeper level there if you're willing to search for it, but there's also an easy to get into, pleasant narration that pulls you in and holds onto it.
I'll go out on a limb and say that her most famous short story is "How to Talk to a Hunter." It reads much like Lorrie Moore's "How to Be an Other Woman." Both have the same subtle, self-depreciating humor in the narrative voice caused by the "how to" advice given on how to date a man you know is cheating. As if this is a subject in which an expert is needed.
Cowboys Are My Weakness is only one of Houston's books. She's done novel length work and I believe has yet another collection of short stories out, but I highly recommend this first collection for reading that falls in the rare category of things easy to read that make you feel smarter after reading them.
Up Next: Ad of the Week