MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
In the hands of a talented writer, the short story can illuminate the human condition with remarkable economy. It can leave you devastated or elated in a matter of minutes. Reviewer Alan Cheuse has found three story collections from English and Irish writers that all show a mastery of the form.
ALAN CHEUSE: Moving to Ireland now with novelist Edna O'Brien's new story collection, and the twinkles disappear and the landscape, whether Ireland or London or New York, darkens. Dark is almost everything in these eleven stories on the matters of sex, love, home, and death. The reason that love is so painful, O'Brien has one of her characters say, is that it always amounts to two people wanting more than two people can give.
NORRIS: That's an excerpt from Edna O'Brien's story collection "Saints and Sinners." We also heard about "A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman" by Margaret Drabble and "Pulse" from Julian Barnes. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. His latest novel is "Song of Slaves in the Desert." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.