Short Story 101: “Likes” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

Short Story 101: Likes by
Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

Monday, May 3, 2021

Literary Affairs welcomes back Los Angeles’ leading literary critic, David Ulin, to discuss with us the pleasures of reading short story collections. This special lecture and discussion will delve into the short story form and specifically the most recent bestselling collection Likes by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. Aimee Bender said that it is, “Bynum’s generous intelligence that gives shape to the character’s stories, always holding close and with care our complex yearnings and desires.”Whether you are new to the short story form or already a lover, these stories will capture your heart and your imagination. We have hand selected two of the stories so that David can take the time to walk you through them and let you experience them in depth. Readers will have the opportunity to ask questions and talk about each story in the class.


Monday, May 3

10:30 a.m. – 12 noon PDT

The safety and comfort of your home.



Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is the author of the novels Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including the New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Best American Short Stories, and the O. Henry Prize Stories. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship, she was named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by the New Yorker. She lives in Los Angeles.

We recommend reading the entire collection; however, we will provide a reading packet with the two stories selected for discussion prior to the meeting.


In nine stories that range from the real to the unreal, strange to familiar, funny to frightening, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum reminds us why her wildly original debut, Madeleine Is Sleeping, and her masterful Ms. Hempel Chronicles have become contemporary classics ― celebrated and beloved. In a nimble dance of lightness and gravity, Likes explores the full range and contradictions of our contemporary moment. Through unexpected visitors, Waldorf school fairs, aging indie-film stars, the struggle to gain a foothold in the capitalist shell-game of work, the Instagram posts of a twelve-year-old ― these stories of friendship and parenthood, celebrity and obsession, race and class and the passage of time, form an engrossing collection that is both otherworldly and suffused with the deceitful humdrum of everyday life.For readers of Joy Williams, George Saunders, Lauren Groff, and Deborah Eisenberg, Likes helps us see into our unacknowledged desires and, in quick, artful, nearly invisible cuts, exposes the roots of our abiding terrors and delights.


David L. Ulin is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. The former book editor and book critic of The Los Angeles Times, he has written for The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Paris Review, and The New York Times. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lannan Foundation, and teaches at the University of Southern California, where he edits the literary journal Air/Light. Most recently, he has edited Didion: The 1960s and 70s and Didion: The 1980s and 90s for the Library of America.