Yesterday I mentioned in my review of ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill I mentioned the fact that the book made me think… a lot. It made me look at area’s in my reading that I am slightly weaker at, for example I am not big on science fiction and so maybe need to try a few choice authors in that field but that’s for another time and actually I have quite a few of those hidden away in my TBR boxes, plus I will be reading ‘1984’ in the next week or so for Book Group anyway. No there has always been a certain sort of books I’ve always had a problem with that Susan Hill’s latest book has given me an insight and enthusiasm for…
The short story! I don’t know why but I have always found short stories an interesting idea and then when faced with an entire collection either got bored, got very confused or found them all a much of a muchness. The only collections that haven’t done this were ‘The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secret’s’ by the wonderful Sophie Hannah, which I thought was superb and features the brilliant short tale The Octopus Nest and anything by Daphne Du Maurier. So the problem might be the authors I have tried in the past? Another problem might be the fact that I am reading the whole collection if it was a book (though I think with the Pulitzer prize winning Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout that is just what you are supposed to do) and that would sound like possibly an error of common sense and yet it took me reading Susan Hill’s words about taking a short story at a time.
So what I have devised on my bedside table (when you see the picture don’t judge me by the half empty mug as the photo was taken in the morning and I must have a coffee first thing or else) is an array of collections of short stories I have had on my TBR piles (not the boxes though will be having a rummage soon as have a fair few more) and so will be reading one or two a day before I go to sleep and gently working my way through the collections. So on the bedside table we have;
- The Birds & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier (I know I will manage these)
- Bluebeards Egg – Margaret Atwood
- The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writing – Charlotte Perkins Gilman (from your recommendations and the library)
- Mothers and Sons – Colm Toibin
- Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories – Various (may have trouble with multiple writers so this is a test but its almost sensational reading)
- Dancing Girls – Margaret Atwood
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Tales – Washington Irving
- Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout (does this count though?)
- Beginners – Raymond Carver
- The First Person & Other Stories – Ali Smith
I will keep you updated as to how I get on! I have also, partly from reading some of Susan’s book and seeing its fine to have books you haven’t read lingering for ages and feel no shame, decided for now to give up the Ulysses Challenge. I think if I am going to read it I need to just do it straight, the deviating isn’t working. Maybe I will play catch up over Christmas. There were some other interesting idea’s I had from HEiotL but I will leave those for future posts.
So now I want to know what your favourite short story collections are. Are the above collections good starts to short fiction? Do you read them all with no breaks or do you deliberate over a collection and read in bits when the mood takes? Which author writes the best short stories that I simply mustn’t miss? What is your most treasured short story?