Spring In Shorts
During March, April and May, I only actually read one short story collection, but this was a rather fine collection – Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision.
Published by the ever-dependable Pushkin Press, I had read various recommendations for this career-spanning collection, but once I got started it took a while for me to become convinced of its qualities. These stories’ charms are subtle, there are no big hooks, no twists in the tale that you can see coming several pages before hand. Slowly, I found myself intrigued by each of Pearlman’s narratives, and the fact that most of them did not end with a big bang or a neatly-tied bow.
My favourite online short story was When by David Bussell, featured on Oblong. A beautifully short, gently comic surreal piece of writing with a perfectly-judged ending. If I write much more about it, I’ll overtake the story’s own word count – so I’ll just stop there and suggest you take a few seconds to have a quick read.
One of the great things about short stories is that you can pick up a collection and just read one before you do whatever you have to do next. So I returned to some old favourites. Always presented at interesting angles, I think Donald Barthelme’s short stories might work best taken in small doses, rather than all at once. I re-read Some Of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby, a comic thought-experiment with a dark underbelly in which a group pass judgement on one of their friends (we are told he ‘has gone too far’), decide to excute him and then discuss plans for the event. I also revisited The Temptation Of St Anthony, which is all feverish speculation and small-town rumour-monging, without formally introducing the subject.
Then I had a quick re-read of Steven Milhauser’s In The Reign Of Harad IV, which I’ve actually already written about here. What I noticed this time was how short this story is – in my head it seemed much longer, but maybe it had evolved and grown in my brain, post-reading. I re-read the last couple of paragraphs a few times over as I think they are a nearly perfect way to end a story.
Now added to my reading pile are Grey Area by Will Self and All The Rage by A.L. Kennedy. Both writers are set to appear at the fourth Guernsey Literary Festival (16th-20th September 2015) so I’ll probably write something for the Litfest blog about these books. Until then, keep wearing shorts (especially now the weather is a bit nicer).
P.S. You may have noticed some wee changes to the appearance of Digestive Press since my Winter post. I felt the place just needed a bit of a tidy up and refresh. I also added the byline ‘Polite Literature’. This was inspired by a visit to the Portico Library in Manchester – a subscription library established in 19th Century. In addition to the Polite Literature section they also have a section for Travel And Voyages. We didn’t ask where they kept the Impolite Literature.