Sunday, November 30, 2014

As part of the room exchange

I have been moving my short story collections to another location.  I had tidied them out of the way, packed into the bottom shelf of a bookcase while my mother was using the room, and had almost forgotten about them.  One aspect of tidying and sorting which I do enjoy is the rediscovery of fading memories.
I love the short story form.  I never really understand why it is not more popular.  I encountered the form first from reading essays at school.  My parents were strict about how much time I should spend at homework, and so when I had finished, I always had a book to read.  With a short story I could quickly be whisked away to another environment, and have an intense relationship with character, plot, ambience ... which could all then be savoured in my mind when doing chores etc.  Novels' worlds were more difficult to hold onto until later in my schooling when homework legitimately took all evening and part of the weekend.
I realised as I was transporting my collection the other day, and placing them on accessible shelves, that if I had to choose just a couple of shelves of books that I could keep, it would be the short stories.  I smiled in memory as I put them up: authors like William Trevor, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Somerset Maugham, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, A. S. Byatt, Borges, Theroux - whose short stories I always found more satisfying than the novels or the travel books, William Boyd, D.H. Lawrence - again I prefer his short stories and poetry to his novels, ... oh, just too many to mention.
Some memorable collections are Our Ancestors by Italo Calvino, Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags by Shena MacKay, Unlikely Stories Mostly by Alasdair Grey, Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez....  I also discovered a volume I'd completely forgotten, and now add it to my current hibernation pile: Collected Stories by Carol Shields.
I also have collections by country, by topic, and by general anthology like the absolutely marvellous Soho Square collections 1 (cover pictured above), 2, and 3 published by Bloomsbury.  Now, where no illustrations are involved, I shall be continuing to read short stories, but on my Kindle, so this collection of books dating back to the early 60s has become even more precious.


  1. Some well known and well loved authors in your post Olga. I have decided to get Shena MacKay's Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags as a result of reading your post, because I like Shena MacKay's work, but mainly because it's such a brilliant title. Thanks. I look forward to reading it.

  2. Believe it or not, Eirene, that's why I bought the book originally. I had not heard of Shena MacKay then.