When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. ~George Saunders.
I have always enjoyed reading short stories, most probably because I have the attention span of a gnat coupled with a huge need to dissect and psychoanalyze given situations to their ‘bare bones’. Well, nobody’s perfect…
At a recent Book Discussion Scheme Bookclub the members (including myself) were given Summer Lies by Bernhard Schlink to read – a very good example of this genre – several short stories of exceptional quality.
Schlink’s characters are all so believable that it is quite frightening at times. They have lived the majority of their lives; spun their dreams; lived through their hopes, fears and ambitions – they have a history which, given that the majority of them are in late Middle Age or the ‘Autumn’ years, naturally provides the platform for reflection in these stories. I proceeded with the last story first – just love to live my life ‘On The Edge’! – and was instantly gripped by The Journey to the South.
I could understand and – if not exactly empathize – certainly see how Nina had become disappointed in life because of the decisions she’d made at an earlier time. The wistful ‘If only’ factor is such a common human behaviour when diverse personalities start to reflect on their earlier years. Her inability to face the truth behind her earlier decisions in life now unsettle her. It is only when she forces herself to view her actions objectively that she does become happier.
The library has short stories literally throwing themselves off the shelves. Simply typing in ‘short stories’ in the catalogue search box brought up a staggering 4356 results – I was so overwhelmed I quickly started applying ‘filters’ to keep the whole exercise manageable.
I immediately relate to the catchy, pithy titles such as Don’t Panic, Head for the Hills or Shallow Are the Smiles at the Supermarket (what a truism), but always make time tor revisit my perennial favourites such as The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham; The Grass Harp by Truman Capote and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. What a choice! And not only in book form – for those of you who prefer listening to reading, short stories on audiobooks in a number of different formats abound.
Who else out there in ‘reading land’ has a particular short story favourite they might want to share with others?