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About the Book
I just finished reading this one yesterday. At 4:00 am. Yes, it was that good. I've been hooked onto short stories since I happened, completely by accident, upon a collection of Roald Dahl's adult (and oh-so-twisted) short stories. I was thirteen. And I'd never be the same again.
Short stories—good short stories—are fabulous, and succulent. But they can feel like trying to survive on bite-sized French canapés. Novels, on the other hand, feel like a full-sized meal. A Thanksgiving feast. I know many people who prefer to read novels over short fiction because of this.
(Heck, I've been guilty of it, too.)
The trick, I've found, is to take short stories as a special treat. You wouldn't gorge on caviar, right? Or on those lighter-than-air Parisian croissants. (Okay, I might gorge on those—bad example.) Or include paté in every dish of a five-course meal. For one, you'd probably gain a hundred kilos. For another, after the first two courses your palate would be overloaded. Exceptional flavors need to be sampled delicately. And short fiction, when it's good, is exceptional indeed. Short stories need to be savored. Taken in small doses, to be fully appreciated.
And why do we want to appreciate them? Because the mastery of short fiction is key to the mastery of any longer format. Hilary makes an excellent example: her Man Booker prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, are extraordinary. And, in her short fiction, that talent just blasts off the page.
If you're into excellent prose (and Dahl-ish twists), give this Mantel collection of shorts a try. (And I'd love to hear your thoughts if you do!)
Excerpt from How Shall I Know You?
I took out my purse, and when I opened it I saw with surprise that the Queen's heads were tidily stacked, pointing upward. And was there one more head than I'd expected? I frowned. My fingers flicked the edges of the notes. I'd left home with eighty pounds. It seemed I was coming back with a round hundred. I was puzzled (as the steward handed me my Large Tea); but only for a moment. I remembered the young man with his broad white smile and his ashen hair streaked with gold; the basted perfection of his firm flesh, and the grace of his hand clasping mine. I slotted the notes back inside, slid my purse away, and wondered: which of my defects did he notice first?
What do you think? Are you a lover of short fiction? Do you read it? Do you write it? What do you like and dislike most about it?
P.S. — I'm over at Julie Flanders' awesome blog today, talking about the 100-lb rescue dog who plays a main role in THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS. I'd love it if you stopped by to say hi, and help me thank Julie for so generously welcoming me to her space.
Thanks for the visit! And a huge thank-you to Toinette Thomas, of The ToiBox of Words, for hosting this monthly hop. The #Booktags group is growing slowly but steadily; check out the other entries if you have a moment. Who knows, the best book you'll ever read might be waiting for you to discover it. And, if you're a reader (or a writer), maybe you'd like to join in next month? It's simple: share what you're reading or what you've read, what you're writing or have written. Sounds cool? Sign up at Toinette's site, and see you next month!