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I'm keen to read more and thought I could start with some short stories. Which do you recommend?
Short stories are the canapés of the literary feast: finely crafted, perfectly balanced morsels which focus the artist’s skill into a single pleasing mouthful. Technologies which offer new ways to read, along with increasingly time-poor readers, have led to something of a revival of interest in short fiction. There might be less space in which to gradually reveal a character, or to develop one’s sympathies, yet the best short story distils the emotional impact of a novel into a powerful moment, and leaves spaces for the work of interpretation and supposition which is so much of the pleasure of reading.
· After winning the Commonwealth Short Story prize, Emma Martin published her elegant collection, Two Girls in a Boat, in which stories trace the unexpected turns which life can take.
· Deleted Scenes for Lovers is a collection – not for the faint-hearted – of gritty and powerful stories about contemporary New Zealand life by Tracey Slaughter.
· Fond, quirky and sometimes very odd, George Saunders’ collection of stories, Tenth of December, is a realist examination of the surreal and often savage world we live in.
· Dark Jelly is the third collection of stories by Alice Tawhai, which explore the emotional and practical complexities of lives lived precariously.
· Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories brings together in a single volume the short fiction of perhaps our most famous modernist writer, paying homage to her childhood home in New Zealand and to her adopted home in Europe.
· Patrick Gale shows his dark side in Three Decades of Stories, in stories which are witty and eccentric, using the smallest of nuances of a relationship to expose the brutal truths which underlie them.
· Often overlooked are the adult stories written by Roald Dahl, yet his Collected Stories do evoke the twisty plots and twisted characters of his beloved books for children.
· In eight interconnected short stories, Canadian writer Margaret Laurence evokes the beauty and the pain of growing up, in A Bird in the House.
· The Queen of contemporary American gothic is Joyce Carol Oates, whose creepy and grotesque stories (in over 40 collections) are guaranteed to haunt and fester: try The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, or The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares.
· Sitting somewhere between a novel and an anthology is Monica Ali’s Alentejo Blue, constructed as a series of adjacent episodes about the residents and visitors to a small Portuguese village.