Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Short Stories Like Chocolate: To Be Savoured, One at a Time

Short stories—like most poems—should be read one at a time. Reading more than that dulls the literary palate, and the subtleties of the stories are lost the way the nuances of the best chocolates fade when you eat too many of them at one sitting.

That is why I’ve taken my sweet time to read one of my most appreciated Christmas gifts, The Best American Short Stories of 2007. One a night, the book on the bedside table to be opened only when there is enough time to read a complete story.

This year the collection is guest-edited by Stephen King who has chosen 20 stories from hundreds that he and the series editor Heidi Pitlor found in American and Canadian magazines published between January 2006 and January 2007. There’s an Alice Munro story from The New Yorker among them, but King has picked quirkier ones than usually get the nod. They include at least one that could be classified as science fiction and a couple that are exuberantly weird.

So far my favourite is “Balto” by T.C. Boyle, in which two first person narratives—a father and his pre-teen daughter—battle in a kind of “Dueling Banjos” over what really happened during an accident. But I still have three stories left, and one of the pleasures of a collection of this kind is that you never know what you’ll come upon next…

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