I don’t know why, but faced with a book of short stories by a single author, I tend to baulk after I’ve read a few, finding it hard to return to a collection. As a consequence, I read few short story collections. I’m a great fan of novellas, which gives more space to develop plot and character, but find the intensity necessary in a short story too much perhaps to read a large batch by the same author. That said, I get bogged down in anthologies with many authors too, it must be that intensity again.
Occasionally publishers will produce some singles as little paperbacks – I like these, but then again, I’ve got large stacks of all the various Penguin sets, which I’ve not read. In this case it’s the volume thing that I find intimidating. Yes I know I could read them individually, but I rarely do – as they all sit together looking at me. That said, I don’t have the same problem with books of essays, unless they’re in those stacks of little Penguins!
Going back to those proper singles though, e.g. Murakami’s Birthday Girl, Ian McEwan’s My Purple Scented Novel, I enjoyed those but both those examples were published to celebrate author’s milestone birthdays. What if there was another way of enjoying single short stories by not such celebrated authors?
Thanks to Karen, I’ve been introduced to Nightjar Press. It’s run by author Nicholas Royle, (ironically I did manage to read and thoroughly enjoy a whole book of his short stories called Ornithology reviewed for Shiny here!). Nightjar produce chapbooks, short stories as pamphlets – and each in a signed limited edition. After reading Karen’s review, I went off to order a couple, and very kindly was sent a third one free by Nicholas as it was my first order.
I read them, one per day and really enjoyed all three. Here are very brief notes:
- The Periphery by Cliff McNish – I read McNish’s novel Savannah Grey – a well-written YA horror novel with a fascinating premise – over ten years ago. The Periphery is an eschatological end of the world story about a family who gradually move their lives to the edges. This was so eerie, and the loss of things in it reminded me slightly of Ogawa’s The Memory Police.
- A Visit to the Bonesetter by Christopher Burns – There are obvious parallels with 1984 etc. in Burns’ tale of social control, but this short story shows what happens to ordinary folk after they are called up for
jury servicea visit to the bonesetter – his equivalent of ‘Room 101’. Thought-provoking and not nice!
- Middleton Sands by Claire Dean – a group meet at a Lancashire beach to search for something. Are they twitchers, cockle-pickers or after razor clams? No, they’re digging for something else much more personal to them. Filled with melancholy.
Visit Nightjar Press and why not see for yourself.