Posted by: Corri van de Stege | February 2, 2008

Short Stories – 2

Since I started the Creative Writing course I have become quite addicted to short stories: how they fit together, what makes them ‘tick’. How do writers manage to keep you reading until the end and you actually feel satisfied that you have read that particular story and you want to read more, even if it is a completely different story.

I’ve got two collections that I have been taken around with me, whilst on the road, for reading on the train, in hotel rooms or just before nodding off to sleep after a hard day’s work.

The first one is Haruki Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and I have already written about this collection before, when I had read about seven out of the 25 stories and that review is here. Bar one or two I have now read them all and I can only confirm what I said before: Murakami is a fascinating writer, who moves from quite ordinary day to day events to surreal and yet believable stories about someone who becomes obsessed by a poor aunt, only he has no aunt, let alone a poor one. Then there are the sad stories, where people are obsessed for their whole lives with something they imagined happened when they were a child and which haunts them, eats their lives away (The Seventh Man). Just start reading the stories; you will want to carry the volume around with you to savour one at the time.

The other one that I had not actually listed under the Short Stories Challenge, but which I decided to buy after reading Susan Hill’s blog is The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read. This is a much slimmer volume with some nine stories and completely different from Murakami’s approach to the short story. Susan Hill’s are what I consider to be very English stories, they are about English characters, English settings and relationships, except for the very last one, Antonyin’s, which I have not read yet, but will! The first story, which is at the same time the title of the book, is excruciatingly sad. Susan Hill is such an excellent writer that she manages to evoke the character of the bee keeper without any sentimentality whatsoever and you come away from it sensing the inevitable cruelty of life, just circumstances that happened to be like that and you cannot blame the boy for his sadness either. The story about the two sisters in Father Father reminds me of Anita Brookner’s characters: the quintessential English women who live in their own world, completely outside of what we would consider to be reality, work, shopping, friends, hubbub – there is none of that, they are who they are and struggle to explain themselves to themselves, slightly sad. It’s a lovely story. Again, once you start reading you want to read the others. So, just go and get a copy!

This means that I have already more or less finished and reviewed two collections of short stories. In addition I have read and reviewed Gogol’s The Coat a little while ago, on a Curious Singularity as well as at 51Stories. A Curious Singularity is a website devoted to the short story, where members can review a different short story every month. So, having read and reviewed that story I have suddenly met three different challenges: The Russian Reading Challenge, The Short Story Reading challenge AND providing a review for A Curious Singularity. I am greatly impressed with my own versatility!

Meanwhile, I am working on another poem, which is brewing somewhere deep in my unconscious. I just hope I won’t have to have another sleepless night to actually write it! I shall be glad when I can go back to writing short stories and improving on doing that. Just now, there is not the time t do everything.



  1. I insist you have a literary critic’s streak. And I can see your world is Literature. Ingres’s violin comes to my memory:

    read here

  2. It seems the link doesn’t work, the story is here:

  3. I’ve been on a roll of buying books and I can’t stop. The newest acquisition is Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. Once I finish with the undergraduates’ homework, I’m diving right into the book.

  4. Jose: I was beginning to miss your presence. Lovely to have you back again. I am following the link to Ingres to read! xx
    Matt: Anita Brookner is a great writer, I think I have read most of her books. Enjoy! xx

  5. Thanks for these recommendations on short stories. I’ve still got two more collections to choose for the short story challenge and the Hill collection really appeals to me.

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