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A Reflection on Short Stories by Rachel Boser


I got into short stories after my first child.  That’s not quite true.  After I had my first child, I tried to read “Donne :The Reformed Soul” by John Stubbs.  It took me a year to read, and it was no fault of the biographer.  With my new born baby, it was a miracle to get past the verb of a sentence in either the written or spoken word.  As I finished the book, I realised I had no recollection of the beginning.    Reading was turning into a similar exercise as an Antarctic mission — I “may be some time”.  Desperate to finish any story under three months, I turned to the short story — a genre I had  previously dodged.

Short stories are like marmite, you either love ‘em or hate ‘em.  I can see both sides of the equation.  An unsatisfying short story leaves you feeling cheated.  It has wasted your time, and like marmite to some taste buds it is a distinctly unpalatable and disappointing experience.  However, a good short story leaves you marvelling at the ingenuity of the writer.  The power of the words and images conjured can stay with you for months if not years afterwards.

Here are some of my favourite short-stories.  The first is a collection called “You’re an Animal Viskovitz!” by biologist Alessandro Boffa.  Written as fables, each story is connected with a leading male protagonist, called Viskovitz and the love of his life Lubja.  From the narcissistic vanities of a snail to the killer instincts of a scorpion with the “fastest tail in the West” Boffa satirically explores the human condition in a style that is both amusing and original.

“Fists” by Pietro Grossi is a collection of three short stories, looking at young men on the verge of adulthood.  Each story is a comparison between two men whose character or background is used as a foil to the other. Boxing takes us into the sweaty, adrenalin-fuelled ring, where two pugilists The Dancer and The Goat, test each others’ mettle.

Horses is a story about decision making.  Two brothers are each given a horse by their father.  The brothers’ decision about what to do with their horse fulfils their different destinies. The last story, The Monkey, is about a childhood friend, Piero, who suffers from clinical lycanthropy. Naturally, Nico is perplexed about his friend’s condition, not to mention us the reader.  Grossi can tell a compelling story.  As you read, you can feel the frustration of these young men, the flexing of muscles, the growing pains of maturity.

The last book on my list is a bit of a cheat.  It is not so much short stories but more vignettes told by Londoners about their lives.  Craig Taylor’s “Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now - As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It” is a great book to dip in and out of.  Taylor’s interviews are snap shots, providing small glimpses into worlds such as a fruit and veg trader in New Covent Garden.  Not all the stories are complimentary, but what comes across is London’s vast array of individual characters and their diverse range of backgrounds from native East Enders to immigrants trying to get a toe-hold into a new life.

For those of you who are short on time or like me have a limited attention span, hopefully, the above will provide a literary snack, something to keep you going before you can feast on a lengthier novel.

Written by Rachel Boser


You’re An Animal Viskovitz! Alessandro Boffa ISBN 1841954144

Fists - Pietro Gross, Pushkin Press ISBN 9781906548384

Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now - As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, and Long for It - Craig Taylor ISBN 9781847083296


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1. wrote:

01/01/2017 @ 9:40 AM

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