If you believe Ali Smith (I do; see ‘True Short Story’), for Cynthia Ozick, a short story acts like a talismanic gift, something that we carry with us, that has a mysterious power that might well be hard to fathom. While I have limited truck with the idea that stories — and by extension storytelling — have some kind of sacred moral purpose (what Tim Parks calls ‘the piety that they are somehow necessary), its important that you understood how seriously I take Ozicks proposition, how fully I inhabit that method of understanding how short stories — at least, the good ones — work. The stories that populate this fantasy anthology are among my current talismen. I carry them around in my head like some people carry old coins in the pocket of a beloved pair of jeans. Every now and then, I mentally rub them together and see what sparks they bring. They are not necessary, but I cant tell you how pleased I am that they exist, that I have them in my head. To borrow from Deborah Levy, they make my world a better place to live. On which subject… 

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