Forgive me, I suspect some of these aren’t even short stories. I can’t say I’m at all sure about what a short story is – any more than I’m certain about what a novel is. The (definite article, capital letter) Novel is different, of course, I know what that is. And whatever short stories are, I can’t help but think they’ve flourished partly by dint of not being pressed into service as a repository for something else entirely (national identity, masculinity, human frailty, even) and then endlessly handwrung about in a similar way. In any case, collecting these together has made me think that the novels I like most all aspire somehow to the status of short stories: little hothouse miniatures that say hardly enough, or too much too quickly, or both. If you’d asked me before doing this what kind of short stories I liked the most I would’ve had myself pinned as a fan of the “epistemological thriller” – I’d have had no qualms about calling them that either. It seems clear, looking down this list, however, that what I really can’t get enough of are stories about quiet desperation.

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