‘The Necessary Strength’ by David Constantine

So I’ve saved what I believe to be the very best until very end. I should get down on my knees to type this final entry. It was almost impossible for me to pick just one of David Constantine’s flawless stories, published beautifully, always with stunning covers, by Comma Press. Thanks to Mike Harrison‘s recommending – possibly via one of his addictive blog posts – I bought a copy of The Shieling. I was blown away. I went out and bought Under the Dam as a present for someone else, but promptly read it myself, cover to cover. A year or so later, I was given Tea at the Midland and, oh my goodness me, like the previous collections, it is unbelievably brilliant. With every one of his stories, when I reach the end I go straight back to the beginning. His work is always deeply pleasurable and immensely satisfying, and you can never quite pin down how he’s pulled it off. His work is mysterious, genuine, technically perfect and aesthetically awesome.

So why did I choose this one? Well, it was a tight contest between this and ‘Memorial’, which is in The Shieling, and which I adore and have read at least a dozen times. Both stories pop into my head all the time. I came down in favour of this one because it is linked to my enduring fascination with horses. As a little teaser, I give you the opening two sentences: ‘That horse makes me nervous,’ Judith said. ‘I don’t like him being here.’

from Under the Dam and Other Stories, Comma Press, 2005

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