Introduction

So many other wonderful stories crowded round these dozen, trying to get in. A few of those managed a mention when I should’ve been devoting space to the stories actually included. I’ve puzzled over all of these, one way or another—some for a very long time and some much more recently. Probably it’s the duration and/or the magnitude of the puzzling that was the determining factor.

What then is the unifying theme? Maybe that formal error and the way a story can accrete and warp beautifully around it better serves the short story form than the form itself? That perfect short stories are not all that rare: we just think they are because we forget them: because a perfect execution of this form happens to be exceptionally forgettable. Something else is necessary. Or, as the painter James Ensor wrote

Fault is multiple, it is life, it reflects the personality of the artist and his character; it is human, it is everything, it will redeem the work.

Anyway, as a reader? I always hope the writer will follow the thing leading them astray.

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