Introduction

Everyone else who has done a Personal Anthology seems to have emerged from the womb reading and/or writing short stories. Therefore, I must make my confession early and forthrightly: in preparing this, I realised that, of the writing that I favour, most of it is extremely long, and everything else is stuffed into strange sub-categories of non-fiction or poetry. The Iliad: definitely not a short story. Donne; maybe the sermons if you squint at them really, really hard, but that’s frankly egregious and also insulting to Donne’s own belief. Montaigne’s essays, even in the very sympathetic English of John Florio; also a no.

Two obvious contenders come out early: Ursula LeGuin and Borges, both of whom I have loved pretty much my whole life. In my defence, the short story is a rather new form. Hell, prose fiction and the novel in the vernacular is a pretty new form too, depending on how you feel about Late Antique prose romances. I’m sort of necromantic with literature. I relate to Eliot’s Petronius-epigraph Sybil, except I don’t live in a cage, and I would throw rocks at schoolboys for bothering me, and would probably speak in Forster-Wallace-esque footnotes all the time. The point is that I feel centuries, millennia old when I think about short stories. I look at all of you from the perspective of history, all dazzling and squeaky new, and have to put sunnies on and get a latte just to cope. Oh, and I want to live obviously, which is why I read.

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