Introduction

Choose twelve short stories. How hard can it be?

It can be impossible.

What we need is some way of narrowing it down. All other paths lead to madness.

So.

How am I to organise (curate, if you must) this list?

My “favourites”? A constantly changing category – daily, at least. Catch me in a certain mood and I would merely chuck a copy of PG Wodehouse’s Meet Mr Mulliner in your general direction with a curt “Here you go”. Or perhaps it would be Saki, if I were feeling, well, a bit sarky.

Easier, really, to pick a theme – however vague – and work from there. So, because I’m the kind of person who takes the first idea going; and because, as I was staring out of the window pondering how best to proceed, a dunnock popped out from under the lavender bush (where it was engaged in some championship-level fossicking) and gave me a look as if to say ‘Well? How about it?’; and because I’m just a bit obsessed with them, the stories on this list have one thing binding them together: birds. It could have been cricket or music or food or any number of other enthusiasms, but, well, blame the dunnock.

It is, I’m afraid, a narrow list. Books could be written about the swathes of the canon that have passed me by, partly because of my own fecklessness (for much of my life I have been, as Eddie Izzard put it, ‘thinly read’, and no amount of belated compensation will ever disguise that fact), and partly because of the simply enormous number of short stories out there. Could everyone please stop writing them? I need to catch up. Ta ever so.

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