‘Leaving School – XI’ by Ann Quin

Something of a cheat, this one, as it is a posthumous collection and one that the author knew nothing about. Oh, and that the opening story isn’t really a story at all, but an autobiographical fragment. But what a fragment, and what a collection! For this we should give thanks to the diligence and tenacity of Jennifer Hodgson

Collected in The Unmapped Country, And Other Stories, 2018

‘Never Trust a Man Who Bathes with His Fingernails’ by Ann Quin

Since her death in 1973 it has been really hard to get hold of Quin’s short pieces: credit for their reissue is down to Jennifer Hodgson, who also has an academic work on Quin in preparation. This is writing from the inside, which is to say that any superficial realism is only there to provide an arena where another, far subtler struggle is taking place, almost not articulated at all. In this story, An unspecified threat runs through the piece. As every event occurs, and there aren’t many, dangerous further possibilities appear without having been written. Death is never far from the action. I have already been sniffy about plot: there is a plot here, but it’s been messed with, as if parts of it (particularly the dénouement) had been excised. Good.

(1968; now in The Unmapped Country, due in 2018 from And Other Stories.)