Short Stories: A Secret Per Day
My Irish convent school wasn't like anything you'd read about in a Dickens novel, and it was certainly more humane than James Joyce's depictions of his own school in "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
Still, at least by today's standards, our school could hardly be called progressive. And, in terms of our curricular offerings and world-view, it was as limited and sexist as most small-town girls' schools were in the 1970s.
Except for my English and French classes.
Oh, the English and French classes were rigid, too. They had to be. In Ireland, we study for and take three weeks' worth of grueling school-exit examinations (all in extended response essays) that determine whether or not we get into university.
So we had Dickens and Twain and Shakespeare. We had Simeon and Maupassant and lots of grammar rules.
We also read and critiqued an anthology of literary short stories by British and Irish authors like HG Wells and Frank O'Connor. And this is where things got interesting. This is where, at age 13, I fell madly in love.
Even back then, I think I sensed that short stories were the literary counterpart of an old-masters painting. The stories had color, symmetry and texture. And, like fine paintings, each short story held its own linguistic and dramatic secrets. The only way to unearth those secrets was to read one story at a time, and then, months later, read the story again.
Since my school days, I've read many short story collections and anthologies, many of which still sit on my American bookshelves. Some collections hail from a particular place or phase of my own life. When I sit down to re-read a beloved story, it reveals a new set of secrets.
I'm a one-story-a-day woman. Why? Because when we indulge in something so rich and textured, when we're excavating a set of beautiful secrets, we want to savor only that one story. We want to let that particular tale settle before turning the page for the next one.
Every writer is glad to be published. I am especially thrilled that my story is being released by a publisher who "gets" the perennial appeal of short fiction and who feels, as I do, that some stories are best enjoyed as a standalone treat.
If you would like to have me visit your book club to discuss "Snow" and its many secrets (in person or by Skype), feel free to email me. I promise: This lush, provocative story will get your group talking.
What short stories do you read and re-read?