"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
Favourite stories
Yukio Mishima: 'Swaddling Clothes'

Yukio Mishima: ‘Swaddling Clothes’

‘Swaddling Clothes’ by Yukio Mishima has haunted me ever since I encountered it twenty years ago when I was a literature student at UCLA. It is a fascinating character study of Toshiko, a woman consumed by her fear of inescapable fate – a subject that fascinates me. Over the years, the character of Toshiko has...
Write Christmas

Write Christmas

The season has come for making merry; it’s time to think of the books that prop open my heart so the Christmas spirit can get in. The book that opens it wider than any other is one that I read to my Miss Marie without fail each December, Emma Chichester Clark’s Just for You, Blue...
Margaret Atwood: 'Rape Fantasies'

Margaret Atwood: ‘Rape Fantasies’

‘It’. Ten times in the first two paragraphs of Margaret Atwood’s classic ‘Rape Fantasies’, the chatterbox narrator, Estelle, avoids naming rape – plainly the topic she wants to address. And who is this Estelle? Oh, she’s quite the card, quite the jokester about rape, although she does take constant detours from her topic. So we...
Tania James: 'Lion and Panther in London'

Tania James: ‘Lion and Panther in London’

Some short stories exist as fragments of time, giving you the middle of a moment, letting you figure out what brought people to that moment and what will become of them long after that fragment. Some short stories are static, in a head, in a simple interaction. If written badly, uncontrolled or imprecisely, these short...
May-Lan Tan: 'Legendary'

May-Lan Tan: ‘Legendary’

I want things that I read to tattoo me. Like globally significant moments from my lifetime and memory; Mandela’s release, Diana’s death; I can remember where I was when I read fiction that scars me. I like scars, as I like tattoos – they remind me of a particular moment and the associated emotions. They...
Claire Keegan: ‘Men and Women’

Claire Keegan: ‘Men and Women’

I listened recently to an interview with Teju Cole on the subject of the author and photographer’s favourite film, Kieslowski’s Red, which starts off with a rumination on the nature – and, especially, on the timing – of favourite things in general. “The impression I have,” Cole says, “is that there’s a certain timing that...
Marjorie Barnard: ‘The Persimmon Tree’

Marjorie Barnard: ‘The Persimmon Tree’

I have so many favourite stories! As I wander through them in my mind, the styles are so different, but each one has me excited me in some way. Sometimes it is perception, seeing beyond the familiar or the surface of things; sometimes it is the use of language; sometimes it is empathetic characterisation; sometimes...
Observers and dreamers

Observers and dreamers

We gave Tom Barbash the task of winnowing down his ten favourite short stories. “Impossible,” he countered, “but here are some great ones that came to mind.”   Alice Munro: ‘Chance’ A young woman on a cross-country train trip decides to decline polite conversation with an affable stranger. From this seemingly minor moment a series...
Breece D’J Pancake: ‘Trilobites’

Breece D’J Pancake: ‘Trilobites’

Breece D’J Pancake is a legend amongst some of my writing friends – but, like any artist dying young, his legacy is coloured by the shadow of the great work that he could have gone on to create. Once you have read his only collection of stories, published posthumously in 1983, you will most likely,...
George Saunders: ‘My Flamboyant Grandson’

George Saunders: ‘My Flamboyant Grandson’

Sometimes, when I’m walking down the street, I think about the grandfather in ‘My Flamboyant Grandson.’ George Saunders’ story is set in a semi-absurd dystopia where every citizen is required to wear Everly Strips on their shoes, bar-coded soles that summon customised ads to ubiquitous public screens, phantom voices beckoning to you as you amble...