I wish the short story commanded more respect. We live in a world where anything that isn’t a novel is ‘a short story’. I doubt one of these, not really a book by Tove Jansson, but a collection of her work put together by others, stands up as a ‘story’. It’s an odd hotchpotch of pieces. Why isn’t that a word used more often for writing? Why can’t we have a book of ‘pieces’?
I’m about to start Susan Hill’s eulogy to books and don’t get me wrong, I have spent my life with books, as a writer, as a seller, as a buyer and a reader. Nonetheless, I found the following, from the piece ‘The Squirrel’ a refreshing take.
She is living in isolation on her island and having broken her bottle of Madeira, the thing by which she measures her life and makes it bearable, she takes to housework.
She cleaned the windows and reorganised her bookshelves, this time not by writers but alphabetically. When she’d done this she thought of a better and more personal system: she would have the books she liked best on the top shelf and the ones she liked least on the bottom. But she was astonished to find that there wasn’t a single book that she really liked.