I’ve never steered myself toward short story collections and I can’t quite tell you why. Maybe it’s because when you’re with a book – a good book – you’re so in it. The characters, the narration, what on earth will happen next. Even if the author is talented enough to create a character you don’t like yet will still spend time with, I love the involvement. It’s almost intimate: the time you spend quite closely in this world. Perhaps I feel you lose that with short stories, and I miss it.
However, that makes short stories an art in themselves: they’re crafted especially for you to care just as much in a much shorter period of time. When they’re good.
And we all know Margaret Atwood is good. So when I discovered the previously unknown (to me) Wilderness Tips in the reading room upstairs in Shakespeare & Co. I bought it and consumed it and paced myself so I could digest. They’re more intense in some way, to feel all that in a chapter. There’s no particular plots, or characters, or moments that I can or want to specifically share about Wilderness Tips, but instead it’s a particular mood created. I want to relish it, pace myself, re-read, make sure I am fully present and enjoying the bloody excellent writing of Atwood. To be honest, the subjects of the stories are not what I would normally pick up; and if I thought too much about it before purchase I may not have bought it at all. But I am glad I did.
There is a moment when you finish a chapter – a story – and you have to pause, digest, wait, before you can go in and commit yourself to the next character. You know you are never going to meet those characters again, so you need to relish the moment when you were with them: the brevity of the ending, the snapshot that was created for you. What a joy that is.
I only bought the book because I want to consume everything Atwood has created, and I’m glad I did. In fact, she’s started a short story binge for me, after spending $80 on second hand books this glorious Sunday afternoon. I’m sure there will be more to report on later.