The other day leaving the tube station on my way to work, I was handed a free promotional first chapter of some new, supposed block buster novel. I forget the name – The Girl in the Hallway, The Girl In a Coma, The Girl Standing in a Puddle or some such thing. I began to read it as I ate my lunch that day, but to be honest, even allowing for the inclusion of German lesbians, it didn’t really do it for me. I barely managed more than 4 pages before closing it permanently, and wisely focusing my attentions on not dropping any more pasta down my shirt.
It got me thinking though – new, free reading material is fairly easy to come by these days; the problem is with the quality. One place that you can normally expect to find a good read is the short story website Fifty-Two Stories, which publishes a free story each week of the year, and has over the last 3 years or so shared with the world some pretty cool pieces of writing.
Last year however, for reasons unknown, they only got round to putting out just 12 tales. Now, bearing in mind that this is all put out there for free, you would think it fair enough if they’d decided to just carry on, and focus on getting out the next full 52. This they did, but also – as if it they owed to us – they went back, I guess did a heck of a lot of reading, and have subsequently put together a volume containing the missing 40 stories from the previous year. All for free!
I’ve been working my way through these over the last two or three days – though I should say that ‘working’ is absolutely the wrong choice of word; really, it’s absolutely been a pleasure.
From a fairly random bag of authors, some of whom I had heard of and read before, to others who were for me complete unknowns, the editors of Fifty Two Stories have drawn together a pretty stunning collection of stories. As far as I’m concerned, one of life’s little delights is stumbling across a writer with the ability to somehow tap into your way of thinking, but present it back to you on the page in a way you had never fully conceived before – familiar, yet somehow fresh. I’m really pleased to say that I experienced this on several occasions as I’ve made my through these stories – with highlights for me coming from Alexander Lumans, Kelli Ford and Scott McClanahan. Singling individual stories out for praise is always a bit problematic – as always with anthologies, it’s possible to re-read a story and have it all of a sudden become your new favourite, perhaps resonating with something in your mood that wasn’t there during previous reads. Probably best put by Cal Morgan in his forward, when it comes to the stories in this collection “They all replenish and reward”.
I won’t go into detail on the stories themselves, as I think the collection pretty much speaks for itself once you get into it. All I’d say is if you love a good read, and want to check out for yourself some vital, refreshing and obviously very talented authors displaying what they can do in just a few short pages, I really recommend you head over there, download it and get reading.
– Anyway, why wouldn’t you? It’s free!