4x4th Estate: Short Stories

‘Though she be but little, she is fierce!’ – Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 3, Scene 2,

Let’s celebrate the little things in life, because some of the best things come in unexpectedly small passages. You should never judge a book by its cover, and especially never by its size.  

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

Barbara the Slut and Other PeopleLauren Holmes is a masterful newcomer, delving into the humorously dark side of falling in and out of love. Her short story collection consists of bite-sized characters to binge on, short sex scenes and sometimes even briefer relationships. It’s a great little time capsule of every element of life’s uncertainty from childhood to adulthood, about boys and girls, relationships and friendships. After a fling with The Swiss guy, making a mixtape of the Backstreet Boys to win the heart back of a childhood crush, and selling panties with your mother to teenagers, the most lasting relationships seem to fall upon the most unlikely of suitors. It’s the dog; the little unsung hero in a handful of her stories, because when you can’t share a tub of strawberry ice cream with your latest love affair, the damn dog will sure as hell do.


A Wild Swan: And Other Tales by Michael Cunningham

A Wild SwanCop a feel of a lovely embossed book, open it up and there lies an Angela Carter-esque refashioning of fairy tales for modern consumers. From Rumpelstiltskin’s heart-breaking story, and unloving romances, involving a wooden leg, an exploding boat and a bed time story, these tales look back despairingly on happily ever after. Paired with eerie illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, it only takes a thousand words to give you the feeling that Sleeping Beauty’s prince charming was a necrophiliac. Mothers don’t die in childbirth but sink ‘to the bottom of her own private lake, with the help of Absolut and Klonopin’. He paints a strangely realistic, magical world devoid of wonder; short and sour, leaving your childhood love of Disney dashed before you.


Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

053072-FC50Probably one of the most famous of the novellas, Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde have warped their way into pop culture and are still very much present after one hundred and thirty years. Up on the same level as Frankenstein or Dracula, but with a fraction of the reading time, the novella contains a baffling theory that one person can become two. A commonly misconceived giant Hyde (thanks to films such as League of Gentlemen and Van Helsing), he’s originally actually quite dwarfish, but I think that might show something about our own perceptions of evil; compensating, much? Countless theories on the battle between man and beast, good and evil, the ego and the id have made the story complex and intriguing. Numerous film and television adaptations since its publication, Doctor Jekyll and his bad side Hyde keep rearing their ugly heads in many guises from Dorian Gray to Fight Club; not bad, for a text just over 25, 000 words.


Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

71RDLe2Bg9LA hefty book of 500 pages about a creature that’s lived for two hundred years out of eternity; not the type of novel that seems to have anything ‘short’ about it.  In fact, it spans an intense twenty four days between the 21st October and the 13th November. It focuses on a small boy and a small girl, unassuming and overlooked characters, lending to the creepy feeling that kids can really get away with murder. Maybe it truly is the little things you should keep an eye on. Compared with Eli, every other character involved seems so finite and breakable. Eli’s longevity only make the fumbling adults smaller and more childish; they fret and worry, love and cry, and die so quickly and are gone.


Words by Libby Borton

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