Elizabeth Baines, novelist and short story writer, recommends…

(CLASSIC: from Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, Virago)

The narrator answers her dying father’s request that she write at least one conventional story, and attempts to do so. A kind of meta-story, full of Paley’s wry playfulness, a meditation on the comforts yet potential tyranny and inadequacy of conventional narrative. In the process two truly moving stories – that of a neighbour drug addict and that of the narrator’s poignant relationship with her father – emerge and indeed merge.

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(MODERN: from The Whole Story and Other Stories, Penguin).

Smith plays similar games with narrative, and once again there’s nothing empty or trivial about the way she does it. This story centres around the fading copy of a book in a second-hand bookshop, and touches on the stories of all who have come in contact with it – even the fly that settles on it! – while the narrator tries to make up her mind as to which is the real story. The effect is to show us the contingency of any one story, but also the importance and poignancy of the totality of our stories.

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