Jacob Ross, author and playwright, recommends…

(CLASSIC: from Selected Stories, Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

It is difficult to believe that E M Forster’s, The Machine Stops was first published in 1909. It is one of the most prescient stories I have ever read. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, people live in underground ‘cells’ completely dependent on ‘the Machine’ which services all their spiritual and material needs. Ideas and knowledge derived from direct interaction with the world become taboo. In an uncanny feat of imaginative projection, Forster foresees a world of virtual reality, text messaging and video conferencing that gradually becomes the only means of contact/communication between humans.
A century later, the story feels as if it was written just yesterday.

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(MODERN: from Summer Lightning and Other Stories, Longman Caribbean Writers Series).

Olive Senior is at her very best when she writes about childhood trauma. ‘The Boy who Loved Ice-cream’ is a deceptively simple story about Benjy, a young boy in rural Jamaica, whose only desire in the world is to taste ice-cream. But there is his jealous, ageing father with a young wife that he mistrusts, and a sensitive child (Benjy) that he does not believe is his. Senior combines these elements to create a heart-rending and unforgettable narrative about the selfish, casual psychological violence that parents are capable of subjecting their children to.

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