More on short short stories

Last week Rose Gowen responded to my post about Daniil Kharms’s short short stories with a recommendation of her own:

I always have an eye out for the limits (if there are any), the woolier corners, and odder byways of the form. If you don’t know her work already, you might be interested in checking out Laura Riding’s Progress of Stories. I’m not *sure* if it’s still in print, but I see it sometimes in used book stores, and I know a couple of her stories are googleable. The book is called “Progress of Stories” because Riding saw herself working toward an ideal of purity and truth, and arranged her stories in order as they approached that ideal– to me, they seem arranged in order of ascending weirdness, and I have not actually been able to read the later (“purer”) stories. By saying that, I don’t mean to un-recommend the book, though– I love the earlier stories, and am so intrigued by the way Riding sought to refine her approach and technique.

So I googled Riding and found this site featuring an expanded edition of the 1935 collection and two of the stories in it.

Privateness starts like this:

They have a small bedroom. The bed is small, but they are not fat and they love each other. She sleeps with her knees neatly inside his knees and when they get up they do not get in each other’s way. She says, “Put on the shirt with the blue patterns like little spotted plates,” and he says, “Put on the white skirt that you wear the purple jacket with.” They have no prejudices against colours but like what they have.

Rose has this to say about Mademoiselle Comet:

Mademoiselle Comet is originally from the collection, Experts Are Puzzled, the subtitle of which is, Stories That Make a Point of Going No Further Than They Go, This Being Their Point– which I love!

I can’t get over the quote from John Ashbury in the New York Times Book Review:

…one of the most important works of twentieth century fiction …. When the history of modern literature is written some years from now, it will have to take [Progress of Stories] into account….


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