Book Review: Stories Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

Stories Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. Published in Great Britain by HarperCollins in 2010

One of the best things in the world is combing through the Fiction section at the library, and and coming across a book you’ve never heard of, but one that gives you an immediate gut feeling – that you have to take it home and give it your undivided attention. This is what happened with Stories Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. Short stories and I have had something of a complicated relationship over the years, it has to be said. Currently  though, they’re my drug. Can’t get enough. My feelings were good about Stories from the word go. Its thickness enticed me. It’s simple, yet utterly superb cover design. The title – I mean come on! It’s so I’M HERE. NOW. READ ME. It doesn’t need to arse around with some profound label.And the list of authors, fuck me! Some of the best writers on the planet have been plucked from their pedestals and shoved in between the pages for our delight and entertainment. The thought of the variety of different subjects and themes, and voices and styles, well, the diversity in this collection is something else! I’m taking about Norse Gods in modern day New York. I’m talking about men haunted by wartime experiences. I’m talking about therapists stalking people they want to ‘help.’ If you need a hand getting pulled out of writing rut, grab this boy and you’ll be free and laughing after you’ve devoured a few pages.

I’ve a thing for Gaiman. I trust him. It was guaranteed from the word go that Stories would not be a book I’d put down at the end and say Well then, that was a massive waste of time. Saying that though, Gaiman’s story didn’t do much for me, which was a shame. But that’s how it goes. Not everything can be Sandman. He does, however, make a cracking editor.

These short stories take you on one hell of a ride. I particularly loved Catch and Release by Lawrence Block. A creepy, intense tale of a catch and release fisherman – whose real objective is quickly revealed following a brief intro that leads you off on a somewhat safe, well lit track. Roddy Doyle kicked off the anthology with his short Blood, about a man who develops an insatiable appetite for the red, sticky stuff. I swear down, this story had me sucking in my face and squirming like I don’t know what. He grabbed one of the steaks and took it over to the sink. He looked behind him, to make sure he was alone, and then devoured it as he leaned over the sink. Be he didn’t devour it. He licked it first, like an ice-pop; it was cold. You’d be a liar if you said that last bit didn’t make you cringe.

I have to admit that Stories is one of the best anthologies I’ve read in a long time. As clichéd as it sounds, I wanted to go to bed early just so I could curl up with it.  I’ve been nudged again in the direction of authors I always intended to check out further, Joyce Carol Oates and Roddy Doyle to name two. It’s a must read for those experimenting with the short story form, and for those who are eager to explore the work of some top writers…what the hell am I saying! this book is a catch for just about anyone. Just give it a go. I did and I fucking loved it. There’s a chance you might too.