This is a picture of my recently purchased copy of Hilary Mantel’s short story collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. From a distance it looks as lovely as most hardback books look before they make their way out of the bookstores and into the sweaty-fingered, satchel-stuffing, spine-breaking and cruel, dog-earing hands of the average reader. Unfortunately my copy of The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is now not only beat up, (as all my books are), but also infused with the aroma of the sweet potato and beef stew which escaped from its container on my way home from work, subsequently coating everything in my rucksack, (lap top, notebooks, make-up, hairbrush, brand new Hilary Mantel), in a glutinous meat and potato mess. I am particularly sorry that this book now stinks to high heaven because it is, quite frankly, the most enjoyable collection of short stories I’ve read in an awfully long time. After finishing the collection I decided to give up on nurturing the jealousy I’ve been feeling towards Hilary Mantel ever since I first read Wolf Hall. The woman clearly operates on some supernatural creative plane, inaccessible to the rest of us more pedestrian writers. Everything Mantel touches is golden and the most infuriating thing about this state of affairs is the fact that she makes it all seem so bloody effortless.
Jealousy aside, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher reminded me that last year, in honour of the shortest month, I decided to read only short story collections for the entire duration of February. This was a very worthwhile pursuit and I have decided to make it an annual occurrence. If nothing else, February Shorts, (as I’ve chosen to call it, note image above, which Google chooses to throw up if you type the word February beside the word Shorts), will give me an excuse to read Raymond Carver at least once a year and also hopefully a post of Flannery. I’ll be beginning my reading adventure on February 1st with some new writers and probably a few old faithfuls thrown into the mix. Perhaps you’d like to join me and also only read short stories in February. I’d appreciate the company and, if you don’t mind reading a book which smells like a Sunday roast, would be happy to lend you some Hilary Mantel for the road.