A luminous selection of short stories. Mirrors shatter at the hairdressers when a middle-aged client explodes in rage. Snow dusts the warm body of a princess honing it into something sharp and frosted. Summer sunshine flickers on the face of a smiling child who may or may not be real. Medusa's Ankles celebrates the very best of A. S. Byatt's short fiction, carefully selected from a lifetime of writing.
The Djinn In The Nightingale's Eye
Gillian Perholt, an independent and sensible scholar, no longer young, is given a bottle of beautiful 'nightingale's eye' glass by a Turkish friend. Inside it is trapped a huge (and very male) djinn, a magical genie who must grant her three wishes in return for his release. Gillian's use of her wishes (she is an expert in fairy stories and in what can go wrong with wishes) is careful and surprising. The story takes the professor and the djinn from Istanbul to Toronto and Madison Avenue. The two discover one another's worlds, with respect, and something more. 'The Glass Coffin' and 'Gode's Story' are included here, with three contemporary additions: 'The Story of the Eldest Princess, ' 'Dragons' Breath, ' and the incomparable novella-length title story. Byatt's inventive and enticing stories are both magical and very modern. They are fairy tales for adults, which retain the mystery and beauty of the world we imagine as children.
The Matisse Stories
Each story is in some way inspired by a painting of Henri Matisse, each is also about the intimate connection between seeing and feeling -- about the ways in which a glance we meant to be casual may suddenly call forth the deepest reserves of our being. Their subjects' lives unravel from simple beginnings -- a trip to the hair dresser, a cleaning woman's passion for knitting, lunch in a Chinese restaurant but gradually the veneer of ordinariness is peeled back to expose pain, reveal desire, or express the intensity of joy in color and creation. These stories are all about human beings: about how little we can know (or may care to know) about the people with whom we spend our lives, and how tragic the results of that ignorance or indifference can be.
The Little Black Book of Stories
Leaves rustle underfoot in a dark wood: two middle-aged women walk into a forest, as they did when they were girls, confronting their fears and memories and the strange thing they saw in their childhood - or thought they saw - so long ago. A distinguished obstetrician and young woman artist find they have sharply contrasting ideas about body parts, birth and death; an innocent member of an evening class harbours unexpected view on 'raw material'. The stories in this marvellous collection are by turns funny, spooky, sparkling and haunting. The Little Black Book of Stories holds its secrets, adding a dark quality to Byatt's famous skill in mixing folk and fairy tale with everyday life.
Sugar & Other Stories
It should come as no surprise that short stories by the author of the magical Possession are populated by erudite paranoiacs, witches, changelings, and the ghost of a dead child. A S Byatt's short fictions explore the fragile ties between generations, the dizzying abyss of loss and the elaborate memories we construct against it, resulting in a book that compels us to inhabit other lives and returns us to our own with new knowledge, compassion, and a sense of wonder.
Elementals: Stories of Ice and Fire
In the same delectable format as The Matisse Stories, this collection deals with betrayal and loyalty, quests and longings, loneliness and passion - the mysterious absences at the heart of the fullest lives. A scholar pursues an elusive biographer, stumbling upon buried fragments of distant lives; a woman walks out of her previous existence and encounters an ice-blond stranger from a secretive world; a schoolgirl draws a blood-filled picture of jael; a swimming pool reveals a beauteous monster in its depths. The settings range from the heart of Provence in summer to the cold forests of Scandinavia, form chalk-strewn classrooms to herbscented hillsides, from suburban streets to rocky wilds.
Damien, a gynaecological consultant and lapsed Catholic, replaces Christian icons with modern art; he worships the absence of God in the abstract staining of paint and ink. But when a vagrant young art student shows up in the ward, he once more has cause to question his personal and aesthetic convictions. Part of the Storycuts series, this short story was originally published in the collection Little Black Book of Stories.
The Thing in the Forest
Leaves rustle underfoot in a dark wood: two little girls, extracted from their homes in wartime London, encounter something terrifying in a forest. Later when they meet as grown women, they realise the experience has coloured their lives. A dark tale about the nature of stories themselves. Part of the Storycuts series, this short story was originally published in the collection Little Black Book of Stories.
The Pink Ribbon
It has been five years since Madeleine has recognised her husband James. As she drops deeper into her dementia, their lives fill up with the ghosts of her past and of Blitz-era London. When late one night his loneliness causes him to welcome a distressed young lady into their home, he must re-evaluate his perspective. Part of the Storycuts series, this short story was originally published in the collection Little Black Book of Stories.