The Saddest Short Story Ever Written

Yesterday, I read the saddest short story I’ve ever read in my life, so I need to share the details with you.

I found this little gem in The Persephone Book of Short Stories, which features a wealth of gorgeous stories by well-known and little-known female writers. I urge you to grab a copy.

The story in question is The Music Box, by Malachi Whitaker, the pen-name of Marjorie Whitaker. She was once dubbed The Bradford Checkov, but unfortunately most of her work is now out of print. I managed to get my hands on a used copy of one of her collections, but the wonderful Persephone comes to the rescue again, as they published a kind of “greatest hits” in 2017, The Journey Home and Other Stories.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a copy of The Music Box online, but it is a story of a mother and her young son bonding over music, and the over-bearing patriarch who will not abide such “nonsense”. It is about joy easily stifled, and uncontrollable heartbreak. It is beautifully told, and as someone who grew up in the north-west of England, completely realistic to me. I am so excited to have “discovered” Whitaker, and cannot wait to explore as much of her writing as I can.

I suppose this all seems like a ruse to get you to pick up some books from Persephone. And I suppose it is. But you were going to buy books anyway, weren’t you?

When Things Get Dark

I adore it when the NetGalley gods are on my side, and I get granted access to something I desperately want to read. When Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson, edited by the incomparable Ellen Datlow is phenomenal; diverse horror authors bringing their A-Game in Shirley’s name, and I positively yelped when it landed in my inbox.

Now, I can’t really talk about this one, because it’s not out until September. BUT, I will say, that it is probably the best, and most consistent anthology I’ve ever read. You’ll find the likes of Kelly Link, Laird Barron, Elizabeth Hand, Josh Malerman, Seanan McGuire, and Cassandra Khaw, ready to creep you the fuck out. It is an amazing collection and I can’t wait to talk about it with somebody. 

Comfort Books

I’m currently (slowly) making my way through Penelope Mortimer‘s collection, Saturday Lunch with the Brownings. I got my copy second hand, and you can only imagine how it smells. It’s a first US edition from 1961, and I’m so happy to own it. The stories within are magnificent. I’ve recently had my wisdom teeth out, and have been feeling absolutely awful, and this book has been such a comfort. Not only because Mortimer’s stories are gorgeous, but the mere presence of such a special book on my nightstand just brings me so much joy. Is that weird? I hope so.

Podcasts

I may have talked about this before, but the Monster She Wrote podcast is always worth mentioning. A lot of the stories I’m currently reading are featured on the Monster She Wrote podcast, and it’s almost like enjoyable homework. Hosts Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson have pointed me towards stories I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise (a Patricia Highsmith story about giant killer snails? Sure, why not?).

Another podcast that does deep-dives into ghostly tales is The Ghost Story Book Club, hosted by Adam Z. Robinson. His episode with author Jenn Ashworth on Oliver Onions’ incredibly lengthy story (but worth the investment), The Beckoning Fair One, is an absolute treat.

As always, I also recommend Backlisted, but advise you to proceed with caution, as listeners have been known to spend a ridiculous amount on books following exposure to Andy Miller and John Mitchinson’s recommendations.

Etc, Etc

I’ve also been enjoying stories by Veronica Schanoes, Anna Kavan, and Silvino Ocampo. Thanks to NetGalley, I also just got my grubby hands on The Mammoth Book of Folk Horror, which I’m working through at the moment. I’m also super excited for Lucie McKnight Hardy’s collection, Dead Relatives, which is being published in October through Dead Ink.

Have I missed anything? What female authors should I know about? Who would like to come and help me sort out my bookcases?

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