The cover immediately appeals to me. Being a cricket fan, the sight of teenagers playing cricket by the roadside brings back fond memories. Memories of growing up, of playing the game on various grounds, fields and the roadside even. It is no stretch of imagination that the picture was taken in a South Asian country - probably India (the motorcycle in the background is suspiciously similar to the one I owned through my high school and undergrad years).
I am also a fan of short stories, having devoured Roald Dahl, Jeffrey Archer, Guy de Mauppasant, Chekov, Saki, O. Henry, Gerald Durrell, Ruskin Bond, and a whole host of others all through my life. I occasionally dabble in writing short stories myself. Hence, it is with nostalgia and fond memories that I pick up The Red Anthology of Hitherto Unpublished Writers. Everything led me to believe that this book would be a worthwhile read, and it did not disappoint.
Okay. This is a book of short stories. If you are not a fan of short stories or anthologies of short stories, well, then you should be. Given that an idea, a storyline, a feeling, an emotion, a chill, or a philosophy must be presented to the audience without the luxury of length or the chance to have an intricate build-up of events that usually surrounds novels, the short story brings out the best in an author. While almost all of the above authors have written excellent novels and longer books, their real skill and craft is evident in their short stories.
This anthology starts well - the first story is titled "A Christmas Letter" and it is written by one J. T. Townley. It is a humorous, well-written satirical take on Christmas letters that families usually send out to their family and friends. Written by a suburban housewife who suspects her husband to be cheating on her and who wins a contest for a date with a soap-opera heartthrob, it manages to make you chuckle as you read her machinations and schemes to get her husband to admit to cheating.
From Christmas letters to train rides in a snow-covered countryside, from death, self doubt and suicide to a grown woman trying to revisit her childhood, from lakes in the head to farmers growing muscles (yes, that's right, muscles!), and many, many more places and ideas, the stories abound with imagination, crazy ideas, self-pity, sadness, delight and even fantasy. We are taken through a roller-coaster ride which sometimes dips into slaughterhouses, sometimes into an Orwellian future, while sometimes showing you how someone can calculate and plan to fall in love.