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The Little Black Book Of Stories Paperback – 4 Nov 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099429950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965921367
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 445,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"These little stories by one of Britain's foremost grandes dames of the writing world are a delightful surprise, packing a much greater punch than many full-length novels... They are moving, thought-provoking, witty and shocking all at once" (Sunday Telegraph)

"A cabinet of curiosities... Glitteringly beautiful. Byatt is a vivid colourist" (Sunday Times)

"As ever, Byatt's language has the clear intensity of a poem" (Daily Mail)

"Byatt is the grande dame of British fiction... Those acquainted with her previous work will recognise her fascination with the supernatural, as well as the erudition and attention to detail that are trademarks of her style" (Financial Times)

"Each story resembles a novel in miniature-there is a unique, experimental feel to this engaging, unsettling collection that will not hinder the author's reputation as a literary giant" (Scotland on Sunday)

Book Description

'The Little Black Book of Stories is a showcase of Byatt's talents - the ideal primer for anyone who has not yet discovered A. S. Byatt, and a delight for those who have' Daily Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 11 Mar. 2004
Format: Hardcover
In these five short stories Byatt once again displays her talent for making the magical out of the mundane. Byatt takes a simple cloth and embroiders it until she has a tale woven richly with mythology and allegory, and strung with references classical and modern, literary and popular. Her well-structured stories are deceptively simple. You close the book feeling satisfied but something draws you back. When you look again, the focus of the stories seem to have shifted slightly and the different facets become apparent.
In The Thing in the Forest we discover that when something terrible happens to us at a young age it can become both more real and less real than anything else in our lives. The memory of the thing begins to mould the person we become and continues to shape our actions as an adult until, for better or worse, it leads us back to the source of our terror. " 'Sometimes I think that thing finished me off,' said Penny to Primrose".
Body Art takes us to that crossroads where modern art meets the base realities of the human body and science has to contend with human emotion.
A Stone Woman is about grief and transformation: a beautifully crafted fairytale, vibrant with colour and texture, with a setting that moves from the landscape of the flesh to the landscape of Norse mythology.
"There was fresh blood on the forget-me-nots and primroses in the carpet. It was not nice." Raw Material is about words. Why do we consider some subjects more worthy of our creative attention than others? Should creative writing be therapeutic? And what precisely is 'Real writing'?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These stories begin with the gothic and, to my mind, mythic strangeness and it seemed to me to go on too long. With the second short story (though they are all rather long) I was caught up in the plight of a girl with nowhere to live who managed to hide herself most of the time within the confines of an old and rather rambling hospital. An artist recognises her gift for design and rescues her from her poverty, taking her to live with him in his flat. A later story is about a woman whose body calcifies as she turns to stone.

Perhaps the best story is about a man who runs a creative writing class. One of the aspiring writers is better than all of them, an elderly lady. The other attendees are very cross when her work is preferred by the teacher, and we are given two of her very short stories to epitomise her very good work. But the other members of the class are cross that he prefers her work and become jealous, giving her bad reviews: this is actually a story riven with amusement.

“He gave up – ever – taking women from his classes on to his unfolded settee. He gave up ever, talking to his students one at a time or differentiating between them.” As a result they stop writing sex-in-a-caravan stories about him, and one who showed proclivities of turning into a stalker went to a pottery class instead. “As the folklore of his sex life diminished he became mysterious and authoritative and found he enjoyed it. The barmaid of the Wig and Quill came round on Sundays. He couldn’t find the right words to describe her orgasms – prolonged events with staccato and shivering rhythms alternating oddly – and this pleased him.”

“The classes tended to end with general discussions of the nature of writing.
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By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 29 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I relished this book - it has been a first rate read. The five stories need to be treated as a unified entity, and read in sequence, as they lead the imagination into a very rich, superlatively crafted labyrinth of interweaving fable, symbolism, fantasy, folk tale, and good old fashioned story telling (the sort recounted to toddlers by indulgent and highly inventive grandmothers). Realise, too, that these are not adult versions of fairy tales - the work is more sophisticated.

Of course, readers will be captivated by the imagery in these fictional narratives. But you are also going to be surprised by the quality and originality of these pieces in wholly literary terms. The precise telling of the story, the wordcraft that has gone into the sentences and phrasing, is delicious (Byatt's fourth story directly stresses the importance of prose).

And there are the themes explored. Beyond the immediate motifs of childhood, maturity, aging, and so forth, Byatt sets one thinking about what it is to be "adult", what are the limits to conventional thinking?, and do things lies beyond the ordinary physical world? Even human mortality is queried in stories that show magic can be a metaphor for unexplainable processes. Byatt seems to agree with Hamlet, that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of ..." Each story finds that something else is going on behind normality: appearances are utterly deceptive, as the men in the final two stories discover. And then there is the underlying pattern that has women acting as agents for transformation... but you need to read the stories for yourself to trace that thread.

Expect to keep mulling over the ideas raised within this book after you have put it down - it is a joy to read on every level.
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