You probably know by now that I occasionally like to review short stories that are available online, most often those published by the Library of America. So when author and blogger, Andrew Blackman, recently posted that one of his stories had been published online, I thought I’d check it out.
“Nights on Fair Isle” is, he says, the first time he has had a short story available free on the internet, but he expresses uncertainty about the value of reading online and asks his readers’ opinions. Good question and one I’d like to answer … somewhat anyhow, and then bat it on to you. I don’t as a rule read fiction online. I read novels on an e-Reader but I don’t think that’s the same as online, or is it? And I read short stories and essays that are made available online. But, here’s the rub. I don’t read them online. I print them out and read the hard copy instead. This might just be the product of my babyboomer-dom… I could in many cases, I suppose, download stories and essays onto my e-Reader, but mostly I think what’s the point. It’s just as fast to print it out.
Anyhow, the story. It’s a little story … And I mean that literally in terms of its length not as a comment on its quality. In just three pages (in my printout version), Blackman tells a tightly controlled story of loneliness and how one woman goes about soothing her soul to enable her to keep on going day after day in a big city, London to be exact. We don’t know where Aurelia is from, but we do know that she wasn’t an English-speaker when she arrived in London. Not long after her arrival, she stumbles on the shipping forecast on the radio and hears a “gentle male voice intoning” words like “Low, Fastnet, nine seven three, falling slowly”. Each night she tunes in to the same words, and thinks it’s a nightly prayer that she’s hearing. Eventually of course she’s put right, but she goes on tuning into the forecast for its soothing sound …
And for the way it reminds her of her mother’s “sweet lullabies … that chased away the shadows and fears”. Blackman neatly segues from the shipping forecast to the sea and Aurelia’s favourite sea-based fairy story, and effectively uses the paradoxes inherent in sea/water imagery to convey both fear and calm. I won’t relate more of the story though … after all it’s short enough for you to read yourselves via the link below. I’ll just say that I liked the way Blackman gently explores the power – and limit – of dreams and reverie to keep you going. It’s a realistic rather than grim or depressing story.
Meanwhile, do you read online? And if so, do you think it changes the way you read, or what you read?
“Nights on Fair Isle”