Sredni Vashtar

I read a few short stories this week - mainly from Carmen Maria Machado's enthralling collection. But the one that I loved the most was Sredni Vashtar by Saki. I first heard it while grocery shopping. The podcast I was listening to ended and my player skipped directly to the latest episode of the Guardian Books podcast where Susie Grimshaw read the story. I was trying to track down olives and frozen spinach and knew I wasn't giving the story my full attention but still it captured me. I wanted to savour each and every individual word. I ended up listening to it again on the walk home and then again a third time at home, giving the prose my undivided attention. It's a fantastically hilarious story and each word is a gem but, perhaps because the protagonist is a small boy, there is something fairytale like about it, something that seems to come alive when it's read out loud. And maybe that is part of why it resonated with me. I wonder if the connection would have been as strong if I'd read it on the page.

In any case, have a listen. It's a deliciously wicked tale.

Empathy

If you love literature and intelligent conversation, you must subscribe to The Guardian Books podcast. Today's episode is absolutely timely given the heartbreaking result of yesterday's Brexit vote (ie. Britain's decision to leave the EU) and the shameful campaign of bigotry and ignorance that preceded it.

With so much right wing hate and fear-mongering swirling around at home and abroad, it is a balm to hear these writers talk about how literature can build empathy and give people back their humanity.

The poet David Herd speaks eloquently in this podcast about refugee stories and how they go unheard: "the story will be told to the UK [Border Agency] or the Home Office or told in some hearing and on every one of those occasions it's being distorted or broken up and then one version is compared against another and on any of those occasions if there's any reason to doubt the story, then the story is throw out. And so what's been impossible for so many people is the opportunity to tell their story in a way and a context in which the story can actually be heard."

I've just begun revisions to my novel and Herd's insight really resonated as both utterly true and utterly heartbreaking. But what gives me hope is the writers on this podcast, all of them attempting to give people back their stories, to share those stories with the world.

Listen to the full podcast here.