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Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 22/02/99

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Little books with big ideas

One of the things I find most annoying when visiting bookstores is the display of 'miniature' books which you can always find displayed around the cash register, tempting you to spend just five dollars more on some 800-word piece of crap which strings together the thoughts of five year old children for your philosophic betterment. Most of this stuff is so cute and twee, they should supply a bucket next to the counter for the benefit of more discerning customers. Euugh.

The only miniature books which I ever had time for were the Penguin 60s which that fine publishing company issued in 1995 to celebrate its 60th anniversary. Not only were these a convenient size for fitting into a jeans pocket, but they also contained stuff you'd actually want to read, unlike Things My Cat Taught Me, The Little Book Of Lace Flowers or Angela's Ashes: The Pocket Edition.

Of course, coming up with material which could be trimmed down into a 100-page book that was less than half the size of a normal novel was a challenge for Penguin, and thus short stories, extracts, essays and poems abounded. One of the few books which was published in its entirety in the 60s format was Patricia Highsmith's Little Tales Of Misogyny, a collection of 17 extremely short stories (most averaged less than a thousand words) first published in 1980.

I first read this book many years ago in my local library, and eagerly seized on a copy when it was reissued. While Highsmith is best known as a crime writer, crime is only incidentally the subject of these stories. As the title suggests, all concern women, and mostly the women in question are pretty nasty; for once, the cover blurb's proclamation that the book is filled with "menacing spine-chillers full of simmering malice" is pretty accurate.

I commend this volume to you it if you see a pile of remaindered 60s (as I often do) in your local bookshop as you try and avoid looking at the detritus near the register. It only cost $2 in the first place, so it's well worth it. Great cover pic, too, don't you think?


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