Stories spanning the globe occupy the pages of A Kind of Compass, an anthology of short stories from 17 writers, curated with an introduction by the editor Belinda McKeon. The name A Kind of Compass comes from the theme of the story collection- distance.
The theme of distance isn’t always written about as a physical ‘thing’ that can be measured. Some of the short story writers have taken distance as an abstract idea and subsequently have led us to fascinating, unexpected, and sometimes unnerving places- from the inner mind to outer space to distance among a father and daughter.
The contributors such as Yoko Ogawa, Sara Baume, Niven Govinden and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne all explore the thematic material in a unique way, and the constant shifting from space to mind, literal to metaphorical makes the anthology fly by. I would turn the pages hungrily, and devour the next short story, eager to see that author’s take.
“Distance is inherent to the short story”
The authors are from around the globe, and given their diverse, international locations but also their expertise and backgrounds, the stories have settings that crisscross the globe. Some take place in Ireland, some in the Indian Ocean, and even some in the future. The collection smartly begins and ends with two stories dealing with outer space– the ultimate distance.
While making my way through this well themed, beautifully curated collection, I was struck by how interesting it was to be reading different people’s take on a single concept. The stories range from less than five pages to over thirty, but the pacing feels right. I found myself reading more than one at a time and I loved the variety of voices. This collection was at times, funny, unnerving and insightful. Maybe the point is to reminds us that a compass can help us find the way, but we still have to make the journey ourselves and risk knowing that the destination may not be what we imagined.
Overall, this collection was rewarding and unsettling, but in a way you wouldn’t want to miss.