David Mitchell on the Alchemy of A.S. Byatt’s Stories

David Mitchell in Literary Hub:

A.S. Byatt’s reputation as a master of the long form has been crystallized by Possession, a novel of depth, breadth and heft; the “Frederica Quartet,” a prose tapestry of post-war England; and The Children’s Book, a many-chambered country house of a narrative. Her new collection, Medusa’s Ankles, showcases Byatt’s gifts as a master of the short story. To my mind, she belongs in that select club of writers whose members include Dickens, John Cheever, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Elizabeth Bowen, and who achieve virtuosity in both short- and long-form fiction.

The stories beguile, illuminate, immerse, unsettle, console and evoke. They buzz with wit, shimmer with nuance and misdirect like a street conjuror. They amend, or even rewrite, any putative Rules of the Short Story time and again. They possess a sentient quality. If Medusa’s Ankles was a retrospective exhibition, the gallery would need no guide or “explainer” cards stuck next to the paintings—the stories are perfect and lucid as they stand.

More here.