Secrets & Wisdom

Ian Gouge
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Genres: Contemporary, Short Story Collections, Literary Fiction. Format: Multiple. Views: This Week 182, Total 463.

The author has indicated that this book is not suitable for children and young adults.

‘Secrets & Wisdom’ started life in 2016 as a project with a specific design. The idea was to write a series of short stories, each based on one of the traditional Olympian Gods and on one or more of their individual characteristics. In addition, each story would contain within it either a ‘secret’ held close by the protagonist, or the demonstration - or otherwise! - of ‘wisdom’ / self-knowledge in some form or other.

Over time, as the original project progressed, the reworking of some additional material - both modern and ancient - appeared to lend itself to the general theme, and so the notion was born to expand the brief of ‘Secrets & Wisdom’ and to create a slightly wider and more eclectic collection of short stories.

From the original project, “Angela”, “Anne”, “Hester”, “Hobart” and “Westminster” have made it into this volume (the remaining seven Gods currently lie dormant until they are awoken at some point in the future!).

So what is the genesis of the rest of material?

There is a considerable variety in the style and length of the stories here - in the latter, they range from 2 to 40 pages long!

Some pieces - such as “My Dear Polly” and “Vinno” - had seen many anniversaries prior to being dusted off and re-worked for inclusion. Inevitably, a number were, on first drafting, a little like the unwanted guest at a party whose presence makes one feel slightly awkward; however, after a few drinks and a make-over, they suddenly become best friends!

“How Does It Start?”, “Stanley Grice” and “A Strange Kind of Map” are reasonably recent stories. At over 13,00 words, “How Does It Start?” is the longest story in this collection, and quite possibly one of the ‘star turns’.

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Overall, the collection does of course represent something of a ‘literary fashion challenge’ in that the short story is widely regarded as the ‘Cinderella’ of creative writing. No-one should publish a collection of short stories with any great expectations in terms of sales, wealth or fame - at least no-one in their right mind who isn’t already established / famous / world-renowned. “Secrets & Wisdom” is not, therefore - and we might as well be honest about it! - a gambit that strives to deliver record sales figures or a colossal bank balance boost!

So why bother?

Two reasons. The first is that, in reviewing some of the older material - and in being pleasantly surprised that some of it was half-decent - the author felt that it deserved its chance; that it may be just far enough on the ok-side of good not to be put back in a box and relegated once again to the loft cupboard. That may be a little self-deluding, who knows - but the stories may just earn a modi*** of respect and kudos from anyone who reads them.

The second reason is much more prosaic. The collection represents - at least on one level - a ‘clearing of the decks’; an attempt to tidy up loose ends in order to allow the time and space for an assault on a new, as yet unplanned, novel.

Thinking about it, whichever way you look at it, the reasons are pretty selfish! Having said that, I hope you find something to enjoy in ‘Secrets & Wisdom’…
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