I really don’t like to make things easy for myself, do I? Having successfully finished my project of reading all 51 of the Penguin Moderns (the 50 in my box and the extra Mishima) you would think I would like to relax and contemplate the various Penguin projects I haven’t touched for ages, planning to get back to them. Alas, not so….. I blame author of the excellent “White Spines“, Nicholas Royle, who I follow on Twitter; during May I noticed that he was tweeting daily with an image of the date made up in book titles e.g. 25.05.2022 would have three different volumes of Penguin Horror Stories – nos. 25, 5 and 22! Intriguingly, on some of the dates, Royle featured a set of books I’d never come across – Penguin Modern Stories…

I exchanged a few tweets with Royle and he kindly posted a photo of all 12 volumes in the set. It seems that these are from the late1960s/early 1970s, and perhaps followed on from the Penguin Modern Poets which began in the 1960s; however, that series ran for 27 books, whereas the Modern Stories finished at 12. Was there less of an interest in short stories? Did readers prefer poetry? Who knows, as there doesn’t seem to be much documentation available. The blurb on the back of Book 1 says “This volume is the first of a new series designed to bring new short stories by both well-known and exciting new writers to the wide public they deserve. Penguin Modern Stories will be published four times a year”. Which is a laudable aim! However, looking at the range of authors featured, I was intrigued and set about searching online.

When I casually mentioned these books to my BFF J. she was as intrigued as I had been, particularly when we could see that Plath and Rhys were featured authors. I tracked down volumes 1 and 2; J. found a load more online; and then I sourced the final missing two. So now we have a set of 12 between us and I’m hoping reading them will be a manageable project!

The books appear to come with a little more information than the Poets did, and from my initial quick explorations it seems that this may be first time of publication for the stories. So that’s interesting, and reading these volumes will raise lots of questions for me about the changing fashions in writing and reading, why some authors’ work survives and others disappear by the wayside, and what kind of audience there would be nowadays for something like this. You could argue that things like Granta have overtaken a venture like the Penguin Modern Stories, but I think they must have been quite groundbreaking releases at the time.

So, onward and upward with a new reading project! I shall be putting up another dedicated page just for these books, and linking any reviews on it. I *will* also be trying to reboot the other stalled projects – so watch this space and see whether I manage to get going with the various Penguins! 😀