One of my favorite short story collections that I’ve read recently is “This Is Not Your City” by Caitlin Horrocks. I recommended it for The Lit Pub. Horrocks is a writer to study. I’m particularly taken with her openings. Every story in the collection opens strongly. Here, for example is the opening of “Going to Estonia”:
“Ursula Kotinlainen left the north on January second, a Sunday. She’d already been on the bus for two hours when a boy with acne and a wispy moustache got on in Sodankyla and sat in front of her. He wiped the condensation off the window and waved frantically to an old woman outside, shouted as the bus pulled away. At a highway rest stop outside Kemi, the boy stood outside the men’s toilets puffing out great gouts of air, trying to step forward into the clouds before they disappeared. He had a strange, flat face, and as Ursula watched him choke with laughter at his own breath she thought there was something wrong with him. But it was the first time she’d seen the sun rise in over a month, and as she looked at the boy, at the haze of exhaust the idling bus exhaled, at her own breath, she could believe that there was warmth in the belly of the world.”
It’s an incredible story. This strange boy she observes so closely at the beginning of her journey will not figure into the rest of the story, at all, but what’s important here is what she observes, how she observes, and where her mind is in this moment. That is the jumping off point and already, I want to know this Ursula. All of Horrocks’ stories did this for me, in the all-important opening paragraphs.