IT'S STRANGE THAT one does not automatically think of A S Byatt primarily as an outstanding short-story writer in the way that one does, say, Angela Carter or Rachel Ingalls. Her fame is due chiefly (and was so, even before the Booker-winning Possession) to her novels, and her preoccupation with the novel, from its characters to its layers of meaning, is attested in distinguished collections of essays. Yet of all her fictions, it now seems to me that it is the short stories that are most likely to endure.
It was the collection Sugar and Other Stories that first 0 indicated a writer of fabulous gifts, a promise that she fulfilled in Possession. Following this, she began to write modern fairy tales, inviting the reader to ponder the significance of fairy-tale paradigms and archetypes. 'Narration is as much part