I am a fan of the short story. It is a very unique style of writing and far more difficult to pull off effectively than most people realize. A common misconception is that an author uses the genre as ‘training wheels’ for a more ambitious projects. The truth however is different. A well crafted short story is the pinnacle of writing. A whole story is compressed into just a few pages, every word counts. The reader is engaged from the first sentence.

A story is like catching a fish, you bait the hook, you cast the line, the fish bites, and you play the fish to the net. With a novel you have the advantage of time to achieve the goal, with a short story you do not. You have to ‘speed date’ the reader!

Ram Sundaram may be the new kid on the writing block, but he has mastered the art and put a very interesting twist into it. I Am Me is a most unusual book. It is a collection of 20 short stories, except it is not! It is actually 10 short stories, and each one is given two treatments. In broad terms one version is rooted in reality while the other has elements of fantasy. This is a concept that I have never come across before.

As a reviewer I understand the harsh realities of the publishing world and understand that most authors are not exactly rolling in money. When I first talked to Ram Sundaram I suggested that he send the manuscript in electronic form. His reply was strange, he said that he was happy for me to read I Am Me in electronic form but insisted that I also needed a paper copy. I thought it was a little odd, but authors can be eccentric, plus, I have to admit that wonderful though eBooks are, nothing beats paper. The smell of fresh ink, the tactile feel of turning the physical page, the typeface, all of these things are important to me.

I understand why Ram Sundaram wanted me to see the real version. The book is unique. In the Authors Note he has the delightful tease :

It begins at either end and meets in the middle

Well it truly does. Read a story, turn the book over and read the other version!

You start at either end and meet in the middle!

All of the stories are great, but without doubt my favorite is Fifty Cents. What can fifty cents buy? The answer is complicated. Fifty cents has a myriad of uses. In the two versions that Ram Sundaram explores we meet very contrasting ideas about Fifty Cents. In one version it is used to buy something, not friendship exactly, more as an admission fee to a club. In version two Fifty Cents is given freely. It is an act of sharing with no expectation of return. These are two very different views about one single subject.

Both stories are splendid in their own right, but read as a pair they take on a new and exciting dimension. It is not often that I argue with an author, but I disagree with Ram Sundaram with his statement about the stories contrasting reality and fantasy. Fifty Cents is the proof! Both versions pull from reality. Buying friendship never works well. Sharing always is a better solution.

I am a huge fan of I Am Me. But take my advice, paper beats digital on this one.

You can get your own copy of I Am Me at better book stores everywhere, or from Amazon by clicking on the link above.

Simon Barrett

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