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Another critical thing about short story writing, about writing all around, is that specifics always trump (no political reference intended) generalities. These last two paragraphs create vivid images very quickly that tell us much more than if Saki were to say Conradin “was very sad and lonely and his only friends were his pets,” for instance. There’s the dreary garden, the Houdan hen — which is a French chicken, if you’re not into poultry identification — and of course, the ferret god, Sredni Vashtar, worshipped with stolen nutmeg. Now we get a sense of the depth of Conradin’s loneliness, imagination and even obsession without Saki overplaying his hand. And of course, our villain becomes more dreadful. Reduced to being called the Woman her loss of a name makes her a tiny bit less human. Read on.

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