March Round Up
“You haven’t posted anything on your blog for a while,” Rach told me.
“I’ve not got anything to put up,” I said.
“Can’t you just make something up?”
“Make something up? Make something up? What do you think this is?”
I have actually been making stuff up, it’s just that all the stuff I’ve made up recently has either disappeared off as competition entries or submissions, or it’s been fed into the living, breathing bulk of ever-growing noveliness. It’s like feeding a pet. Of which…
I do have some work which I will be featuring on Digestive Press very soon – a serialisation of a story (about a cat) I wrote a while back, called Gnocchi. Can I get away with posting an item that is basically an advert for my own work? It’s my blog, so I’m going with YES.
The winners and runners up of this year’s Fish Short Story Prize have been announced. I had an interest in the results of this competition because I entered one of my stories in it. The bad news is that I wasn’t named in the top three, or in the next seven – so my story won’t be in their anthology. However, I did get on the 83-strong shortlist which, according to maths, means I was somewhere in the top 5%. It isn’t possible to read my story, but if you click on the link above you can see very clearly my name written on a list! (Have purposefully refrained from mentioning the title of the story so that you have to go and have a look to find out)
For once, my reading of published fiction happened to coincide with the awarding of awards. Just as I was enjoying George Saunders’ Tenth Of December, he was winning the Folio Prize. It’s good to see a short story collection pitched against novels and coming out top, especially because Tenth Of December is an excellent piece of work that deserves recognition. Saunders manages to be serious and entertaining in equal measure, political without his characters coming across as though they are just mouthpieces or pawns.
I also liked some of the things he said in this interview in the Guardian.
Saunders feels under no particular pressure to turn out another “nine, 12, 15” books since, he says wryly, “I think I’ll probably still die at the end.” The interesting thing is somehow to get “a story down that is true to the way this has all felt. Even if it’s a four-page story. That would be very nice.”
The other books in the above picture are:
1) Marie-Helene Bertino’s Safe As Houses, a short story collection I read in the new year. Right from the beginning of the book it is clear that Bertino is a very good, very poetic writer, but it was only about halfway through that I felt the sentences got the stories they deserved. Then the second half of it was brilliant and I would have been happy to read more.
2) Sara Levine’s Treasure Island!!! in which the main character becomes obsessed with Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic and uses its core values to re-shape her life. This funny, frantic novel does a good job of encapsulating the nature of disaffected twenty-somethings.
3) Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen’s The Rabit Back Literature Society, published in the UK by the wonderful Pushkin Press, drags the reader into small-town weirdness reminiscent of the work of David Lynch. He has interesting things to say about the vampiric nature of inspiration and, whilst most of the main characters are writers, it should sit just the right side of being able to retain the interest of non-writers.
The programme for the 2014 Guernsey Litfest has been released. It includes talks, workshops, performances etc from Andrew Motion, Robert Rankin, Farrago Poetry, Ella Berthoud (from the School Of Life) and Neil Perryman (who wrote Adventures With The Wife In Space, a blog and book about persuading his wife to watch all the classic Doctor Who series). There are lots more things going on (see the website for information and tickets) and I’m looking forward to volunteering again and helping cover the weekend on the Litfest blog.