probably 4-and-a-bit stars because there are stories that seem almost mirror images of each other, but they are still good, and I don't want to spoil...moreprobably 4-and-a-bit stars because there are stories that seem almost mirror images of each other, but they are still good, and I don't want to spoil my so-far 5 star March (following Alan Warner's Dead Man's Pedal and Alice Munro's Dear Life). And there are three or four stand out stories of gentle revelation or non-revelation in the lives of Californian middle class couples or old men or boys becoming men. The first one, the title story (which R has pointed out could be about US/USSR relations with its bomb shelter and date of publication: 1985) of neighbours-at-odds has an unexpected and forgiving ending and set me up for a run of finely tuned stories of family expectations and the thwarting of them, or desire and its dwindling. The collection ended with three of the strongest pieces. ‘American Beauty’ was so vivid and spiky it stayed with me as if it was a film I’d seen (not the Kevin Spacey one which has nothing to do with this), scenes playing in my head days later. ‘The Carnival Dog, the Buyer of Diamonds’ likewise featured something unforgettable, this time the character summed up in the title, the protagonist’s father who physically fights and competes against his son to keep him focused, eg to stop him drifting out of medical school. There’s something of that in the final story ‘Star Food’, set mostly on the roof of a supermarket with a dreamy boy encouraged by his mother to think big and by his father to be practical, and ends with a kind of non-epiphany. They seem remarkably mature and empathetic stories for a writer only 27 at the time of publication. Thanks R, Simon and Ryan for pointing me at this collection.(less)
taken me ages to get to this. Review coming, but meanwhile just want to boast. I realised as I opened this book that the story 'The Age of Lead' was i...moretaken me ages to get to this. Review coming, but meanwhile just want to boast. I realised as I opened this book that the story 'The Age of Lead' was in this collection with me!:
here's the table of contents:
sorry, but it's not often you get a contents page that reads Atwood, Barnes, Beard, Boyd... and also includes two of my other favourite authors Munro and Trevor. So, good excuse to display the evidence... ..oh, it hasn't displayed. Bollocks. I'll try again...has it now? (less)
3.7 stars: good - well written - stories of rich (on the whole) New Yorkers (often adopted NYers), mainly media types, writers, film people, but also...more3.7 stars: good - well written - stories of rich (on the whole) New Yorkers (often adopted NYers), mainly media types, writers, film people, but also magnates and politicians attending parties and having lovers secreted in hideaways. All characters are well drawn and there are many funny moments. In one a wife becomes so attached to her potbellied pig she takes it to bed, in another a mother shoots her son in the arse (should say 'ass' I suppose) claiming to mistake him for a burglar. McInerney also exposes the class system in apparently classless USA, eg the woman who proves snobbish about waiters. Everyone's looking to upgrade to better lovers, better lifestyles. I enjoyed them all but felt maybe that was my fill of this type of story for now. Bernard McLaverty recently said the the short story is like a shot of a spirit taken alone at night (as opposed to a novel which is like a pint at the bar). This book was like a long line of G&T's drunk one after the other. Invigorating, bubbly: will get you drunk.(less)
I loved 'Daddy's', one of my books of the year in 2010, so looking forward to this new collection, once again brought to my attention by the admirable...moreI loved 'Daddy's', one of my books of the year in 2010, so looking forward to this new collection, once again brought to my attention by the admirable Kevin Sampsell. (less)
good stuff, very American 'literary short stories' in the Richard Ford mode, recollections of childhood defeats and realisations and tutors having aff...moregood stuff, very American 'literary short stories' in the Richard Ford mode, recollections of childhood defeats and realisations and tutors having affairs with students, sometimes non-sexual, families splitting gently, or not so gently, over time. A couple involving observed lesbianism - I don't mean in a voyeuristic way, a son with his mother, a man and the neighbours across the road. Well written, but maybe a little overbaked at times, maybe a little too much Iowa workshop (he's an alumni), maybe slightly smug in places..(less)
about time I read this. Short story or novella? Who cares.. took me a while to adjust to James's convoluted if elegant sentences, and to the slowed dow...moreabout time I read this. Short story or novella? Who cares.. took me a while to adjust to James's convoluted if elegant sentences, and to the slowed down pace. Read it twice and the second time was sheer pleasure, the first time was shifting myself round to it.(less)
advance copy of this book of stories by writers in my group, Tindal Street Fiction Group, celebrating thirty years since it was founded. All stories a...moreadvance copy of this book of stories by writers in my group, Tindal Street Fiction Group, celebrating thirty years since it was founded. All stories are new and set in Birmingham or the surrounding West Midlands area of the UK. It is officially launched on October 12th at the new Library of Birmingham (UK). I have read quite a few during our fortnightly meetings, but four or five are new to me.
review coming...not a review, but information: I’ve gone off my own piece a bit (well I think it needs some further editing). Everybody else’s stuff is fine. The title story by Mick Scully has been chosen for next year's 'Best British Short Stories 2014'.
The whole reeks of place. The Mail Box, the Bull Ring, the canals and tunnels, the swimming pools and pubs, the architecture and roads, the houses and parks of Birmingham and the West Midlands are the backdrop to a bunch of terrific stories. Edgbaston, Selly Oak, Digbeth, Nechells, The airport, Handsworth, Moseley of course (where we meet), Sparkhill, and outside Brum, Coventry, Lye, Dudley, and Leamington all feature.
Subjects include love and infidelity, obsession and criminality, ageing and mental health.
Maybe it’s Birmingham’s turn to be in the spotlight, with the international interest in the new Library (where this book will be launched on Oct 12th), and the new TV series ‘Peaky Blinders’ set in Small Heath – albeit filmed elsewhere - and said to rival Boardwalk Empire and other massive USA dramas. This book shows there’s plenty of literary talent here too. (less)
my mate found this in his attic, left by previous residents, and gave it me, knowing I love (and write) stories. His (now mine!) copy is an earlier 19...moremy mate found this in his attic, left by previous residents, and gave it me, knowing I love (and write) stories. His (now mine!) copy is an earlier 1966 paperback edition with small print. It's small but chunky, 500 pages. It feels great in your hand. I've read a lot of the pieces (eg Flowers for Algernon) and know most of the classic authors (from Chekhov to Updike) but many stories are new to me. It's organised in sections from - as the title implies - different points of view. Ideal for the forthcoming plane trip to NY and back - should last at least 16 hours...
I hate to get all religious on you but for the short story reader this is the book of books. It is wonderful, perfect, lovely, superb. There's some bollocks about point of view at the beginning, and the stories are grouped in categories, ranging from interior monologue to anonymous narration single character and multiple character to no character (the weird and beautiful Eudora Welty's 'Powerhouse'). (Actually it is quite interesting, and I left the book with my daughter who's studying English and American Literature in Maryland Uni). The main thing is though the quality of the stories, and every one I read was a zinger. It starts with Dorothy Parker's amusing dinner party anecdote 'But the One on the Right' and ends with Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery' - which I'd heard so much about but not actually read until this point. The highlights in between are too numerous to mention but Berriault's (new name to me) 'Stone Boy' about a 9 year old boy who accidentally kills his older brother is stunning. Also great were Malamud's 'The Prison', Steinbeck's 'Johhny Bear', Chekov's 'Enemies' (of course), Irwin Shaw's 'Act of Faith' about persecution of Jews in the USA during WW2 (almost blaming them for dragging the country to war), and to praise British writers for a moment Dylan Thomas's and Alan Sillitoe's childhood ones, oh God the whole lot (I think though I did miss a few out, eg the editor's own contribution, as I had to leave the book).(less)
got to be good - I'm in it! was good, a massive collection of flash fiction from the UK (mainly) to celebrate the UK National Flash Fiction Day (NFFD)....moregot to be good - I'm in it! was good, a massive collection of flash fiction from the UK (mainly) to celebrate the UK National Flash Fiction Day (NFFD). They are, as you would expect, a mixed bunch, I liked some more than others, but the collection has a high hit rate.
I entered the NFFD's competition and got an 'honorary mention' so that's why I'm in it. Some of the other stories were written in response to other creative work, music, TV, film, art etc. And although the source of inspiration are not included sometimes I wished they were. For example 'The Veronicas', about a set of paintings. However mostly it didn't really matter. For example this fine piece about Katy Perry. I know who she is:
# Stephen McGeagh
I am Katy Perry’s biggest fan and I hope that one day she will tweet me back because she is always on twitter and so am I. I spend a long time waiting for new tweets to pop up on my feed. I think that I should follow more people than 219 people because then I will get more new tweets more often. I don’t follow any more than 219 people though, because 219 is too many really. Some of them don’t say anything. They are silent. They are real people and they are boring in real life. They don’t understand twitter so they don’t tweet. If they do tweet it comes out wrong. Like a status update. That is not the point.
News moves fast on twitter. People are exposed and they send pictures of their breasts to their 10m followers by mistake, when they are releasing new albums. People are heroic charity Jesus shining bastards and then public masturbaters in the same week. People lose their minds and tweet-feud. Footballers quote Morissey and give out horse-racing tips. Katy Perry is lovely to everyone. She re-tweets her fans. She makes everyone feel like they are her BFF. I am too scared to tweet Katy Perry because I am afraid that she won’t tweet me back or re-tweet my tweet and then I will either kill myself or I won’t go on twitter for a while.
I join pinterest and I stay on facebook and I try to blog and I use google images to find tattoo designs and I read wikipedia pages, on my smartphone, about the Armenian genocide while I’m in the pub, drinking alone. I plug in my headphones and I start up a youtube play list of late 90s nu-metal and this helps me to do all the things that I am trying to achieve that day.
I would like to stand in a field. The air would be cold and the sun would be going down behind a big tree at one end of the field. The grass would be long and I would be wearing denim shorts and the grass would tickle my knees. I would have a vest on and my arms would be like the arms of a guy who cuts down trees for a living. I would be stood behind Katy Perry and she would be watching the sunset. She would be thinking this sunset is incredible, I will remember it for the rest of my life. She would feel like crying with happiness because she had been given a few seconds of her own to watch a sunset over a cold, long-grass field. I would reach out to touch her on the shoulder and then stop myself. Then she would walk off slowly and go back to her stressful job and her stressful life and I would stay in the cold dark field for rest of my life because I would never be that close to Katy Perry again.
I liked many other stories, and although it's maybe invidious to pick out favourites, I'm going to do so anyway: The Art of the TV Chefs by Becky Tipper with its unexpected reaction to death and a great description of a jelly in a fridge; Bright New Morning by Joanna Campbell maybe for this line:she was crumbling, her bones like table-legs chewed by a puppy ; Clare Kirwan's 'Finding Trainspotting' - frustration and a lifetime exposed by a simple act (a library assistant showing a reader how to find Irvine Wesh's fucking books; Jenn Ashworth's Shoes with its devastating last line; Calum Kerr's sad How; Tim Stevenson's sadder A handful... oh loads of good stuff here.. (less)