MJ Nicholls's Reviews > Selected Stories

Selected Stories by Brian McCabe
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Jan 29, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: hoots-mon, short-stories, luvvie-reviews
Read from January 28 to 29, 2012

This gentleman was the first writer I met and, since I am gifted at first impressions, I slid two 30-page manuscripts into his office folder before I even spoke to him. The first was an excerpt from a 900-page paean to sexual frustration, parodied earlier as I Want Vaginas. The second was a novel about ending up like your father. Despite their incredible ugliness, he kindly encouraged me to keep writing with no weariness or beeriness in his voice. Later, I took part in his lovely evening workshops where I had the great good fortune to meet my current partner of some five years, and to make people chortle at some sub-Flann O’Brien whimsy I had farted onto my sister’s old PC the night before. All in all, I can safely say Brian McCabe is a top bloke and a brilliant teacher.

And what a writer! Why did I wait five years to read his work? His stories are playful, hilarious, darkly realistic and endlessly ponderable. The story ‘Interference’ about a child who invents a Martian language to deal with his mother’s suicide attempt took my breath away. Written in a perfect early adolescent tone, with an Ali Smith-like flair for language and wit, the story’s devastating core creeps up on the reader like a really good rapist. ‘Anima’ and ‘Say Something’ are equal favourites: the latter a drunken rant from an academic’s wife, with her uninterrupted monologue speaking for the silent man. Other tales deal with life in bleak Scottish towns, among the best ‘The Hunter of Dryburn’ and ‘Strange Passenger,’ the longest piece here, and a great exploration of kids who leave their parents’ social class. Read this man. He’s bloody nice.
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