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Attrib. and other stories

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  903 ratings  ·  161 reviews
This debut collection from Eley Williams centres upon the difficulties of communication and the way in which one’s thoughts — absurd, encompassing, oblique — may never be fully communicable and yet can overwhelm.

Attrib. and other stories celebrates the tricksiness of language just as it confronts its limits. Correspondingly, the stories are littered with the physical ephe
Paperback, 169 pages
Published March 23rd 2017 by Influx Press
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When I decided to read the shortlist for the Republic of Consciousness prize, this was the book I was most looking forward to, partly because it was mentioned in a few of the papers' best of the year lists at the end of last year. It did not disappoint me at all - Eley Williams is clearly a talented writer, and this playful, quirky collection is a pleasure to read.

In general, I find short story collections very difficult to review - I don't like the story by story dissection as a form, and I oft
Gumble's Yard
Winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize (for which I was a judge) and listed in the Guardian as my Book of the Year for 2017.

And now winner of the James Tait novel prize- Britain's longest running literary prize to go with its newest in the RoC.

This book is published by the UK small publisher Influx Press which “publish stories from the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces and sites of resistance that remain under explored in mainstream
I had pre-ordered Attrib. and other stories, and I read the first story one insomniac late night, as soon as I received it. I could hardly believe it was real; I thought it might have been a dream. I read it again the next day.

Attrib. is like that. It's so unlike what I was expecting. I'm so used to debut short story collections by women being deadpan and wilfully horrible, full of impassive descriptions of sex and depression. That's not to say I haven't loved some books fitting that description
Violet wells
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 21st-century
This is a very nudge nudge wink wink kind of book. Very self-consciously clever and a little bit pleased with itself. It reminded me at times of someone who goes on the dancefloor to send up the whole concept of dancing, someone playing up to an audience of fellow scoffers. How amusing you find this depends largely on your mood. Dancing can look like a ridiculous pastime; on the other hand it can also exalt the human form to its quintessence. As can, in my view, traditional storytelling that dep ...more
Paul Fulcher
Winner of the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize for 'gorgeous prose and hardcore literary fiction' from small, independent presses.

The plot of this is not and will not be obvious.

Influx Press is another of the UK's small, independent presses, source of much of the really exciting development in literary fiction, their specific mission to publishing innovative and challenging fiction and creative non-fiction [...] stories from the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces and sites of
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-rofc, 2017

Attrib. And Other Stories is published by Influx Press, one of the UK’s small, independent publishers. On it’s website, Influx Press says it’s mission is to "…publish stories from the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces and sites of resistance that remain under explored in mainstream literature."

If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have told you that I wasn’t really interested in short stories and mu
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Republic of Consciousness Prize Winner 2018

This debut is remarkable, not for its plot (there isn’t any), nor for its characters (they are mere shadows), but for its delicious, bewitching prose.

The 17 stories that make up this collection all chronicle those moments in life when time stands still – the silence after a telephonic breakup, the gnawing agony before a first kiss, the slumbering half-thoughts when waking up in bed next to a loved one – told mostly by nameless, genderless narrators wit
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Several friends told me I'd love this collection and they were right! Williams takes such pleasure in wordplay (in a non annoying way) that these stories feel joyful. My favorite was "Synaesthete, Would Like To Meet." There is also a thread of someone who left and the narrator trails through the stories speaking to the invisible "you," the way you do when everything you think relates to the person you have loved and lost. ...more
Helen McClory
A Dead Whale!
Tense alluring moments in an airing cupboard!
Nathalie (keepreadingbooks)
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I believe this is my first 5-star short story collection, ever. I could end the review right here, because that says plenty in itself – though I’ve read a fair few 4-star collections. But I very much want to share a few thoughts on these brilliant stories.

First of all, I’ve never had so many favourites in one collection. I feel like mentioning all of them, so you know what, I’ll go ahead and do that: Attrib., Swatch, Bs, Fears and Confessions of an Ortolan Chef, Mischief, Spines, and Spins. All
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Blown away by how stimulating, witty, beautiful, human, and gorgeously written this is. I'm not typically one for short story collections, but I genuinely did not want this to end so soon. ...more
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5, rounded up.

As I have mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of the short story collection format (one or two stories are fine, but back to back I just get antsy for something meatier - it just seems to be an entire meal of appetizers, when I am longing for an entrée). That said, for the most part Williams' debut collection succeeds admirably, and she is both quirky and often fun to read, with some delicious and intelligent wordplay.

But as with any collection, there have to be a few duds, and
Jonathan Pool
Attrib. turned out to be a much more complex reading experience than I had expected, and ultimately more fulfilling too.
There are seventeen stories in 158 pages. That's a lot of stories-too many; and some are very short and I think it's unrealistic to suppose that every one is going to hit the mark; some of the stories are little more than musings and for my money they disrupt the flow and momentum that mark the best books, and short story collections.
Hence my mediocre three star rating overall
Jackie Law
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Attrib. (and other stories), by Eley Williams, is a collection of seventeen short stories exploring the difficulties inherent in human communication. The author wields her prose with sensory precision. Her words and the silences between convey both the beauty and the grotesque nature of relationships. They reveal the distance between internal thought processes and their articulation.

Each tale captures a moment and the attendant waterfall of words cascading inside a protagonist’s head. These incl
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“related—where are my glasses? for some reason i find that if i say,

‘glasses. glasses?’

in an authoritative way while searching for them it seems more likely that i shall find them or that i will somehow invoke them into being. this is a strategy that does not work for finding one’s dignity nor for finding you but glasses—possibly. announcing my intention to find them at least conveys a sense of control as i dither around picking up ornaments and looking under curtains. there is a paper published
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All good things must come to an end and, sadly, today I have come to the end of the delightful, playfully loquacious, wholly unique collection of Eley Williams’ short pieces. They aren’t exactly stories, although they tell a story, they are rides through Ms Williams mind that a word or image has triggered.

I have never read anything like these stories (for lack of a better word) and I did not want to finish this book. Ms Williams uses words and sounds and images better than any artist uses any m
Eric Anderson
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
The short stories in Eley Williams' debut collection may not have any concrete connection to each other, but many of them depict brief moments of emotional drama. However, instead of burrowing into the characters' feelings or reasons for these instances of lovers breaking up and other life changes, the stories are filled with seemingly trivial, distracted trails of thought that we follow through until the apparent crisis has passed. This technique might feel hollow if it weren't for the skilful ...more
Simon Pitt
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This really is a fantastic collection - I've been reading Williams' stories for years and been waiting for this with glee. The stories are filled with wit, humour and verbal wordplay - and a breadth of cultural references.

You never quite know where each story is going to take you. Many feel inspired by intriguing, unusual situations - the rat that sniffs out mines, Stendhal syndrome (being overcome by works of art), aphasia (a condition that makes you lose your language ability), and a dish tha
Pushing the limits of language to tell stories of relationships, many just ended, in very unique and clever ways. Brilliant!
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read this short book of very short stories over the course of three months, so I remember almost nothing about any individual story, but overall I remember feeling like I was listening to the characters' inner voice - not as described by the author, not an interior monologue, but the actual voice the characters hear when they think to themselves. These characters often have a charmingly direct, yet whimsical way of thinking. One describes the red tie of a man on the Tube looking like a "botche ...more
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Pin-sharp, smart, succinct stories that play with language, words and meaning, covering topics as diverse as aphasia, kissing in front of paintings, hedgehogs in swimming pools and rats that can smell landmines. Come for the wordplay, stay for the raw emotion and brilliance.
Brilliant. After a couple of disappointing short story collections, reading (listening) to this collection was exhilirating. Love, love, love what Eley Williams can do with language. The full power and humor of words are at her command, and she tells a pretty good story too.

A favorite was the story "Smote (or When I Find I Cannot Kiss You in Front of a Print by Bridget Riley)". It's brilliant for many reasons but I've especially come to appreciate queer identified writers who can thread an eleme
Claire Fuller
Playful, wild, and a little bit crazy. In this short story collection, Eley Williams messes about with language in these stories - often in the first person and addressed to another individual 'you' - from someone who is losing their words, to a character who gets synaesthesia after her sister drops the Yellow Pages on her head, and another who likes to quote the bible at his landmine-searching rat. Many stories are set to a backdrop of frustrated relationships where the narrator is rarely able ...more
Laura Waddell
Mar 19, 2017 added it
Shelves: 2017
Enjoyed this. Is well described by its description commenting on "the trickiness of language." There is a story on synaesthesia, which is apt, as the rest of the stories take a synaesthetic approach to language, meaning blooming out in all directions, playfully. There are formal structures at play, too, in dictionary definitions observed and toyed with. Outside of observing language itself, which is the defining characteristic of this book, the stories often focus on relationships, and a couple ...more
Farrah Scott
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
There was no plot, placement or characterisation, which I’m guessing was deliberate? But if the focus was meant to be the language, then further editing was required to make it have a real impact. There was a lot of needless gumpf and laboured metaphors in between a few scattered, beautiful turns of phrase. However, it did not feel like it was worth reading through the rest of the prose to get to get to those moments.
Having said all of this, I enjoyed ‘Spines’ very much, in which Williams focus
Robert Lukins
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The tricks of language untangled and retangled. It's precise, funny, and moving. Often in that order. ...more
Possibly in Michigan, London
I like themed/interlinked short story collections, whether the individual stories are united by character, place or tone. So I loved the fixation on words here that unites Eley Williams' first book, if not all of the relevant stories. 'The Alphabet', the opening, was affecting – it starts off with a lot of wordplay on misplacing and losing things and then turns out to be about aphasia, a devastating condition. I wasn’t sure about 'Rosette', 'Smote (or When I Find I Cannot Kiss You In Front of a ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Read for the Futurelearn course How to read a novel, 2018.

[EDIT: I was just listening to Death Cab for Cutie in my car today and it occurred to me that reading this collection is a very similar experience to listening to a well-constructed album. It’s complicated and abstract and never easily understood, but at its heart the emotions are near-universally relatable, and it’s strung together in such a way that it could almost be one person’s - albeit extremely melodramatic - life]

These are less st
Joseph Schreiber
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
An inventive, if a little uneven, debut collection. Williams clearly loves playing with language and, at her best, she is dazzling. It will be interesting to see where she goes from here. I read this with the Guardian Reading Group and will write a review toward the end of the month—I'd like to see where the discussion and the author chat goes. A longer review can be found here: ...more
Lara Corona
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am fascinated by books that are fascinated by language.
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ELEY WILLIAMS is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is the author of Attrib. and Other Stories and The Liar's Dictionary. Her work has appeared in The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, Liberating the Canon, The Times Literary Supplement, and London Review of Books. She lives in London. ...more

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