Sunday, 27 January 2019

Short story books I've recently read

Over Xmas I caught up with some books that have been on my reading list for a while -

  • "An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It" by Jessie Greengrass (JM Originals, 2015) - Plenty of the narrators share a suave, sub-claused style - e.g.
    Nor did the severity of the winters deter me. They would be hard, I knew; not casually hard, as the tedium of January in southern England is hard, with its mud and drizzle and skies like sodden newsprint, but a force in opposition, a way of being rather than a backdrop; and consequently their survival would confer the certainty of great courage, persistence and inner strength (p.37)
    Several are loners escaping from grief or bereavement by fantasising or staying in remote places, though we're told that
    While all of these putative new lives involved escape, to claim this as their function is a reduction of their appeal to the obvious and trite. They represented I think not so much a running away as a sloughing off (p.41)
    At the end they can't always re-enter the world they retreated from. "Dolphin" is my favourite piece.
  • "Attrib. and other stories" by Eley Williams (Influx Press, 2017) - Lots of wordplay and synaesthesia, break-ups (of which there are several) triggering a dash into etymology/typography -
    An exclamation mark is a full-stop with a cockatoo's crest. Full stops, three full-stops. Had you been waiting for me to finish your sentence and to join the dots? Lichtenstein or Seurat (p.72)
    I'm impressed by "And back again", perhaps my favourite story in all these books.
  • "Vertigo" by Joanna Walsh (DorothyProject.com, 2015) - The most self-consciously literary of these books perhaps. Almost an episodic novel, each story potentially having the same narrator with the same preoccupations. Other women are there to be compared with. Men are unreliable husbands, ex-husbands or potential bedmates. She's navigating through roles, loss of confidence leading to loss of cohesion - mind splits from body, language splits from mind. The narrator's state of mind is sometimes represented by language ploys - repetition, disruption, point-of-view changes, etc -
    I am too old to look good in a bikini and I have not, across the years, paid enough attention to looking good in a bikini for me to look good in a bikini. But, even when young, I never paid enough attention to looking good in a bikini (p.105)
    "The children's ward" is perhaps my favourite piece.
  • "A book of blues" by Courttia Newland (Flambard Press, 2011) - The most conventional of these books, and the one that most dealt with social issues. The longest too, twice as long as some of the others, and with the most variety. He uses several viewpoints - first person female, first person male, various third person varieties - and various voices. "Beach Boy" was my favourite piece.

No comments:

Post a comment