Sunday, 13 December 2020

Prose in 2020

  • This was the year of my blitz on story competitions. A complete failure. Few successes in magazines either.
  • I've written more prose than usual. Nothing show-stopping. I like a 3000 word piece and a 250 word piece that I've written. Neither have been accepted yet.
  • Because of covid I've been listening to audio books for the first time - a life-style change. I was unsure whether I could maintain attention intensely enough. I can handle "The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle" (Stuart Turton) without having to make too many notes, so I reckon I'm going to be ok. I listened to several Booker long-listed novels that I wouldn't normally have read, and liked them more than I expected.
  • I attended the Zoom launch of Postbox, issue 4 - the only virtual launch I've attended.
  • I worked my way through my reading list of books old and new - "Asymmetry", "Regeneration", "The Prime of Miss Brodie" etc. My favourite books were the Bath Short Story Award anthologies.
  • I noticed that the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize (worth £10,000 - the only UK based award to recognise excellence in a single authored short story collection) had a longlist of 12 authors, all female. I conclude that I must try harder.
  • I ended the year by reading Zadie Smith's "Grand Union", a story collection which should give hope to budding short story writers. She famously got her first book contract while a Cambridge student, and still is a highly regarded writer. The pieces are in several styles (SF, essay, etc), some rather derivative - Cusk, Le Guin, etc. I guess it's good that she's experimenting. 5 were in New Yorker, 2 in Paris Review and 1 from Granta. The rest are unpublished. To me, Parents' Morning Epiphany is a dud - not even good of its type. Some of the others look dodgy too. Reviewers, even her fans, have doubts -
    • "At least eight of the 19 stories in Grand Union aren’t very good."
    • "an uneven grab bag of picked-up pieces and experiments — some of which, from an unknown or less-celebrated writer, might have stayed in a drawer"
    • "you’d think that this collection would be a banger of a book, but for me, unfortunately, it felt more like a wet squib – and needless to say I was hugely disappointed."

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