Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Short story metaphors continued

Owen Sheers judge of National Short Story Prize says stories are a 'soil sample' of the culture. This goes very nicely with Anne Enright's cats in the Granta Book of Irish Short Stories.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Short story metaphors

Another metaphor for the short story - this time Anne Enright introducing The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story in the Guardian: 'They are the cats of literary form; beautiful, but a little too self-contained...' My dog looks up at me balefully; he wants to be a short story too.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Katherine Mansfield

The character with the round breasts and muscular thighs is not of course Mansfield but J.D. Fergusson's painting Rhythm, discussed by Angela Smith in the journal. Rhythm was the little magazine in which Mansfield's work appeared. That title is full of Bergsonian overtones to do with dynamism, intuition, temporal fluidity....Anyway, I'm very proud that my story 'The Not Knowing' is included in a journal that bears KM's name, alongside some excellent articles and more creative work by Kirsty Gunn, C.K. Stead and others.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

As Long as You Both

Her eyes were not exactly blue or grey. They were the colour of the sea, the sea on a dull morning without sunlight. That was how they were when he looked, but he didn’t often look. They had been together too long to take much notice of such details, but now he saw the way the strands of hair fell across her eyes and he asked her to marry him, for no other reason.

‘Don’t let’s make a big production out of it,’ he said, ‘not at our age. Lets just go away together somewhere quiet.’

Read the rest of the story in New Writing Vol. 7,

Monday, 31 May 2010

Even more on short story metaphors

'A reader gets in and out of a short story, like a cold bath' - Lorrie Moore. Brr!

Friday, 23 April 2010

More on short story metaphors

A couple I missed, having only just caught up with a Helen Simpson interview earlier this week. Helen says they're like 'speed boats or soft-top sports cars' - you can get away in them quickly! I like these better than the elderly aunts. Looking forward to The Tipping Point, out this week.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Short Story Metaphors

For some time now I've been collecting short story metaphors. I've heard 'the short story' described as everything from a seagull to a garden shed. The latest was in a piece by Alison Flood in the Guardian about an app for short stories, launched this week by Ether Books. I don't know if it was in the press release or if she thought it up herself, but here we go: 'The short story is the elderly aunt of the literary world: almost impossible to marry off to a publisher'. Some one has been reading too much Jane Austen.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Handy words and phrases

Certain expressions lodge in the mind, and my mother thinks, I like this, I'll keep it. After my dad died, she wanted to be 'left to grieve in private'. Another one - 'enjoy good health'. So-and-so 'doesn't enjoy very good health '. In fact, no one 'enjoys' good health. It's a phrase to be used in the negative only. If I were on Thought for the Day I'd expound on the lessons to be learnt from this, perhaps reading it as a gentle reproach to the rest of us. Like most of us, I learnt to speak from my mother, and after learning to speak I learnt first of all to read and then to write.

Friday, 26 March 2010

From Angers

On the platform, the writer is composed, answering each question precisely, without hesitation. What is the meaning of the symbolism in your stories? The towers, the mirrors and labyrinths? French critics have not yet found a language for talking to a living writer. They are suspicious of Creative Writing, and, strangely, in a country which gave us the Death of the Author, frame their discussion in terms of intention rather than process. The writer’s head is lit by the computer projector, left over from previous panels, creating a peculiar band of light, like a bandage, on his bald head. He has a fringe of white hair, a moustache and round glasses. The only biographical information he’s willing to disclose is his date of birth, 1943. Because I’ve only discovered his work recently, I’ve been thinking of him as a new writer, some one much younger, a dark, saturnine figure, conflating him with Edward Norton in The Illusionist.

Throughout the conference, he’s referred to, not by his full name, but as Millhauser, the proper noun turned into an abstraction. He first materializes at our private tour of the Apocalypse Tapestry, whose panels serendipitously call to mind the structure of his story ‘Klassik Komix #1’. He reads this story now, in the light of the screen, interposed with the sections of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock which it has rendered into comic book images. It’s a shame he doesn’t give you ‘Klassik Komix’ without explanation, leaving the reader to figure out what is it, but perhaps he isn’t sure how familiar Eliot’s poem is to French short story specialists.

I didn’t know that, as with the best Turkish carpets, the weave on the back of the tapestry matches the front, except that the side that’s hidden, protected from the light, is still dazzlingly bright, vivid because it’s unseen. If I were Steven Millhauser I’d see my way into a story through that underside. Story ideas have kept coming to me, while I’ve been away, partly a result of the conference itself, partly the effects of a long train journey. Revelations are scribbled all over the programme and the speakers’ handouts - changes to unpublished and half-completed stories, and the beginnings of new ones. I wish I’d brought my laptop, except it could be that my brain’s on overdrive because I left the writing equipment at home.

The Apocalypse Tapestry is like a great medieval slide show, showing scenes from the Book of Revelations - many-headed monsters with docile lion’s faces, the Great Whore combing her hair and St John eating the Book because the word of God must be physically digested. The previous guest writer, Helen Simpson, gives the reader a guided tour of this ‘double decker cartoon’ in ‘The Boy and the Savage Star’. I especially like the wild flowers and grasses running along the border; if you look carefully you can see the hindquarters of a rabbit, its head emerging further on. Maybe that rabbit followed Alice into the brighter looking glass world on the reverse. This evening the rain falling on Angers is like the rain in Millhauser’s story, ‘Rain’.

The copies of Dangerous Laughter that were for sale have vanished by the time the talk is over. I feel sheepish talking to a writer empty-handed. Close to, the writer seems more fragile, almost transparent. He sits at the bare table, like the magic table in ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’, poised to sign books that aren’t there. The next day, in Paris, my feet take me back automatically to the patisserie in Rue Mabillon, where I used to go for breakfast, twenty years ago or more.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Where was I?

Where've I been for all of 2010 so far? Not on my blog. I've been in Beaumaris, Torquay, Liverpool, Ormskirk, Manchester, Newport, Paris, London, Angers and Skelmersdale, amongst other places, but my fingers never led me to this blog. Too busy writing trains and catching stories. In the meantime, the excellent Short Review has a review by Annie Clarkson of my collection The Real Louise, and an interview.